Spring Training will happen at some point. Whether it begins in the winter as regularly scheduled (false advertising) or maybe a little closer to when actual spring begins (I seriously hope not) has yet to be determined. The MLB lockout has many parts of the game on hold. What we can say with some certainty is that there are things about the New York Mets we can look forward to including this future Spring Training battle to keep your eye on.
In this corner, we have Khalil Lee. The number 8 prospect in the organization according to MLB.com, Lee had an inefficient brief stint in the big leagues last season. Fortunately, he did return to Triple-A where he got much better.
Against him, the challenger, Nick Plummer. A new addition this winter through free agency, Plummer is the number 9 prospect according to this same list by MLB.com. A former first-round draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals, he finally showed positive signs last season in his final year with that organization.
Two young outfielders enter. One leaves with a chance to have a backup role on the Mets in 2022. Who comes away as the winner?
The Mets Spring Training battle between Khalil Lee and Nick Plummer
Lee should have the advantage in this fight due to familiarity. The Mets were able to see what he can do up close last year. Even if he was just 1 for 18 in the big leagues, his Triple-A performance surely turned a few heads.
Down but also geographically up in Syracuse, Lee batted .274/.451/.500 with 14 home runs and 37 RBI. It was a successful first year with the orange and blue organization. Approaching his age 24 season, it was good enough to make him an early candidate to make the club in 2022.
The bit more mysterious Plummer spent his first four professional seasons with the Cardinals never hitting higher than .228 in any single season. Just as all hope seemed to be lost, he combined to slash .280/.415/.479 last season in Double-A and Triple-A. Older than Lee, he is already 25 but now back in the conversation as someone that can make the big leagues and have an impact.
The two are quite similar with each playing a lot of center field in the minors with some good speed and decent pop in their bats. Lee’s stolen base prowess should excite us a little more considering he stole 53 bases back in 129 Double-A games in 2019. However, this past year, he settled for only 8 in 18 attempts.
Because each is on the 40-man roster and has minor league options, there’s no funny business needed. This is one of those true spring battles that will come down to which of the pair management feels is more prepared to face big league pitchers. Lee has done it before while Plummer could greatly benefit from some more at-bats versus the prospects and journeymen in Triple-A.
In this spring skirmish, it’s possible neither comes away as a winner before Opening Day. The Mets could conceivably start both in the minor leagues. If that’s the case, we can expect this melee to reach Syracuse. From there, it’s a matter of need for the big league club and which of the two is making the most noise for a major league promotion.