In his latest Mets mailbag, Matthew Cerrone weighs in on non-roster invitees, Luis Guillorme and youngsters around the NL East.
The calendar has turned from Hot Stove to sunshine and palm trees.
Not surprisingly, so have questions being sent to me for my weekly mailbag post.
Here are answers to the most common questions to come in, all of which focus on the farm system, prospects and guys that can help the big-league team.
Among the non-roster players invited to Spring Training, who are you most interested in seeing play during Grapefruit League games?
I'm most eager to see left-handed pitchers David Peterson and Kevin Smith, both of whom could be called upon for fill-in work with the Mets at some point during the next season.
Peterson, in particular, is intriguing. He isn't considered a top prospect, be it overall in baseball or even with the Mets. However, he's a lefty, had a 3.19 FIP in Double A and has a career 2.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He'll begin 2020 with Triple-A Syracuse, but should be the first young guy called if things go array in the big-league rotation.
Smith was the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year last year. He's a strikeout pitcher with reserved hype. He just strikes me as someone with under-the-radar bullpen potential - as does Double-A reliever Ryley Gilliam.
Is Luis Guillorme a career Quadruple-A player or will he have a regular role with the Mets?
I'm a fan of Guillorme, who I believe has the talent to be an everyday player.
His longest stretch playing regularly is five days, so it's not necessarily fair to judge him on the .227 batting average and .303 OBP he produced during a sporadic 128 at bats last season.
Meanwhile, in Triple-A, he hit .307 with a .412 OBP and nearly as many walks as strike outs, so it's not like he's incapable of hitting advanced pitching.
Furthermore, he's SO good on the field - no matter where he's playing - he is skilled, quick and accurate enough to make every one around him better.
Guillorme will benefit from the expanded 26-man roster. Without it, Jed Lowrie would likely be the team's only utility infielder. The extra spot will allow Guillorme a role.
He's going to get playing time either because Robinson Cano or Lowrie get injured or Jeff McNeil simply needs rest. Hopefully, during that window, he gets regular time on the field to show his big-league talent.
Which young players in the NL East should we be afraid will get better in 2019?
I fear the growth and maturity of Braves RHP Mike Soroka, who is reminiscent of the Atlanta pitchers that tormented us throughout the 1990s. Similarly, while Nationals center fielder Victor Robles is already a proven star and exceptional fielder, it's easy to see he's a far better hitter than he was last year.
The Phillies clearly believe 3B Scott Kingery can be better than he was, otherwise they would not have given him the type of contract they did before he ever set foot on a big-league field.
I have no idea what to make of the Marlins... never have, probably never will.
In terms of the Mets, all eyes will be on Amed Rosario. He can be a difference maker given how dominant and established Pete Alonso became last year. Once the 24-year-old Rosario got himself stable and performing well in the field he began swinging at fewer pitches out of the strike zone, while also swinging at more pitches in it. Not surprisingly, he also started making more and better contact and reducing how often he struck out.
"I just need to keep working hard and focus on the little details the same way I did in the second half," Rosario told me earlier this year. "I want to produce like that for a full season. With consistency and hard work the results will be there."
Is there anyone in the minor leagues that can make a major impact in the bullpen this season?
In addition to the young guys mentioned above, I'm hopeful that former hyped relievers Drew Smith and Franklyn Kilome can get back on track this summer. The two are both returning from Tommy John surgery and have the talent to be impact pitchers when healthy and on their respective games.
Smith, 26, was acquired in the 2017 deal sending Lucas Duda to the Rays. He pitched 27 games for the Mets in 2018, striking out 18 hitters in 28 innings and registering a 3.54 ERA. So, we've seen him succeed, he now just needs to keep building arm strength and a routine and demonstrate his strength in games. Once he does, he'll be in Queens...
Kilome, who is still just 24, was acquired from the Phillies for Asdrubal Cabrera. Philadelphia considered him a starting pitcher. However, scouts and evaluators always told me he was best suited for the bullpen, which seems even more likely given his returning from elbow surgery.
He's tall and lanky and in need of some guidance on the mound. He's a smart kid with lots of movement in his delivery. I just think he hasn't been on a mound for a long enough stretch during his career that he has failed to learn from his experience and from coaches watching his every move. If he gets that this summer, which he should, he'll rise quick and be helping the Mets sooner than later. His fastball and curve ball together can be a weapon, he just needs to better learn how and when to mix it up - especially when he gets to facing better hitters.
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.