The Mets prospect with the most realistic chance to make the Opening Day roster

He might be the only prospect to even consider for Opening Day.
Feb 22, 2024; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA;  New York Mets pitcher Nate Lavender (94) poses for a photo
Feb 22, 2024; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets pitcher Nate Lavender (94) poses for a photo / Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Battles between prospects to make the Opening Day roster are one of the fun aspects of spring training. This isn’t the case in St. Lucie. New York Mets spring training is more focused on the scuffles between veterans. The prospects are more to fill innings and seats than to actually compete for a roster spot.

None of the highly-touted prospects have a chance of even sniffing the majors to begin the year. It’s not part of the plan. Even an abundance of injuries wouldn’t sway David Stearns enough to redirect the path of these players. All of those clerical reasons as to why prospects are held back at times such as delaying their free agency or not wanting to ruin a guy’s confidence apply here.

One prospect is a little different. The unpredictability with relief pitchers in terms of performance and health could have the Mets considering Nate Lavender but only if a roster spot opens up.

How Nate Lavender can make the Mets Opening Day roster

Considering he throws left-handed, the obvious course for him begins with an injury to Brooks Raley or Jake Diekman. Lavender is probably the best of the left-handed relievers they have behind those two. They’d be foolish to not add him to the 40-man roster and call him up to begin the year. He’s going to see MLB action at some point in 2024. He is seasoned in Triple-A enough to the point where he should be an option.

Beyond an injury to one of the major league southpaws, there is no rule against the Mets carrying three lefties. So even if it’s one of the right-handed hurlers who hits the IL before Opening Day, Lavender is someone who could take over.

Lavender has pitched two perfect innings for the Mets this spring and in his debut fanned all three batters he went up against. He finished last season with a 3.27 ERA in Triple-A with 13.7 strikeouts per 9 and 4.7 walks per 9. While the walk rate is high, it’s not atrociously frightening.

The three-batter minimum rule already somewhat negates how favorable splits must be for a reliever. They need to get everyone out, not just hitters who bat from a particular side. It’s almost irrelevant in a conversation where the main goal should be to have the best pitchers possible. For those curious, Lavender was actually better against right-handed batters anyway. He held them to a .164/.265/.336 slash line in 132 plate appearances. Lefties had their way with him at times, hitting .241/.366/.374 in their 101 opportunities last season.

Working both for and against Lavender is the fact that he has minor league options. An injury to a pitcher days before Opening Day could have the Mets thinking about keeping a non-optional reliever instead of him as to avoid losing the pitcher entirely. However, any pitcher who falls into this category such as Sean Reid-Foley, Phil Bickford, Yohan Ramirez, etc. is already unlikely to survive the season anyway.

Lavender will be a major leaguer in 2024. He very likely will also be on the 40-man roster out of camp. Still only a candidate for the Opening Day roster if injuries happen, he should be one of the first on-call for the majors when the team needs help in the regular season.