Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
The Official Site of the New York Mets

news

Mets News

Inbox: Will Wilmer get chance to start at 2B?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers fans' questions
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

With the official start of Spring Training now three weeks away, the Mets -- like most teams in this offseason's slow market -- aren't quite done shopping. They're still on the lookout for a second baseman, likely the last piece of their offseason maneuvering. But what about the second baseman they already have? This week's Mets Inbox starts there:

Why isn't Wilmer Flores being given a chance to start at second base?
-- @JayZammie via Twitter

With the official start of Spring Training now three weeks away, the Mets -- like most teams in this offseason's slow market -- aren't quite done shopping. They're still on the lookout for a second baseman, likely the last piece of their offseason maneuvering. But what about the second baseman they already have? This week's Mets Inbox starts there:

Why isn't Wilmer Flores being given a chance to start at second base?
-- @JayZammie via Twitter

The Mets, quite simply, feel Flores is more effective as a part-time player. Although he bristles at the notion that he is best served as a platoon bat, his career splits (an .838 OPS against left-handed pitching, .683 against righties) speak for themselves. Yes, Flores had a fine season against right-handed pitching in 2017, but even that performance was roughly league average before taking into account his below-average defense. And one-year splits are notoriously unreliable.

:: Submit a question to the Mets Inbox ::

Add in Flores' injury history -- hamstring, wrist, knee and other issues in just the past two seasons -- and the Mets simply don't think it's worthwhile to count on him as an everyday starter. Flores will still receive plenty of reps at first and second base. He's a strong bet to appear in at least 100 games for the fourth consecutive year, and he rates as a bona fide bench bat on a playoff-caliber team.

Flores just won't be the everyday starter. Who will? It's looking more and more like a free agent is the answer, with Neil Walker, Eduardo Nunez and Jose Reyes the three most prominent options at the position. The Mets could still sign a third baseman such as Todd Frazier, shifting Asdrubal Cabrera over to second, but that isn't their preference. They could also swing a trade for someone such as Josh Harrison, but they aren't thrilled with what it would cost them in terms of talent.

Hot Stove Tracker

Video: Castrovince, Justice discuss Mets' 2B options

Do any of the arms acquired during last year's trades have a chance to really contribute in 2018?
-- @jbmsgice via Twitter

A few. Jacob Rhame and Jamie Callahan, acquired in the Curtis Granderson and Addison Reed deals, respectively, have already cracked the Majors and will compete for jobs in the Opening Day bullpen. They're both likely to log significant innings in 2018.

Outside of those two, the Mets invited Drew Smith, of the Lucas Duda trade, to big league Spring Training. He's next up as far as big league readiness, and he could also parlay a strong spring into a roster spot.

Video: NYM@HOU: Callahan records his first career out

Are we going with seven or eight relievers?
-- @Bennymycat via Twitter

The days of seven-man bullpens are close to an end -- not just for the Mets, but for most teams around baseball. With relief pitchers eating up more and more of the daily innings pie, seven-man bullpens are simply too thin to survive the rigors of a 162-game season. The Mets used an eight-man bullpen for much of last season and I suspect they'll do so for most, if not all, of this one.

Do you see any world where the Mets' reported projected payroll numbers are partially posturing, and general manager Sandy Alderson will surprise us by upgrading the roster in several areas last-minute on team-friendly deals as players scramble to find homes?
-- @jonhurwitz via Twitter

Payroll is never a static number. Alderson can always go to ownership and ask for more money in special circumstances. But it has to make sense within the team's overall budget and plan. The Mets aren't going to go out and randomly spend eight figures on, say, Jonathan Lucroy, when they've already decided that catcher isn't a priority. If Lucroy's price drops far enough to make him a bargain, other teams would almost certainly be more motivated to sign him than the Mets.

Now, if the Mets can find a good last-minute deal on a starting pitcher, would they take it? That's a much more realistic possibility. But doing so might handicap their ability to absorb salary at the Trade Deadline. Every financial move has consequences on others, both short- and long-term.

What's the timetable for T.J. Rivera?
-- @SusanKinsella1 via Twitter

At last check, Rivera was hoping to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery in mid-April, which would be a full seven months after his Tommy John surgery. Position players don't generally need as much time to recover from Tommy John as their pitcher cousins, who typically require 12 to 18 months.

Video: NYM@SD: Rivera makes a tough catch in foul ground

But that's a best-case scenario for Rivera, whose rehab could easily leak into May or June. The Mets are conservatively projecting a midsummer return. Ultimately, it could happen at any point in the first half.

What do you see with Tim Tebow in the future?
-- @robbie5687 via Twitter

More of the same, quite frankly. I don't think it's unreasonable to assume he'll continue improving, as he did throughout last season. Tebow will probably start out at Class A Advanced St. Lucie, where he hit just .231 with a .664 OPS last season.

Video: Mets invite Tim Tebow to Major League Spring Training

Those numbers will need to improve markedly if Tebow is to advance to Double-A, where the competition is significantly stiffer. The usual disclaimer is that, at age 30, it's unlikely Tebow will ever improve enough to become a big leaguer. But stranger things have happened, and the Mets have demonstrated a willingness to push Tebow forward even when the numbers suggest they probably shouldn't. In that sense, your guess is as good as mine regarding Tebow's long-term future.

When do the Mets move their Triple-A team from Las Vegas to Syracuse?
-- @Nostraskel via Twitter

That move won't happen until 2019. The Mets are entering the final year of their affiliation with Las Vegas.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

 

New York Mets, Wilmer Flores, T.J. Rivera

Tebow headlines Mets' spring camp NRIs

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- Tim Tebow is about to receive his most significant exposure yet to top-level baseball competition. The Mets announced Friday that they have invited Tebow to Major League Spring Training, giving the former college and professional football star another opportunity to stride forward in his baseball career.

Tebow is among 13 non-roster invitees to Spring Training -- a list that also includes blue-chip first-base prospect Peter Alonso (ranked as the Mets' No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline) former Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton and Drew Smith, the reliever the Mets acquired for Lucas Duda last July.

