The Mets begin their first full squad workout in St. Lucie today, and for us fans there’s nothing better than watching the news filter out of the camp, knowing the first day of the season is getting ever so closer.
Spring training usually sets the benchmark for how a team will perform in the regular season. New additions show off their talent, last year’s rookies return with more confidence, old-timers find ways to hang on and those recovering from injury face the uncertainty of testing out their bodies once more.
As rosters begin to take shape in the next six weeks, every team will go into Opening Day in a tie for first place. The tough part will be staying there.
For the Mets, their 2014 journey begins tomorrow. The Mets have many issues ranging from their still muddled situation at first base and the yet to be contested battles for the fifth spot in the rotation and who will be the leadoff hitter. But there are three players that I will be paying close attention to in spring training because I see them as the keys to any potential chance at improving on last season’s record.
1. Bartolo Colon needs to deliver
Ever since Matt Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery late last year – ruling him out for the entirety of 2014 – the big question has been who will replace his Cy Young caliber production? All eyes will now be on Bartolo Colon who was signed to a two year deal worth $20 million and has been the front office’s solution to replacing Harvey’s loss in the rotation. While we all keep our fingers crossed and hope for improved command from Zack Wheeler and the mid-season debut of the promising Noah Syndergaard, the Mets need to hit it big with Colon – Alderson’s highest paid pitcher in four years. He’s the one that has to give the Mets that Harvey Day feeling where every start felt like a chance to win no matter the opponent. I want to see what this PED-free version of Colon can do at 41 and 42 beginning this Spring.
2. Travis d’Arnaud must step up
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my fill of articles about Travis d’Arnaud framing pitches, and I’m looking forward to articles on D’Arnaud mashing pitches. TDA didn’t get his billing as a top catching prospect for getting one or two extra strike calls per nine innings. The rookie catcher played 31 games at the close of last season, but showed none of the offensive prowess that has been projected. He even admitted that the pressure got to him. Yet despite a poor performance that saw him finish 2013 batting .202 and also some defensive deficiencies, I hang onto the hope that he can be a solid performer for the Mets this season. D’Arnaud must prove himself in spring training and go into the season with no confidence issues an wielding a solid bat. At 25-years old it’s time to show-off the offensive package we’ve been hearing about for the last four years.
3. Chris Young scary against RHP
I’m not worried about Curtis Granderson, as we all know what he can do. But as long as Chris Young is being handed an everyday job after a season that saw him bat .200 with a .280 OBP – both lower than Juan Lagares – he’s the man under the microscope. What scares me more about him – aside from Billy Beane casting him away and proclaiming him a platoon player – is his horrendous .225 career batting average against right handed pitching in 2,825 plate appearances. Is that sample size big enough for you? He has declined every year since 2010 except for his strikeout rate, that continues to climb. He’s pushing a promising prospect to the bench as well. He better pay us back in spades for that $7.25 million contract – a huge overpay for his declining skills in my opinion. But maybe his Spring will prove me wrong.