After an arduous and frustratingly uneventful offseason, spring training is officially upon us. Pretty soon, the cracks of bats and the scent of freshly-cut grass will resonate throughout baseball’s cathedrals all across America. Like many teams around the league, the Mets will enter spring training with a great sense of optimism and a host of questions about the state of their team. Between the progression of their top prospects and how the injury-addled rotation will try to remain healthy, there are plenty of things to pay attention to during the Mets’ spring training.
How will the starting rotation bounce back in 2018?
The storyline throughout the 2017 season was the overwhelming amount of injuries the Mets experienced, especially to their rotation. Some of the pitchers are already taking precautionary measures to shore up their durability. Zack Wheeler has undergone a six-month regimen of bone strengthening shots in order to stave off the injury demons that have plagued his career. Despite the valiant efforts at injury prevention, there will be plenty of questions on whether Harvey, Matz, Wheeler, and Syndergaard will not only remain healthy in 2018, but produce on a consistent basis.
What will be Mickey Callaway’s managerial philosophies?
Mickey Callaway will enter his first season as a major league manager, and this spring training will provide several tests for the new skipper. There have been many criticisms towards former manager Terry Collins’ bullpen management and his handling of starting pitchers, and many fans have looked forward to seeing how Callaway will manage the Mets. Callaway has been on record that he will take a more analytical approach to managing the bullpen, the lineups, and the most importantly, the injuries. Callaway has also said that he will communicate with the club house frequently, ensuring a more transparent relationship with his players, something has been lacking for the past couple of seasons. It will be very interesting to see how he will apply his philosophies during an in-game setting.
Who will win the remaining positional battles?
Most of the starting jobs have been decided already, however there is definite uncertainty at a couple of positions. After signing first baseman Adrian Gonzalez during free agency, he will be involved in a tight competition with rookie Dominic Smith on who will become the Opening Day first baseman. This race seems a lot closer now, with reports coming out that Dominic Smith has lost around 30 pounds during this offseason, potentially improving his speed and defense.
The starting job in center field will also be up for grabs, at least until Michael Conforto returns from his shoulder injury. Either Brandon Nimmo or Juan Lagares will begin the season with starting center field duties. Although Juan Lagares brings golden glove caliber defense to the table, Brandon Nimmo will bring the promising on-base hitting that he has flashed in 2017.
How will the second-year players improve?
A lot of people will be looking forward to how prospects like Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith will improve this season. Amed Rosario has struggled to show great plate discipline when he was called up to the major leagues in 2017, striking out in 28.8% of plate appearances with the Mets. If he shows he can work the count and not swing at bad pitches on a consistent basis in spring training, there will be plenty of hope for Mets fans.
There will be a lot more questions for Dominic Smith, who had a very flawed inaugural foray into the majors in 2017. Smith struggled to hit, defend, and run on the basepaths last season. With the stringent weight loss plan Smith has followed, he may become an improved defender and baserunner this season. We will also be able to see whether he will finally show flashes of the strong contact hitter he was expected to be, and just maybe he will find a way to generate a reliably powerful swing.
What prospects should we pay attention to?
The biggest prospect to keep an eye on is the defensive anchor known as Luis Guillorme, who has emerged as one of the Mets’ top prospects and arguably the most pro-ready in the farm system. Guillorme has carried the reputation of a ground-ball hitter, so it will be interesting to see how he has tweaked his swing to get the ball higher.
You should also pay attention to other prospects like pitchers P.J. Conlon and Drew Smith, and positional players Pat Mazeika, Peter Alonso, and Kevin Kaczmarski, who all could make the jump to the show within the next couple of seasons.
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