The Mets recently announced their 2023 minor league coaching staffs, as well as their player development and medical personnel for the upcoming season. The list of names includes many former MLB players, including the likes of J.P. Arencibia, Reid Brignac, Miguel Cairo and others. It caught me off guard that with the host of familiar names that neither the Triple-A pitching coach nor the Triple-A hitting coach were names that rang a bell.

Kyle Driscoll is the pitching coach while Collin Hetzler is the hitting coach. If those names don’t ring a bell to you, don’t worry. Neither made it to the majors. What these two bring to the organization is their affiliation with two of the top academies – laboratories, if you will – for baseball development. Driscoll is in his fourth season with the Mets, where he’s performed in a variety of roles, including complex pitching coordinator in St. Lucie, and pitching & movement analyst. Driscoll came to the Mets after spending three years as the pitching coordinator and two years before that as their pitching coach and strength coach for Cressy Sports Performance.

Hetzler has spent the past two seasons as the Mets’ complex hitting coordinator and last year was named the Mets Minor League Staff Member of the Year. Hetzler began his coaching career at his alma mater, Houston Baptist, where he served three years while earning his MBA. Prior to joining the Mets, Hetzler was the hitting trainer and the operations manager at Driveline Baseball.

Cressey and Driveline are two of the best-known training facilities in the country. Cressey has facilities in both Massachusetts and Florida and helps pitchers with velocity and injury prevention, as well as rehab for those who’ve suffered both elbow and shoulder problems. Driveline, a Washington-based company, is best known for combining both hi tech (Rapsodo cameras) and lo tech (weighted baseballs) in its advanced training. While better known publicly for its work with pitchers Driveline is where Kodai Senga went this offseason in preparation for playing in the U.S. for the first time – they also do advanced work with hitters. Click here for a case study with what they did to help Lars Nootbaar increase his bat speed.

It’s encouraging to see coaches who’ve been leaders at these baseball labs employed by the Mets. The only thing that’s a little bit concerning is that there’s no catching coach at Triple-A, where odds are will be where Francisco Alvarez starts the year to work on his defense. Former MLB catcher Bob Natal is the club’s roving catching coordinator, one who will hopefully spend time with Alvarez

HOW FAR DOES EXCITEMENT GO? – There’s a headline on a story at SNY which claims, “Eppler, Showalter share their excitement to ‘watch some of the young guys’ at spring training. We’ve read a fair bit from Eppler this offseason, none of which has been encouraging for those of us who want Alvarez, Brett Baty and Mark Vientos to get more than Septem.ber cups of coffee in 2023. The good news is that the team’s brass should get additional chances to see them in action with several Mets stars leaving camp to play in the World Baseball Classic. My hope is specifically that Vientos has a good camp. While he’s not my favorite prospect, or the guy who has the chance to help the Mets the most, this season is probably Vientos’ best shot to earn playing time with the club. If he doesn’t establish himself this year, it’s hard to see where he’ll get time in the future once Baty and Ronny Mauricio add Triple-A experience to their resumes.

METS TO CHASE ANOTHER 3B TO BLOCK PROSPECTS? – As soon as the deal with Carlos Correa fell thru, people noted that the Mets could turn to Manny Machado as a future third baseman for the club. Machado had an opt out in his contract, which if he chose to exercise it, would make him a free agent following the 2023 season. Now we’ve heard news that Machado is planning to indeed opt out. It seems just a bit odd for a player to do that, almost a show of contempt to his current team. Jacob deGrom, coming off a season-ending injury, announced he was going to opt out of his contract. And he ended up bolting for Texas after missing half the year again. Does Machado feel the same about San Diego? Can’t think of anyone who would object to being there. But you never know…

USING SPRING TRAINING AS DEFINITIVE PROOF – This time last year, the overwhelming majority of fans were in favor of bringing Robinson Cano to Spring Training to see if he had anything left in the tank. Cano batted .360 in Spring Training and made the Opening Day roster. He proceeded to go 8-41 (with at least one of those “hits” being an extremely generous gift from the Official Scorer) before the Mets released him. The Mets are facing a similar decision this spring with Darin Ruf. If Ruf, who will also benefit from starters being away at the WBC, has a good Grapefruit League season, he’ll likely make the 2023 Opening Day roster, too, much like Cano did last year.

