While spring training is largely a time of celebrating baseball simply being back—followed quickly by impatience for actual real baseball to be back—and spring stats should always be taken with a grain of salt—some of the Mets’ back-end roster decisions will likely hinge at least in part on the individual performance in these exhibitions. Let’s take a look at some of the prominent positional battles in camp this spring, and how the players involved are performing thus far this spring.
One of the toughest spots to predict on the Mets’ 25 man roster for the season would have to be the backup position to new catcher Wilson Ramos. Travis d’Arnaud may have a slight incumbency advantage, but is due more money if he makes the roster, and is coming off Tommy John surgery. Devin Mesoraco has a decent 3/4 of a season with the Mets in his pocket, and perhaps the unofficial backing of Jacob deGrom.
Stock: Holding Steady
Travis d’Arnaud (.500 Avg, .500 OBP, 1.000 SLG)
After going yard in his last spring training appearance, Travis d’Arnaud’s bat looks to be healthy, at least through a mere eight plate appearances. However, it’s hard to make too strong a claim for the backup catcher spot with only a couple of actual appearances behind the plate, as d’Arnaud continues in his efforts to bounce back from last April’s Tommy John surgery. With the pop in his bat seemingly still there, perhaps the Mets will be correct in their bet that d’Arnaud can still be an effective catcher—either for them or for another team.
Stock: Falling Slightly
Devin Mesoraco (.235/.235/.529)
Mesoraco got off to a slow start this spring, although a home run in Monday’s outing brought his stats more in line with his standard output. Mesoraco’s health is nothing to sneeze at in this competition. d’Arnaud has spent little time behind the plate this spring, which could be a determining factor in a close competition. If Mesoraco makes the Opening Day roster, would he possibly even get the start thanks to his relationship with Jacob deGrom?
As Brodie Van Wagenen and his team seemed to assemble two full infields this offseason, this wouldn’t have seemed an area of uncertainty outside of the identity of the starting first baseman, but injuries to Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier—and the need for a backup shortstop—lead to some spring intrigue here.
Dominic Smith (.407./467/.556)
The buzz of early spring thus far with his improved sleep health and hot bat, Dominic Smith is fighting to avoid being forgotten, as Pete Alonso clearly zipped past him on the depth chart last year. Smith has parlayed a bunch of singles, a double, one booming home run and some lazy spring narratives about his sleep apnea mask into some notable spring buzz. Combining his impressive spring performance with the aforementioned injuries, the lack of left-handed bench options, and the possibility of starting Alonso in the minors for service time manipulation, Smith is certainly making an Opening Day roster spot a strong possibility.
Pete Alonso (.406./457/.813)
Alonso clearly has no intention of making that possible decision to delay his service clock easy. With 13 hits—seven for extra bases—in 32 at-bats thus far this spring, Alonso is demonstrating the impressive right-handed power that has fans salivating and that the Mets’ projected lineup clearly needs. He’s also walked three times and driven in six runs, and while his defense remains the quintessential work in progress, we’ve already learned that no one is running through him at first base.
Luis Guillorme (.429./538/.667)
Guillorme has looked good thus far this spring, with two double and a home run among his nine hits over 21 at-bats, not to mention three walks against only two strikeouts. On a roster without a clear backup shortstop—or even an unclear one if Jed Lowrie starts the season on the DL—there is a path and a need. However, Guillorme will likely have to clearly beat out fellow glove-first infielder Adeiny Hechavarria and his Veteran Presents for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Stock: Holding Steady
J.D. Davis (.306/.359/.444)
Given the price paid for him (a couple of notable prospects) and his positional flexibility (first, third and corner outfield, not to mention the magical possibility of the occasional thirteenth bullpen arm), Davis would likely have had to falter badly this spring to miss the Opening Day roster. With Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier nursing injuries and Davis looking solid thus far in spring training (11-36 with seven RBI and three walks vs. six strikeouts), the question is likely more if Davis will be in the starting lineup at the opener with one or both of the aforementioned veterans opening on the DL.
Adieny Hechavarria (.211/.286/.368)
Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but it would be nice to see the prospect with the similar skill set—but perhaps more potential to improve—to seize a possible bench role. Guillorme will likely need to clearly outplay Hecavarria to beat him out for the roster spot—but that has been the case thus far.
