After four-plus months without Mets baseball, it’s a welcome sight to see Grapefruit League games. By now we know all of the pratfalls about Spring Training, where all of the players are in the best shape of their life and that everyone is working on a new pitch or a new approach in the box. And for all things holy, don’t for a minute believe any numbers you see put up at this point of the year. Everyone now, say it with me – Spring Training stats don’t matter.
With that out of the way, let’s look at some Spring Training stats. In particular, let’s focus on the old (35+) and the young (23 and under) in camp with the Mets. Do the super vets still have it? Are the young guys ready for the big time? Here’s what’s jumped out at me here in the early going:
Francisco Alvarez – For quite a while, we heard that the Mets wanted Alvarez to be a catcher and not just a hitter and that his defense needed work. So, what happens? Alvarez plays mostly DH in the early going. Mets claim they were slow-playing things as he works back from his ankle injury. Seems suspicious to me. If you claim a guy is bad on defense, the best way to perpetuate the myth is by not letting everyone see him play defense. Alvarez finally caught a few innings on Saturday. Conspiracy theories aside, Alvarez is off to a rough start, as he’s 0-7 with 4 Ks. Ouch.
Brett Baty – My opinion is that the Mets came to Florida with absolutely no plan to have Baty make the team out of Spring Training. But he’s had a fantastic start to Grapefruit League play and now there’s got to be at least some small chance of that happening, even if it’s the equivalent of low-fat milk. A .400/.471/.600 line tends to make people take notice.
Carlos Carrasco – A poor end to the 2022 season had to create at least a little bit of concern for Carrasco this year. And then he gives up a homer in his first start. It was still better than Jose Quintana’s first game.
William Lugo – One of my favorite under-the-radar prospects, Lugo has two hits in two trips to the plate, including a homer. Lugo spent time at two A-ball clubs last year, so his lack of playing time in Grapefruit League play is unsurprising. It will be interesting to see if the Mets send him back to Hi-A or promote him to Double-A at the start of the season.
Ronny Mauricio – The guy hits 26 HR in Double-A and then wins the MVP in the Dominican Winter League. Yet somehow the Mets seem unexcited. They stubbornly continue to view him as a shortstop, even though there’s zero chance he’ll unseat Francisco Lindor. Why he isn’t being utilized in the outfield and being groomed to be Mark Canha’s replacement in 2024 makes no sense to me. Instead, it’s like they want him to be Luis Guillorme’s replacement. Mauricio remains unfazed. All he’s done is put up a .455/.500/1.364 line, thanks to a team-leading three homers.
Adam Ottavino – Last year’s surprise bullpen stalwart, Ottavino has three scoreless innings.
David Robertson – The soon-to-be, 38-year-old Robertson has yet to appear in a game.
Darin Ruf – Not only has he yet to play in a Grapefruit League game, Ruf has received a cortisone shot to reduce pain in his wrist. There’s still time for him to show that the second half of last year was a fluke. But the longer he’s out…
Max Scherzer – There’ a story about the group Jefferson Airplane that when they got control in the studio, they experimented wildly with all of the mixing options, seeing what sounds they could get with every combination of button/slider placement. One might call this screwing around. Others might call it testing the limits to see what’s possible. Scherzer’s either screwing around or testing the limits with the newly introduced pitch clock. He has 6 Ks in 4.2 IP and a 1.93 ERA while fooling around with the grey area of the new rules. Keep pushing those boundaries, Scherzer.
Justin Verlander – Finally made his season debut Saturday and pitched three innings. It used to be standard operating procedure for starters to throw one inning in their Spring Training debut. Most Mets starters have gone two innings and now Verlander with three. Sure, it was only 36 pitches. It’s still nice to see a rebuff of the rigid orthodoxy of the past. Verlander allowed one run and two hits and struck out three batters in the appearance.
Mark Vientos – Surprisingly – in a good way – Vientos leads the team in ABs and is second in PA. The Pham signing seemed to be the club announcing that Vientos had no shot to make the Opening Day roster. But with Ruf being sidelined and several players off to the WBC, Vientos has been getting a shot and in all likelihood will continue to see playing time. More games like Saturday, when he cracked two homers to straight away CF, will only help. Vientos now sports a 1.047 OPS, showing how quickly things can turn from mediocre to great in Spring Training.