Taijuan Walker solid in spring debut, Starling Marte to debut today, and a roster projection
Starling Marte will be in right field this afternoon against the Cardinals
What’s Up with the Mets? 🌴
RHP Taijuan Walker made his spring debut on Saturday, allowing just one hit in two innings against the Nationals. He expects to be able to throw at least five innings in his first start of the season (New York Post)
LHP David Peterson struggled in his second appearance of the spring - he has an 8.10 ERA in two games.
OF Starling Marte will make his Grapefruit League debut today. He will play right field, a position he has never played in the big leagues (New York Post)
Both Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer will pitch in today’s game against the Cardinals at Clover Park - deGrom is the scheduled starter.
The Mets have shown interested in LHP Tony Watson, but it remains to be seen if he will decide to pitch (Heyman)
The Mets have a 1.62 ERA in seven games this spring, the best in either the Grapefruit or the Cactus League. They have produced a .694 OPS as a team in eight games so far this spring (21st best).
Today’s Game 🗓
Match-up: Mets vs. Cardinals
Where: Clover Park, Port St. Lucie, FL
Starters: RHP Jacob deGrom vs. RHP Daniel Hudson
When: 1:10 PM ET
Where to Watch: WPIX
A first crack at projecting the opening day roster… 📝
It was a quiet Saturday for the Mets in Port St. Lucie aside from Taijuan Walker’s notable spring debut, so instead of having a conversation about another storyline this spring, We will table those for this week and instead take a crack at the Mets opening day roster.
The good news for teams - at least in April - is they will reportedly be allowed to carry 28 players over the first month of the season. Presumably that means the Mets and many other clubs will use this temporary roster expansion as an opportunity to carry more relievers (specifically, long relievers) since most will not be ready to throw a regular regimen of pitches come opening day, which is sneaking up fast.
There are 28 players on this projection and I chose to take a stab at it from a major league depth perspective as well. Most of the Mets roster spots are easy to figure out, but of course the pitching staff is still up in the air.
First Base: Pete Alonso, Dominic Smith, Robinson Canó
Alonso is expected to be the primary first baseman, and not the regular designated hitter. Smith will see his share of time at first for sure when Mets manager Buck Showalter decides to slot Alonso in as the designated hitter. Smith instead should get the bulk of his playing time in left field, although he will likely serve in a backup role there to start the season. It’s also worth mentioning Showalter said Robinson Canó could see time at first base this season as well.
Second base: Jeff McNeil, Robinson Canó
Showalter said early in camp McNeil will be the regular second baseman, but also teased the idea of McNeil moving around the diamond over the course of the season. That makes sense - while McNeil’s defense isn’t elite, he is a proven moveable piece who gives Showalter options in matchups and injury replacements, and said versatility also will afford occasional time at second base for Canó. Luis Guillorme is also a versatile middle infield option who will see tim at second base, although he projects as the primary backup to Francisco Lindor at shortstop.
Shortstop: Francisco Lindor, Luis Guillorme
This is probably the position offering the most certainty on the diamond, assuming both Lindor and Guillorme stay healthy. The problem here is depth behind these players. The next best major league option would be Eduardo Escobar, although he has logged just 38 games there since 2017. While on the 40-man roster, Ronny Mauricio does not project as a factor on the 2022 roster (nor should he).
Third Base: Eduardo Escobar, JD Davis, Jeff McNeil
Assuming he’s healthy (something which always needs repeating around here), Escobar will be the primary third baseman. Davis - who is defensively challenged and should primarily serve as a designated hitter - will unquestionably get reps there as well as left field and perhaps right field as well. McNeil is also an option here, but as a third tier behind Davis.
Catching: James McCann, Tomás Nido
The Mets are obviously hoping for a bounce back season from McCann on both sides of the ball, and Nido is as solid a backup as money can buy with his above average defense and occasional impact at the plate. The questions about Francisco Álvarez will certainly arise if McCann struggles even in the slightest. They don’t have a lot behind either as far as realistic major league depth is concerned.
Left Field: Mark Canha, Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, JD Davis
The Mets always seem to go through a baseball season with too many outfielders and not enough of them seemingly in the same breath. For now, the Mets have plenty of moveable parts in the outfield. The most likely scenario out of the gate in left field is Canha and Smith, a righty/lefty combination that can complement one another in matchup-based scenarios. Of course, Davis and Brandon Nimmo are both options in left and right field, and there’s Travis Jankowski as well, who could sneak onto the roster thanks to his elite defensive skill set at three outfield positions.
Center Field: Starling Marte, Brandon Nimmo, Mark Canha
Honestly, I’m not sure what order to put these players in here. This week, Marte said the early plan was to have him play right field a lot of the time, which would mean Nimmo - who had a stellar year in center last year - will get the bulk of the playing time here. My expectation is these two will share this position in an effort to keep both fresh and healthy, and both will unquestionably see occasional at-bats as the designated hitter as well. Don’t forget Canha who can spell whoever the center fielder is on occasion.
Right Field: Starling Marte, Brandon Nimmo, Mark Canha, JD Davis(?)
It’s mostly a rinse and repeat conversation from the center field spot.
Starting rotation: Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker
Obviously, this is the area of the roster the Mets are totally banking on. The order in the end doesn’t matter, especially if one or more pitchers get hurt (sorry, but its bound to happen - pitchers break, as Terry Collins would always say). The question is how the Mets might utilize Tylor Megill in this equation, who has been excellent so far this spring and is at least pitching his way into the conversation in some form. On the other hand, David Peterson has struggled so far, so the Mets could opt to send him down right away to start on a regular basis at Triple-A Syracuse. Could the Mets go with an early six-man rotation or spot start Megill with the expanded rosters? That remains to be seen but is worth watching over the final full week of camp.
Bullpen: Edwin Díaz, Seth Lugo, Chasen Shreve, Trevor May, Trevor Williams, Miguel Castro, Adam Ottavino, Drew Smith, Tylor Megill, Alex Claudio
This is the most difficult area of the roster to project, and a lot depends on how the Mets decide to handle their rotation depth over the first month while they continue to ramp up their starting pitchers. Williams and/or Megill seem the obvious choices to be the club’s long men out of the gate (assuming Megill isn’t a sixth/spot starter) and should see a lot of innings in April. Díaz, Lugo, Ottavino, Castro and May will serve as their primary 7-9 arms. Jake Reed is not on the current projection since he has been hampered by an oblique injury early in camp. Then there is the left side of the bullpen, and they currently have no left-handed relievers on the 40-man roster. It seems clear Shreve will make the club if only by default (he’s had a strong camp so far), and Showalter has been impressed by Claudio as well. With the NL East stacked with left-handed star power (Juan Soto, Matt Olson, Bryce Harper, etc.) the Mets simply have to be strong in this area of the roster. But it maybe another week before the bullpen - unquestionably the most vulnerable part of their roster - is a clearer picture.