The Wonder Of Spring Training

Part of the wonder of spring training are the brief glimpses we get of young prospects who might signal better days ahead for Met fans. The young Met pitching prospects have created a buzz around the Met camp that is refreshing. In fact, much of the recent NYC sports radio baseball banter has the big city talking Viking, not Minnesota, but Thor.

With all that attention on the Met pitching prospects, I’m hoping the spring provides a snapshot look at some of the young Met prospects who man positions on the baseball field. A small taste of major league play this spring could be a huge motivator for some of these guys. And, so far, so good for these Met youngsters.

Reportedly, 2011 first rounder Brandon Nimmo is basking in the aura of his first major league spring training. Nimmo has been received well in the Met clubhouse and is soaking in everything he can about outfield play from guys like Curtis Granderson and Chris Young. The impact of his first spring with the varsity club has been awesome for Nimmo, so fine he can’t imagine the excitement he’ll feel when he finally gets his call to Flushing during the regular season. And, Nimmo is off to a good start with 2 hits in his first 4 plate chances this spring.

cesar puelloCesar Puello is anxious this spring for a chance to prove that his exploits in Binghamton last summer were the real deal. Puello’s blend of speed and power could be a rare treat for Met fans. The toolsy outfielder has banged a pair of doubles in his first five at bats, and even more importantly, has yet to strike out.

With all the attention thrown Noah Syndergaard’s way it’s easy to forget the big right-handed pitcher was a secondary piece in the R.A. Dickey swap. It was Toronto’s young catcher Travis d’Arnaud the Mets really coveted. Much is expected of d’Arnaud, this season. In his brief stay in the big leagues last fall, he earned high grades for his backstop skills behind the dish, but low marks for his offensive prowess, so Met fans will be watching every at-bat of the young catcher this spring. To date, d’Arnaud has batted 7 times with 3 hits, one a double, and no strikeouts.

Can Matt den Decker continue the pattern he has established at every level of professional baseball he’s played? In the past, denDecker has been a late bloomer at each level up the minor league chain, struggling mighty at the plate during his first exposure and then settling in nicely his second time around. Will that pattern continue into the major leagues, with the astute outfield wizard eventually figuring it out in the batter’s box? Met fans fell in love with den Decker’s circus like outfield dramatics last spring at this time and have to be curious about what the future holds for him.

I, for one, hope catcher Juan Centeno gets a fair audition this spring. Centeno brings an impressive catching skill set to camp, backstop skills that should make him a valued major league piece someday. In the minor leagues, Centeno has been a pesky contact hitter, a tough kid to strike out, hitting batting .318, .285, and .301 in his last three seasons. Will a spring in Port St. Lucie help determine how ready Centeno might be to help out? For me, it’s more important this spring that the Mets get a good look at Centeno in camp this spring than even Kevin Plawecki.

With so much debate centered on who will play short this summer, it would probably make sense to get Wilfredo Tovar some time on the baseball diamond in the middle infield. Tovar, a gritty little shortstop, rarely hits the radar on most Met fans’ screens overshadowed in the Tejada/Drew debate or by the hype surrounding Wilmer Flores. Tovar has demonstrated a top-tier glove in the minors, something that should not be discounted in a pitching rich organization. Although Tovar lacks power at the plate, he’s tough to strikeout and had solid numbers (.299/.359/.421) during the second half of the season in Binghamton last year.

Of course, Met fans were spellbound last summer with the incredible defensive theatrics Juan Lagares brought to the outfield. Larages dazzled with his defensive play earning respect all around baseball circles for the value he adds with his defensive outfield play. But, can Lagares hit well enough to satisfy Met brass and secure his starting position in centerfield? That’s one of the big story lines this spring in Met land. To date, Lagares has three hits in eight at bats but has fanned three times.

Everybody loves the underdog stories. Anthony Seratelli the 30-year old minor league journeyman who has never cracked a major league infield and is hoping to catch on as a utility infielder this spring for the Mets is the lead story in that category. So far Seratelli has appeared overmatched at the plate with 1-hit in 10 tries and 4 strikeouts.

Some Met fans might be wondering “Who is this guy Eric Campbell?” An eighth round 2008 draft pick out of Boston College, Campbell has climbed through the Met minor league playing thirdbase, firstbase, and leftfield. Campbell, the MVP of the 2012 Eastern League All-Star game, was the B-Met Offensive Player of the Year that season batting .297 with 9 HR’s and 50 RBI’s.

Quietly, Campbell batted .314 with a flashy .435 on-base-percentage in 341 at bats last season in Las Vegas. In six minor league seasons, Campbell’s OBP is .376, something that is sure to have drawn attention in the Met front office. The 6’2” outfielder is hitting
.375 in his first 8 spring at bats.

Danny Muno, a Met infield prospect, is also getting a look in camp this spring. Muno is a tough kid, an old school baseball guy, who grinds out at bats and draws almost as many base-on-balls as he does strike outs. Over three minor league seasons, the switch hitting Muno has walked 185 times against 189 strikeouts hitting .283 with a .404 OBP. And, the second base prospect has some pop in his bat hitting 9 HR’s with 27 doubles and driving home 67 runs last summer in Binghamton. Muno has one hit and has drawn two base-on-balls in 5 plate appearances so far.

For the most part, spring training is about making impressions for many of the Met position prospects. Most of the roster decisions for position players have already been made. But, the promise each spring’s baseball season brings is not limited to the win total hopes Met fans have for their major league squad. It’s the hopes each prospect brings to camp, the opportunity to turn some heads, make an impression, and introduce themselves to Met fans that provides an equally compelling story. That’s all part of the fun this spring in St. Lucie.

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About John Bernhardt 163 Articles
MMO Minor League Analyst John Bernhardt is a retired public school teacher and administrator, who still coaches high school baseball. Growing up in a Yankees household, Bernhardt was an ardent Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra fan. When the Yankees fired Yogi in his first season as the Bomber manager, curiosity turned to passion when the Mets signed Berra as a player/coach and he has pulled for the Mets ever since. In retirement, John writes the sports for a local weekly, The Catskill Mountain News and hosts Tip-Off, a Friday morning sports hour, from 8:00-9:00 on WIOX, 91.3 F.M.