Out in the desert, Wally Backman and pitching coach Frank Viola have an interesting roster to work with complete with players who should be contributing to the Mets in 2015.
StartersNoah Syndergaard Steven Matz Matt Bowman Tyler Pill Darin Gorski
Well, this is fun. Viola, who will be a pitching coach in the big leagues someday soon, gets to teach the Mets' top two pitching prospects: Syndergaard (Thor) and Matz. Syndergaard, the top prospect in the Mets system, will be making his second stab at Las Vegas. While his ERA was an undistinguished 4.60 in 26 starts last year, his strikeout (25%) and walk (7.4%) numbers were very good. He has the build, fastball and curveball to be a star in the big leagues. He simply needs to learn to use his secondary pitches better, and trust them when he is behind in the count. Studies have suggested a relationship between velocity and Tommy John surgery, and Syndergaard dealt with some elbow problems this spring. In the case of the Mets, their three hardest throwing starters, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom, have all gone under the knife already.
While Thor brings the power with his right hand, perhaps Matz will become the lightning to his thunder from the left side. Matz was excellent in the second half of the 2014 season in double-A and at his best in the playoffs, in what he said might have been the best game he has ever thrown. He too has the armed with a plus fastball from the left side, and a changeup and a curve that can reach that level as well, Matz's best-case scenario is as a borderline ace. When other media outlets talk about the Mets' exciting young arms, theses are the two that really matter.
Bowman was effective as a starter in both double-A (3.12 ERA) and triple-A (3.47), but I remain skeptical that he has the weapons to go through a big league lineup multiple times. He thrives on deception and smarts, and at some point in the big leagues, you have to have the stuff too.
BullpenHansel Robles Chase Bradford Erik Goeddel Jack Leathersich Scott Rice Cody Satterwhite Zach Thornton
The good money is on Robles, whose velocity spiked with a move to the double-A bullpen in 2014, making his big league debut at some point in 2015.
Another open question, can Viola coax a little more command out of Leathersich, who for the last few years has run a reverse platoon split?
CatchersKevin Plawecki Johnny Monell Nelfi Zapata
Mets fans seem to think that the team has some kind of problem with Plawecki working his way up the system behind Travis d'Arnaud. This is not a problem. d'Arnaud has more power and a better arm. Plawecki makes a little more contact. They're different players, but I'll take d'artaud on his best day. At that, Plawecki could probably be a starting catcher for something like 10 big league teams right now. In 2014, as a 23-year-old with Vegas, he hit .283/.345/.421 after putting up a .326/.378/.487 line in 58 games in double-A Binghamton to start the year. Plawecki is an aggressive hitter who knows the strike zone. If a pitcher gives him an early count fastball he can handle, he will attack it. However, he possesses a keen eye and rarely expands the zone. The result is a low-strikeout, high contact output. He should join the Mets in the big leagues at some point in 2015.
Infield1B: Brandon Allen2B: Dilson HerreraSS: Matt Reynolds... Wilfredo Tovar3B: Eric Campbell/Danny Muno
With Reynolds and Herrera in the lineup up the middle, and certainly on days when Tovar plays, there's a really good case that this is a better defensive double-play combination than the Mets are running out in the big leagues in Wilmer Flores and Daniel Murphy. Herrera will be the Mets' starting second baseman by Opening Day 2016. Herrera hit his way out of advanced-A and then put up a beastly .340/.406/.560 performance with 30 extra-base hits in 61 games in double-A to finish his minor league season before the Mets called him up for a few weeks of big league time. The little guy keeps getting stronger; the power is real. He could be a fan favorite when he returns to Queens.
After a really slow start to his professional career, Reynolds, who is now 24, had a breakout 2014. I still think he's more capable backup than everyday starter on a playoff caliber team. However, that might make him the best shortstop in the Mets organization right now. Reynolds is a high-contact, moderate walk, low power player. He could probably run into 6-10 homers a year playing most of the time in the big leagues. The Wilmer Flores experiment as an everyday shortstop will be a fascinating plot as long as it lasts. If it does not last (and is gone before the fireworks of July 4 are in the air) Reynolds might be there to grab his shot.
OutfieldersAlex Castellanos Darrell Ceciliani Kyle Johnson Cesar Puello Travis Taijeron Cory Vaughn
So, after all that, Cesar Puello was placed on the DL, and did not clear waivers. Now, if he makes it back to Vegas, maybe he'll play everyday. If he doesn't, Outside the Lines should investigate. He's still just 24, the youngest player in this outfield, and the most gifted. He had a poor 2014 with the 51s, hitting only .252/.355/.393 in 104 games. However, in his final 41 games from July 6 through the end of the season, he hit a healthier .285/.388/.492 with five homers. Of course, his on-base percentage was supported by 10 hit-by-pitches, which is a fairly important component of his offensive game and speaks to his willingness to give up his body for his team.