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2023 Mets King of Spring Training, update #1

After a shortened spring training last season due to the lockout, the KoST contest is back in full swing this year.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Mets at Houston Astros Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

If the San Francisco Giants are famous for their good luck in even years, the annual Amazin’ Avenue King of Spring Training contest has been the Giants’ foil in recent years. In 2020, spring training was abruptly shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which ended up resulting in a delayed, shortened season without fans. In 2021, the pandemic’s presence still loomed large, but we were at least able to have the distraction of a relatively normal KoST contest. Last season, spring training was cut short again due to the lockout.

In 2023, KoST is back in full swing, baby. And we already have a very exciting pool of KoST candidates to introduce. There is one small wrinkle this time around, however: the World Baseball Classic. Some players who have been in camp will be departing to participate in the WBC and those players will be ineligible for KoST. This should not have much of an impact since most of the Mets participating in the WBC are not the type of under-the-radar players who would be eligible for the KoST contest anyway. But it is still a caveat I feel the need to mention nonetheless.

Without further ado, let’s meet this year’s early KoST candidates: prospects, fringe players, NRIs, and the like.

Ronny Mauricio - .385/.429/1.154 in 13 ABs

If KoST points were awarded based on which player is generating the most buzz and discourse on Mets Twitter, Ronny Mauricio would be the early KoST frontrunner. His prospect stock fell somewhat since this time last year due to questionable plate discipline. Though a handful of spring training at-bats probably don’t change that, the 21-year-old is indeed off to a red-hot start this spring and flashing the potential that made so many excited about him as a prospect to begin with. Mauricio is the current Mets spring training OPS leader among players with five or more at-bats. He also matches Pete Alonso for the team lead in home runs with three so far this spring. And they were not cheap home runs either.

KoST Points: 5

Brett Baty - .471/.526/.706 in 17 ABs

Heading into 2023, Eduardo Escobar has been penciled in as the de facto starting third baseman. But, Brett Baty may very well hit himself onto the roster and possibly even the starting third base job. Leading the team in hits so far this spring with eight, he’s off to a good start. Though he has made some defensive miscues at third base, he has still more than earned his status as among the early frontrunners for KoST with the bat. As of this morning, Baty is fourth in spring OPS among all qualified hitters.

KoST Points: 5

Abraham Almonte - .538/.667/.692 in 13 ABs

Rocking a team-leading .667 on-base percentage (min. 5 ABs) so far this spring, the switch-hitting veteran outfielder Abraham Almonte is part of the non-roster invitee KoST contingent. He has played all three outfield positions in his career, which is really helpful depth to have for a team lacking outfield options in the upper minors. “He’s a professional hitter,’’ said Buck Showalter of the 33-year-old, who is a perfect KoST dark horse.

KoST Points: 5

Tim Locastro - .353/.476/.588 in 17 ABs

In a similar vein to Almonte, Tim Locastro has been absolutely lighting it up this spring, moving his way up the outfield depth chart. Though the batting line is impressive, Locastro’s calling card is his speed and he has showcased that this spring as well, stealing a team-leading four bases. In an organization mostly bereft of speed, Locastro is a huge asset to have. He will likely be the first to get the call should any Mets outfielder be sidelined and if he hits even close to the level he has so far this spring, he will likely play a role off the bench for the 2023 Mets.

KoST Points: 5

Mark Vientos - .304/.304/.562 in 23 ABs

Vientos was originally planning on playing for Team Nicaragua in the WBC, but luckily for our little contest, he is staying in camp after all. And no surprise: he finds himself in the early pool of KoST favorites. Vientos became the latest Mets prospect to make some noise on Saturday with a pair of towering homers against the Nationals. Vientos also leads the Mets in RBIs so far this spring with seven. With the presence of Darin Ruf on the roster, it’s hard to see a path for Vientos to make the team, but Ruf is dealing with some wrist soreness that is delaying his ramp-up this spring, giving Vientos an extended look and chance for a KoST crown.

KoST Points: 4

David Peterson - 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 4 Ks in 4 IP

As José Quintana’s status remains in limbo while he gets tests to determine the severity of his side tightness, David Peterson’s strong performance so far this spring takes on outsized importance. Peterson had an injury scare himself when he took a comebacker off his foot, but he should be just fine. Though Peterson has issued three walks in his four innings of work so far, he has yet to be scored upon this spring and has looked quite sharp, whiffing four batters across his two appearances. And he’s even flashed a little leather too. He will likely be the first starter slotted into the Mets rotation if Quintana (or someone else) isn’t healthy to start the season. Potentially pitching himself onto the Opening Day roster gives him KoST consideration.

KoST Points: 3

Sam Coonrod - 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 5 Ks in 3 IP

There are a lot of relievers in camp vying for the final couple of spots in the Mets’ bullpen and Coonrod has been a standout among them so far this spring, pitching three scoreless innings and sharing the team lead in strikeouts among relievers with five. Though Coonrod’s numbers from last year look ugly, he had been dealing with a rotator cuff issue that has hindered him for much of his professional career. Finally pitching without pain, Coonrod is looking to make an impression with the Mets. A KoST crown would just be a bonus.

KoST Points: 2

Jimmy Yacabonis - 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP, 5 Ks in 3 IP

If Coonrod gets a KoST shoutout, it would be unfair not to give one to Jimmy Yacabonis as well. The non-roster invitee has also struck out five hitters in three innings of work and what’s more, he has yet to allow a baserunner. If he somehow emerges from the pack of relievers competing for bullpen slots to win a spot in the Opening Day bullpen, that would be a KoST-worthy performance indeed.

KoST Points: 2

Happy KoST season, everybody! I’ll be back with weekly updates through the rest of spring training, culminating with the final poll after Grapefruit League play comes to a close. The best of luck to our current pool of candidates and candidates who have yet to reveal themselves!