5 New York Mets Position Battles To Watch During Spring Training
New York Mets Spring Training: 5 Position Battles To Watch
Spring training is just around the corner, and that will soon be followed by the start of the 2014 season. This offers a fresh start for the New York Mets, who are hoping to put more than half a decade of futility behind them and become a competitive team this year. But even after a productive offseason in which they signed a few marquee free agents, there is still much to be decided on their roster which will lead to several position battles that will play out throughout spring training.
Of course, a few positions are already spoken for. Obviously, David Wright is going to be the Mets’ everyday third baseman this season. Travis d’Arnaud, one of the Mets’ top prospects, is in line to be the everyday catcher. New acquisition Curtis Granderson is assured of playing every day at one of the corner outfield spots. The Mets also have four of their spots in the rotation locked down, despite the absence of ace Matt Harvey who will miss the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery last fall.
But just about every other position has some uncertainty entering spring training. Even Daniel Murphy returning as the team’s second baseman is something that could change depending on how position battles develop elsewhere. I’ve tried to predict what the Mets’ opening day lineup will look like, but that’s awfully tough to do with such uncertainty at several positions. Here are five position battles to watch in spring training as the Mets try to figure out what their roster will look like.
5. Josh Satin vs. Wilmer Flores vs. Andrew Brown vs. Zach Lutz
This is the main group of contenders competing for the 25th spot on the roster. Satin is the front-runner at the moment, but he doesn’t bring a lot of power to the table. Brown has the most power which the Mets could use on their bench, but he could leave the Mets without someone who can back up at third base which is something the other three candidates can do. Flores can really hit and he could be the backup for at least two or three infield positions, but the Mets may prefer to send him to triple-A where he can get regular at bats unless he’s at least a platoon player in the majors. Lutz could back up both corner infield spots and provide some pop off the bench, but he may have the most to prove during spring training if he wants to win a spot on the opening day roster.
4. Ruben Tejada vs. The Field
This is really a battle of the current Ruben Tejada battling the reputation of last year’s Ruben Tejada. The Mets haven’t signed Stephen Drew which means the shortstop job is Tejada’s to lose. The Mets liked that he spent most of the winter in a strength, conditioning and nutrition program, but he still has a lot to prove after his pitiful performance last season. The other candidates are nothing spectacular, including Omar Quintanilla and Wilfredo Tovar, so Tejada doesn’t have a lot of competition from the field. But the Mets aren’t going to give him the everyday shortstop job if he doesn’t earn it in spring training.
3. Juan Lagares vs. Eric Young Jr.
The Mets are going to give regular playing time to Chris Young and Curtis Granderson, the two outfielders they signed in free agency this offseason, and that means that at least at the beginning of the season either Young Jr. or Lagares will get left out. Both players bring something to the table but both also have drawbacks. Lagares is an elite defensive center fielder, but he is still raw as a hitter and hasn’t developed an approach at the plate that fits the Mets’ philosophy. Young Jr. brings speed at the top of the lineup that the Mets don’t have anywhere else, but he doesn’t get on base at the rate you want from your leadoff hitter. Whichever player can accentuate their strengths and hide their weaknesses better in spring training will have a leg up in the battle over the third outfield spot.
2. John Lannan vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. Jenrry Mejia
There are more than a handful of candidates for the final spot in the rotation, but this race most likely comes down to Lannan, Matsuzaka or Mejia. Based on talent Mejia is the front-runner of the three, but not only does he need to perform during spring training, he also needs to stay healthy and show that he can take the ball every fifth day. If Mejia struggles or suffers another injury, this race likely comes down to whoever has the better spring between Lannan and Matsuzaka. Both are decent but not great options the Mets can use until their top pitching prospects are ready to take over later in the season.
1. Ike Davis vs. Lucas Duda vs. The Field
With the Mets failing to trade Davis this offseason, it has set up a competition between him and Duda for the first base job. Both players have underperformed and had their share of struggles in the past, so they should enter spring training on relatively equal ground. Whoever performs better during the exhibition season should win the job. Of course, there are more than two candidates competing for playing time at first base, and the Mets haven’t ruled out the possibility of Daniel Murphy moving back there. If both Davis and Duda continue to be unimpressive, there’s a chance that neither ends up winning the job.