When you've been starving for baseball all winter, it's hard to not get carried away with spring training performances. I think we all understand, intellectually, that a player's output in February/March often has little to no bearing on the regular season. But when you've got nothing else to go on, the temptation to project Great Things from a few good spring training at bats or mound appearances is difficult to resist. Conversely, it takes great willpower to not foresee doom when a pitcher gets smacked around in a start on March 5, or a batter opens camp 0-for-everything.
In an effort to provide us with the all important perspective (as Vin Scully once put it), I've compiled a totally informal list of Mets Spring Training Stars since 2006 (the oldest year for which MLB.com has Grapefruit League stats). Some of these numbers were a sign of great things to come. Most were not.
Most of these years presented me with a few possible candidates for Spring Training Stars. In these cases, I tended to pick the anomalies over real stars. David Wright could have been chosen in many of the seasons below, but his numbers didn't pop out to me as much as did those belonging to some others. Unfair?
If nothing else, perhaps this list will renew your faith in randomness, and serve as a reminder of how many times the Mets have rolled snake eyes in the last decade.
2006 Spring Training: Cliff Floyd clubbed 3 homers and drove in 13 RBIs down in Port St. Lucie, while offseason acquisition Xavier Nady had a pair of home runs while also knocking in 13 runs. On the bump, Brian Bannister impressed with an 0.95 ERA and 13Ks, earning himself a spot in the starting rotation.
2006 Regular Season: In a theme we shall see repeated often below, Floyd was solid when healthy, but health proved elusive for him. Injuries limited Cliff to 97 games, 11 homers, and 44 RBIs. He played the field during the division series against the Dodgers but was limited to pinch hitting by the time the NLCS began. Nady also performed decently as the Mets' everyday RF until Duaner Sanchez's cab accident in Miami turned him into trade bait. As for Bannister, he was one of the rotation's steadier members until suffering a freak hamstring injury while running the bases in San Francisco. Bannister remained on the shelf for the rest of the season and was dealt in the ensuing offseason for the immortal Ambiorix Burgos.
2007 Spring Training: Jose Reyes picked right up where he left off in 2006, smacking 4 homers, knocking in 9 runs, and swiping 13 bags in spring play. Not many pitching performances to speak of, although veteran Tom Glavine logged a 0.95 WHIP and limited opposing batters to a .216 batting average.
2007 Regular Season: Reyes had another fine season, scoring 119 runs and stealing 78 bases to lead the league. He did fade down the stretch, however, as the entire team seemed to do in that miserable season, batting only .208 in September. Though Glavine earned his 300th career win in Chicago that summer, he too had a miserable stretch run, giving up 19 runs in his final 4 starts of the season (all Mets losses), including 7 in just 1/3 of an inning in the very last...you know what? I don't wanna talk about this anymore.
2008 Spring Training: Fernando Martinez, still known at the time as the Teenage Hitting Machine, batted an impressive .340 in spring action, while Angel Pagan drove in 10 runs. (There weren't many offensive performances worth mentioning in 2008, as evidenced by the fact that the team leader in home runs was Raul Casanova, who hit 3.) On the hill, John Maine looked sharp with a 0.85 WHIP and .187 BAA.
2008 Regular Season: Once again plagued by injuries, F-Mart appeared in only 90 minor league games, a paltry sum that would nonetheless prove to be his high watermark while in the Mets organization. Pagan began the year as the Mets' everyday rightfielder because Moises Alou began the season on the DL, but when Alou recovered from his injury, Pagan was sent back down to the minors and would not be seen again until 2009. (This is the kind of decision making that got Omar Minaya where he is today.) John Maine had a very John Maine-like not-awful season (122 Ks, 4.18 ERA in 140 IP) until a rotator cuff injury put him on the shelf for good in early August.
2009 Spring Training: Daniel Murphy drove in a lofty 17 runs while batting .348. Johan Santana, coming off an excellent first season as Met, struck out 17 batters, limited batters to a .188 BAA, and finished spring with a 0.79 WHIP
2009 Regular Season: A season of apocalyptic injuries pressed Murphy into regular duty in the infield and outfield. While he became the rare Met who avoided getting hurt this season (though the future would not be so kind to him in this department), he also avoided being very good, driving in a mere 68 RBIs. Murphy did actually lead the club in home runs, though the mark with which he did so (12) was the lowest in franchise history. In a sign of things to come, Santana was not as lucky in the health department; he was placed on the DL in August, and bone chip surgery took him off the field for the rest of the season.
2010 Spring Training: The Mets' ubiquitous big offseason signing, Jason Bay, hit .340 with 4 home runs and 10 RBIs. Fernando Martinez had another great spring, batting .383 with 11 RBI. On the pitching front, Jennry Mejia opened eyes with a 1.06 WHIP in 17 IP.
2010 Regular Season: F-Mart saw another season cut short, this time with a knee injury. In a quixotic move that seemed more calculated to save the jobs of Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya than anything else, Mejia was given a spot in the Mets' bullpen out of spring training. The results were decidedly mixed (17 Ks, 15 walks in 27 2/3 IP) before the front office pulled a switcheroo and sent him back to the minors to become a starter again. It's impossible to say whether this had any bearing on Mejia's Tommy John surgery in 2011, but I'd guess it didn't help. As for Bay...let's move on.
2011 Spring Training: Scott Hairston clubbed 4 longballs and drove in 12 RBIs while batting .345. Among the pitchers, Chris Young put up a 0.99 WHIP, while Jonathan Niese led the club with 23 Ks.
2011 Regular Season: Hairston proved valuable in a part-time role, mostly punishing left-handed pitching, although not quite to the ridiculous degree that he would in 2012. Young carried over his strong performances into his first four starts of the year, pitching to a 1.88 ERA over that stretch. He then decided to go out on top by injuring his elbow and missing the rest of the season. Niese turned in aM middle-of-the-rotation-type season, though the strikeout totals implied by his spring numbers did not materialize.
2012 Spring Training: Lucas Duda and Ike Davis both belted 4 homers and drove in 10 and 13 runs, respectively. As for the pitchers, both Niese and Dillon Gee racked up 20 strikeouts, while R.A. Dickey posted a WHIP of 0.92.
2012 Regular Season: Both Duda and Davis had their struggles at the plate, although Ike did rediscover his form over the last half of the season. Duda, on the other, hand, was demoted to the minors to figure things out but never quite did (and still hasn't, if this year's spring stats mean anything). Niese and Gee made delivered on some of the promise showed by their respective springs, but while Niese stayed healthy for the duration, Gee was felled by a mysterious blood clot ailment. As for Dickey...sigh.