Mets have roster choice as opening day nears
New to the game of squad selection, New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has repeatedly stated that his coaching staff will be taking “the best 25” players up north with him to begin the Major League Baseball season.
For Mets fans, the competition between Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith for the opening day first base spot draws a parallel to early season 2014, when former general manager Terry Collins selected Lucas Duda over Ike Davis to be the everyday first baseman.
If so, and Van Wagenen makes a good impression by sticking to his words, it’s very clear to see that the shining star, or perhaps stars of Mets’ camp, have been the two mentioned above. Both carry a super-.400 batting average, and an OBPS percentage north of the 1.000 mark.
Stars such as Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa and Ronald Acuña Jr. were held back an extra year; almost certainly in order to grant teams an extra year of “team control” in which players lose the majority, if not all negotiating rights, to their contracts. The Mets are most likely looking to keep one of the two down in Florida for the opening weeks of the season, which would secure the extra year of control over either Alonso or Smith.
Of course, to compare the budding careers of prospects to that of established stars may be folly. However, the claim is that both are proven talents to play at the major league level, both are at the ripe age of 23 and 24 respectively and having one of these players in the minors subjects them to the risk of injury, because either one would certainly get substantial playing time down in the minors to begin the season.
If Van Wagenen fully commits to the “win now” mentality, the best course of action is for the Mets to send both prospects to Flushing and to have the role shared. This model would look like using Alonso to start games, primarily taking advantage of his superior-average exit velocity to generate runs.
Smith, who between this and last season has hit for contact just as well as Alonso, is best used starting against experienced lefty starters and is not a defensive liability as compared to Alonso.
As per the starting rotation, Zack Wheeler has spent the spring revamping the “arm stroke” part of his delivery. Wheeler is putting the final touches on his new windup, after facing setbacks following the infamous career-threatening Tommy John surgery in 2015, where a healthy tendon is extracted in a patient and used to replace an arm’s torn ligament.
In 2018, Wheeler introduced a splitter, due to an increasing BABIP on his sinking fastball, a pitch that he has since abandoned. Given fellow rotation-men Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom stay healthy and produce numbers close to projected, if Wheeler takes the next step this season, be prepared to see the New York Mets finish top 5 in rotation WHIP, ERA and Opponents Batting Average Against.