NEW YORK -- Spring will bloom again for the Mets and other teams, after the COVID-19 pandemic dissipates. Whenever it does, the Mets will resume preparing for a season that remains promising for them.
Over the first month of camp, the Mets learned quite a bit about their roster, including the following:
The Mets’ starting pitching competition is real
Now that the Mets feature one of baseball’s deepest lineups and a much-improved bullpen, it’s almost easy to forget this is a team still built around its rotation. The early weeks of Spring Training provided a reminder. In his final start of the Grapefruit League season, Jacob deGrom hit 99 mph on the radar gun. He’ll start Opening Day, whenever that might be. Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman also enjoyed fine Grapefruit League showings, while the three starters purportedly fighting for jobs -- Rick Porcello, Steven Matz and Michael Wacha -- all posted sub-3.00 ERAs. When it comes time for new manager Luis Rojas to choose his starting five, he’s going to have a difficult decision to make.
Yoenis Céspedes can hit. (But can he field?)
When Céspedes took swings at Mets camp, crowds gathered. He launched his share of homers in live BP, most recently taking Seth Lugo deep during a simulated game. Céspedes also drew rave reviews for his regular BP sessions, which frequently included screaming home runs to left and left-center. In the minds of most Mets coaches, there is little doubt Céspedes can be an offensive threat in the big leagues right now.
The question is his defense. While Céspedes also showcased a strong throwing arm during fielding drills, he never sprinted full-speed or ran regularly in zig-zag patterns. The next few weeks will give Céspedes extra time to work his legs into shape following multiple heel surgeries and a broken right ankle, meaning all eyes will be on him once again once camp reopens.
Jed Lowrie isn’t tangibly closer to a return
Officially, the Mets called Céspedes “limited” in camp, but didn’t extent that tag to Lowrie. And while it’s true Lowrie performed drills ranging from live BP to defensive double-play turns, it’s also noteworthy that he did it all with a bulky brace on his left leg. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen indicated that as long as Lowrie is wearing that brace, he may have trouble getting up to game speed. But Lowrie said the brace is what lets him feel comfortable -- “it makes me feel like myself.” Consider that a Catch-22 the Mets must solve if they want to find any value in the back half of Lowrie’s two-year, $20 million contract.
Rojas will be just fine
Few doubted that point coming into Spring Training, but it’s worth confirming after a month of camp. Players spoke positively of Rojas, who managed many of them in the Minor Leagues. Camp ran smoothly. The most significant question regarding Rojas heading into camp -- his ability as a first-time manager to deal with the media -- has been a non-issue.
In fairness, nothing major has gone wrong yet for the Mets, whose worst spring news byte was a mild Michael Conforto injury that’s now irrelevant. The true test for Rojas will be when things do. For now, he’s passed every test as the Mets prepare for the 2020 season.