Here in St. Lucie, you'll find veterans Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie, but most players, coaches and team executives view the young Brandon Nimmo as having the best pitch recognition in camp.
"It was always important to my dad and coaches growing up that I swing at strikes and lay off pitches not in the zone," Nimmo told SNY, stating what seems like the obvious. "It has been a focus here, too, at least since I was drafted."
The thing is, while it may be obvious to swing at only pitches in the strike zone, Nimmo does it almost as well as anyone in baseball. According to FanGraphs.com, he swung last season at roughly 16 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, which was fifth-best among qualifying players.
Interestingly, to get as good as he is, he told me, it was more about playing catch than hitting...
"As much as you can, whether it's with your dad, coach, best friend, play catch and have them throw different pitches," he told me, when I asked for advice that can be relayed to young players. "My dad would throw me fastballs, curveballs, knuckle curves, change ups, and then he'd make me tell him what it was after every single throw."
The consensus I find here in St. Lucie is that -- to continue building on last year's 4.5 WAR season -- Nimmo will get the majority of starts to begin what will be his second full season in the big leagues. If he struggles, he again could find himself sitting against lefties or being dropped in the batting order.
Nimmo finished 2018 fourth in the league with a .385 wOBA, sixth in percentages of walks and he led the Mets with a 150 OPS+.
My hunch here is that Nimmo will end up hitting leadoff. In 297 plate appearances in that role last season, he had a .387 OBP, 31 extra-base hits and 28 RBI. He actually produced better numbers down in the order, but his skillset on this specific roster better fits hitting first and getting the at bats of anyone on a given day. The other leadoff option would be Amed Rosario, but Callaway indicated earlier this week that his shortstop is more likely to bat eighth in front of the pitcher.
In other words, I see Nimmo, followed by Jeff McNeil and some combination of Cano, Michael Conforto, Lowrie and Wilson Ramos.
"He walks, he gets on base and, when he got himself in to a routine, you saw the extra-base hits started to come last season," Callaway said. "We expect he can do that again and be better this year."
In terms of how Nimmo views Callaway, while he can't speak for everyone in the clubhouse, he said there's a passion and motivation among teammates to win for their second-year manager.
Nimmo said fans may bristle at the manager's communication style and laid-back nature, but that's not always how it operates in private. He said Callaway has a low tolerance for a lack of effort and professionalism, and he can be quite vocal when the team is sloppy or seemingly unfocused.
"I think he's handled everything really, really well," Nimmo concluded.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!