The Mets announced that nine minor leaguers have been invited to major league spring training, which officially begins Feb. 12...
Here are the six players, including Tim Tebow, that I'm looking forward to seeing...
1B Peter Alonso (23 years old, ETA: 2019)
He's a right-handed first baseman, at the plate and in the field, which is going to always be a strike against him as he works his way toward the big leagues. The thing is, he makes true contact, hits to all fields and has a powerful swing. He's easy to notice. In fact, teams in contact with the Mets this winter had a lot of questions about Alonso, who was recently ranked by MLB.com as the seventh-best first base prospect in baseball.
"He's within striking distance of being an every day player capable of being a middle-of-the-order hitter," a rival scout told me late last year. "I'm not sure he'll stick at first base because of the glove. But that's OK. His bat will fit some place in the big leagues."
LHP P.J. Conlon (24 years old, ETA: 2018)
He has terrific control and a wild delivery that is fun to watch. I'm eager to see how he does against big-league hitters and what they make of how he hides the ball. He's also known for being a bit of a bulldog, workhorse type, very aggressive in his approach, which I like.
He has always looked like a late-game reliever to me, but he spent last year again working as starting pitcher. He tossed 136 innings at Double-A Binghamton in 2017. So, he's clearly on their radar, but whether they move him back to being a reliever remains to be seen...
RHP Corey Taylor (25 years old, ETA: 2019)
Taylor was in big league camp last year, during which he got the attention of several coaches. He's a big boy, 5-11, 250 pounds, with a mean glare and a wild delivery, yet is more of a groundball pitcher than strikeout guy. I often overheard coaches also praising how he repeatedly pounds the bottom of the strike zone like a pitching machine.
"He's meant to be a reliever, looms like Heath Bell," a person who watched Taylor in 2016 told me a year ago. "He uses a mid-level arm slot and gets a lot of downward rotation on his fastball, which makes his slider equally effective. He needs to calm down his delivery, though. He's aggressive and has a lot of wasted movement."
3B David Thompson (24 years old, ETA: 2018)
I'm rooting for Thompson, who can look a bit like a right-handed Daniel Murphy. David has a really good eye, but he's loves to swing the bat. Like Murphy, he's a hitter, not a fielder. He hit all last year, hit during the Arizona Fall League, and will likely hit in front of team executives next spring. I have no idea what happens going forward.
He was drafted in 2015, he'll get to Triple-A this season, and is seemingly close to big-league ready. But, it's possible his time in PSL will provide a clue about if the Mets intend to move him off third base, which I've heard is possible. Like with Murphy, will he end up a first baseman? Is he an outfielder? Can he play second base? I guess we'll see...
OF Tim Tebow (30 years old, ETA: Don't Ask)
Yes, Tebow. You can laugh, and mock it, but -- when he's in a camp, in the batter's box or in the field -- everyone will be watching... as will I. I mean, why not?
"He always takes good at-bats," Michael Conforto told the Daily News in June after playing a rehab assignemnt with Tebow "He's got a good eye, he doesn't chase, and I think really that's half the battle in the game of baseball as far as being a good hitter."
"He's still got a long way to go, but I think I've seen a lot of improvement out of him," Conforto added. "From spring to the one day I got to see him, he looks like a much better player already. If he just keeps getting better, who knows?"
He's 30 years old and entering his second full season of professional baseball, so he's not a prospect. That said, he's a good guy and admired by more or less every current professional athlete, including everyone on field and in the clubhouse in St. Lucie. So, at the very least, it'll be good for everyone in camp to see his work ethic, positive mental attitude, and dedication to pursuing his dream. He's a fascinating personality and I'm eager to see how he's treated.
RHP Drew Smith (24 years old, ETA: 2018)
The Mets acquired Smith last summer from the Rays for Lucas Duda. Tampa believed he had the potential to be a closer with a high-90s fastball and a strong curveball. I assume the Mets feel the same about him. The game is all about hard-throwing relievers right now, so it will be beneficial to know if Drew can factor in to the bullpen sooner than later.
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. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...