I just got back from my three day venture to Port St. Lucie in Florida. The trip was full of palm trees, fun, and lots of baseball. Before the trip, I compiled a list of three things I wanted to see, and see if my perception on these questions would be any different after viewing the team in person at camp.
A) Team Camaraderie without Jose Reyes and David Wright
It goes without saying that in this post-Wright era team, there isn’t a bonafide leader in the clubhouse, and while it’s not possible to predict who will emerge as said leader in three days of camp, I definitely saw a lot of strides by many players I didn’t expect to see stepping forward.
The best example of such was Amed Rosario, who impressed me with the way he was coordinating the infield, and walking to the mound, to calm the — often overwhelmed minor league — pitchers. His poise and confidence notwithstanding, I was very impressed with his demeanor.
In the bullpen, Jeurys Familia seemed to be chatting and mentoring some of the younger hispanic pitchers, which was nice to see. I was outspoken in my disdain for the Familia signing last December, as I thought it was a rather stale move, but if he can provide his counsel and help some of the younger arms all while taking care of his own affairs, that would be great to see, and I think the relationship between Familia and Edwin Díaz will be fascinating to watch over the course of the season.
B) Which of the Veteran Journeyman would Separate Themselves from the Pack
Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen made it a priority this offseason to enhance the minor league depth, especially at the Triple-A Level. In doing so, the Mets signed a lot of experienced, older players, including Keon Broxton, Gregor Blanco, Danny Espinosa, Adeiny Hechavarria, Devin Mesoraco, Rajai Davis, J.D Davis, among others.
While most of these players are expected to start the year at Triple-A Syracuse, it’s become apparent that a few of them might make the big club, especially after the injuries to Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier.
Of all the aforementioned players, Gregor Blanco seemed very eager and energetic, and was aggressive on the bases, something the Mets could always use. While he’s not the most exciting player off the bench, he could be an interesting 25th man.
C) Would any of the Young Pitchers Emerge as Leaders?
This is another question that I did not expect an answer to in three days, but throughout Spring, it doesn’t seem like any one pitcher is going to go the extra mile to grab the bull by the horns and lead the staff. Could deGrom take on this role post-extension? Maybe, but I think the door is open for Syndergaard to emerge into this Matt Harvey-type “king of New York” role, and if he has a good first half, he could do just that.
I also watched starts from both Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz, both of him seem to be in good shape, and ready to prove themselves in this pivotal season (for both themselves and for the club). Both of them came up with high praise, and while they’ve both had great moments, they’ve largely been overshadowed by deGrom, Harvey and Syndergaard, and I expect both pitchers to work in tandem with Dave Eiland, and develop and continue off what was a strong 2018 season.
Stay tuned for a comprehensive review of my trip to West Palm Beach & Port St. Lucie, next Wednesday!