NEW YORK -- Tim Tebow is about to receive his most significant exposure yet to top-level baseball competition. The Mets announced Friday that they have invited Tebow to Major League Spring Training, giving the former college and professional football star another opportunity to stride forward in his baseball career.

Tebow is among 13 non-roster invitees to Spring Training -- a list that also includes blue-chip first-base prospect Peter Alonso (ranked as the Mets' No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline) former Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton and Drew Smith, the reliever the Mets acquired for Lucas Duda last July.

But the most significant number of eyes will surely follow Tebow, as they did a year ago when the Mets -- citing a need for outfielders, though general manager Sandy Alderson later admitted that his motivations at least partially had roots in the "entertainment business" -- frequently borrowed him for Grapefruit League games. Tebow hit .148 in nine such contests, going on to bat .226 with eight home runs over two Minor League levels. Following a successful debut at Class A Columbia, Tebow ended his season with Class A Advanced St. Lucie.

"I think he's exceeded a lot of people's expectations," Alderson said during the summer.

The former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at the University of Florida drew rave reviews for his plate discipline and power, putting on batting practice shows during Spring Training. He took so many practice cuts early in the year that his hands bled, calloused over and bled again. But it wasn't all storybook stuff; Tebow also struck out in 26 percent of his professional plate appearances and was raw on defense, his overall numbers overshadowing his clear improvement over the course of the season.

"It's not the grind of football, where you're like, 'Dang, some days I don't know if I can get out of bed,'" Tebow said during a midsummer interview. "This is more of a monotonous, every day, having to lock in with that focus. It's the awareness every day to make sure you're not just trying to get by, but you're getting better."

There is no end date for Tebow's flirtation with baseball. He remains active in his role as a football analyst for the SEC Network and with his foundation, which has raised millions for disabled orphans and children battling life-threatening diseases. For now, the Mets appear willing to accommodate Tebow for as long as he is willing to play.

But his prospects as a potential Major Leaguer remain dim. Now 30 years old, Tebow is at an age when many successful big leaguers' careers begin to wane. Still, the Mets often cited Tebow as a capable mentor for teammates a decade younger than him, considering his history of success on significant stages.

"I love what I'm doing," Tebow said last year. "And when you have a chance to love what you do and you're passionate about it, it's fun. You don't wake up and go, 'Man, I've got to go face this day.' You go, 'I'm excited about this day.' And that's a good feeling."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

 

New York Mets

Wright opens up about his baseball future

Mets star slowed since 2015 by spinal stenosis, multiple surgeries
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- The reality is that David Wright does not know if he will ever be a productive Major League Baseball player again. He does not know when, or if, he will next see the field. He does not know what his future holds, if there is even any future left for him as the Mets' third baseman.

"It really hurts to say this, but I obviously can't be relied on to go out there and do what I've done throughout my career," Wright said Friday, before hosting his annual Vegas Night to benefit the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Virginia. "That is a tough thing to say."

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- The reality is that David Wright does not know if he will ever be a productive Major League Baseball player again. He does not know when, or if, he will next see the field. He does not know what his future holds, if there is even any future left for him as the Mets' third baseman.

"It really hurts to say this, but I obviously can't be relied on to go out there and do what I've done throughout my career," Wright said Friday, before hosting his annual Vegas Night to benefit the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Virginia. "That is a tough thing to say."

The past three seasons have been a nightmare of surgeries and setbacks for Wright, a seven-time All-Star whose career arc turned abruptly downward after doctors diagnosed him with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column, in 2015. The following year, Wright underwent neck surgery.

Entering 2017 optimistic about his health, Wright wound up electing for two more operations: one to repair the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, then another to remove bone spurs, a ligament and a herniated disk from his lower back. He did not appear in a single game.

"The surgeries are obviously serious stuff, but it just kind of plays with your mind mentally, where you don't know how your body's going to hold up," Wright said. "You don't know how you're going to feel a month from now. You don't know how you're going to feel a couple weeks from now. You're hoping that it continues to get better, but you just don't know.

"Everything is a concern for me. I haven't progressed to the point where I'll know how it feels to throw a baseball until we get closer to spring. I certainly don't know how the back is going to hold up."

The Mets still owe Wright $47 million over the next three seasons, though they have recouped tens of millions already through an insurance policy on his contract. Asdrubal Cabrera, not Wright, is currently slated to start at third base for the Mets this season.

When pressed for details about his next steps, Wright demurs. In the months after undergoing his latest back surgery in October, Wright met biweekly with Dr. Robert Watkins, the Los Angeles specialist who has overseen his rehab since 2015. Wright more recently went for a checkup with Mets team physician Dr. David Altchek, the details of which he was unwilling to discuss. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson promised to provide an update in late January.

Since last spring, Wright has shied away from interviews, seeking privacy at Citi Field when media members are present. He prefers not to discuss his health because he does not have concrete answers. He also mourns for a career that has seen him appear in just 75 games the past three seasons, the most recent of those occurring 20 months ago.

"When it's kind of taken away from you abruptly, unexpectedly -- I didn't have any physical ailments my first however many years," said Wright, who debuted in 2004 and is the Mets' franchise leader in hits, doubles, RBIs and walks. "I thought that was just going to be the way it goes. Then all of a sudden you hit a speed bump, and then you miss a year and a half. You take for granted how much you enjoy it until you can't do it anymore."

The breaking point, Wright says, will be if doctors tell him that continuing to play can damage his long-term quality of life. Wright's outlook beyond baseball remains robust; he and his wife have a growing family and philanthropic ambitions. They expected approximately 400 people to attend Vegas Night, which a "beyond proud" Wright has used to raise roughly $1.3 million for the children's hospital to date.

But because that conversation has never happened, Wright still itches to return to the field. When asked about those who believe he should simply retire, Wright says he understands the notion, but disagrees.

"I don't want to have regrets," Wright said. "If I can't play? Then I'll be able to say I gave it my best shot, I really did. And if I can play, which obviously is the goal, then that's great as well. And that's ideal. I just don't want to have any regrets when it's all said and done that if I would have just put in some more work, or if I would have just concentrated a little more on the rehab program, I might have been able to do it.

