The starting pitchers are all stretched out, the plane is fueled and ready to head north, and the finishing touches are being applied to Citi Field for the regular season. But the New York Mets still have some unfinished Spring Training business to carry with them.
Battles for a few positions in the starting lineup have yet to be decided, thus making the first two to four weeks of the regular season an extended Spring Training of sorts. Yes, the Mets will still be settling their rosters during a time when the games count. Here’s a look at some positional battles that still remain.
Thanks to the fact that both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda missed about half of the preseason with injuries, the Mets still aren’t sure who will play first base on a regular basis. They had similar springs in the stats department.
Davis had 26 plate appearances with two home runs, two doubles, and seven RBIs to go along with a .208/.269/.542 slash line. Duda had 22 plate appearances with two home runs, one double, two RBIs, and a .211/.318/.579 slash.
Neither player blew anyone away, nor did either player become the clear favorite at first. The Mets will carry both of them on the Opening Day roster, and each will presumably get playing time. There’s also a frightening possibility that Duda will get see time in left field.
In addition, right-handed hitting Josh Sating will also get opportunities at first base against left-handed pitching.
For once, the Mets have the pleasant problem of having too much depth.
Curtis Granderson is a lock for the Opening Day outfield — most likely right field. They didn’t sign him to a four-year contract to ride the bench. The confusion stems from center field and left field. Manager Terry Collins clearly advocates putting Eric Young Jr. in left field and Chris Young in center. Collins feels EY is his best option to bat leadoff, despite his .315 on-base percentage last year. EY did lead the league with 46 stolen bases, but it’s hard to steal if you can’t get on base.
While he hasn’t come out and said it, it can be inferred that GM Sandy Alderson would like defensive whiz Juan Lagares to play center while Chris Young moves to left. That would push Young into a fourth outfielder role (EY can also play second base). This would easily be the optimum defensive alignment, which is critical in Citi Field’s expansive outfield. It would pay even greater dividends if Lagares can learn to hit major league pitching consistently, if not spectacularly.
Lagares will make the Opening Day roster, and will split time with EY, according to Alderson.
Chances are, the Mets will announce their starting rotation in the coming days. Both Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia have pitched well enough in Spring Training to earn a spot in said rotation. No matter which pitcher makes it, the fifth spot in the rotation will be in flux all year. Due to injury or poor performance, Dice-K, Mejia and prospects like Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard will all get their shot at the major league rotation this year, whether it’s in April or later on in the year.
The only position that was won outright in the preseason was shortstop, almost by default. Wilmer Flores didn’t play enough innings at the position, and the Mets failed to acquire someone via trade or free agency, like Nick Franklin or Stephen Drew. So, none other than Ruben Tejada is your Opening Day shortstop.
You’ll just have to wait to see who your first baseman, center fielder, left fielder or fifth starter will be.