Before Spring Training started, the Mets announced their starting right fielder, taking away one of the few storylines available in Grapefruit League play. By bringing back six guys who were either free agents or had an option, settling or offering arbitration to everyone and not bringing in a new catcher or third baseman, the Mets were opting to play a pat hand. There was little wrong with that decision; it just made for a somewhat boring Spring.
Here’s what the Mets had to do in camp:
Pick the fifth starter, although it feels like that was a done deal already, too
Decide on the last two bullpen spots
Choose who was going to be the fifth outfielder, although that was probably previously picked
The reality is that this is what you want from your team. If your squad goes to Spring Training with multiple starting spots up for grabs, it clearly means you won’t be picked as a playoff club, much less a World Series favorite. But after watching the Mets regulars get shut out by the Nationals bench players/minor leaguers yesterday, maybe we shouldn’t view this club as playoff bound, either.
So, in completely overreacting to one meaningless game, let’s try something here. What if what everyone had done previously in pro ball now didn’t count? What if the only thing that mattered were the Grapefruit League results after 17 games? With this as the outlandish premise, here is who would be on the club’s 2017 Opening Day roster:
This quintet has combined for 26.1 IP, allowed 5 ER, gave up 6 BB and notched 22 Ks. And that doesn’t include Lugo’s 5.1 scoreless innings with no walks and three strikeouts against Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. Essentially, the guys expected to start this year have done a great job in Florida (and Mexico, where Lugo’s gem took place.)
Robles would be the closer, Smoker and Wilk the two lefties and the rest fighting to be the primary set-up guy. Rowen, Taylor and Wilk would be the longshots to appear in an actual game for the Mets this year. But Montero, Sewald and Smoker have helped their chances here in the early going. Let’s see if they can keep it up over the second half of Grapefruit League play.
C – Travis d’Arnaud and Rene Rivera
The injury to Kevin Plawecki opened up playing time for Tomas Nido but the youngster was unable to take advantage, as he managed just a .594 OPS.
Terry Collins would have fun figuring out the starters here. The only given would be Duda at first base. Cecchini and Carpio would be the middle infielders but which one would play shortstop? Evans had the higher OPS but would the manager go off the board and put the veteran Walker over at third base, instead?
Strictly by production, it would be Cespedes, Nimmo and Conforto as the starting three. And which one would play center? Nimmo’s supposed to be the center fielder but it feels like more of a coin flip situation here, with Conforto being the other option. Either is likely better than Cespedes, who opened at the position last year. Taijeron’s supposed to be a power hitter but his .400 OBP is what grabbed him the final spot.
Obviously, this would never happen. But it’s encouraging that Duda and Walker, two guys who entered camp as question marks due to their back injuries last year, have both performed so well here in the early going. And while d’Arnaud didn’t have a back injury, he’s just as likely to come down with one this year as anyone given his history. Yet he’s raking, too. Last year’s surprise starters are doing well and two of the three injured pitchers have come back strong, too. Even the heavily-lamented Bruce is swinging a hot bat.
It’s unquestionably a boring Spring Training but it’s been nice to see strong production from many guys who came in with injury concerns. The default assumption has been that at least one of the runner-ups from the fifth starter competition would wind up in the bullpen. Yet if the Mets opt to keep both of them in the minors, it’s good to know that someone like Sewald, who has performed well in the minors the past two seasons, is making the most of his chances this Spring and could earn an Opening Day spot. Also, it’s been good to see top prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith looking strong defensively, if not wowing us with their offensive performance so far.