The Mets spent much of their prospect and financial capital on shoring up the bullpen this offseason. With Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson, and Robert Gsellman seemingly set and forming an impressive back-end of the pen, only 2-3 spots would seem to be up for grabs, though there are plenty of arms vying for them.
Luis Avilan (6.2 IP, 7 H, 0 BB, 8 K, 2.70 ERA, 1.05 WHIP)
A savvy offseason signing who was probably already considered a favorite for a second lefty role behind Wilson, Avilan has done nothing to dissuade anyone from that line of thinking. Avilan was virtually perfect this spring until getting touched up for two runs on four hits against the Astros yesterday, but has otherwise looked excellent, with a tasty 8:0 K/BB rate over his 6.2 innings.
Tim Peterson (4.1 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.23 WHIP)
Unlike Avilan, Peterson would have to be considered a long shot to make the pen after poor results last year (6.18 ERA, -0.4 bWAR over 27.2 innings). Peterson has looked good thus far in spring though, with only a single walk over 4.1 innings, and has even recorded a save—if not putting himself in Opening Day conversation, likely at least putting him near the front of the line in the 2019 Syracuse Shuttle.
Hector Santiago (5 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 8 K, 1.80 ERA, 1.00 WHIP)
Santiago is another lefty arm that has looked good this spring, striking out eight over five innings. While he’s been far more effective as a reliever, his flexibility as a starter—and obvious multi-inning capability—make him an intriguing option. He may have the most to gain from a Kyle Dowdy flameout (see below).
Stock: Holding Steady
Tyler Bashlor (6 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 2 K, 1.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)
Bashlor looked much better in his last outing against the Red Sox Saturday, perhaps putting himself back in the conversation with two scoreless innings where he notably walked none. Prior to that, Bashlor had struggled some with his control this spring, as a 1:2 K/BB ratio and is not an ideal stat for someone in contention for a bullpen role.
Kyle Dowdy (4.1 IP, 9 H, 4 BB, 1 K, 12.46 ERA, 3.00 WHIP)
A Rule 5 pick with a live arm and some ability to start, the Mets seemed very excited to bring him aboard. Given the need to roster him all season or return him to Cleveland, a pen job would seem his to lose. Dowdy is going his best to lose it, surrendering nine hits (including one home run) and four walks over 4.1 innings in four difficult-to-watch appearances.
Daniel Zamora (4 IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 4 K, 9.00 ERA, 2.50 WHIP)
A soft-tossing LOOGY aspirant who recorded reverse splits last year, Zamora hasn’t had much luck retiring anyone thus far this spring, surrendering a home run among his 7 hits allowed in 3.2 spring innings.
Jacob Rhame (6 IP, 10 H, 3 BB, 7 K, 10.50 ERA, 2.17 WHIP)
With opportunity knocking—particularly with the news of Drew Smith’s season-ending Tommy John surgery—Rhame is not answering the bullpen phone, getting knocked around thus far this spring.
Non-Roster Long Shots
The Mets have brought in an extensive array of veterans on non-guaranteed contracts. Most of these players are long shots to make the opening day roster, but will hopefully provide roster depth/injury assurance should they stick around.
Rajai Davis (.278..364..611)
An intriguing non-roster invitee in big league camp, Rajai Davis has looked solid at the plate over his sporadic 18 plate appearances this spring with three doubles and a home run. It would likely require an injury to one—perhaps both—of Juan Lagares and/or Keon Broxton to see Davis on the Opening Day roster, but he would be a welcome addition on the depth chart should he stay in the organization in the event of such an injury.
Danny Espinosa (.083/.214/.208)
Danny Espinosa has spent the spring doing Danny Espinosa things—launching a home run and drawing some walks that still don’t lead to a palatable on-base percentage thanks to his atrocious batting average. Still, depth is depth—I guess.
We Hardly Knew Ye/Minors Depth
Gavin Cecchini (.286/.583/.429)
He’ll probably never make that first round selection look good, but the forgotten Cecchini looked good in reaching base in seven of his 12 plate appearances—even stealing two bases—before being optioned to minor league camp. Your stock is rising, Number 2.
Stock: Holding Steady
Tim Tebow (.267/.389/.267)
Four singles in 15 at-bats, but surely putting some extra butts in the seats and selling some extra merchandise down in St. Lucie. Perhaps some of those extra sales will come in handy if the Wilpons are able to find some change in the couch cushions should the Mets find themselves in position to make a mid-season move.