If you subscribe to The Athletic, you know that the Mets are blessed with two outstanding beat writers – Tim Britton and Will Sammon. Those two combined on a column today where they each contributed their thoughts to various questions. Unlike the late, great 2 Guys Talking Mets Baseball, they did not interact with each other’s response. So, I felt like I could join in on their fun.
Their questions were all about Spring Training takeaways so far and they were able to answer with the advantage of actually being in Port St. Lucie. The Mets360 treasurer vetoed my request for a six-week stay in Florida, so my impressions are from watching the games, looking at the box scores and reading what the beat writers lay down. There are advantages to each side. Regardless, here are my unasked for responses to their questions:
How would you describe the vibe in Port St. Lucie?
Okay, this one’s going to be difficult. But, hey, it’s Spring Training and a large number of players have fancy new contracts, the youngsters are mostly performing well and some of the NRIs are having good camps. Additionally, the team has a year of stability with the manager and GM. If a team coming off a 101-win season with all of the things going for them that this one has isn’t throwing out some major good vibes – then we’re in serious trouble.
The most interesting development in Mets camp so far
The starting pitchers almost all going deep in their first outing. Carlos Carrasco, David Peterson, Max Scherzer and Kodai Senga each went two innings in their first outing. Justin Verlander went three innings. And while it wasn’t in a start, Tylor Megill also went two innings his first time out. Only Jose Quintana didn’t go multiple innings; he didn’t even get out of the first frame. And now we are left wondering if he was pitching while hurt, as Quintana has been diagnosed with a rib injury. At least the Mets got good news on Peterson, as his toe injury has been officially labeled as a contusion.
The most important development in Mets camp so far
Sammon answered Senga pitching well, which would probably be my first choice, too. Instead, let’s go with how the prospects are doing despite all public statements and actions from Billy Eppler and Buck Showalter being less than glowing about their chances to make the Opening Day roster. Instead of pouting and going into a funk, the youngsters are putting their best foot forward. Brett Baty, Ronny Mauricio and Mark Vientos are all ripping the ball. Francisco Alvarez has finally got some time behind the plate and in his limited innings, he’s caught the ball and accurately thrown it back to the pitcher, which might seem a minor miracle the way his defense has been described. Hopefully they’ve made a big enough positive impression on Eppler and Showalter that the two won’t wait as long as they did in 2022 to give them a chance to play in the majors this season.
I’m most surprised by
The performances of the outfield depth pieces in camp. So much has been made about the acquisition of pitching depth that very little has been made by the veteran outfielders the Mets have acquired. Abraham Almonte looks like a tank and with his 1.357 OPS, he’s done some damage at the plate. Jaylin Davis hasn’t gotten a big opportunity but he looks like he belongs in the rare times he gets into the game. But the biggest surprise to me has been Tim Locastro. Last year, the Mets went with Travis Jankowski as a reserve outfielder because of his ability to run and play defense. Locastro brings both of those things to the table and he leads the club with four stolen bases. But, unlike Jankowski, Locastro is showing some offensive ability. Four of his six hits have gone for extra-bases and he sits with a 1.064 OPS. He also has a higher MLB percentage of HBP than Mark Canha, something learned when ESPN did an in-game interview with Canha, who seemed shocked by the revelation.
I remain skeptical about
The wisdom of signing Tommy Pham to a $6 million deal while leaving three bullpen spots as a competition among 15-20 relievers, rather than signing some combination of Andrew Chafin, Brad Hand and/or Will Smith to get more certainty in the back of the bullpen. The Mets have two very good setup men who are at an advanced age and they are also counting on a full season from Drew Smith, who’s never done that. It’s a lot of risk when you’re counting on those pitchers to be three of your locks in the pen. My preference would have been to sign more veterans like the three listed above while still stockpiling guys with options to fill out the Syracuse roster and be available for a promotion when necessary. And either Almonte or Locastro would be as least as good as Pham as a reserve outfielder, at less than one-sixth the cost.
I’m still looking forward to
Seeing Scherzer and Verlander take the ball 50-plus times. We were teased this time last year with the possibility of seeing two co-aces but injuries to both players limited Jacob deGrom and Scherzer to a combined 34 starts. And almost half of those deGrom starts were less than stellar. Scherzer was terrific in 23 starts last year. A few more from him, combined with an equal number from Verlander has me very excited about the possibilities.
And while he’s not at their level, it will certainly be great fun to see that many starts from Senga, too. After a rough first inning where he walked the first two batters and threw a bunch of pitches, Senga settled in and looked in complete command in his second inning. It seems to me he offers a fairly reasonable floor and a pretty high ceiling. And while often being frustrated in watching Chris Bassitt, it seems like Senga will be fun to watch pitch.