Filling out the Mets opening day score card

Barring any last minute moves by our nimble general manager, the Mets roster appears ready to go ahead of tomorrow’s first spring training game. All but the last spot on the bench and two spots in the bullpen are pretty locked up, but injuries always happen in spring training as we were reminded waiting on the MRI results on Jed Lowrie‘s balky knee (thankfully, it’s not serious). Opening day is just 34 days away. As if that’s not exciting enough, the likely pitching match-up will be Jacob deGrom vs. Max Scherzer. Stop squealing.

Following is what the roster could look like on March 28. Bold names are virtual locks. The remaining few are best guesses. A “*” indicates a player not currently on the 40-man roster.

Rotation

  1. Jacob deGrom
  2. Noah Syndergaard
  3. Steven Matz
  4. Zack Wheeler
  5. Jason Vargas

No mystery here. Wheeler and Matz might switch places but splitting up the two lefties makes good sense. Vargas or Matz can be easily replaced by Seth Lugo if either struggles or gets injured. The key to this team’s success, more than anything else, is keeping the big three healthy. If we get 99 starts out of that trio, we’re going to the playoffs.

Lineup

  1. Brandon Nimmo – CF
  2. Jed Lowrie – 3B
  3. Robinson Cano – 2B
  4. Wilson Ramos – C
  5. Michael Conforto – RF
  6. Todd Frazier – 1B
  7. Jeff McNeil – LF
  8. Amed Rosario – SS

Nice balance of lefties and righties. Some good on-base guys at the top and a lot of professional hitters. Not a ton of speed and, unless a certain rookie comes on strong, there’s no 40- home run bat. This should be a good enough lineup. The order might vary, but these will likely be the eight names we’ll see in the early season lineup, at least versus right-handed pitchers. The only question is if McNeil proves he can play the outfield. If that experiment doesn’t pan out, we could see Juan Lagares in center field on opening day. He could wind up in a quasi-platoon, playing center field against lefties, pushing one of the three lefty hitters to the bench. First baseman of the future Peter Alonso* will likely crack this lineup two or three weeks into the season. If everyone’s healthy (haha) that could push Frazier to the bench or to third base, making Lowrie a super utility player who rotates around the infield. If Alonso gets off to a strong enough start, Frazier, in the last year of his contract, could become trade bait.

Bench

  1. Travis d’Arnaud – C
  2. Juan Lagares – OF
  3. Keon Broxton – OF
  4. J.D. Davis – IF
  5. Dominic Smith* – IF

The bench will look a lot more formidable when Alonso joins the team and pushes Frazier to the bench. A midsummer Cespedes return could put McNeil there as well. d’Arnaud and Lagares are guaranteed opening day roster spots as much due to their inflated salaries as their lack of minor league options. Broxton will most certainly make the team but he’ll either need to outhit Lagares or wait for an injury to see playing time. Davis is out of options and can play four positions so he’s a pretty safe bet to make the team. The last bench spot is a tough call. With versatile guys like Davis, Lowrie and McNeil on the roster, the Mets have the luxury of going with a four-man bench when needed, but they’ll likely go with five to start the season and the likely pick is an infielder.

The Mets have a ton of experienced infield options in camp, including Dominic Smith, T.J . Rivera, Adeiny Hechavarria*, Danny Espinosa*, Luis Guillorme, Dilson Herrera*, and Gavin Cecchini*. The last four names really don’t have a realistic shot to make the big league club, but will be available for promotion from AAA when injuries hit. If Smith has a strong spring, he could be kept on the roster to platoon with Frazier at first base. Smith has options remaining but could also be trade bait. Rivera, as you may recall from two seasons ago, can hit and play three positions. If the team is comfortable with the idea of Lowrie playing shortstop in a pinch, Rivera could be the pick. If it’s Smith, then either Lowrie or McNeil would have to serve as Cano’s backup. Hechavarria is the best shortstop option but the Mets may resist putting him on the roster right away as his contract calls for $3 million if he makes the team. A strong case can be made for Smith, Rivera or Hechavarria, but if Smith has a good spring, he could continue to platoon with Alonso to ease him in. This could also be a way to showcase him for a potential trade.

In case one of the outfielders gets injured, seasoned veterans Rajai Davis* and Gregor Blanco* are in camp and likely to start the season in AAA as insurance. Tim Tebow* and Rymer Liriano* will be there as well.

Also starting the season in AAA will be our reserve catchers Devin Mesoraco* and Tomas Nido. Given the injury histories of the two guys ahead of them on the depth chart, it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing at least one of them at Citi Field before long.

Bullpen

  1. Edwin Diaz
  2. Jeurys Familia
  3. Justin Wilson
  4. Seth Lugo
  5. Robert Gsellman
  6. Luis Avilan*
  7. Kyle Dowdy

The top five is a nice looking group. Hard to remember having a back end looking that strong. The late innings are going to be a lot more fun to watch this season. There’s a lot of competition for those last two spots. Luis Avillan* and Daniel Zamora may compete to be the second lefty if the front office deems that necessary. If not, there’s no shortage of hard throwing righties to vie for a spot. The long list includes Jacob Rhame, Drew Smith, Tyler Bashlor, Drew Gagnon, Franklin Kilome, Eric Hanhold and, oh yeah, Paul Sewald. The last spot may be reserved for a long-man/spot starter. While there are other options here like Hector Santiago*, Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, Walker Lockett and David Peterson*, Dowdy has a leg up on the competition as a Rule 5 pick up who can’t be sent down to the minors. Many of those other names will begin the season in AAA Syracuse but will see time on the big league roster as tired and injured arms need replacing. Having our AAA affiliate in the same time zone will make the bullpen shuttle more efficient.

Injured List

Yoenis Cespedes

There’s no telling when Cespedes will return, but it’s safe to say we won’t see him until at least July. As for how his reemergence might impact the roster, that’s a nice problem to have and a topic for another day. Meanwhile, expect him to get moved off the active roster to the 60-day injured list to create some roster flexibility. Hopefully, Cespedes doesn’t find too much company on that list.

A lot can happen in the next 34 days. Injuries, free agent signings, trades, and, of course, spring training competition. It will be fun to see how this shakes out and it all starts tomorrow down in sunny Florida.

 

 

22 comments for “Filling out the Mets opening day score card

  1. TexasGusCC
    February 22, 2019 at 8:22 am

    There’s no reason to keep Dominic Smith. You have enough first base options for the first month or two, while Alonso works on defense and squaring up more often, that Smith can go straight to upstate and work on playing left field. I could see that being Mesoraco’s roster spot initially or possibly keeping Hechavarria.

    • Chris B
      February 22, 2019 at 9:16 am

      Callaway has said recently that the Dominic Smith OF experiment is over. I’d like to see Hechavarria as the last bench option. The defense is still a bit suspect imo and having Lowrie play short in Rosario’s off days won’t help with that.

      • TexasGusCC
        February 22, 2019 at 10:42 am

        Chris, I’m beginning to think Callaway talks too much. Just a bit too giddy for my flavor. Smith was as good an outfielder in my eyes as Jay Bruce was. Him playing there in the minors, when this team has absolutely no outfield depth is not a bad thing. Let him learn to track flyballs, play first twice a week and be ready. Some team may see him and is interested. There is still belief that there is an MLB player there in the right circumstances. Maybe second division, but those teams need players too.

        A .270/20 HR bench option that plays outfield and 1B is not too bad.

        • Chris F
          February 22, 2019 at 12:04 pm

          Gus, I get some of this, but lets be fair: Smith is not as good as Jay Bruce in the OF. Maybe you dont love the Bruce you saw last year, but this guy has 1000s of AB playing OF as an every day guy. Smith is as good an outfield as maybe, just maybe, Kyle Schwarber. He’s worse than Duda. Id rather see Tebow in the OF before Smith, and let me tell you something, that took *a lot* for me to say out loud.

          • TexasGusCC
            February 22, 2019 at 2:06 pm

            LOL, I appreciate your willingness to mention our highest level outfield prospect. It’s exactly the reason why I’d let Smith run around out there and learn the position. No offense to Timmy…

            • Chris F
              February 22, 2019 at 6:04 pm

              Let me share something Gus, Smith in the OF would make Flores look like Rey Ordonez. I am running a 101 fever, but Im sure thats close to true

              • TexasGusCC
                February 22, 2019 at 10:51 pm

                LOLLLLL, can I show this to you someday?

    • JC
      February 22, 2019 at 10:05 am

      Completely agree even if you want a platoon option you could:
      1) put cano at 1st start Mcneil @ 2nd slide Nimmo to the corner and start broxton/ Lagaras in CF
      2) Cano 1st McNiel 2nd and Davis in the OF
      3) or if they ashue the platoon level frazier their or let Davis play there

    • MattyMets
      February 22, 2019 at 1:28 pm

      Gus, it really feels like Smith has been squeezed out. You have to look real hard to find a roster spot for him. I think it would take him having a fantastic spring and someone getting injured for him to break camp on the opening day roster. He has options and he provides depth so I see no rush to trade him, but it’s hard to envision a future for him in Queens.

      Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

  2. February 22, 2019 at 9:38 am

    Highly doubt Dom makes the team if they go with a five man bench Adainy would make the team over Dom. I just hope they don’t go with a four man bench with Adainy on it cause you’d have three banjo hitters in Broxton, Lagares and Adainy with pinch hitting opportunities late in a game.

  3. TJ
    February 22, 2019 at 11:22 am

    I especially like the pen depth combined with the new AAA affiliate. That’s young fireballers with MLB experience will get the opportunity to force their way back into the bigs in an environment that is much better. I expect some of these guys to be hungry and shine. This will provide insurance for injury/performance both in the pen and in the rotation.

    • February 22, 2019 at 12:13 pm

      Rotation has little to no depth though

      • TJ
        February 22, 2019 at 3:50 pm

        David, Fair. I consider Lugo part of the rotation depth. So, can you name me the teams that have a deeper 1 – 8?

  4. MattyMets
    February 22, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    The rotation can withstand one guy going down as Lugo can slot in and the bullpen can reload from all that depth. If 2 guys go down we likely wind up auditioning through Oswalt, Dowdy, and Santiago before we find someone who can give us 5 innings. I definitely feel less comfortable with the rotation depth than other areas but a) what team is to truly 8 deep? and B) as I’ve stated here before, the Mets have 5 starters under contract so good FAs won’t want to come here. The only thing we can do is try to nab a remaining FA on a minor league deal and stash him in Syracuse. Remaining options according to MLBTR include:
    Clay Buchholz (34)
    Bartolo Colon (46)
    Yovani Gallardo (33)
    Gio Gonzalez (33)
    Miguel Gonzalez (35)
    Edwin Jackson (35)
    Dallas Keuchel (31)
    Ervin Santana (36)
    James Shields (37)
    Chris Tillman (31)

    Forget Keuchel, Gio and probably Bucholz and Santana. Even the remaining guys will sooner take an offer where there’s a rotation opening. And it’s not like having Edwin Jackson in AAA or not will make or break our season. We can always make a trade. We’re likely to have an infielder to spare.

    • MattyMets
      February 22, 2019 at 1:44 pm

      Scratch Santana. He just signed a minors deal with the White Sox. And Marwin Gonzalez is signing with the Twins for 2/21 – about the same as Lowrie and he’s 5 years younger and can play OF. Grrrr.

      • TexasGusCC
        February 22, 2019 at 2:08 pm

        Lowrie is a better player.

        • February 22, 2019 at 3:47 pm

          Better hitter for sure but Gonzalez is younger and can play 6-7 positions and had a great 2017 though it seems like a outlier. I’m happy with Lowrie just hope his knee will get better soon

  5. Rob
    February 22, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    Only thing I don’t like is Frasier starting. From all said great guy great teamate but rather see what Alonzo can do. Just think he is done and contributes nothing anymore. As for Avilan his numbers are pretty good for a guy I’ve never heard of before Mets got him. Great article..thanks.

  6. TexasGusCC
    February 22, 2019 at 10:55 pm

    Great comments here today!

  7. Metsense
    February 24, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    Very good summary Matt. The personnel in the optimal lineup for opening day is good but I would suggest that the undisciplined Rosario should bat ninth, the pitcher 8th, McNeil first and the disciplined Nimmo 7th because he should get more walks and maintain his OBP by hitting before the pitcher.(more so than McNeil).
    The Mets should have three catchers on opening day. Ramos is a hitter and should catch at least 120 games. In the other 42 games he should be the prime pinch hitter without restriction as the game dictates. TDA or Mesoraco would still been available in case of injury or for a 9th inning do or die pinch hitting appearance.
    TJ Rivera vs RHP has a career split of 325/358/487/845 and therefor he should take the LHB Smith spot. TJ is more versatile also.
    As Brian stated today,there is no need the carry Broxton as the fifth outfielder. The LHB Dietrich would be a good pick up instead of LHB Blanco. Broxton may not have any options left and he has three more years of team control. If he is out by options then the Mets should swallow Lagares’ salary in a trade in order to make Broxton the defensive centerfield option who is also a better base stealer than Lagares.
    The bullpen should be a competition for the 6th and 7th spot. Dowdy needs to earn it because a contending team should not hamstring themselves in future roster moves.Personally I like Avilan. I also like Santiago because is the swingman but Zamora is deserving also.
    I think Vargas won’t make it by Memorial Day in the rotation and Lugo will replace him. There are enough horses in the stable, or in this case, bulls in the bullpen, to replace Lugo.
    My first game will be in Miami on April 3rd,a road trip, and hopeful the deGrominator will pitch that 6th game on the season. Lets Go Mets!!!!

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