- Who’s on first?
The Mets had originally planned on a spring training battle (to an extent) between once-top heralded prospect Dominic Smith and veteran free agent signing Adrian Gonzalez. Let’s just say that so far, things have not unfolded favorably for the team.
Smith started off his spring training by oversleeping and showing up late to the Mets’ complex, putting him behind the eight ball and in new manager Mickey Callaway’s doghouse from the get-go. Then, Smith suffered an injured quad and all but wrapped up the battle.
Following his disappointing 2017, however, Adrian Gonzalez has had a dreadful spring at the plate. He struggled all 2017 with lingering back issues, and was unseated by NL Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger at first base. Yes, the Mets only owe him the veteran minimum. And his defensive expertise and ability to control the infield has not left him.
But, for a team looking to contend for a wild card spot, the Mets cannot be happy with Gonzalez’s lack of production so far. Maybe, if anything, Dom Smith can tear up Triple-A, and earn himself a quick promotion back up to the majors. A third option floating around— assuming Michael Conforto makes a complete recovery — is moving Jay Bruce to first, which would allow Brandon Nimmo to remain in the lineup more often. Hopefully though, Gonzalez or Smith show themselves capable sooner rather than later.
2. After the Big Two, will the Mets get consistent starting pitching?
Not so long ago, the Mets were the team that had young starting pitchers in excess (even trading away Michael Fulmer). Remember 2015? It now feels like decades ago. Today, there is a new reality today for the Mets.
Last season, Jacob deGrom was the only starting pitcher to start more than 22 games, pitching 201.1 innings, his first year breaking the 200 innings mark. Noah Syndergaard tore a lat muscle early in the season, missing the majority of the year. After making necessary adjustments in his weight training programs, it would seem the issue is (hopefully) behind him.
After those two, however, there are serious questions about the rest of the pitching staff. The Mets signed veteran starting pitcher Jason Vargas to a two-year deal with a club option for a third season, adding a veteran arm into the mix of starters. Matt Harvey will, barring injury, be the fourth arm, pitching in his walk year and hoping to earn his next contract. The fifth spot is between Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, and Robert Gsellman. Seth Lugo looks like he is destined for an Andrew Miller-like bullpen role. It seems like Matz will win the job, with Wheeler and/or Gsellman making spot starts as the sixth member of the rotation to occasionally give the other starters more rest.
It will be all about consistency for this pitching staff. If the Mets are to succeed this year, this crop of arms must stay healthy avoid inconsistency.
3. What does centerfield look like before Michael Conforto’s return?
Michael Conforto-watch is at a spring training high, with reports out of Port St. Lucie stating the young centerfielder is inching closer to appearing in a spring training game. While this is great news, he will not be ready for opening day and in all likelihood, the opening weeks of April.
Brandon Nimmo, a former first round pick for the Mets, has been tearing it up this spring after impressing in the second half of 2017. Nimmo has also shown an ability to be a lead-off hitter, which will help until Conforto gets back into game shape.
On Tuesday, Mike Puma of the New York Post reported that the Mets could have interest in trading centerfielder Juan Lagares and the $15.5 million he has remaining over the next two seasons. Nimmo’s emergence as a perfect fourth outfielder-type for whenever Conforto does return leaves Lagares expendable. It would leave the Mets’ outfield depth thin, but would save money and allow Nimmo opportunities even when Conforto returns.