Mets: What we’re looking for in Spring Training
By Micah Gentin
The greatest line any MLB fan wants to hear: we’re back to playing baseball games! After a devastatingly long winter, the Mets begin their Grapefruit League play with a contest against the Braves on Friday.
For the next five weeks, games will be played almost every day, and there are a handful of important storylines for Mets fans to watch closely. Here they are:
1. How do the injured arms look?
New York’s 2017 campaign was a failure because of the inability for crucial starting pitchers to stay healthy. Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, and Seth Lugo, to be specific, were particularly guilty for the team’s demise, as they all saw significant time on the DL in 2017. Therefore, it is important to track these players during Spring Training and watch how they rebound.
While actual stats compiled in Spring Training are not that important, monitoring how these pitchers “look” is vital . Having a smooth delivery, precise command of pitches, and normal pitch speed are indicators that these players have returned to full health. The playoff chances of the 2018 team rest heavily on these pitchers’ arms, so making sure that they are healthy is more important than anything else.
2. New guys in the house
As a result of the Mets frequent activity in the Free Agent market, many new faces will play in Port St. Lucie this spring. Seeing how these guys play will be interesting for fans looking to get a glimpse into the future. For example, Adrian Gonzalez battled back issues in 2017. Can he hit a few home runs in spring games and give the management faith in his dwindling power at the plate? The same thing goes for Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce; can they make some big plays and excite the fanbase around their arrival? Will Jose Reyes still look speedy, or are his 15 years of MLB service catching up? Mets fans are eager to know the answer to these questions, so watching the new, and returning guys is key.
3. What’s going on with Yo?
Yoenis Cespedes stayed pretty quiet this offseason, but he was working on becoming a healthier ballplayer. According to The NY Post, Cespedes has turned to yoga and increased running to revitalize his body. Yoenis also recently admitted that he’s given up golf to focus on baseball and staying healthy, as the NY Daily News reported. Although Cespedes produced an excellent .892 OPS when healthy in 2017, he only played 81 games due to a nagging hamstring injury. Watching how “La Potencia” plays the outfield and runs the bases will be important this spring.
4. Wilmer to the outfield?
Yup, you saw that right. With the acquisitions of Todd Frazier, Jose Reyes, and Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores is unlikely to find a lot of time anywhere in the infield this year. So, in an effort to get Wilmer’s quality bat into the lineup as much as possible, Mickey Callaway announced that Wilmer would learn how to play the outfield. Watch out for the likely scenario of Wilmer catching (or botching) fly balls during spring games.
5. Tebow Time!
NFL quarterback turned Mets minor leaguer Tim Tebow has made many headlines this spring, specifically after Sandy Alderson said that Tebow will play in the MLB one day. Although Tebow will get very little, if any playing time during Spring Training games, it is an entertaining story to follow Tim’s progress as he attempts to complete the transition into baseball.
Next: Mets announce first Spring Training lineup
While Spring Training is not often very exciting to watch, paying attention to certain storylines allows fans to dissect games in the right way and focus on important matters. Whether or not these stories turn out like Mets fans want, one thing is clear and incredible: baseball is quickly approaching.