Unanswered questions for the Mets as the 2020 season approaches

Spring Training is the time for optimism. The Mets are going to win the NL East, Jeff McNeil is going to win the batting title, Jeurys Familia has lost 30 pounds and is in the best shape of his life, Michael Wacha is throwing harder than ever – yada, yada, yada. Optimism is good and my last desire is to discourage that.

But one of the purposes of blogs in general – and this blog in particular – is to write about stories that perhaps the mainstream media is ignoring, for whatever reason. So, while the big boys are basking in optimism in St. Lucie, my mind is wondering about the players with some questions surrounding them. Will they be part of the Opening Day roster or make an impact on the 2020 season or should we be looking elsewhere?

Dellin Betances missed most of 2019 and has yet to appear in a Spring Training game. There have been reports of him itching to go yet recognizing there was still enough time for him to get the game action he would need to be ready for Opening Day. Back at the end of February, Betances indicated that he would need seven or eight Grapefruit League games to get ready for the season. After today, the Mets have 18 Grapefruit League games remaining. Is that enough to get Betances the games he claimed to need?

Additionally, the MetsBlog story two days ago about Betances indicated that his velocity “wasn’t anything close to the high 90s” that we’re used to seeing from him. That was followed by the usual Spring optimism about building strength during camp. A player recovering from missing virtually an entire season shouldn’t be expected to have peak velocity in the first week of March. Still, who replaces Betances on the roster should he need to spend another week or so in Florida at the beginning of the year?

We’ve seen videos of Yoenis Cespedes. There was one of him working out before camp started and since then we’ve seen some of him taking batting practice and lightly shagging fly balls. So, what’s the holdup? Why hasn’t he been in a game yet? How far away is he from his 2018 playing weight? Will the new incentive clause in his contract impact if he starts the year with the club?

J.D. Davis is making progress in his return from a shoulder injury, which happened around 10 days ago. We were told it was nothing serious at the time. The last thing anyone should want is a player rushing back for Grapefruit League games. But it would be nice if there was a phrase we could use to indicate that a player will be out for more than 2-3 days – my definition of nothing serious and what happened with Brandon Nimmo and the cardiac concern – and fewer than the old 21-day DL.

It looks like Davis will be back in game action by the end of the week and that will be good to see. But what will the Mets plan to do if they have a healthy Cespedes and a healthy Davis at the same time? Is the organization concerned about Davis repeating his 2019 numbers? What specifically has he been working on to improve his defense?

Jed Lowrie has been seen in camp with a giant brace on his leg and has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game. His replies to questions from the beat writers are, at best, vague. Can he play with that giant brace? He didn’t look awesome in the brief time we saw him last September. Can a player miss essentially an entire season at age 35 and come back at age 36 to be the guy he was at age 33? Is it realistic to have him be on the roster with one of his job descriptions being “backup shortstop” when he hasn’t played the position since three innings in 2016?

Seth Lugo fractured his left pinky toe back on February 17 and manager Luis Rojas said there was no concern at all. Here it is coming up on three weeks later and he’s not been in game action. Lugo has thrown BP and might be close to a return. But given that the Mets were already managing his workload due to elbow concerns – how will they handle arguably their best reliever with this new injury? Are there any concerns about him changing his delivery to make it less painful on the toe? Are they prepared to be without both Betances and Lugo at the beginning of the season?

That’s a lot of questions.

I’m excited that the starting pitchers are all off to good starts, thrilled that McNeil and Nimmo are picking up right where they left off in September and encouraged that Wilson Ramos is working on a new catching style to help with low pitches. Keep those optimistic stories coming. But let’s not lose sight of the things that aren’t so rosy, especially now that we can see Opening Day quickly approaching.

17 comments for “Unanswered questions for the Mets as the 2020 season approaches

  1. John Fox
    March 5, 2020 at 11:16 am

    Looks like there could be plenty of players to keep each other company during extended spring training this year

  2. MattyMets
    March 5, 2020 at 11:27 am

    To me the most concerning ST development has been the Matz rumors. One day he’s being traded, then he’s a reliever, then an opener, then maybe in some sort of revolving starter. I wish they would leave him the hell alone and let him prepare for the season In the rotation where he belongs. Our only lefty starter and one of just 3 starters under contract beyond this season.

    • March 5, 2020 at 12:58 pm

      I agree.

      • NY NIC
        March 5, 2020 at 11:10 pm

        I don’t often comment here, but am a long time reader. Sometimes I don’t need to add an additional comment but would like to +1 a comment. Would it be possible to incorporate this?

        • March 6, 2020 at 10:13 am

          It is possible and I’ve thought of doing that more than once. But I’m never convinced that the value that it would add would outweigh the nebulousness and negativity that it would bring.

          Certainly Chris F. and Gus and others have left “+1” comments.

          My concern is more with the “-1” rating. If you disagree with someone, you should be able to express what your objection is about and why you have it. The goal here is to have intelligent talk about the Mets. We can be intelligent and civil and disagree. And if we can do it about baseball in an online forum – we can do it in our real lives on other more important matters.

