Now that it seems like the shock of losing Edwin Diaz for the 2023 season has settled, it is time to accept and move on. The fact is that despite losing Diaz, the Mets still have a roster strong enough to have excitement heading into the season. In spring training, the young talent consisting of Brett Baty, Mark Vientos, Ronny Mauricio, and Francisco Alvarez have all impressed. Standing in the way of these young players potentially earning a roster spot is the group of wiley veterans that the Mets have as depth pieces entering the season. One of those pieces is Tommy Pham, a gritty player who is perhaps most famous for slapping Joc Pederson over a fantasy football beef. Yes, you read that right.
Pham has bounced around the National League the last few seasons, save for a stretch of the 2022 season where he was traded to the Boston Red Sox. His best season came in 2017, when he finished 11th in NL MVP voting. That season, he slashed a .306 batting average with a .520 slugging percentage, swiping 25 bags and slugging 23 home runs along the way. Since that season, his best stretch came as a Tampa Bay Ray, where in 2018 he produced a 1.071 OPS after being traded there from St. Louis. Since 2020, he has not produced a season WAR over 1.5. His main value has been in providing tough play, where he hustles to beat out a hit or catch a ball coming his way.
While this hustle and determination is always good to have in a veteran on your , the results haven’t been there this spring. His .133/.257/.167 slash line has been less than inspiring, and he has not showed any of the power that he has in past seasons. Of course, he could still be getting his game into shape for the season, but at this point in the spring, Buck Showalter has to start making decisions on his roster. In a year when the Mets are looking to compete for a championship, players that perform like Pham has so far can weigh you down.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Tim Locastro has stepped up to the plate in a major way during spring training. Locastro does not have the same track record of success as Pham, but did start his career with a record 28 consecutive stolen bases to start his career. Throughout his career he has served as a speedy backup outfielder, and has never been able to command a consistent spot in a lineup. Locastro as a result has bounced around a couple of teams, and has earned his frequent flyer miles by moving up and down from minor league affiliates to the major league club. He has been producing well this spring however, slashing .364/.462/.576 and playing a solid outfield. Does the current spring success of Locastro mean he should get a roster spot over Pham entering the season?
As much of a great story it would be for the New York native to get the spot over Pham, the edge should still go to Pham. Despite his slow start this spring, Pham provides more than Locastro at the plate. While over the past few seasons his ability to bat for average has declined, as his spring training average has showcased, he can still bring a solid thump with the bat. He will be a good option to turn towards when any of the outfielders need rest, and is a good insurance policy in the case that one of Brandon Nimmo, Mark Canha, or Starling Marte suffers an injury this season (hopefully, Nimmo’s injury that he suffered on Friday night is not too serious.)
As the Mets enter the 2023 season, the thing that will set them apart from other teams is their depth, especially if the young players are incorporated into the mix. The pitching depth has already taken hits this spring, but the good thing about having depth is that you are able to deploy it when needed. When it comes to outfield depth, there are a lot worse options than having Pham as your fourth outfielder. The Phillies don’t even currently have a fourth outfielder. There is no doubt that Pham has started slowly this spring. Yet having the presence of someone like Pham on the roster, who is not afraid to get heated and rile up his team in intense situations, could be beneficial to a team that is looking to take a step forward from a 101 win season. As long as Pham can get his average above the Mendoza line, provide some power from his spot in the lineup, and restrain himself when it comes to fantasy football beefs, he has the opportunity to be a real net positive for the team.
Pham finished 11th in NL MVP Voting in 2017
Locastro started his career with a record 28 stolen bases without being caught
Pham has 114 career home runs