"When the end comes, the end comes," he added. "Hopefully, I've got a little more left. But I guess that's to be determined."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

 

New York Mets, David Wright

Alonso among top prospects at first base

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- Quite suddenly at first base, the Mets appear well-heeled. Five-time All-Star Adrian Gonzalez will man the position most days in April. Wilmer Flores remains a steady option against left-handed pitchers. Dominic Smith is still the Mets' first baseman of the future, in the organization's eyes -- and a promising one at that.

But it may not be long before another competitor enters the fray. Coming off a standout -- albeit injury-shortened -- first full Minor League season, Peter Alonso is ranked No. 7 on MLB Pipeline's updated list of top first-base prospects. Tampa Bay's Brendan McKay, the No. 4 overall pick in last year's Draft, led a list that includes some of Minor League Baseball's heaviest hitters.

NEW YORK -- Quite suddenly at first base, the Mets appear well-heeled. Five-time All-Star Adrian Gonzalez will man the position most days in April. Wilmer Flores remains a steady option against left-handed pitchers. Dominic Smith is still the Mets' first baseman of the future, in the organization's eyes -- and a promising one at that.

But it may not be long before another competitor enters the fray. Coming off a standout -- albeit injury-shortened -- first full Minor League season, Peter Alonso is ranked No. 7 on MLB Pipeline's updated list of top first-base prospects. Tampa Bay's Brendan McKay, the No. 4 overall pick in last year's Draft, led a list that includes some of Minor League Baseball's heaviest hitters.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

A college standout at the University of Florida, Alonso parlayed a strong junior season into a second-round Draft selection by the Mets, who considered his power potential as substantial as that of nearly anyone in the 2016 Draft. That tool manifested itself in a significant way last summer, when Alonso hit 18 home runs with a .524 slugging percentage over two levels, rising from Class A Advanced St. Lucie to Double-A Binghamton in late August.

It was a promotion that came two months after Alonso returned from a broken hand -- an injury that did not bog down his offensive statistics, despite costing him a significant chunk of the summer. Overall, in parts of two professional seasons, the 23-year-old Alonso has hit 23 homers in 123 games with a .903 OPS.

"He's got a chance to be a prototypical slugging first baseman," Mets director of Minor League player development Ian Levin said. "He has elite raw power and has shown consistent ability to use it in games, and his overall ability to hit should allow him to continue to progress."

Like most first-base prospects, Alonso's burden is that to succeed in the Majors, he must not just hit, but hit with authority. Alonso is likely ticketed to begin this season back at Binghamton, where he mashed five home runs in 11 games down the stretch in 2017. Similar success early this year could hasten Alonso's rise to Triple-A Las Vegas, a hitter-friendly environment where sluggers such as him tend to thrive.

From there, it's just a quick hop to the Majors, where Alonso could provide a legitimate challenge to Smith -- or become a tantalizing trade chip for help at another position.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

 

New York Mets

In short, Santana makes for a curious Hall case

Lefty was game's dominant pitcher for six-season stretch
MLB.com @JPosnanski

Sandy Koufax has long been a touchstone for those short but great careers -- for obvious reasons. Koufax is considered one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, but he retired at 30 and stuffed almost all of his value into a glorious six-season period (1961-66). There's a temptation to say that anyone with a terrific but short career -- Ron Guidry, Bret Saberhagen, Wes Ferrell, Dave Stieb -- must, like Koufax, be a potential Hall of Famer.

This is especially true for Johan Santana because, as the argument goes, he was similarly dominant from 2002-10. I am actually bullish on Santana's Hall of Fame case. He was down to the final two for my last Hall of Fame vote. I will get into all that in just a minute.

Sandy Koufax has long been a touchstone for those short but great careers -- for obvious reasons. Koufax is considered one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, but he retired at 30 and stuffed almost all of his value into a glorious six-season period (1961-66). There's a temptation to say that anyone with a terrific but short career -- Ron Guidry, Bret Saberhagen, Wes Ferrell, Dave Stieb -- must, like Koufax, be a potential Hall of Famer.

This is especially true for Johan Santana because, as the argument goes, he was similarly dominant from 2002-10. I am actually bullish on Santana's Hall of Fame case. He was down to the final two for my last Hall of Fame vote. I will get into all that in just a minute.

But first I have to say this: I think the Koufax-Santana comparison is terrible and does absolutely no favors for Santana.

I've written about this some before, but here is the problem with Hall of Fame comparisons: We have a bad habit of only comparing the stuff that makes our own case look better. That's why the "If this guy is in, then this guy has to be in," reasoning is so often shallow and even ridiculous. The most famous example of this came from the "Committee to Elect Ken Keltner," who in their efforts to put in the former Cleveland third baseman, bragged that "he had a higher average than Eddie Mathews, more RBIs than Jackie Robinson and more hits than Ralph Kiner."

Complete Hall of Fame coverage

You obviously see right through this absurdness. If not, well: I have countered that my hero Duane Kuiper has to go to the Hall of Fame because he had more stolen bases than Ted Williams, more triples than Johnny Bench and more home runs than Pedro Martinez. I mean, how do you not put Kuip in the Hall of Fame?

Tweet from @HotStoveStats: 7 WAR seasons:Johan Santana - 4Bob Gibson - 4Sandy Koufax - 4Bob Feller - 4Eddie Plank - 3Warren Spahn - 3Carl Hubbell - 3Nolan Ryan - 2Steve Carlton - 2John Smoltz - 1 pic.twitter.com/V9RlZBJVY7

These are obviously extreme examples -- but the point remains. No two players are entirely alike no matter what their career statistics say. Comparisons are useful, of course. They are one of the fun parts of any Hall of Fame discussion. But they are a guide, nothing more. And the reason is they are biased. They punctuate the part of the argument you want to punctuate and ignore the part that you want ignored.

Keltner had 350 fewer home runs than Mathews. He led the league in home runs seven fewer times than Kiner (which is to say, he never led the league in homers or anything else except games played in 1939). He integrated one fewer league than Robinson. These are fairly easy points to miss, if you want to miss them.

The Santana vs. Koufax argument is a perfect example of this.

Video: Twins nabbed Santana in 1999 Winter Meetings

Let's say, for argument's sake, that Santana was, at his best, as good a pitcher as Koufax. It's a difficult argument to prove. They pitched in entirely different times and in entirely different ways.

