Observations from the 1st week of Mets camp

February 20th, 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.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Although little of import typically happens over the first week of Spring Training -- no jobs are won, no jobs are lost -- it can often be instructive for those taking stock of a roster. The Mets have an enormous one this year, with 67 players in camp. Many of them are here for the first time. Others are looking for a fresh start.

As I watched the first week of Mets camp from inside the clubhouse and on the back fields, plenty stood out, from the consequential to the quirky. Such as:

• Francisco Lindor is developing into the type of leader the Mets have long hoped he could be. He wasn’t that sort of presence back in 2021, when the Mets drew criticism for their clubhouse culture. But Lindor has since realized what leadership at the highest level entails. This winter, he invited Brett Baty and Mark Vientos to his Orlando home to work on their defense. He attended a minicamp at the Minor League complex with prospect Luisangel Acuña and others. He has gone out of his way to make teammates feel welcome. On a roster that also includes other Type A veterans in Brandon Nimmo and Pete Alonso, Lindor has stood out for his willingness to take on additional responsibility.

• There’s lots of pure stuff coming out of the bullpen -- probably more than at any point in the past few years. In addition to hard throwers Jorge López and Jake Diekman, who are on Major League deals, roster hopefuls Shintaro Fujinami, Yohan Ramírez, Sean Reid-Foley, Reed Garrett and Yacksel Ríos are among those who have been throwing smoke in the early days of camp. And that’s without mentioning Edwin Díaz, who approached 97 mph in his first live batting practice session despite dialing things back to an estimated 80-85% effort level.

• It’s possible we could look back on the Mets’ 2021 Draft class as one of their best in recent memory. It didn’t start well, considering the team declined to sign its top pick, Kumar Rocker, due to concerns about his physical. (Rocker has since undergone Tommy John surgery.) But the Mets later selected four pitchers who have been turning heads at big league camp: Dominic Hamel (third round), Christian Scott (fifth), Mike Vasil (eighth) and Nate Lavender (14th). It’s possible all four of those pitchers could impact the Majors this season. And the Mets have already extracted a productive Major Leaguer from that Draft, dealing 10th-rounder Keyshawn Askew for Brooks Raley in Dec. 2022.

• This year’s “Best Shape of My Life” award goes to Joey Lucchesi, who reported to camp 25 pounds lighter. He says he shed some of that weight soaking in cold tubs, which can help the body burn off fat. Lucchesi is part of a rotation depth group that also includes Tylor Megill, José Butto and Max Kranick.

• The “Same Shape as Every Year” award goes to Starling Marte, who is ripped as usual. Is there a player more critical to the Mets’ ceiling than Marte? In 2022, he produced 3.8 WAR over 118 games and finished 19th in NL MVP Award voting. Last year, his WAR total was -0.8. A healthy Marte could make the difference between the Mets making the playoffs and missing them.

• Is it time for short guys to shine? The Mets’ three highest-ranked position player prospects -- Jett Williams, Drew Gilbert and Acuña -- are listed at 5-foot-6, 5-foot-9 and 5-foot 8, respectively. They combined to record 129 extra-base hits and steal 114 bags in the Minors last season.

• The Mets installed a new basketball hoop in their clubhouse this spring, and Lindor has taken a particular shine to it. He can typically be spotted in the morning challenging teammates and staff members to a shoot-off from about 10 feet away.

• One of the stories of last year’s camp, Ronny Mauricio, has spent most of his time on the Minor League side of the Clover Park complex as he receives treatment on his surgically repaired right knee. But the Mets intend to bring him to the Major League clubhouse whenever possible so that, in manager Carlos Mendoza’s words, he can “be a part of what we’re trying to do here.” Mauricio has a locker and a uniform just like every other player in camp.