ON DECK: Jacob deGrom update
Like it or not, Mets manager Terry Collins has selected the 25-man roster that will open the 2016 season Sunday in Kansas City. Most of the selections were obvious, with nothing considered a major surprise.
Introducing the 2016 New York Mets:
Matt Harvey: He’s not talking, but most babies can’t. That’s all right as long as his pitching gives us something to talk about. It hasn’t so far this spring, but he gets a clean slate starting tonight.
Noah Syndergaard: Will start the season’s second game. There’s talk of retaliation, but that’s ludicrous. He just might have the highest ceiling of any of the Mets’ young arms.
Jacob deGrom: Will get the ball for the home opener Friday. Is carving a reputation as the Mets’ best big-game pitcher.
Steven Matz: Roughed up early in spring training, but closed strong. Still hasn’t been determined when he’ll get first start.
Jeurys Familia: Had great regular season, but struggled in the World Series. He might have won job by default, but he controls his own destiny.
Addison Reed: The designated set-up reliever, but is capable of closing if needed.
Antonio Bastardo: Lefty specialist. Had a rough spring training.
Jerry Blevins: Lefty is back after missing most of last year with a broken arm.
Logan Verrett: Capable of working in long relief and as spot starter. Started over Harvey last year to give Mets vital victory.
Jim Henderson: Former Brewers closer won spot.
Hansel Robles: Will serve two-game suspension to start season. Has reputation for quick-pitching and losing his composure.
Travis d’Arnaud: His health and throwing are two biggest concerns. Scouts believe if he stays healthy he could have 20-homer capability.
Kevin Plawecki: Thought he might open season in Triple-A. One of Collins’ challenges is to get him enough at-bats to stay sharp.
Lucas Duda: Has hit 57 homers over the past two years. Needs to cut strikeouts and use the entire field more than he does.
Asdrubal Cabrera: Missed much of spring training with a strained knee but will start tonight. Considered a defensive upgrade.
David Wright: His back will always be a question. It’s anybody’s guess as to how many games he’ll play this season.
Wilmer Flores: Scheduled to back up each of the infield positions, which could turn out to be his niche. Are 20 homers a possibility?
Eric Campbell: Can also play in the outfield. Could be the first choice to back up Wright.
Michael Conforto: Just let him play against left-handers so we can see what he’s all about. It could be a breakout year for him if they give him the at-bats.
Yoenis Cespedes: They are tied into him for $27.5 million this year. Should play left instead of center. Mind and hustle have tendency to wander.
Curtis Granderson: Surprised a lot of people last year at the leadoff spot. I’d love to see another 90-plus walks with 30 homers.
Juan Lagares: The team’s best defensive player won Gold Glove award two years ago. Is seemingly healthy. When he plays it should be in center with Cespedes moving to left.
Alejandro De Aza: Was signed as the reserve outfielder before Cespedes was brought back. Could be available in a trade.
ON DECK: Mets’ over/unders for 2016.
The Mets begin defense of their National League title a week from today, but will do so a team not without its issues.
Let’s go position-by-position to see how they stack up:
STARTING PITCHING: One issue was Jacob deGrom’s dip in velocity, but he was back in the mid-90s in Saturday’s start. Steven Matz gave up one run Sunday, but also walked four and later said he was gassed. He only gets one more start and doesn’t look sharp. There are no questions with Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard, and Bartolo Colon has not pitched well.
BULLPEN: Jim Henderson, Erik Goeddel, Sean Gilmartin and Logan Verrett are competing for the last bullpen spot. With three days off in the first week, the Mets shouldn’t have a problem not having Hansel Robles for the first two games as he serves a suspension.
CATCHER: Travis d’Arnaud is penciled in as the starter, but took a .200 batting average and .275 on-base percentage into Sunday’s game against the Nationals. The original plan was for Kevin Plawecki to be the back-up, and as of today they are leaning in that direction. However, with a heavy dose of days off in April – meaning he wouldn’t play much – and the prospect of saving a few bucks because of his Super 2 status, why not go with Johnny Monell and give Plawecki at-bats.
FIRST BASE: Lucas Duda hit 27 homers with 73 RBI last season and 30-92 in 2014. However, he had nearly a 2-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks-ratio in both seasons. He’s extremely streaky, capable of ten homers in one month and two in another. Five drives a month would be add consistency to his make-up. Wilmer Flores is the projected back-up.
SECOND BASE: Neil Walker is not having a good spring, but his track record shows he’s not a .171 hitter. There’s no indication his lack of production is because of any injury. It’s just a slow start.
SHORTSTOP: Asdrubal Cabrera has missed much of the spring with a strained left knee. There’s a chance he’ll be ready by Opening Day, but there’s no sense in pushing things. If not Cabrera, then Flores could get the start.
THIRD BASE: David Wright’s back seems fine, but he’s been bothered by tightness in his legs. He won’t get the at-bats he prefers but will have to make the best of it. I still think the best decision would be for him to be the DH in the first two games at Kansas City.
LEFT FIELD: Michael Conforto didn’t play Saturday because of a back issue, but was in the lineup Sunday. The Mets ideally want to play Conforto against lefties, but hasn’t had a good spring, which might temper those plans. In that case, we could see more of Juan Lagares (.316 this spring).
