Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Major League Baseball and all other major sports remain on hold as the United States and the rest of the world practices social distancing in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
When things start to return to normal and the 2020 baseball season -- hopefully -- begins, the Mets will have a bunch of roster and lineup decisions facing them after what will very likely be an abbreviated second spring training of sorts.
Among those decisions...
Who is the closer going to be?
If -- and it's a big if -- the Mets get rebound seasons from an under-the-microscope Edwin Diaz and transformed Jeurys Familia (the projection systems are bullish on their chances), they will have two legitimate late-inning pieces to go along with Dellin Betances and Seth Lugo.
The issue with Lugo being used as a closer, though, is that he'll rarely be able to pitch back-to-back games. He's also incredibly valuable when used in multiple-inning stints.
Combine the above with Betances' history of working in a setup role and it seemingly comes down to choosing between Diaz or Familia as the closer or going with a closer by committee.
And "closer by committee" shouldn't have a negative connotation -- not when there's this much talent at the back end of the bullpen and not when playing the matchups right gives you the best chance to succeed.
So expect it to be "Diaz with a little help from his friends."
Who will the fifth starter be?
With Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and Rick Porcello locked into the rotation, this comes down to Steven Matz vs. Michael Wacha.
And it's fair to say that Matz -- who is under team control through 2021, finished 2019 with a flourish, and has been both healthy and consistent over the last two seasons -- should win out.
Does Wacha have more upside if he returns to his early-career form? Sure. But he's also a half-decade removed from that and arguably a much better fit for a relief role than Matz.
Who should bat leadoff?
If Amed Rosario's plate discipline improves to the point where his OBP goes from a 2019 career-high of .323 to around the .340-.350 range, he would be a perfect fit to bat leadoff.
For now, it's likely a choice between on-base machine Brandon Nimmo and all-around machine Jeff McNeil. And you really can't go wrong.
When Nimmo is right -- as was the case in 2018 when he was one of the most valuable outfielders in baseball and the end of 2019 when he was healthy after early-season injury issues -- he is an absolute force who will get on base at a clip around .400.
When McNeil is right -- which is pretty much every time he steps into the box -- he's one of the most well-rounded hitters in baseball. But if McNeil is going to continue to hit for as much power as he did in the second half of the 2019 season, he's probably better-suited hitting second.
What will Yoenis Cespedes' role be?
As is the case with Michael Conforto, who was dealing with an oblique injury, the delay due to coronavirus will likely lead to Cespedes being ready to go on Opening Day.
Cespedes had been making steady progress, only needing to prove that he could run the bases at full speed and cut in the outfield at full speed before being cleared to enter games -- which he was hoping would happen in mid-March before spring training was suspended.
If Cespedes is indeed ready for Opening Day -- which will be the second week of May at the earliest -- he will probably start off as a bench bat and someone who can start in the outfield a few times a week. That will likely mean J.D. Davis having his playing time reduced a bit. But if Cespedes is right, he needs to be in the lineup as often as possible.
Who will the backup catcher be?
If Noah Syndergaard had a say, the answer would be Rene Rivera, who has worked extremely well with Thor in the past and would almost certainly be his pick as personal catcher.
But manager Luis Rojas paired Syndergaard with Wilson Ramos early on in spring training. And Ramos has been working hard when it comes to improving his defense (including framing) and rapport with the pitchers.
Because of the above, and because Tomas Nido is out of options, expect the Mets to tab Nido over Rivera.