Spring training is only recently underway, but there are plenty of storylines to keep an eye on in New York Mets camp.
The New York Mets came into spring training with few question marks. Seven of the eight spots in the everyday lineup were secure. The bullpen was mostly figured out. The only real question about the pitching staff revolved around the fifth starter. Would it be Michael Wacha or Steven Matz?
After playing five games, things have changed. Matz v. Wacha is ongoing, but might not even matter. The 26th spot on the roster is even more open than it seemed to be a week ago.
Spring training is ramping up in a major way. There are 27 more games left to play, but it’s time to start taking things a little seriously.
Pete Alonso and Amed Rosario struggling
Over five games, Alonso is 0-for-9. The one time he reached base was an error caused by the wind and the sun. That’s a tough start for MLB’s reigning Rookie of the Year.
The good news is that Alonso has only struck out once. This means he’s been putting the ball in play, which points to luck rather than skill causing his problems.
Going forward, Mets fans will want to keep an eye on Alonso. The effervescent first baseman is primed to find his groove any minute now. Even if he doesn’t, it’s only spring training.
Rosario is in a similar funk starting spring training with an 0-for-7 stretch. Rosario hasn’t reached base safely once since the start of spring training. That’s rough for a player who made strides offensively in the second half of 2019.
It doesn’t help that Rosario has been DHing rather than playing shortstop. Rosario’s defense has been atrocious, but he made huge strides in the second half in 2019. Mets fans want to see if those strides were real. So far, Mets fans have not had that chance.
Like Alonso, Rosario doesn’t have any competition to worry about. The shortstop job is his for the foreseeable future, even with his defensive concerns. Also like Alonso, Rosario hasn’t struck out yet this spring pointing to luck being a bigger issue than skill.
As spring goes on, expect both of these players to work through their early issues. It’s just early spring bad luck holding them back. Like with any other sport, these guys are still working out the kinks and wiping off the rust before Opening Day.
Steven Matz or Michael Wacha
Steven Matz versus Michael Wacha was the big question mark coming into spring training. Who would win the fifth starter job and who would head to the bullpen?
Each of these pitchers has their first start of the spring under their belt now. Matz went one inning and allowed a home run to the very first batter he faced. He set the next three down in order, but that leadoff home run will leave a blemish on his record.
It’s worth remembering that Matz struggled his first time through the batting order in 2019. If that’s a trend that continues, it doesn’t make sense to trust the fifth spot to him.
On the other hand, Michael Wacha was one of MLB’s worst pitchers last season. Based on all the evidence, this shouldn’t even be a competition, but that’s not the case.
Wacha impressed in his first spring training start. His fastball was up to 96 mph, the highest of his career. Wacha pitched two scoreless innings with two strikeouts. He did have some control issues, allowing two walks, but those were the only blemishes against him.
If the competition comes down to nothing other than spring training, then Wacha has the edge right now. It might not matter though, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported the New York Mets may opt to use an unorthodox four-man rotation.
The biggest question mark of spring training is still a complete mystery.
Ryan Cordell for 26th man?
The Mets need to figure out who’s going to fill out the roster. The 26th spot has been up for grabs for a while, but Luis Guillorme was long thought to be the favorite for that role.
Guillorme was an attractive option in part because of his major-league experience, but his ability to play shortstop also factored into the equation.
Well, Guillorme has struggled mightily to start spring training, going 2-for-9 with no walks. He has displayed his usually strong defense, but his poor offense has left a crack for someone else.
Ryan Cordell is making a strong case for himself. Cordell’s defense in both right field and center field has been excellent. His speed has had an effect on the bases in every game he’s played. His offense has also been the best of any non-starter on the roster going 4-for-11 with a home run.
The Mets have a number of outfielders on the roster already, but Cordell’s speed and defense make him stand out. If he continues to hit the way he is, he’s going to leave the Mets no choice but to keep him on the roster.