Predicting the Mets' Opening Day roster
Conforto is a lock, but youngsters could claim other spots
NEW YORK -- While much of the Mets' roster is set heading into Spring Training, plenty of competition remains at the fringes. Here's an early look at how the Mets' 25-man roster could shape up on Opening Day.
Catcher (2):Wilson Ramos, Travis d'Arnaud
With a strong spring, Devin Mesoraco could convince the Mets to carry three catchers, freeing d'Arnaud up to become a regular pinch-hitter. More likely, though, the Mets will go with two: Ramos as the starter and d'Arnaud as his backup.
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First base (2): Peter Alonso, Todd Frazier
Every bit of logic screams that the Mets will hold Alonso down in Triple-A for two weeks in April, ensuring an extra year of team control. But Brodie Van Wagenen has been so effusive in saying the opposite that the general manager must be taken at his word. All eyes will be on Alonso this spring; if he does make the team, it could create an awkward situation for Frazier, a natural third baseman whose apparent home right now is at first. If he doesn't, that opens the door for Dominic Smith to make the Opening Day roster.
Second base (1): Robinson Canó
Jed Lowrie and Jeff McNeil are also capable of playing here, and probably will at points this season. But given Cano's stature as one of the best second basemen in modern history, he'll start more often than not at the keystone.
Third base (1): Lowrie
Throughout Lowrie's career, he's played mostly second and third base. With Cano at second, that leaves third for Lowrie, though Frazier and J.D. Davis should also receive reps over the course of the season.
Shortstop (1): Amed Rosario
The Mets hope Rosario can build upon the improvement he demonstrated last August and September, and develop into one of the best young shortstops in baseball. If he does, he'll start 140-plus games at the position. If not, Lowrie, Luis Guillorme or even prospect Andres Gimenez could bite into his playing time.
Outfield (4): Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Juan Lagares, Keon Broxton
As two rocks of the lineup, Conforto and Nimmo should start most days. The rest depends upon how McNeil takes to outfield work. If he proves adept at it in Spring Training, McNeil could become a regular starter in center or right. If not, the Mets will turn to Lagares or Broxton as their center fielder, with Conforto and Nimmo at the corners. The team doesn't expect Yoenis Céspedes back until at least midseason.
Utility (1): McNeil
In addition to vying for outfield reps, McNeil will serve as a backup at second and third base, and the Mets' primary left-handed pinch-hitter on nights when he doesn't start. How it all works out remains to be seen, but there's little doubt McNeil will play a key role on the team.
Starting pitcher (5): Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Jason Vargas
Unlike last spring, when the Mets' fifth starter job was hotly contested, there won't be much competition this spring. The Mets' top four starters are written in ink, and Vargas should slot fifth, barring injury or a disastrous spring. The Mets like his chances at a bounce-back season.
Relief pitcher (8): Edwin Díaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson, Robert Gsellman, Luis Avilán, Drew Smith, Kyle Dowdy
The first five spots are essentially set: Diaz will close, Familia, Lugo and Wilson will set up and Gsellman will slot somewhere in the middle innings. After that, take your pick. Van Wagenen has mentioned Avilan by name as an Opening Day option, so he makes the early cut here. Smith was probably the most impressive of the Mets' rookie relievers down the stretch last season, but plenty of others -- Tyler Bashlor, Paul Sewald and Daniel Zamora, for example -- could challenge him. As a Rule 5 pick and a piece of the Mets' starting pitching depth, Dowdy will also receive a long look this spring.
Plenty of others will compete for spots, including Davis, Guillorme, Smith, T.J. Rivera, Rajai Davis, Grégor Blanco and a host of relievers. At this early stage of spring, consider the roster below an educated guess.