Apart from seeing actual baseball games for the first time in many months, everybody's favorite part of spring training are the furious rosterbation sessions, which are driven primarily by informed speculation and unabashed wishcasting. Opening Day is still a month hence, but I think we have enough information to make some fairly reliable predictions about the 25-man roster based on past experience and a bit of deductive reasoning. What follows is my projected Mets roster for Opening Day. It's worth noting that this isn't my ideal roster, i.e., I wouldn't necessarily construct the team this way if I had my druthers, but I consider it the most likely roster based on what we know about the team, its management, and the particular circumstances of each player.
THE STARTING FIVE
- Mike Pelfrey. He's the Opening Day starter.
- R.A. Dickey. He was the best pitcher on the team in 2010.
- Jon Niese. Ran out of gas in the latter parts of 2010 but he's a lock for the starting rotation.
- Chris Young. Signed to a big league contract so it's either here or the bullpen, and I think the Mets already know who'll be in the rotation.
- Chris Capuano. There was some talk before spring training that Capuano might be sent to the bullpen, but I don't see it happening.
THE RELIEF CORPS
- Francisco Rodriguez. He's the closer, but the Mets would be wise to label him publicly as the relief ace, giving them cover—especially from the MLBPA—to use him in high-leverage, non-save situations. Doing so would help them keep Rodriguez from finishing the 55 games necessary to guarantee his 2012 contract at $17.5 million.
- Bobby Parnell. He struck out 33 and walked just eight in 35 innings last season. He does have one option year remaining, so that gives the Mets a bit of flexibility if they decide to carry someone else at any point. Nevertheless, I think Parnell will make the team out of the gate because he's a better pitcher than Boof Bonser, Blaine Boyer, and other minor league flotsam.
- D.J. Carrasco. Signed a two-year, major league contract this offseason, so he's making the team.
- Manny Acosta. Out of options, and he pitched well enough for the Mets last season—42 strikeouts and 18 walks in 39.2 innings—that I expect him to make the cut.
- Pedro Beato. His Rule 5 status—i.e., that the Mets would have to offer him back to the Orioles if he doesn't stay with the major league team all season—gives him an advantage over other borderline candidates who are signed to minor league deals or are in camp as non-roster invitees.
- Taylor Buchholz. Signed to a major league deal so he'll need to clear waivers if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster.
- Taylor Tankersley. You've gotta have a lefty in the bullpen and Tank will be the one. Pat Misch was another option but he's more useful as a starter anyway.
THE STARTING LINEUP
- Ike Davis. No doubter.
- Luis Castillo. I don't necessarily want it this way, but I think Luis Castillo will be the Opening Day second baseman. At the very least he'll make the team in a backup role, as his on-base and base-stealing skills could be useful in the late innings.
- David Wright. Trade this guy.
- Jose Reyes. Too flashy.
- Josh Thole. I've been crushing on Thole since October 2008 and he should get the bulk of the playing time at catcher this season.
- Jason Bay. Too big to fail.
- Angel Pagan. Team player.
- Carlos Beltran. Selfish attention whore made a big show out of moving to right field. #BlameBeltran
- Mike Nickeas. Will back up Thole while Ronny Paulino serves out his PED-related suspension through the first eight games of the season.
- Chin-lung Hu. The Mets will want a credible glove to back up Reyes and none of the other second base candidates can claim such adroitness at shortstop.
- Scott Hairston. Signed a big league deal, and is actually pretty good.
- Willie Harris. Do the Mets need a weak-hitting fifth outfielder? Maybe not, but Harris, in camp on a minor league deal, will probably make the club.
- Daniel Murphy. He could displace Castillo as the starting second baseman, but his versatility to "play" third base and first base give him the edge over Brad Emaus, who will be offered back to the Blue Jays.
Jason Isringhausen has been a compelling story in camp and I think he has an outside shot at making the roster. If the Mets don't like what they see from Beato, or if they jettison Acosta, Izzy could slide into the last bullpen spot. Tim Byrdak could make the team as well, and if Tank tanks this spring then the Mets might look elsewhere for southpaw relief.
If the Mets bite the bullet and cut Castillo, Emaus is probably next in line to make the Opening Day roster because of his Rule 5 status. I think he's far more likely to be offered back to his old team than is Beato, however. Nick Evans is out of options and would have to be passed through waivers to return to the minors, and his lefty-mashing bat is unlikely to elude the grasp of all 29 other teams.