With Opening Day less than three weeks away, the Mets have some clear star power in their lineup. But their roster is filled with players who are looking to make a major impact this upcoming season.
Here are three under-the-radar Mets you should keep an eye on to make a difference this year:
It wasn't long ago that Brach was one of the most sought-after relief pitchers given his success in Baltimore. Then, like is often the case for most relievers, what went up then went down. Sadly for him, his decline happened just in time for him to a free agent.
As a result, he joined the Mets late last summer after being released by the Cubs. He then signed a one-year, $850,000 contract that includes a $1.25 million player option for 2021.
Brach was terrible with the Cubs, hence his release. However, with the Mets, he had a 3.68 ERA (2.62 FIP) and 1.23 WHIP during 14 innings down the stretch of a playoff race. More important, his cutter looked and was as effective as it had been when on top of his game with the Orioles.
As a result, he recently explained to the NY Post, "I was able to be a lot more aggressive in the zone and I think it kind of just made everything else a little bit better."
For what it's worth, he has looked and been similarly effective in just a few innings this spring. These early results give hope that last season was not a fluke but an indication that he may be ready to return to being an elite reliever. Or, at the very least, a really helpful, and unexpected contributor to a staff already statistically projected to be one of the better groups in baseball.
It seems unfair to include a veteran making $9 million and just 12 months removed from having had a career year. However, given that during that time he's had just seven at-bats and been the butt of countless jokes due to his myriad of leg injuries, he can be on the list.
As a result of the above, he is often scoffed at and dismissed by Mets fans when thinking about how the roster will be maximized and sustained during a 162-game season. Will he return to being an All Star? Maybe, maybe not. Will he top his recent career-high in home runs? Probably not. But to have a significant impact, he doesn't need to do either of those things. He simply has to pace himself, remain healthy, fill in when needed, and keep the lineup moving when called upon to grab a bat.
If he can do this, and help Amed Rosario, Robinson Cano and Jeff McNeil also remain healthy and productive, he's worth his weight in salary.
To have a .341 OBP and 25 extra base hits in 270 at-bats, as projected by Baseball Prospectus, would be icing on his 35-year-old cake.
Lockett is destined to start the year in Triple-A, while serving as depth for the starting rotation. The more realistic outcome, I think, will and should be having him pitch in relief, where his repertoire is set up well to be a mid-inning, double-play, rally stopper.
Last year, an old friend now in scouting with an AL team called to ask me if there was any hype from the Mets about Lockett, who I admittedly knew little about at the time he was acquired.
"He's always had the build, arm strength and makeup to be a stable, back-of-the-rotation innings eater," the scout said, all of which was news to me. "I liked him back in San Diego the first time I saw his sinker-slider combo and three-quarter arm slot."
Lockett stands 6' 5" at 230 pounds, which is few inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than the average big-league pitcher.
"He's a big, solid kid, and similarly strong to Tim Redding, or Adam Eaton if you remember him, those kind of guys. He stays in the strike zone, gets ground balls, he changes eye levels very well -- and at different speeds -- and he isn't afraid to bust it inside," the former scout, now area director explained. "He already has a nice change up, but he needs to get it looking more like his breaking ball and fastballs."
He often reminds me of Robert Gsellman, who similarly must keep his pitches consistent, heavy and in the bottom third of the strike zone. However, as we often saw from Bartolo Colon and frequently see from Gsellman, if Lockett is a hair off in his execution, his pitches get hit hard, especially when facing left-handed hitters.
His size and arm strength are encouraging, though. He has improved the past few seasons on repeating his delivery and making his pitches look more alike longer in flight. He's also more relaxed and seemingly better skilled at commanding each situation and inning than he did in San Diego.
Lockett should eventually be on Van Wagenen's 26-man roster at some point this season. He is already a useful spot starter, which is a role he can easily succeed at during his career. Thankfully, at still just 25 years old, he has plenty of time to make the needed and slight improvements to his off-speed pitches.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is a senior writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. His book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime.