Spring Training experiments for the Mets

logo bagAlthough snow and cold may grip the north, it’s a different story across Florida and Arizona as spring training is in the process of getting underway. Pitchers and catchers have already reported for the Mets, full workouts for the players begin on February 19, and the first exhibition game is scheduled for the 25th. Spring training traditionally involves some experimentation, trying players at different positions or in different roles. Which experiments could be worthwhile for the Mets, and which ones might not be?

Do: Get plenty of reps at first base for Wilmer Flores. Flores has only played 27 games in the majors at first, and they all came in 2016. A platoon at first with Lucas Duda would make a lot of sense since the right-handed batting Flores crushes left handers and Duda does much better against right-handers. So some fielding work for Flores at first would be beneficial, with experience he could be decent fielding first baseman.

Do not: Play Jay Bruce at first very much during spring training, keep him in the outfield. The first base experiment has been talked about, but Bruce needs to focus on getting his hitting stroke back, and playing a new position at age 30 is questionable. Actually it’s not a totally new position, he did play three games at first for the Reds in 2014. He made two errors in those three games. Admittedly that is a small sample but those errors are not encouraging. First base is covered with the Duda/Flores platoon and with highly regarded prospect Dominick Smith waiting in the wings at Las Vegas.

Do: Get playing time against right hand pitchers for Juan Lagares. When healthy Lagares provides great defense at the premium position of center field, but he has not hit well against right-handers. If he could improve at the plate against righties, that would really help the team.

Do not: Put Jose Reyes in center field in spring training. This has been rumored, but would be a mistake in my opinion to give him much playing time there. Reyes already has a lot on his plate, with the depth charts showing him as the primary back up at second, short and third, behind players who are all the wrong side of 30, and who all lost playing time in 2016 due to injuries. Nobody will be surprised if Reyes plays more games at third than David Wright. The 34 year old Reyes has played exactly zero games in the outfield in his major league career. Instead of Reyes Michael Conforto would warrant some time in center, he is a natural outfielder who did reasonably well playing a few games in center last year.

Do: Use left-handed relief pitcher Jerry Blevins in more roles, specifically as the seventh or eighth inning set up man. Blevins did well against both left and right handed batters last year, and with a likely suspension for Jeurys Famila in the cards, it would be useful to see Blevins used in those roles this spring as opposed to his traditional use as a specialist against lefty hitting sluggers.

Spring is a time of hope, and hopefully some of the Mets’ spring training experiments will pan out this year.

21 comments for “Spring Training experiments for the Mets

  1. MattyMets
    February 15, 2017 at 10:05 am

    Can Jay Bruce try catcher? Seriously though, I don’t think it’s the worst idea to give him a few reps at first. What if Duda comes up lame in ST? Flores is not equipped to play first every day and Dom Smith is not ready.

    I agree with you about not putting Reyes in the OF. It will create more risk for injury to the one guy we have with speed. He’ll get enough playing time at the three infield positions. Plus, we already have too many outfielders.

    • David Groveman
      February 15, 2017 at 10:38 am

      I agree with Matty,

      The Mets having Bruce able to play the left-handed side of first can re-open the possibility of Conforto being in the outfield. My belief in Duda has been steadily slipping and I still have hope that Bruce will regain his hitting form.

      1. Curtis Granderson, CF
      2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
      3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
      4. Jay Bruce, 1B
      5. Neil Walker, 2B
      6. Michael Conforto, RF
      7. David Wright, 3B
      8. Travis d’Arnaud, C

      Looks like a solid lineup to me.

      The other suggestions are all sound, particularly Blevins and Flores.

  2. Name
    February 15, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    An experiment I’d like to see is someone else manage the club. And then make that permanent come April!

    • TexasGusCC
      February 15, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      Oh Name, thank you. Nice to hear someone else feels my pain. I’m sending you an internet hug!

    • Chris F
      February 15, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      You can completely abandon that. That opinion is not shared by anyone in the industry as far as I have heard, read, or seen outside the fan base. Its a 100% non starter.

      Of all the things that Id like to see is D Wright getting reps at 1B in a hurry. Any notion that he can play elite level 3B anymore is a complete fantasy. I read an article today where he said he has a hard time changing lanes driving because of his limited capacity to turn his head. He has not thrown a baseball since last summer. The faster can get to 1B and platoon with Duda against LHP the better.

      • Jimmy P
        February 15, 2017 at 6:06 pm

        I think DW at 1B is a waste of time — and possibly a bad way to block yet another 1st-round prospect.

        There’s nothing DW can do at 1B that Wilmer Flores can’t do.

        As I wrote in the comments section 5 days ago, imagine how bad it must be if David hasn’t even tried to throw a baseball. He’s in Florida. On a ballfield. In beautiful weather. And he’s not throwing at all. I don’t believe he can raise his hand above his shoulder.

        Remember Peyton Manning at the end? When he couldn’t get any zip on his throws? Couldn’t go deep? Couldn’t risk a sideline pass? David had that surgery, plus the debilitating back issue.

        He really might be toast. Highly doubt he’ll be ready to go in April.

        But again, I just don’t see the point of shifting him to 1B and creating a new problem over at that position. What’s to be gained?

        All that said: I don’t blame DW for trying, and I agree with the team’s support and, yes, even kindness toward him. There are awkward things to work out, and some degree of mutuality is necessary. There are like $70 million dollars still on the table. I completely respect David Wright. I just hope it doesn’t get too sad or ugly.

        • Chris F
          February 15, 2017 at 7:35 pm

          The reality is that DW is the Captain of the team and has arrived in camp with the intention to play baseball. From that perspective alone, not to mention the list of others, Flores is irrelevant. If DW is going to play, then protecting him and the team is paramount. At this point he does not look like he has the capacity to play 3B. So what is left? You cant just let the guy ride the pine, and because of his game prep he is not an off the cuff pinch hitter. So what to do?

