At the beginning of spring training, Ty Kelly had a legitimate chance of making the Mets roster as either a fifth outfielder or third baseman. A strong showing in camp could have made a strong case for him being with the team; instead, he opted to play for team Israel in the World Baseball Classic. While the experience of playing in an international tournament may be a special and exciting experience a player on the fringe of making a major-league roster may have been better served by participating in a major-league camp.
As a rookie in 2016 Kelly hit .241 with one home run and seven RBI in 58 at bats. While these are not stellar stats he still flashed some potential to produce as a part-time player. The Mets entered the spring with a very crowded outfield, so the chances of him catching on there would be slim. Third base, on the other hand, could have been a very real possibility to pick up some playing with the likely extended absence of David Wright.
In six games for Israel, Kelly had five hits in 24 at-bats with no home runs or RBI. He had a .321 OBP, while a decent showing the time he missed from major league camp will be sorely missed. He will most likely start the season atTriple-AA hoping for a call-up.
While Kelly was off playing in the tournament another young Mets player fighting for a roster spot was in camp getting at-bats and making noise that player is Michael Conforto. With the way, the roster shook out after the offseason, he was the odd man out. Instead of pouting about likely starting the season in the minors, he worked out over the offseason and came into camp looking trimmer than last season.
He has hit his way into the conversation in a big way. So far, this spring he has hit .356 with two home runs and four RBI in 45 at bats. He has also been solid defensively and has flashed an accurate arm in the outfield. He has all but secured a roster spot in the eyes of most Mets fans. Though management could say he needs to play atTriple -A to get regular at-bats, he has proven he has nothing left to learn at that level.
The Mets should be able to give veterans enough days off to secure Conforto at least four starts a week in the outfield. He has also been doing some work at first to give him another possible avenue to gain some at-bats.
While playing in the World Baseball Classic may seem like an enticing opportunity for young players, they are probably better off staying in camp and gaining more valuable experience. It is better suited for veteran players, though I would prefer star players on the Mets to skip it altogether to avoid possible injuries.