CENTERFIELD: The Mets’ best left fielder is center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, whose .394 average and .429 on-base percentage, not to mention the pig roast he hosted, would combine to push his brain cramp to the back burner. The Mets figure to bat him third behind Wright.
RIGHT FIELD: Curtis Granderson is hitting .324. A walking machine last year, he has drawn only one this spring.
Mets pitchers and catchers officially report today, something we’ve waited for since the final out of the World Series. Of course, most Mets – including position players – have already been in Port St. Lucie for several days, if not weeks, now.
Numerous questions will surface between now and Opening Day, but until then I’ve come up with a list of what I consider the ten most pertinent questions heading into spring training:
Q: What did the Mets learn from the playoffs?
A: There’s some validity to having been there. The Royals benefitted from playing the Giants in the 2014 World Series. Much of it is a team learning how to pace itself down the stretch and dealing with pressure in the postseason. Both players and managers learn about themselves, and the acquired knowledge can only help.
Q: Who is healthy and who isn’t?
A: David Wright’s back, of course, is the most important health question. Will Terry Collins have a concrete plan for Wright regarding playing time and rest? Lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Josh Edgin are on the mend. The target date for Zack Wheeler to come off the disabled list is late June.
Q: Will the starters have innings limitations?
A: Matt Harvey doesn’t want to hear anything about restrictions, which comes as no surprise. Harvey threw 216 innings last season – including the playoffs – and around the same number is what the Mets are hoping. There shouldn’t be any limits on Jacob deGrom, either, but the same probably won’t apply to Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. Presumably, Bartolo Colon will be the fifth starter until Wheeler is ready.
Q: What is the composition of the bullpen?
A: This is the position area of most concern. Jeurys Familia is the closer and Addison Reed gets the set-up role. If Blevins and Edgin are healthy, and Antonio Bastardo pitches to expectations, the lefty question that hindered them most of last season should be alleviated. Hansel Robles must mature as does Rafael Montero. Everybody else is a question mark. Getting back to the World Series is far from a given, but it will be more likely will a productive bullpen.
Q: Will the big bat feel any contract-related pressure?A: Hopefully, Yoenis Cespedes won’t be thinking about his opt-out clause after one year and instead will play free and easy as he did last August. Wouldn’t that be something?
Q: Will the double-play combination mesh?
A: Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are considered to be an upgrade over Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores/Ruben Tejada. Pennant winners must be strong up the middle. The Mets were lucky regarding this last year. It will take some time.
Q: Who is trying to steal center field?
A: That’s the way it appeared when Travis d’Arnaud came off the disabled list last summer. Defense up the middle includes behind the plate and d’Arnaud’s ability to combat the running game. When a runner knows he can take liberties on a catcher, it goes beyond stealing bases, which puts him into scoring position. Those are potential runs.
Q: Will the lefty power show some consistency?
A: Lucas Duda can hit eight homers in two weeks, then not go deep for a month. Curtis Granderson excelled in the leadoff slot last year and with the absence of a prototypical No. 1 hitter, he’ll need to duplicate that performance. There’s also the matter of Michael Conforto not having a falloff from last year’s strong first impression.
Q: How strong is the bench?
A: GM Sandy Alderson finally promoted Conforto and traded for Cespedes after his limited bench showed the overall weakness of the Mets’ offense. The Mets’ bench enters spring training substantially better than the 2015 version. Juan Lagares provides Gold Glove caliber late inning defense coming off the bench. Flores will sub for Wright so he should get a lot of reps at third base. He’ll also need time at first base. Alejandro De Aza gives them a left-handed bat and the ability to play all three outfield positions.
Q: Will the Mets make a deal during spring training?
A: There’s always the possibility of adding a reliever. Most likely, it would be a free-agent signing of another team’s castoff at the end as the start of the season draws closer. Barring an injury, I don’t anticipate them making any significant moves as there are no position battles.
There’s no concrete breaking news on the Mets these days, but more than a few things are racing through my mind:
* Proving they have a sense of humor, the Mets included a $50,000 bonus in Bartolo Colon‘s contract if he wins the Silver Slugger Award for the best hitter at his position. It would be great to see Colon hit a homer or even draw a walk this year, something he’s never done during his 18-year career.
* One bat I’m concerned about is Lucas Duda. He’s extremely streaky and that’s something I don’t see changing.
* As well as he performed in the leadoff spot this summer, I still prefer Curtis Granderson hitting in run-producing spots in the middle of the order, especially if they don’t land an outfield bat. Then again, they really don’t have many other options in the leadoff spot. I’ll have to do some more thinking about this.
* David Wright’s back will continue to be an issue for the duration of his contract. He might eventually have to consider a position change. But to where?
* Some people think I don’t like Matt Harvey. Not true. What I don’t care for is his attitude and still think a trade might be something to seriously consider. They have numerous holes to fill and he could do it for them.
* This will be the season the Mets will likely choose between Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki. I don’t think they’ll keep both.
* I’m very curious as to see how Michael Conforto will produce in his first full year.
* The Mets’ starter I think will be the first to win 20 games is Jacob deGrom.
Of course, I’ll go into greater depth on all of these topics, but for now just think of this as an appetizer, or in the spirit of the season, just a stocking stuffer.