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Mets spring training position battles to watch

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There are still some questions that need to be answered this spring.

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

General manager Brodie Van Wagenen talked about the importance of depth this offseason, and he’s brought in major league quality depth pieces at some positions in addition to those who were already on the roster. The Mets also added a few new starters to the lineup, and with all of these new faces at spring training, there are some positions that need to be settled before Opening Day.

Catcher

Wilson Ramos is unquestionably the starter, but the Mets now have a decision to make for his backup. With Devin Mesoraco back in the fold, it’ll be a choice between him and Travis d’Arnaud, who the Mets tendered a contract this offseason. They do have some hope that d’Arnaud could play other positions, but this battle might come down to health. d’Arnaud is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and might not be ready for Opening Day, which could mean the job would go to Mesoraco to start the season.

First base

The two true first basemen on the Mets’ 40-man roster right now are Dominic Smith and Peter Alonso. Van Wagenen has said on multiple occasions that Alonso will be given the opportunity to compete for the Opening Day job, but the Mets will undoubtedly consider the rules that would give them a full extra year of control on Alonso if they make him start this season in the minors. If Alonso does not make the roster come March 28, the Mets might need to get creative at first, especially now that Wilmer Flores is gone. Dominic Smith is still an option considering he is the only lefty that plays that position, but the other options include Todd Frazier, J.D. Davis, and T.J. Rivera, none of whom are ideal but can at least adequately man the position for two weeks until Alonso gets the call-up.

Third base

Jed Lowrie did not come to New York to be a backup. Last season he played primarily second base in Oakland, but he did see some time at third base as well. With Robinson Cano now serving as the Mets’ second baseman, Lowrie will most likely slide over to third. That would leave Todd Frazier without a position, which could help make him the starter at first base come Opening Day.

Outfield

Both Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto are locks for two of the positions in the outfield, and that leaves one position—most likely center field given the current state of the roster—open for competition. The position could be Juan Lagares’s to lose because of his outstanding defense and the fact that he’s a right-handed hitter. If he cannot stay healthy, the Mets do have Keon Broxton, who offers a similar skillset. The dark horse here, however, is Jeff McNeil. With the acquisition of Cano, second base is no longer McNeil’s to man. In order to get his bat into the lineup, Van Wagenen said the Mets would take a look at McNeil in the outfield. He’s yet another lefty hitter, but it will be interesting to see what the Mets prioritize out of the outfielders at the end of spring.

Bench

Health and performance will help dictate who fills out the 25-man roster when the Mets head north at the end of March, but there are quite a few candidates who could potentially make the team in addition to the backup catcher.

T.J. Rivera’s strength is his bat, but he has not played in a game in over year after needing Tommy John surgery in 2017. Rivera’s bat played well in the majors, but he will have to prove he can pick up where he left off if he wants to make the team this year.

Luis Guillorme is a glove-first infielder who can play shortstop behind Amed Rosario. The Mets did sign Danny Espinosa, who can also play short, but he is not on the 40-man so Guillorme may have an edge since he is one of the few players on that roster who can play short.

Dominic Smith has a shot to make the team, but his lack of versatility might work against him, unlike J.D. Davis, who the Mets acquired from the Astros. Davis plays both first and third base along with the outfield. What is most intriguing about him is his ability to pitch, and he is open to the possibility of becoming a two-way player.

Bullpen

The bullpen was a major area of concern last season, and Van Wagenen has done a good job of shoring it up. Justin Wilson, Jeurys Familia, and Edwin Diaz will be manning the back end of the bullpen, and Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo will most likely claim two more spots. That would leave two spots open. That competition will probably come down to new additions Luis Avilan and Kyle Dowdy and some relievers who appeared for the Mets last season, including Tim Peterson, Jacob Rhame, Paul Sewald, Drew Smith, Daniel Zamora, and Tyler Bashlor, all of whom have both shown flashes in the majors but have also struggled at times.

Rotation

There is no way to sugar coat it. Jason Vargas was bad last season. If he struggles again in spring, perhaps it will be time to consider moving Seth Lugo back into the rotation or for the Mets to figure out another internal option. The depth behind the rotation is pretty thin, but as long as everyone is healthy, they’re set for the start of the season.