It was an eventful weekend in Florida for the Mets. Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Kodai Senga pitched in succession for the first time. Mark Vientos slugged nearly 900 feet worth of homers, while Brett Baty continued to hit. Do you know who else has made a statement early on? Outfielder Tim Locastro.
Before eventually coming to terms with Tommy Pham, the Mets signed Locastro to a minor-league deal with an invite to MLB camp right after the New Year hit. Locastro has spent parts of six seasons in the big leagues, and most recently with the Yankees.
He was likely viewed as outfield depth in the upper minors once camp opened in Port St. Lucie. But hey, who knows how things will turn out if he keeps performing?
Locastro’s strong spring start
While a lot of attention was on Senga making his first start on Sunday, the Mets’ offense did a good job in their 7-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. Locastro was one of the dudes who stood out at the plate.
The outfielder went 2-for-3 with two doubles, two RBI, a run scored, and a stolen base. This wasn’t the first time he’s performed well in the early going of spring training, either.
Locastro has appeared in nine games while racking up 17 plate appearances so far this spring. He’s slashing .353/.476/.588 with five RBI, five runs scored, and four steals. Of the six hits the outfielder has collected, four have been doubles.
And, yes, spring-training stats don’t really mean much. But that’s the case with established veterans — not so much with guys trying to win a roster spot. This means a lot to Locastro as he tries to break camp in the majors. One would imagine he’s made an impression on manager Buck Showalter and his coaching staff so far.
What Locastro can provide the Mets
Outside of beefing up the organization’s outfielder depth chart, there are likely two main reasons why the Mets signed Locastro in the first place.
One is his defensive versatility. We’ve seen general manager Billy Eppler place a priority on that with many of his major-league signings. New York wants to keep guys in their primary positions as often as possible. However, if they need to move around, it’s something that can happen easily.
If we look at the Mets’ projected bench right now, there isn’t a lot of depth to the outfield portion of the roster. Mark Canha, Brandon Nimmo, and Starling Marte are entrenched as the starters. The other two guys on the bench listed as outfielders include Darin Ruf and Tommy Pham. Locastro has played all three outfield positions throughout his career, including in 2022 with the Yankees.
The other attractive part of Locastro’s game is his speed. We already mentioned he has four steals so far this spring. As a team, the Mets have five overall, with Francisco Lindor nabbing the only other theft at the moment.
Having someone like the Syracuse native on the bench for late-game situations would be huge for Showalter. Especially when considering MLB’s rule changes regarding a limit on pick-off throws, bigger bases, and the ghost runner rule sticking around for extra innings.
How could he fit on the Mets’ roster?
Since Locastro signed a minor-league deal with New York, he’ll need to jump through a couple of hoops to join the Mets in Miami on Opening Day.
The first is securing a 40-man roster spot. One could be opened up by putting infielder Danny Mendick on the 60-day Injured List. He’s still coming back from a torn ACL that he suffered in June while playing for the Chicago White Sox.
The second is securing a 26-man roster spot specifically in the big leagues. It’ll depend on how the remainder of the spring goes, too. Ruf hasn’t appeared in a game yet because of a wrist issue. If he continues to stay sidelined or he underwhelms upon returning, he’s a candidate to be designated for assignment. That’d move Tommy Pham into more of an extra outfielder/right-handed designated hitter role instead of mostly being the fourth outfielder.
It wouldn’t be an easy roster decision to make. But if Locastro keeps it up, he may force the Mets’ hand at the end of camp. This is a good problem to have. And based on the Robinson Cano situation last season, we can trust the organization will make the move that makes the most sense from a baseball standpoint.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.