If you look at the Opening Day roster for New York, you will notice that a couple surprising players made the team.
Jacob Rhame and Phillip Evans, both long shots to make the Mets 25-man roster, earned spots with impressive springs. This is in stark contrast to the 2017 season when the Mets entered the season with no rookies on their Opening Day roster. The duo are the first rookies to make the initial roster since Steven Matz made the team in 2016 for the Amazin’s.
In recent years, Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins used the “back of their baseball cards” approach when selecting a team, especially for the last couple seasons. Now, it seems to be more of a meritocracy for who makes the team out of spring training.
Equally noteworthy to who made the team out of spring training was who did not make the squad. Although Rafael Montero‘s season was cut short to injury, it appeared as if he wasn’t going to make the squad despite being out of option years.
Hansel Robles had an awful spring and for his performance, finds himself in Triple-A to start 2018. Zack Wheeler who pitched to a 5+ ERA last season and made the squad, too finds himself with Las Vegas after posting similar numbers this spring.
Jose Reyes found himself in a starting role on last year’s team despite a lack of a defensive position as the team hoped against the odds for David Wright‘s return to health. Asdrubal Cabrera played a lot of time at shortstop despite a lack of range at the position, and relied on two players on the right side of the infield coming off major back injuries.
Although the Mets are employing a similar approach with Adrian Gonzalez coming off of a back injury, they are not pinning all of their hopes on the player without a proactive backup plan.
Dominic Smith, who wasn’t a real option last season until the Mets were out of it is waiting in Triple-A as he works his way back from a quad injury, they have also Wilmer Flores as an option and Jay Bruce was re-acquired in the offseason, and has played some time at first base in a pinch.
In prior years, waiting for Conforto and Jason Vargas would mean playing short, but this team feels different. The approach seems much more prepared and realistic in 2018.
Depth doesn’t count as depth when it is relied upon from the outset. The Mets finally seemed to grasp this concept when they signed Todd Frazier as the first starting third baseman the Mets have penciled in for opening day since David Wright made it his position in middle of 2004.
The Mets thought they had rotation depth last season and when back-end starters like Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman couldn’t perform, the team was forced to go with pitchers like Adam Wilk, Tyler Pill, Rafael Montero and Tommy Milone. They even had to rush Chris Flexen to the Major Leagues.
This season, despite the expectation that the staff will round into form, the Mets brought in Jason Vargas as insurance for the rotation and a reliable arm they can employ every fifth day once he returns from injury.
In short, in prior Mets’ seasons, the team went into the season hoping for the best without ever preparing for the worst.
Of course there will be injury, under performance and other circumstances that will affect the team throughout the 162 season, but this year, it feels like there’s a game plan if and when those things happen.
Mets fans are always prepared for the worst, now it finally seems as if the front office and manager are ready as well.