Star duo tops familiar, yet uncertain, infield for Mets

January 30th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Anthony DiComo's Mets Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

This is the second in a five-part Around the Horn series looking at how the Mets stack up around the diamond. Next up: Infielders.

Around the Horn: Catchers

Although the Mets will enter 2024 with changes throughout their roster, the team’s infield makeup appears largely the same as it has for the past several seasons. That’s certainly not a bad thing for a club featuring one of the better infield cores in the league.

This group begins with its unquestioned rocks: Alonso at first base and Lindor at shortstop. Those two have appeared in 635 of a possible 648 games the past two regular seasons, which is a 98% rate. Barring injury, there’s no reason to believe they won’t continue posting up every day in the peaks of their physical primes.

Beyond Alonso and Lindor is where things grow uncertain. McNeil, another of the team’s most important offensive pieces, will open the season as the obvious starting second baseman. But the Mets are entering Spring Training with more outfield than infield questions, meaning McNeil should probably bring multiple gloves to Florida with him. With out for the season, McNeil currently profiles more as a second baseman, and president of baseball operations David Stearns has publicly said as much. But it only takes one injury to change that.

Then there is third base, an issue unto itself. The Mets did not upgrade at third this offseason, leaving Baty, and as their primary options there. In the organization’s perfect world, Baty will take this job and run with it. But he wasn’t able to do so despite ample opportunities last season, leaving room for Vientos to swoop in and grab the lion’s share of playing time. Wendle, a veteran free-agent signing, profiles more as a jack-of-all-trades who can fill in at multiple positions. He’ll get his reps regardless of what happens with the youngsters.

The backups: Wendle, Vientos

There’s room on the roster for both of these players. Wendle figures to be the primary backup at second base, third base and shortstop, while Vientos can earn plenty of playing time at third base and DH (as well as first, should anything happen to Alonso). Others will compete for jobs, but if the Mets proceed with a traditional five-man bench, only two backup infielders will make the team.

Also in the picture: ,

One of Stearns’ first moves as president of baseball operations was to submit a waiver claim for Short, a Hudson Valley native who adds speed, a keen batting eye and defensive versatility to the roster. The Mets subsequently signed Wendle to a guaranteed contract, narrowing Short’s path to a roster spot. Short will spend Spring Training trying to prove he deserves one regardless.

Bannon, similarly, can play all over the infield. He’s demonstrated more power potential than Short has in the Minors, which is where he’s likely to begin the regular season.

The future: , , Mauricio

The Mets raised industry eyebrows when they were able to extract Acuña, a consensus Top 100 prospect, away from the Rangers for Max Scherzer at last year’s Trade Deadline. After spending the entirety of last season in Double-A, Acuña should play the bulk of this one at Triple-A Syracuse, where he’ll be one phone call away from MLB. That’s the same situation Mauricio was in last year, but an ACL tear will prevent the latter prospect from returning to the Majors until 2025.

Williams is a shortstop and outfielder who also won’t make an impact until ’25, but he could rate among the sport’s best prospects at that time. He cracked Double-A last year and is currently the organization’s top-ranked prospect.

Others in the system -- including last year’s first-round Draft pick, Colin Houck, and trade acquisition Marco Vargas -- are further from the Majors with more to prove before their debuts.