          • Metsense
            March 6, 2020 at 11:15 am

            +1 Brian

            A (+1) rating signifies that you agree with the comment and it is your thoughts too or it is a good idea or good information.

            A (-1) doesn’t explain the reasons behind the rating. It is just a cop out.

            Thanks for presenting an intelligent forum. It is appreciated.

            • Eraff
              March 7, 2020 at 12:30 am

              “A (-1) doesn’t explain the reasons behind the rating. It is just a cop out.”

              Very Sensical!!!! +2

            • TJ
              March 7, 2020 at 10:18 am

              +1

  3. March 5, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    Bettances is likely the key to the entire season. If he can line up with Lugo and Wilson in the ‘pen, it mitigates any further struggles from Diaz and Familia. He was down in 2019 for sure, but it was injury-related and not craptacular performance issues (like what we saw from Diaz and Familia).

    I expect that the rest of the team will either be slightly better or worse, individually, than they were last year. For example,: a better year from Syndergaard would likely offset a step back from Matz; a full year of Nimmo would make up for lesser production from Davis; 85-90 games from Cespedes probably replaces the power lost if Alonso “only” hits 35 homers this year. Progression from Rosario balances further regression from Cano.

    • March 5, 2020 at 12:57 pm

      Wilson really overachieved last year – I wouldn’t write him in for a repeat. And I want to see Lugo pitch before I count him as a given.

  4. Chris F
    March 5, 2020 at 6:55 pm

    I don’t like it when you are moving into my lane Brian!

    😉

  5. Metsense
    March 5, 2020 at 10:27 pm

    The Mets should proceed cautiously with Betances and Lugo. Leg/foot problems can lead to arm/ shoulder strain because the injured player compensates. Wilson/ Gsellman/Familia/ Brach/Wacha have started strong. JD is mending nicely and Cespedes might need a little more time to get in shape. Lowrie seems to be a lost cost which should give Guillerme the first opportunity but Nunez is having a good spring training. The good pitching has me still optimistic.

  6. TexasGusCC
    March 6, 2020 at 3:18 am

    Very good points Brian, but injuries and cautiousness are part of every spring training. Betances will go Saturday after Matz. Speaking of Matz, Matt is right that they aren’t leaving him alone. Seems like he’s “being picked on” by the Front Office, hinting that they aren’t enamored with him. But, we all know the egomaniac calling the shots wants to see his moves succeed, meaning Stroman, Wacha and Porcello along with the dual aces, and that leaves Matz on the outside looking in.

    • Metsense
      March 6, 2020 at 9:52 am

      I agree Gus, Matz should be told that he is in the rotation because he earned it by his performance in 2019. Behind the scenes, BVW should explore any trade that improves the 2020 Mets and future teams. For example: Matz and Ramos for a starting pitcher prospect (SPP) and Sanchez. Or Matz and Nimmo for a SPP and a better centerfielder. Or Matz and Rosario for a SPP and a better shortstop. I think everyone gets my thought process if BVW should trade Matz.

      • TexasGusCC
        March 6, 2020 at 10:00 am

        Metsense, if you’re going to accept a prospect that can’t help you this year anyway, why insist on a pitcher? After all, since you have a prospect almost ready in Peterson, you don’t need another one – for this year. I look at Drew Smith as rotation insurance. His recovery allows Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo to start games and be an extra starter, especially Lugo mindset that the Astros’ cheating ruined his preferred starters career. You can tell, he’s not settled and it may affect his performance.

  7. Remember1969
    March 6, 2020 at 1:24 pm

    I agree with everything Brian has written here, with one addition as an unanswered question: Who is the back-up catcher and ‘starter’ if Ramos would happen to go down for any amount of time. I do not see Nido nor Rivera as 2 month starting catchers.

    I disagree with Dan’s comment above that Betances is the key to the season. It would be great if he returns to his dominant form, but If he can just be ‘good’, I think it is more key for Diaz and Familia to come back strong. Betances is a nice supporting piece, but not the end-all of last year’s bullpen woes. For what it is worth, I am on the Brad Brach train – I just somehow feel that he will be this year’s Seth Lugo.

    Finally, I agree with Brian about the communication. Davis and Lugo have been too long with “not worried about it”, Cespedes is a complete mystery, and Lowrie is just plain lost cause. My guess is that Lowrie will not have an at bat with the Mets in 2020 and with the attitude he has displayed with the press, I don’t have any issue with that – the sooner he is gone, the less sideshow there will be around him. I like somebody’s comment the other day that the definition of ‘unrestricted baseball activity’ is doing everything except playing baseball.

  8. Eraff
    March 10, 2020 at 7:52 pm

    Most of the “too many” scenarios play out better than the “too few” scenarios. Too many Pitchers and Too Much MLB Quality Depth sounds like Wins to Me!

    Play into the Season….measure “Gots” and “Needs”. It should be a good year!

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