Koufax in his four best seasons averaged 298 innings per season. He pitched when great starters were expected to finish games. In those four great years, he finished almost 60 percent of the games he started.

Tweet from @MLBRandomStats: This is Sandy Koufax (A) vs Johan Santana (B). Nearly 50/50, which is pretty crazy. https://t.co/AYhFIlsNei

Santana in his four best seasons averaged 239 innings per season. He pitched in a time for closers, he was almost never allowed to finish games. In those four great years, he finished 6 percent of his the games he started.

Koufax pitched in an era when pitching reigned. Plus, he pitched on a ludicrously high mound in maybe the greatest pitchers ballpark since World War II. As such, his ERA for his five best seasons is an extraordinary 1.95.

Santana pitched in a good offensive time in a home ballpark that slightly leaned toward hitters. In his five best seasons, his ERA was almost a full run higher -- 2.82 -- but in context it was pretty close. (Koufax had a 167 ERA+; Santana a 157 ERA+).

And finally, Koufax pitched in a time when one team in each league made the playoffs. The National League had 10 teams; one got in, there were no consolation prizes. You had the best record in the league or you went home. Koufax played a major role -- the major role -- in leading his team to three World Series in four years.

Tweet from @CamdenDepot: Have we discussed yet that Johan Santana is Sandy Koufax. With Koufax being a first ballot entry and Santana likely a first ballot exit?

Santana pitched in the Wild Card era, when four of the 14 teams in the American League made the postseason. Santana played a major role -- the major role -- in getting Minnesota into the postseason by winning the American League Central.

All this makes it awfully hard to know how Santana would have pitched in the 1960s, or Koufax in the 2000s. But we do have some very good statistics that allow us to compare each to their league and time -- as you can see in the tweets throughout this story -- and these do make the case that Santana at his best was similar to Koufax at his best.

You don't need advanced stats to make this case. Koufax won three Cy Youngs and an MVP in a four-year period. In Santana's heyday, he won two Cy Youngs and should absolutely have won in 2005. He did not win an MVP award but certainly had a case in 2006, when his teammate Justin Morneau won it.

Sounds pretty similar. So what's the problem? Why does comparing Koufax and Santana hurt Santana's case?

Well, all this ignores one kind of important thing: Koufax is a legend because of how he pitched in five World Series. This wasn't a sidenote to his story. This was at the heart of his story. If Koufax had the exact same career but his team never made the World Series, sure, he'd still be considered a terrific pitcher. We might still talk about his perfect game (in large part because of Vin Scully's incomparable call) and his 382 strikeouts in 1965 ahd how sad it was his career ended when it did.

But would he be Sandy Koufax, name in the brightest of lights, the guy who sparks goosebumps every time you see him at Dodger Stadium?

Of course not. It would be like talking about, say, Joe Montana's career without the Super Bowls.

Do we need to remind how good Koufax was in the World Series? In 1963, he pitched Game 1 against the Yankees, struck out 15 (he got Mickey Mantle twice) and won. He pitched on three days' rest, came back for Game 4, and threw another complete game, outdueled Whitey Ford and clinched the series.

Santana elected to Twins Hall of Fame

That was nothing compared to 1965. He pitched Game 2 -- you will remember that was the year he did not pitch Game 1 because of Yom Kippur -- and was not at his best. He lasted only six innings; he gave up just two runs, but Minnesota's Jim Kaat was better. The Twins took a commanding 2-0 lead in the Series.

Koufax came back on three days' rest to pitch Game 5 -- he threw a shutout and struck out 10. The Dodgers were on the brink of taking out the Twins. But the Twins won Game 6. And so Koufax came back on two days' rest and threw another shutout with 10 more strikeouts, and the Dodgers won the Series again.

The next year, with Koufax's arm seemingly connected by nothing but a string, he lasted only six innings and gave up one earned run. Jim Palmer beat him. Koufax led the Dodgers to the World Series with amazing seasons, he started eight World Series games, several of them on short rest, finished with an 0.95 ERA, won two World Series MVPs and created a Yom Kippur legend that will be talked about every Yom Kippur forever.

We can talk all we want about Johan Santana's ERA+ and Wins Above Average. He was not Sandy Koufax. Nobody was. Koufax was a man of his own time, his own place. He achieved his own greatness.

Santana's Hall of Fame case must stand on its own. To me, that comes down to the basic question: How long does someone have to be truly great to merit entry into the Hall of Fame?

Santana's case is that from 2003-08, he was absolutely the best pitcher in baseball, and nobody was all that close.

Wins Above Average 2003-08

1. Johan Santana, 27.4

2. Brandon Webb, 23.3

3. Carlos Zambrano, 20.8

4. Roy Oswalt, 19.4

5. Roy Halladay, 19.2

For those six seasons, he was the best in everything. He had the most wins. He had the lowest ERA. He had the lowest ERA+, the lowest WHIP, the lowest batting average against, he was the best pitcher, absolutely and without question. If you are the best pitcher or player in baseball for six seasons, should you be in the Hall of Fame?

Yes. I think you should.

Well, I don't know if six years is the right number. Maybe it should be five. Maybe it should be eight. These things are worth arguing about. I know this: There will be four players elected this year, I think. I would not have traded Santana in his prime for any of them.

Despite this, Santana looks like he will fall off the ballot after just one year, and that's sad. If there is one part of the Koufax comparison I like, it is that Koufax reminds us all of how large a shadow a great player can cast in a short period of time. Santana was not Koufax. But he was the best of his time.

And for that he deserves more love than he's getting.

Joe Posnanski is a columnist for MLB.com.

 

Callaway connection 'a big deal' for Bruce

Making 3-year deal official, slugger reunites with new Mets manager
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- Early in the offseason, long before Jay Bruce fit together the puzzle pieces of his free agency, he spoke on the phone with Mickey Callaway. Recently hired as the Mets' manager, Callaway had come to know Bruce during the outfielder's brief tenure in Cleveland late last season. He outlined to Bruce his ideas and expectations for his new role.

