This is the third installment in a seven-part Mets Spring Training preview. Next up: Prospects to watch.
NEW YORK -- The prospects have arrived. The young talent is here. The Mets reached the World Series last October on the strength of a slew of young players, several of them now among the game's top starting pitchers. Some middle-ranking prospects went elsewhere in trades for Yoenis Cespedes and friends.
But that's not to say the Mets' farm system is barren. A trio of former first-round Draft picks highlight the organization's next generation, plus one starting pitcher who retains his prospect status heading into this season. If the Mets plan on repeating as National League champions, one or more of the following players could play significant roles:
• Comeback candidates | Newcomers
LHP Steven Matz: Yes, he's still a prospect -- having not expended his rookie eligibility last season. There's plenty of reason to watch Matz, the game's 15th-ranked prospect. A leading NL Rookie of the Year candidate, Matz will be a member of the Opening Day rotation, with a prime opportunity to develop into one of the game's top left-handed pitchers. But he first must prove he can stay healthy for a full season, avoiding both the major injuries and the minor aches and pains that have plagued the bulk of his professional career.
OF Brandon Nimmo: It's been almost a half-decade since Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta made Nimmo their top pick in the 2011 Draft, defining their front office's fresh philosophy. Nimmo has stumbled plenty since that time -- and injuries haven't helped -- but he recently bulked up enough to begin hitting with authority. A full, healthy, productive summer would go a long way toward transforming Nimmo from the Mets' No. 2 prospect into a star.
SS Gavin Cecchini: The Mets' No. 4 prospect and a former first-round pick, Cecchini has followed a similar career arc to that of Nimmo -- struggling early in his professional career before finding his footing at the Minors' upper levels. He should reach Triple-A Las Vegas this summer, if he does not open the regular season there, with a chance to become the sort of long-term answer at shortstop his organization has craved for years.
1B Dominic Smith: Unlike Matz, Nimmo and Cecchini, Smith doesn't have much of a realistic chance to play in New York this season. But the Mets' No. 5 prospect did earn an invitation to his first big league camp, where he will look to start adding power to his profile. A strong summer could put Smith very much on the radar for 2017, but he first needs to become more of a thumper at the plate.
SS Matt Reynolds: Because the Mets' middle infield is suddenly crowded, this may be Reynolds' last chance to prove he's more than just a utility player. Following a disappointing 2015, a strong spring could escalate Reynolds' stock enough to earn him a trade elsewhere. If nothing else, Reynolds must start to take advantage of the hitter-happy environment at Las Vegas.