Spring Training So Far: What We’ve Learned

Spring Training So Far: What We’ve Learned

At the conclusion of Sunday's rain-shortened game, there is enough sample size through nine games to assess what exactly the Mets are working with. This, along with the fact the Mets made cuts this weekend to their Spring Training roster, including within their top 30 prospects in catcher Kevin Parada, outfielder Drew Gilbert, infielder Jett Williams, infielder Luisangel Acuña, pitchers Mike Vasil, Dominic Hamel, and Christian Scott. Also on the list were pitchers Eric Ozre, Cam Robinson, Danny Young, and Kolton Ingram. This doesn’t mean that Mets fans will never see these players again, they’re just going down to minor-league camp or Triple-A to get more playing time. Many of these players will likely be back for the Spring Breakout game, which for the Mets is March 15th at 3:10 PM vs. the Washington Nationals, where the best prospects from each organization get a chance to shine. These players who were cut can also continue to play in Spring Training games at the major league level. All the Mets want to do is get their active roster down to 26 players before Opening Day.

Assessing the Mets current starting staff has been well underway. Although many starters themselves have not seen enough time to make assumptions, which is a good thing. These players for example: Brandon Nimmo (who went hitless in his debut Sunday), Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso. These players feel like beating a dead horse in terms of the years they may have, and Spring Training is not suddenly going to alter that. All three of them will have great years, with little to no doubt in my mind. This goes too for players such as Harrison Bader, who doesn’t make his spring debut until tomorrow Tuesday, 03/05/2024, with little to no sample size to cast criticism on these kinds of players just yet. Frankly, if at all.

Starting Pitching

So far this spring, in the absence of Kodai Senga, the Mets have gotten some positive feedback in terms of other starting pitchers. The Mets started their spring handing the ball to Tylor Megill, who handed it back after striking out three over two innings. Megill certainly did not look like his best, but we all understand this is Spring Training. I would expect either Megill or Jose Quintana to be the Opening Day starter this year. Quintana did not impress in his first Spring Training start, giving up two runs in 1.2 innings pitched, on two hits with three walks and striking out one. Quintana did face many batters that will be in the Astros starting lineup that the Yankees will see Opening Day, but it could have been worse. The veteran southpaw made only 13 starts in his first season with the Mets last year, due to a rib issue that required surgery. Quintana managed a respectable 3.57 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, over 75.2 innings last year. Quintana staying healthy and pitching well in the absence of Kodai Senga to begin the year will be crucial in terms of staying afloat. In terms of other starters, Adrian Houser completed his second start of spring training, going 1.2 IP, 4H, 3R, 2K, 1 BB vs. the Houston Astros. Houser’s stuff looks good, it’s just a matter of how consistent he will be. Houser’s first start was better than his last, throwing two scoreless innings vs. the Miami Marlins. Houser will be an under-the-radar piece that should help anchor this rotation. Another newcomer, Sean Manaea, got roughed up in his first spring training appearance, allowing three runs. Even for Manaea, his stuff looked good and will be very helpful to the Mets rotation in 2024. Manaea just recently cut his hair, which could give anyone some new-found confidence. Rounding out the rotation is Luis Severino. Severino may have been the most impressive of all, saving a 98-mph fastball for the last pitch of his outing against the Saint Luis Cardinals to strike out Matt Carpenter. Severino went two scoreless innings, striking out one. Severino will look to improve upon anything better than his 6.65 ERA and 1.65 WHIP over 89.1 innings with the Yankees last year, and he’s already off to a great start. If Severino can stay healthy, he can be the difference in this rotation from making or missing the playoffs.

Bullpen

Similar to the starting rotation, there were not many positions just openly up for grabs in the bullpen. Even with someone like a hybrid starter in Max Kranick who will begin the season on the injured list with a left hamstring strain, those spots aren’t generally accessible. Even though there will be openings, it will be interesting to see who steps up in the rotation and the pen. The most impressive pitcher out of the bullpen has been Nate Lavender, a Mets 14th-round pick in the 2021 draft out of Illinois. Lavender was never going to be a pitcher that overpowers you. Sitting a couple ticks above 90 mph on his fastball, Lavender struck out the side against the Cardinals in his debut. Safe to say he has turned some heads as spring training goes on. The bullpen is a part of the Mets team worth watching, as many arms are vying to make their impacts felt in camp. As time goes on, we will have a larger sample size to go off of, and less based on overall feel.

Offense

As for the offense, a lot of it has been as expected. Pete Alonso, Francisco Alvarez, Mark Vientos, and Brett Baty have all hit home runs. In terms of Pete Alonso and Francisco Alvarez, it’s great to see them both producing and gearing up for the season. In terms of the 3rd base debate between Mark Vientos and Brett Baty, as far as I’m concerned, no real winner has come out on top. Both players have not looked their best, whether it’s been on the field or at the plate; and one home run will not erase that image that fans have already put in their heads. As spring training continues on, that debate will become greater and greater in terms of finally getting someone solidified at the position. Regardless, the fact that both of them have hit home runs shows they are not going to make the conversation easy and will likely both make the Opening Day roster. Some surprising players who played well so far is Trayce Thompson, who hit a grand slam vs. the Nationals last week and will continue to hunt for a spot on the roster. Who knows, if Thompson continues to hit, he could find himself with one. Ji-man Choi also homered so far this spring, continuing to make that DH question more of a toss-up. Outfield candidate Ben Gamel also looked good at the plate, as well as prospect Alex Ramírez continued to play well. Starling Marte has looked good so far, showing off his amazing arm in the field as well all around. The reason why Spring Training is so beloved is because it’s a very low-stress environment. Sure, you have players fighting for their lives to make roster spots, but the general aura around this time of year is positive. As these teams continue to steadily improve, especially the Mets, the spring is the perfect time for us to follow along in their progressions. Obviously, it’s not going to happen overnight, but seeing growth from certain players over time can help bleed out over into wins during the regular season, which the Mets certainly need a lot of in order to compete.

 

-@DanBartels2

 (Met Cast Writer/Co-host)

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