If it wasn't the most direct of recruiting pitches, it was nonetheless something Bruce recalled as "a big deal for me" when it came time to make his decision. Reuniting with Callaway was one of the noteworthy factors that went into Bruce's three-year, $39 million signing with the Mets, who made the contract official Wednesday at a news conference at Citi Field.

NEW YORK -- Early in the offseason, long before Jay Bruce fit together the puzzle pieces of his free agency, he spoke on the phone with Mickey Callaway. Recently hired as the Mets' manager, Callaway had come to know Bruce during the outfielder's brief tenure in Cleveland late last season. He outlined to Bruce his ideas and expectations for his new role.

If it wasn't the most direct of recruiting pitches, it was nonetheless something Bruce recalled as "a big deal for me" when it came time to make his decision. Reuniting with Callaway was one of the noteworthy factors that went into Bruce's three-year, $39 million signing with the Mets, who made the contract official Wednesday at a news conference at Citi Field.

"They wasted no time in getting down to business and showing that they wanted me back, and they wanted me to be here and wanted me to be a part of what I consider to be some unfinished business here as a Met," Bruce said. "It was something that felt right for me, felt right for my family."

Video: Bruce on being excited to reunite with the Mets

Originally coming to the Mets in a 2016 trade from Cincinnati, Bruce returned to hit 29 home runs with an .841 OPS in 103 games last season. At that point, with the team well out of contention, the Mets dealt Bruce to the Indians for pitching prospect Ryder Ryan.

But general manager Sandy Alderson and his front office never quite forgot about Bruce, keeping in the back of their minds the idea of a return. After the season, they re-established contact. And when Bruce's demands fell from an initial estimate of a five-year deal worth more than $80 million, the Mets struck at what they considered a bargain price. Over the past eight seasons, Bruce has averaged 151 games played and 29 homers.

"One of the reasons Jay plays every day is not because he's durable," Alderson said. "It's because he wants to play every day. And in terms of our team, any team, having someone who wants to be out there every day, and refuses to be out of the lineup, is an important piece."

Beyond the obvious power that Bruce brings to New York's lineup is a fair bit of leadership -- he became a mentor to Michael Conforto last season -- and an openness to the type of analytics the front office values. In particular, the Mets were smitten with the way Bruce worked on his defense last season, developing into an above-average right fielder. And they were happy to see him become one of the poster children for baseball's fly ball revolution, making a conscious effort to increase his average launch angle.

Video: Bruce comes back to Mets after 2017 trade

"This is an extremely intelligent player," Alderson said. "He uses everything available to him. As an organization, we talk about being information driven and it's a nice concept. But ultimately that information has to be utilized by the players. I think one of the things that explains Jay's performance from last year is his willingness to adapt -- adapt to new circumstances, adapt to new information. It was really important for our team."

More anecdotally, Bruce has adapted to New York as well. Long gone are the whispers that he cannot handle the city's pressures; to the contrary, Bruce thrived in New York last year, considering the opportunity to live in Manhattan a selling point of returning to the Mets. He is comfortable in a place he feels that he can win.

"There were definitely some other options on the table," Bruce said, "and the Mets kind of came in and made it an easy decision there for me in the end."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

 

New York Mets, Jay Bruce

Mets sign A-Gon to one-year deal

Veteran first baseman (back injury) played in just 71 games in '17
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- The Mets may still consider Dominic Smith their first baseman of the future, but he is no longer their first baseman of the present.

The team finalized a deal Thursday to assume the last year of Adrian Gonzalez's contract, with plans to give him significant playing time. Though Gonzalez is due to make $22.4 million next season, the Mets will be responsible for just the league minimum. His previous employers, the Braves and Dodgers, will pick up the balance.

NEW YORK -- The Mets may still consider Dominic Smith their first baseman of the future, but he is no longer their first baseman of the present.

The team finalized a deal Thursday to assume the last year of Adrian Gonzalez's contract, with plans to give him significant playing time. Though Gonzalez is due to make $22.4 million next season, the Mets will be responsible for just the league minimum. His previous employers, the Braves and Dodgers, will pick up the balance.

Video: Gonzalez discusses signing with Mets, mentoring Smith

"For me, all my memories of the National League, going to Citi Field and even Shea Stadium before that, the Mets fans have always been incredible," Gonzalez said. "They've always been a part of the franchise and very passionate, and I just love the atmosphere that they bring each and every day. I'm so happy to be able to play behind them."

A five-time All-Star, Gonzalez has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting three times, leading the American League with 213 hits in 2011 with the Red Sox. As recently as 2016, Gonzalez hit .285 with 18 homers, playing in at least 156 games for the 11th straight season. But he struggled through a back injury last year, batting just .242 with three home runs and a .642 OPS in 71 games. Entering his age-36 season, it is reasonable to wonder how much production Gonzalez can give the Mets.

Tweet from @Adrian_ElTitan: I am extremely excited and ready for the 2018 season. Looking forward to a great ride with my new teammates and coaches with the @Mets Can���t wait for #SpringTraining to start. I am ready! Are you? pic.twitter.com/biW0hTTR1e

To that end, Gonzalez said he has spent this winter focused on his back, eschewing heavy lifting in favor of stretching exercises, Pilates and water aerobics.

"I feel really good right now," Gonzalez said. "Workouts have gone really well. … It's responding really well. And I think for 2018, I will continue to do that."

Questions also loom regarding Gonzalez's leadership abilities after he did not attend all of the Dodgers' World Series games in October -- an action that Gonzalez colored as a joint decision amongst himself, the Dodgers' front office and Major League Baseball. The Mets hope Gonzalez, who also received significant media criticism during his years in Boston, can nonetheless be a positive presence in the clubhouse -- particularly during Spring Training, when they expect him to be a mentor for Smith.

Video: Gonzalez homers in first, final at-bats with Dodgers

It is an imperfect situation; with Gonzalez in the fold, Smith could be ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas to start the season, though it's also still possible he can win the first-base job outright with a strong spring. Both are left-handed hitters, limiting the opportunities for them to split playing time.

As a rookie, Smith hit .198 with nine home runs in 49 games, earning a dash of criticism from general manager Sandy Alderson. The GM later backed off those comments, but Smith nonetheless took them and others to heart; as of mid-December, he had dropped 12 pounds with an offseason focus on exercise and nutrition.

