Well folks, Spring Training is finally here, and for the first time since February 2019, baseball fans across the league will be watching exhibition games once the calendar flips to March. Last week, the New York Mets capped off a busy offseason with a pair of major league signings that brought in veteran outfielder Kevin Pillar and starting pitcher Taijuan Walker, who they remained linked to throughout most of the offseason.
Even with these nail-and-hammer signings, perhaps the biggest question mark lingering over this ballclub is how the front office will finalize their pitching staff; particularly as it concerns the back end of their rotation and bullpen assignments.
So, with baseball just around the corner, here is this week’s Mets news you may have missed!
Mets pitching staff yet to be finalized, remains competitive
The arrival of pitchers and catchers at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie, Florida introduced fans to the Mets newest players: SS Francisco Lindor, C James McCann, RHP Trevor May, LHP Aaron Loup, SP Sam McWilliams, OF José Martínez, OF Albert Almora Jr., INF Jonathan Villar, OF Kevin Pillar, and SP Taijuan Walker among other notable non-roster invitees.
This collection of new talent also signaled an increased level of competition for the 26 spots on the Mets Opening Day roster.
Without counting the non-roster invitees, the Mets invited a total of 24 pitchers to camp, and from that pool only 13 of them are likely to earn a spot on the main roster.
Yes, Jacob deGrom will be the ace of this staff – that much we have always known. But with Noah Syndergaard out until June (earliest), the pitchers who toe the rubber after the No. 1 pitcher in baseball have yet to be finalized.
Sure, fans are guaranteed to see Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, and the recently signed Walker each taking the mound this season. But in what order, and more importantly, with which teammate anchoring the rotation?
While Mets fans were hyper-focused on signing SP Trevor Bauer and OF George Springer this winter, their front office made a series of surprising depth moves in the final few weeks of the offseason instead.
In terms of their rotation, one of these moves included RHP Jordan Yamamoto who, at age 24, could shore up the back end of the rotation when needed. However, I doubt he will see many starts this season unless they’re spot-starts in the case of injuries.
With the team’s lack of left-handed pitching since trading Steve Matz to the Toronto Blue Jays, surely LHP David Peterson has to already be penciled into the rotation – or at least informed that it’s his spot to lose, right?
In his debut season, the young southpaw beat expectations by going 6-2 in 9 starts while maintaining a 3.44 ERA, and limiting opposing batters to a .202 batting average.
The same could also be said for LHP Joey Lucchesi who is looking to remake his career in Flushing after being traded to the Mets back in January. However, with a career 4.21 ERA through his 3 MLB seasons, improving his game will be critical if he wishes to earn a roster spot on a Mets team currently overflowing with starting pitching options.
By Opening Day, I expect the rotation to feature: Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Marcus Stroman, David Peterson, and Taijuan Walker as the fifth man. Noah Syndergaard’s return is bound to turn the rotation into a six-man staff in June unless the team opens the season with one or someone else finds themselves on the IL.
In that case, Lucchesi could be the next man up to anchor the rotation and provide the rotational depth this club might need down the stretch.
I also expect the bullpen to house: Edwin Díaz as closer, Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia, Trevor May, Robert Gsellman, Drew Smith, and Aaron Loup – with Seth Lugo expected to return to action sometime in May.
Unlike last year, I don’t see Miguel Castro, Franklyn Kilome, or Daniel Zamora making the cut despite being highly utilized members of last year’s squad. Other pitchers they added to major league deals like Yamamoto and Sam McWilliams will likely join these arms in Triple-A if there are options on their contracts to call them up later in the season.