This time last year, my opinion was that Cano was 100% done, and there was no reason to do the dog-and-pony show of bringing him to Spring Training. I’m not quite that certain with Ruf. It’s probably only 90% sure for me that he’s toast. But that small chance that he’s still got something to give isn’t worth it to me to block guys like Alvarez and Vientos who likely have much more to contribute for the 2023 Mets. But smart money will have a veteran – either Ruf or another Grapefruit League star – making the Opening Day roster.

7 comments on “Syracuse coaches, opt outs and Spring Training stories

  • Footballhead

    News report has DeGrom not being ready for ST because of “discomfort”. Glad not to have his issue hanging around any longer……although I’m sure our “veteran” staff will have plenty of there own. Don’t wish ill on anyone however.
    I guess we all hope that our “youngsters” make life difficult for the front office by having a great ST. Am hoping that our BP becomes even more of a strength then last year.

  • Metsense

    The Syracuse new pitching coach and hitting coach is an innovative idea. It is a mesh of baseball science and sports medicine delivering the lesson with certified teachers.
    Eppler has said that defense is important. Alvarez and Beatty we’ll have to play defense, as well as offense, if they want to be on the opening day roster.
    Judge signed a 9-year contract that will expire after his 39 -year-old season. If Machado signs a similar contract then he would be 40 years old when the contract expires. The Mets should pass on that. An exorbitant amount of money with a 5-6 year contract would be prudent instead. Ohtani should be their primary target though.
    In the second half last year, Ruf appeared to be toast. If Vientos has a nice showing in spring training then he should make the opening day roster. His potential should be tapped on the major league level because he is running out of opportunities and the Mets still don’t know what they have in him. Vientos has a higher ceiling than Ruf. Vientos needs to sink or swim.

  • BoomBoom

    Buck has already said he s been most impressed with and seen something standout this spring with vientos out of the 3 rookies. Also noting that buck and eppler will be keeping tabs on Mauricio s workload since he s had a ton of at bats the past year. And that he ll only be playing shortstop.

    • Brian Joura

      I was in favor of keeping Mauricio at SS thru the 2022 season. But now it’s time to move him to where he can help the team the most. And that’s the OF.

  • Denis Engel

    Neither Ruf nor Vogelbach will add much value to the Mets lineup. If you’re going to have platoon the DH spot (which really should be used to give veterans some rest in the field), why not use Vientos and Baty?

    • Brian Joura

      When a guy posts a 139 OPS+, a 144 wRC+ and a 1.0 fWAR in 183 PA – that’s adding a whole lot to the team.

  • NYM6986

    It is a change over from former generations that the minor league coaches of today, at least for the Mets, represent some who are experts in their fields and not just former MLB players whose playing days are over. They are there to teach and develop players and god knows that’s what the Mets need with a number of spots in their MLB starting lineup containing thirty-somethings. RF, LF, 3B, and their starting pitchers are on the wrong side of 30. The Mets minor league coaching staff, especially at Syracuse, are vital to the future success of building a perennial contender – one of Cohen’s stated goals.
    Bob Natal should spend a lot of his roaming instruction in Syracuse to push Alvarez’s development. We keep forgetting that he is only 21 and his rapid progression clearly caused by his bat development and not his pitch calling. Kudos to the Mets for hedging their bets and signing Narvaez and locking up Nido for a few years on a team friendly bargain contract.
    Vientos has nothing left to prove at AAA except no one is sure where to play him in the field. Baty is hopefully improving in the field that we will be ready to anoint him at 3B by 2024 unless Escobar falters and he gets his chance sooner. Mauricio needs to be trained in the OF to bring his talents up the Citifield. I am jealous that the Braves could bring up two AA players that hit the ground running.
    With unlimited dollars at their disposal, why not go after Machado when he opts out? Solid fielder, big bat, MVP contender, and all t takes is money My bet though is that it does not get to that and based on the strength of that team, the Padres will rip up his deal and give him another 5-8 million a year for the last five years.
    I also believe we will see an improved Vogelbach, who did not have a bad season with the Mets and will get production from Ruf and Pham from the RH side. If any falter, I believe they will pull the plug sooner than later, and move onto the kids to DH. Again, in this day and age, your DH does not have to be a one dimensional player anymore who can no longer be a full time starter and play in the field.
    Lots to ponder as SP gets under way.

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