Video: Dominic Smith reflects on 2017, what he learned

"One of my big, key points especially going into Spring Training is to work with Dominic on defense," said Gonzalez, a four-time Gold Glove Award winner. "I'll tell him about my experiences and everything I've done. So I'm looking forward to that adventure with Dominic as well, so I can help him become the best Major Leaguer he can be."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

 

New York Mets, Adrian Gonzalez

Mets expect Conforto to return around May 1

No setbacks for outfielder in recovery from left shoulder surgery
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- Although the Mets spoke briefly with Jay Bruce about playing some first base this season, it appears their need for him will be greatest in the outfield. The Mets do not expect Michael Conforto to return until around May 1, general manager Sandy Alderson said Wednesday, placing the most concrete timetable yet on the outfielder's return from left shoulder surgery.

"Conforto probably will not be ready," Alderson said. "Everything's going as planned. There have been no setbacks. But his schedule is such that I don't expect him back until the first of May."

NEW YORK -- Although the Mets spoke briefly with Jay Bruce about playing some first base this season, it appears their need for him will be greatest in the outfield. The Mets do not expect Michael Conforto to return until around May 1, general manager Sandy Alderson said Wednesday, placing the most concrete timetable yet on the outfielder's return from left shoulder surgery.

"Conforto probably will not be ready," Alderson said. "Everything's going as planned. There have been no setbacks. But his schedule is such that I don't expect him back until the first of May."

The Mets' lone All-Star last season, Conforto hit .279 with 27 homers in 109 games before dislocating his left shoulder and tearing a capsule in August. He subsequently underwent surgery, from which he is still recovering.

With Conforto sidelined, the Mets will proceed with a regular outfield alignment of Yoenis Cespedes in left, Juan Lagares in center and Bruce in right. Brandon Nimmo is also an option to split time with Lagares, though Nimmo's name has reportedly come up in recent trade talks.

Once Conforto does return, he will supplant Lagares in center -- provided everyone else is healthy.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

 

New York Mets, Michael Conforto

Reyes, Syndergaard earn superlatives

It's no secret who we, Cespedes Family BBQ, believe is the most interesting man on the New York Mets. Here's a hint: his name rhymes with Yoenis Cespedes. 

Bruce, Mets finalize 3-year, $39M contract

MLB.com

Jay Bruce and the Mets have reunited, and it feels so good.

Bruce and the Mets agreed to terms on a $39 million contract last week, according to a report by MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that the deal includes a partial five-team no-trade clause. The club officially announced the deal Tuesday night but has not confirmed the terms of the contract.

Jay Bruce and the Mets have reunited, and it feels so good.

Bruce and the Mets agreed to terms on a $39 million contract last week, according to a report by MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that the deal includes a partial five-team no-trade clause. The club officially announced the deal Tuesday night but has not confirmed the terms of the contract.

"The culture here is something that is very important to me," said Bruce at a news conference Wednesday. "The Mets came in and were very direct. ... They wasted no time in getting down to business and showing that they wanted me back. They wanted me to be here and wanted me to be a part of what I consider to be some unfinished business here as a Met."

"I can't tell you how happy we are to have him back," said Mets general manager Sandy Alderson. "Jay came to us in 2016, played a significant role in the late-season qualification for the playoffs and had an exceptional year for us last year and went on to perform extremely well for Cleveland. Strictly on the basis of performance, we're very glad to have him back."

Bruce has primarily played right field in his professional career, but the Mets will ask him to play some first base this season with Dominic Smith establishing himself as an everyday big leaguer. Bruce played 11 games at first last year, all for New York.

The signing reunites Bruce with the Mets, whom he played for in parts of 2016 and '17. The three-time All-Star spent the first nine seasons of his Major League career with the Reds before he was traded to the Mets on Aug. 1, 2016. He was again dealt on Aug. 9, 2017, to the Indians in exchange for Minor League pitcher Ryder Ryan.

Video: NYM@COL: Bruce hammers a solo home run to left field

With the Mets and Indians in 2017, Bruce batted .254/.324/.508 with a career-high 36 home runs and 101 RBIs in 146 games. He also played in the American League Division Series for the Indians against the Yankees in October, hitting .278 with a pair of home runs and four RBIs.

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

 

New York Mets, Jay Bruce

Mets' success rides on arms of starters

Club banking on Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, Matz, Wheeler to be healthy
MLB.com

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Port St. Lucie, Fla., by Feb. 12, it's time to dissect the Mets' 2018 roster. This is the first of a six-part Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at projected starters and backups heading into the season. First up: starting pitchers.

NEW YORK -- As the Mets attempt to improve their team at the margins this offseason, shoring up their infield and outfield depth, the unspoken truth is that much of this only matters if the starting pitching succeeds. The Mets, at their core, are a team built around starting pitching. The fulcrum of their 2018 success -- or lack thereof -- remains their rotation.

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Port St. Lucie, Fla., by Feb. 12, it's time to dissect the Mets' 2018 roster. This is the first of a six-part Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at projected starters and backups heading into the season. First up: starting pitchers.

NEW YORK -- As the Mets attempt to improve their team at the margins this offseason, shoring up their infield and outfield depth, the unspoken truth is that much of this only matters if the starting pitching succeeds. The Mets, at their core, are a team built around starting pitching. The fulcrum of their 2018 success -- or lack thereof -- remains their rotation.

It is a group that struggled mightily last season, ranking 27th in the Majors with a 5.14 ERA. It is also a group that, just one year earlier featuring similar personnel, was third in MLB with a 3.61 mark.

Video: Syndergaard on his health, looking towards 2018

"I feel like a lot of teams would like to have our starting staff and the depth that we have," manager Mickey Callaway said last month.

The Mets' focus heading into 2018 is not on changing their starting staff -- to the contrary, they have eschewed opportunities to add depth -- but on keeping it healthy. Noah Syndergaard, who missed four months last season with a torn right lat muscle, must redevelop into an ace. Jacob deGrom, who submitted his most durable season, must give the Mets more of the same. Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler, who have suffered through a seemingly unending string of maladies the past two seasons, must find a way to take the ball consistently.