          Until the team says he wont play, period, or he decides the game is too much to bear, some resolution to DW has to be found. If he is gonna be on the field at a major-league-level at the plate, the only place he can be without a huge amount arm needs is 1B.

          • Eraff
            February 15, 2017 at 8:18 pm

            The Game decides when a Player can no longer play…DW’s Intention is irrelevant!

            Every single player mentioned in the past 9 posts is better and more important and more valuable than he is until he proves he can play regularly at a high level.

            • Chris F
              February 15, 2017 at 9:36 pm

              The idea the game says when you leave is clearly some sort of wishful thinking in an age where money is so critical. A-Rod played well past his serviceable time. The game has moved past Pujols for the most part, and hes going nowhere. What about Zimmerman in DC?

              Listen to the reverence the FO and TC have for DW. You are completely kidding yourself if you think DWs intent is irrelevant. If he were not DW, he wouldnt be in PSL. Last year, he came back after extended time off and was put back to the 3 hole, striking out 1 out of every 3 AB. He’s owed 67M$. Every player wants to be out there. Teams need to make a decision if it happens, unless the injury means a player cannot lace up the spikes. David Wright is Mr Met, and you are kidding wildly misguided if you think that doesnt carry a lot of water in Flushing.

              • February 15, 2017 at 10:22 pm

                I believe you are right.

                I also believe this is a sub-optimal way to do things. I think Wright has earned the right to dictate to the organization exactly the way he prepares for the season in Spring Training. But once the season starts, his production should be on equal footing with his health to dictate how much he plays.

              • Eraff
                February 16, 2017 at 3:13 am

                Well…a Platoon versus LHP would be perfect for a Guy who plays 40 games.

          • Jimmy P
            February 16, 2017 at 8:09 am

            I think if Mets shift him to 1B it weakens the team. That’s number one. And it’s all the reasoning we need.

            Secondly, it prolongs a bad situation.

            The harshest, truest test I can think of when evaluating a player’s role on a team, including the contract, is to ask:

            What if you could make him disappear, like the spray from a perfume bottle, poof, gone?

            I’d do that with Wright, I’d do that with Bruce. I’d rather have the coin and the options.

            More and more, I think we should see a shift of Cabrera to 3B and Rosario at SS, come July. Largely because I don’t think Wright can cut it, and I suspect that Jose will not be able to cut it as a starter. Another strong breakdown candidate, IMO.

            I don’t think managing the Mets lineup or pen is very difficult. And for the most part, TC does it reasonably well. It’s not rocket science. One area of concern will be how they use Jose Reyes. TC’s tendency might be to grind him into the dust. Of course, that’s assuming that David Wright goes on the DL.

            Maybe David hangs tough, performs well, and gets 450 PAs. In that sense, probably pointless for me to talk “what ifs” in February.

            God I need the games to start.

        • John Fox
          February 15, 2017 at 9:01 pm

          Jimmy, I have to completely agree with. The David Wright Peyton Manning comparison is very apt.

  3. footballhead
    February 15, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    Seems to me that what will derail the Mets this year; other than Collins being the manager, is the inability of the organization to cut it’s losses re: aging/injury diminished veterans. Enough with the David Wright drama. He’s finished as a major league 3B. And if Bruce doesn’t hit a ton in spring training, then release him if Alderson can’t get a “warm body” for him. Oh, and I agree with todays article about Wheeler…..no bullpen for him!

  4. Eraff
    February 15, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    The idea of pushing Wright to 3b is just plain dumb…it puts another LH Hitter on a stack of guys hunting for AB’s—all guys who are better than DW.

    As for Reyes in CF/OF and Bruce at 1st–terrific value adding ideas for the team and for each player.

  5. Jimmy P
    February 15, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    What’s the scenario where Jose plays CF?

    He hits under .700 OPS vs RHP, so not especially. Especially with Bruce, Granderson, Conforto, Nimmo all available.

    He crushes LHP — okay, so maybe. Except Lagares has to play CF, right? So then you are deciding to bench both Granderson and Bruce in the same game to push Jose out there? I guess, maybe. It’s a little late in his career to become a part-time outfielder. It would make more sense to me if he had a viable role and regular time to learn the position.

    I don’t see the value added here.

    Bruce at 1B, for a few games, might be illuminating in terms of generally how it feels for him, and how he looks. It might give you an idea if it’s an option down the road or not, that’s about it. I don’t see him playing there if Duda is still on the team.

    And, oh yeah, I hate Jay Bruce, so I’m not eager to see him on the field at all.

    (“Hate” is too strong, but you get the idea.)

    • NormE
      February 15, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      It would seem that the reason for experimenting with Jose Reyes in center is that it would give the Mets the flexibility to use Lagares as part of a trade package somewhere down the line. Otherwise, I agree with Jimmy P.

  6. Jimmy P
    February 16, 2017 at 8:17 am

    I’ve got Ty Kelly making the team for his defensive flexibility, and he’s not a guy you feel bad about letting him rot on the bench.

    • Chris F
      February 16, 2017 at 10:37 am

      25 man team?

  7. February 17, 2017 at 7:35 am

    The only reason Bruce is being mentioned with playing some 1B is to make him more attractive as trade bait. We already have so many other option to play 1B.

  8. Metsense
    February 17, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    Duda is coming off a back problem so I see not harm with Bruce getting some reps at first base. If Duda goes down then Bruce goes to 1B and Conforto to RF. Flores gets the other spot the the first base platoon.
    Blevins should drop the LOOGY label and pitch a full seventh inning.
    This is a solid, deep team.

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