According to ESPN's Adam Rubin, the Mets have announced numerous non-roster invites to 2014 spring training. Jack Leathersich, Dustin Lawley, Danny Muno, Logan Verrett, and Cory Vaughn all will be among the players in camp competing for a role on the 2014 Mets.
Leathersich, 23, was drafted by the Mets in the 5th round (162nd overall) of the 2011 MLB Draft. The left-handed reliever pitched 58.1 innings last season, splitting them almost exactly between AA-Binghamton (29 IP) and AAA-Las Vegas (29.1 IP). In Binghamton, the "Leather Rocket" shined- despite a 12.9 BB% (4.9 BB/9), the lefty posted a sterling 1.53 ERA, mostly thanks to an eye popping 44.4 K% (16.9 K/9). Upon being promoted to the 51s, Leathersich's breakout season took an abrupt turn. Though he continued striking out batters at a phenomenal rate (31.8 K%; 14.6 K/9), his wildness worsened- an already poor walk rate almost doubled (19.6 BB%, 9.0 BB/9). Coupled with the fact that he was facing more advanced hitters in the thinner air of the Pacific Coast Line, left-hander was left with a black eye in the form of a 7.76 ERA.
Leathersich will be competing for a role in the bullpen. Thought a left-hander, he should not be in the running for role as LOOGY because of his reverse platoon splits. Last season, he had more success against right-handers (.181/.308/.292) than he did against left-handers (.329/.475/.408)- a trend that goes back his entire professional baseball career. While it is easy to expect success for the left-hander because of the gaudy strikeout numbers, Leathersich will meet with a great deal of adversity if he is unable to get the number of free passes he issues under control.
Lawley, 24, was drafted by the Mets in the 19th round (582nd overall) of the 2011 MLB Draft. Assigned to High A-St. Lucie to start the 2014 season, Lawley put his presence on the map by crushing a career high and league leading 25 home runs before skipping AA altogether and being promoted to AAA-Las Vegas for a handful of games at the end of the season- and adding one more home run for good measure, to bring his total on the year to 26. For a player his age, against High-A competition, his stat totals are wanting in most categories. In 122 games, he hit .260/.313/.512 while playing an unspectacular left field, with occasional 3B and DH duties. Still, you cannot teach power, and Lawley exhibited it.
Lawley is likely a long shot to make the team as a back-up outfielder, but a strong spring training certainly could put his name on the map and give him a boost on the depth chart. Still, with the preponderance of in-house options the team can pick-and-choose from to fill any such bench needs, it doesn't seem probable that he will be on the big league club when the team breaks camp.
Muno, 24, was drafted by the Mets in the 8th round (252nd overall) of the 2011 MLB Draft. The switch-hitting middle infielder had another down season, his breakout 2011 season further in the rear view mirror and looking more and more like an outlier. In 127 games with AA-Binghamton, he hit .249/.384/.379, was caught almost as much as he succeeded when stealing bases (15 SB/11 CS), and was nothing particularly special as a second baseman. His season wasn't a complete wash, devoid of any bright spots. In June, July, and August- 73 games and 336 plate appearances- Muno hit a more-than-acceptable .289/.412/.439.
Of all of the spring training invitees, perhaps Muno has the most uphill battle to fight. Not only has he failed to live up to expectations and has diminished as a ballplayer since being drafted, but he will join the fray for a starting or back-up middle infield position where virtually all of his competition represents upgrades over Muno himself.
Vaughn, 24, is the son of former major leaguer Greg Vaughn, and is the second cousin of Mo Vaugn. Drafted in the 4th round (122nd overall) of the 2010 MLB Draft, the right-hander began the 2013 season with the Binghamton Mets. He started the season strong, hitting .279/.360/.418 over the first two months of the season, as well as successfully stealing 8 bases in 9 attempts. In early June, he sprained his elbow and spent close to an entire month off the field. After rehabbing with the GCL Mets and the St. Lucie Mets for virtually all of July and the beginning of August, Vaughn returned to Binghamton on August 6th and hit the ground running, going 2-3 with a home run and 4 RBI on his first game back. He finished out the season hitting a sub optimal but respectable .242/.330/.400. Combined with his early season numbers, the right-hander hit .267/.346/.424 on the season for the Binghamton Mets in 71 games, hitting 10 home runs and stealing 9 of 10 bases.
This past December, the Mets left Vaughn unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. He went unselected, and is a dark horse to make the team as a back-up outfielder. Of note, in 96 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers last season, the younger Vaughn hit .309/.406/.531, following the trend in his MiLB career of being able to hit lefties well.
Verrett, 23, pitched in Binghamton last year. Here's what our own Jeffrey Paternostro had to say about his performance:
Verrett is a bulldog on the mound, but didn't quite have the stuff to challenge Double-A hitters and get away with it in 2013.
In addition, this group will compete with established players, other non-roster invitees already announced or yet-to-be, and rostered prospects (most notably Jake deGrom, Erik Goeddel, Jeff Walters, and Steven Matz)
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