Video: Syndergaard looks to put the hammer down in 2018

It is unrealistic to think all of those pitchers, considering their injury histories, will submit full seasons in 2018. But the Mets have reason to believe that if the majority of them do, they can fill in the gaps just fine with Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Rafael Montero, Chris Flexen and others.

But to be clear, the Mets are not just sitting back and hoping. Their training staff refresh is taking place in large part because the Mets want to be proactive about keeping their pitchers healthy. The team also plans to limit most of its starters -- likely all but deGrom and Syndergaard -- from regularly facing opposing batters more than twice in a game. The idea is to rely less on heavy starting-pitcher workloads, and more on what the Mets believe is an improved bullpen.

Video: Callaway joins MLB Tonight to discuss Mets' rotation

"I think we're all really excited," Syndergaard said. "We're all looking and pushing for each other to stay healthy, and to stay healthy throughout the entire year."

Heading into Spring Training, perhaps the most pressing question surrounding the Mets' rotation is who will be in it. Beyond deGrom and Syndergaard, Callaway is guaranteeing nothing, though it is reasonable to expect Harvey will slot in third. Matz and Wheeler, who missed significant chunks of last season, must prove that they belong, while the others will try to bull their way into what can still be an elite unit.

Video: Callaway on competition amongst starting pitchers

"Any time you have a lot of pitchers that are capable of pitching in the Major Leagues, there's competition," Callaway said. "It's a healthy competition among teammates that creates a lot of success. There's going to be competition every single day."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

 

Inbox: How do A-Gon, Bruce affect Mets at 1B?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers questions from fans
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

Finally, some action. The Mets made their first significant waves of the offseason last week, reportedly inking both Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez to contracts that should become official in the coming days. Until they do, questions abound regarding first base, the position most affected by those signings. Consider that the backdrop to another batch of questions and answers:

If the Mets signed Bruce to fill in at first base if Dominic Smith falters, why in the world did they also sign Gonzalez? All three are left-handed hitters.
--@metsfan73 via Twitter

Finally, some action. The Mets made their first significant waves of the offseason last week, reportedly inking both Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez to contracts that should become official in the coming days. Until they do, questions abound regarding first base, the position most affected by those signings. Consider that the backdrop to another batch of questions and answers:

If the Mets signed Bruce to fill in at first base if Dominic Smith falters, why in the world did they also sign Gonzalez? All three are left-handed hitters.
--@metsfan73 via Twitter

Insurance. It seems many fans saw the signing of Bruce as a move to shore up first base, when in reality Bruce -- regardless of Gonzalez's status -- is going to receive far more reps in the outfield. The Mets are operating under the assumption that Michael Conforto won't be ready for Opening Day, meaning they need Bruce and Cespedes at the corners in the outfield with Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo platooning in center.

• Submit a question to the Mets Inbox

It's likely they'll require such outfield insurance throughout the season, given the injury histories of Cespedes and Lagares. For that reason, I don't see Bruce receiving all that many reps at first.

Gonzalez would then become the insurance that the Mets need at that position, with Wilmer Flores also capable of playing first against left-handed pitchers. Gonzalez offers an ideal type of insurance because he's cheap, meaning the Mets won't lose much if Smith goes on an early-season tear, proving once and for all that he -- not Gonzalez -- deserves to play every day.

• Source: Mets, Bruce reunite on three-year deal

Video: Bruce brings steady veteran leadership back to Mets

What is the story on the clubhouse presence and leadership of Gonzalez? It seems he garnered mixed feelings last year, but aside from that, is there anything else of note, positive or negative?
--@MrReegz via Twitter

Gonzalez's reputation certainly took a hit in October, when the injured first baseman didn't show up for the Dodgers' first World Series home game since 1988. He also had well-publicized differences over the years with the media in Boston.

• Mets, A-Gon reportedly agree to deal

But there are two sides to every story, and in between those rather public episodes, Gonzalez did establish himself as a clubhouse leader in multiple cities. His knowledge of the game is unassailable. The Mets are certainly hoping that's the version of Gonzalez that arrives in New York, considering they signed him to mentor to Smith, as well as to provide value with his own bat and glove.

Do you see any scenario in which Smith starts the 2018 season in Triple-A?
--@jlatimer11 via Twitter

I can honestly envision everything from Smith starting at Las Vegas to playing 150-plus games in the Majors. That's not a cop-out answer; it's an acknowledgement that Smith's status is very much dependent upon what he does in Spring Training. The Mets aren't sold on how the rookie performed down the stretch last season, but they can be swayed by his upcoming Grapefruit League performance -- one way or the other.

Video: Dominic Smith reflects on 2017, what he learned

Out of Todd Frazier, Josh Harrison or Eduardo Nunez, who is the most likely to be in Port St. Lucie, Fla. for Spring Training?
--@Thahn531 via Twitter

Throughout this offseason, the Mets have been linked most consistently with Frazier. He fits the mold of a Sandy Alderson-type player, though there's certainly a chance the Mets acquire none of those three. Remember, Jose Reyes is still very much an option for the infield.

Video: Mets considering Frazier and Moustakas at third base

Six-man rotations look to be the trend on the horizon, but it seems lots of pitchers dislike it for many reasons. With Mickey Callaway being a former pitching coach, where does he stand on this? How much of it will we see in 2018?
--@BoriSswag via Twitter

If anything, the Mets are going in the opposite direction, placing more emphasis on the bullpen and less on their starters. With Steven Matz, Matt Harvey and others unlikely to rack up significant pitch counts in individual games under Callaway's new plan, there's not as much need for those starters to receive extra days of rest -- the main benefit of a six-man rotation. It's not as if the Mets boast significant rotation depth. Even if everyone stays healthy, they're likely to stick with a five-man rotation throughout the summer.

Why do the Mets love Travis d'Arnaud so much? I can see this ballclub take off with a real catcher.
--@leifgranlind via Twitter

Perhaps "love" is a strong word. Perhaps, also, your take is a bit harsh. The best way to put it is that d'Arnaud is among the least of New York's problems. In 112 games last year, d'Arnaud profiled as an above-average defender who socked 16 home runs, more than all but seven National League backstops (many of whom played full seasons). The Mets also have some solid-if-unspectacular depth at the position in Kevin Plawecki, Tomas Nido and, now, Jose Lobaton. On a limited budget, their needs at other positions loom far more important.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

 

New York Mets, Jay Bruce, Adrian Gonzalez, Dominic Smith

Guillorme lands on Pipeline's All-Defense Team

Nats' Robles receives most votes in survey of front-office execs
MLB.com @JimCallisMLB

Though home runs and upper-90s fastballs may be more eye-catching, defense wins an awful lot of championships. The 2017 Astros were nothing special with the glove, but the 2016 Cubs recorded one of the best season-long defensive performances ever while the 2015 Royals and 2014 Giants also excelled at turning balls in play into outs.

Defensive metrics are improving, giving clubs a better handle on how valuable individual players are in the field, yet it's still far from an exact science and even less so at the Minor League level. In MLB Pipeline's annual survey of front-office executives asking them to identify baseball's best defensive prospect, the 19 respondents tabbed 14 different players.

Though home runs and upper-90s fastballs may be more eye-catching, defense wins an awful lot of championships. The 2017 Astros were nothing special with the glove, but the 2016 Cubs recorded one of the best season-long defensive performances ever while the 2015 Royals and 2014 Giants also excelled at turning balls in play into outs.

Defensive metrics are improving, giving clubs a better handle on how valuable individual players are in the field, yet it's still far from an exact science and even less so at the Minor League level. In MLB Pipeline's annual survey of front-office executives asking them to identify baseball's best defensive prospect, the 19 respondents tabbed 14 different players.

Video: Jim Callis on best catching prospects

Top 10 Prospects by Position

Nationals center fielder Victor Robles, the lone repeater from our 2017 All-Defense Team, led all prospects with four votes. Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford and Rangers center fielder Leody Taveras were the only others to get multiple mentions and join Robles on our 2018 squad, which is based on our survey results as well as separate discussions with scouting and development personnel:

Catcher: Jake Rogers, Tigers
Some scouts considered him the best defender in the entire 2016 Draft, when he went in the third round to the Astros, who used him to pry Justin Verlander from the Tigers last August. Rogers erased 46 percent of basestealers in his first full pro season, enhancing solid arm strength with a lightning-fast transfer and impressive accuracy. His agility and soft hands also make him an outstanding receiver and blocker who excels at framing pitches.

"His defense is so slick," an assistant GM with an American League team said. "He has more of a 55 arm [on the 20-80 scouting scale] but it's so quick and accurate. He has such a pretty release."

Video: Rogers has potential to win a Gold Glove in future

Catcher was the toughest call on our All-Defense Team. The Athletics' Sean Murphy, another 2016 third-rounder, has similar receiving skills and even more pure arm strength but hasn't had the same success nabbing basestealers.

Video: Jim Callis on whether defense is still valued

First Base: Evan White, Mariners
Like Cody Bellinger, the first baseman on last year's All-Defense Team, White could be a Gold Glove first baseman or an everyday outfielder. He has more range than most first basemen, excels at digging errant throws out of the dirt and one scout said he's the best defensive first baseman to come out of college since Nick Swisher. White also has plus speed and solid arm strength, so he's potentially capable of handling all three outfield spots.

Second Base: Luis Guillorme, Mets
He could have challenged for shortstop honors if the presence of Amed Rosario in New York hadn't led the Mets to shift Guillorme to the other side of the bag last June. He's not the quickest middle infielder, but his hands, reflexes and instincts are as good as anyone's in the Minors. He has solid range and arm strength, and he would have led the Double-A Eastern League in fielding percentage at both second (.983) and short (.968) last year if he had played enough at either position to qualify.

Video: Guillorme's defensive versatility at short and second

Third Base: Nick Senzel, Reds
He saw time at second base and shortstop at Tennessee and didn't become an everyday third baseman until his junior season in 2016, when he was the No. 2 overall pick. Senzel is faster and more athletic than most players at the hot corner, where his hands and strong arm are also assets.

Tweet from @Vol_Baseball: ICYMI: Here's a look at @Vol_Baseball third baseman Nick Senzel's No. 1 #SCtop10 play on @SportsCenter tonight! pic.twitter.com/LQTNRPytH0

Shortstop: J.P. Crawford, Phillies
After getting significant support when we assembled our 2016 and 2017 All-Defense Teams, he makes it this time around. Crawford's range at shortstop belies his average speed, and his quick hands, strong arm and uncanny internal clock help him make all the plays. He moved all over the infield for the Phillies last September, looking very good at second and third base for someone with little experience at either position, but is their unquestioned shortstop after they traded Freddy Galvis to the Padres.

"He's very advanced at a premium position," a pro scout with an AL club said. "There are others with better tools at shortstop, but this guy can really play the position and his tools are still plenty good. His feel for shortstop, secondary tools and defensive intangibles help separate him from others."

Video: NYM@PHI: Crawford makes a slick spin and throw

Outfield: Cristian Pache, Braves
Braves überprospect Ronald Acuna can do almost anything on the diamond, including play quality defense in center field, but he'll eventually have to cede the position. That's because Pache's blazing speed and fine instincts allow him to cover more ground in the outfield than perhaps any other prospect. He also has plus arm strength, unusual for his position, and used it to top the low Class A South Atlantic League with 17 assists last summer.

Watch: MiLB Video

Outfield: Victor Robles, Nationals
If Pache doesn't have the best range among outfield prospects, then that distinction might belong to Robles. He not only has plus-plus speed but also the arm strength to match. While he could cruise on natural ability, he has worked diligently to improve his reads, routes and throwing accuracy.

"He's a game-changing defender," a National League farm director said, "with both his arm and his glove."

Video: WSH@NYM: Robles shows off defensive skills in right

Outfield: Leody Taveras, Rangers
One of the best athletes available during the 2015-16 international signing period, Taveras is highly advanced for a teenager. He makes the most of his plus speed in center field, getting quick jumps and taking direct routes, and his solid arm strength would fit anywhere in the outfield.

"He plays center field so easy," an AL farm director said. "I bet Carlos Gomez was like that as a teenager. It's a similar body and an explosive athlete."

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.