Predicting the New York Mets’ Opening Day Roster

Baseball is officially in the air. Spring Training is underway, the New York Mets are playing in Port St. Lucie, Florida and their regular season begins in a week: Thursday, April 7th against the Washington Nationals in Washington D.C.

Until then, however, there is still work to be done. With five Spring Training games left (not including intrasquad games), the Mets don’t have much time to trim down their roster. Their roster currently sits at 40 players, with the goal being 28 players. This number is a bump from the usual 26-man roster and will last until May 1st. MLB and the player’s union recently agreed on this deal as a way to offset the shortened Spring Training.

With all of that in mind, where will the Mets stand come Opening Day? Who will make the cut?

Catchers

These two options are self-explanatory. McCann, who signed as a free agent in 2020, is the primary catcher. Nido, despite technically being McCann’s backup, is a great player in his own right and has linked up especially well with Jacob deGrom. So far this spring, Nido has gotten plenty of playing time with McCann nursing a sore back. Now, however, McCann is back and working towards Opening Day. This will be the second year of his four-year contract.

The most notable exemption here is uber-prospect Francisco Alvarez. MLB.com has him as the #10-ranked prospect in all of baseball, as he has shown great promise so far. Last season, across the A and A+ levels, he slashed .272/.388/.554 with 24 home runs. While he certainly has the tools to play well, it is still too early for him. If I had to guess, I would say that his debut could come in 2024 as McCann’s contract nears its end.

First Basemen

No surprises here either, with Alonso slated to be the Mets’ starting first baseman. However, things are set to be much different this year for Smith. With the universal DH having been included in the new CBA, the Mets will have to find players to fill in that spot. Smith is one of many candidates who can fill this role, with former manager Luis Rojas having used him effectively as an offensive threat off the bench. Now, with the universal DH, the Mets can consistently get his bat in the lineup after an offseason that saw his name thrown around in countless trade rumors.

Second Basemen

Cano returns after being banned last season due to a positive PED test. He returns to find a team that might be better suited for him with the introduction of the universal DH. Even though he could still realistically play the infield, he is 39 years old. His counterpart, McNeil, is much younger and more well-suited for the rigors of defensive work. McNeil himself returns after being the talk of multiple trade rumors. In the end, however, the Mets decided to keep him and gamble on him once again. Hopefully, he can put his frustrations and beef with Francisco Lindor aside to give the Mets the offense they know he can bring.

Shortstop

Speaking of Lindor, he seems just about ready for a redemption tour in his sophomore year with the Mets. He has been on fire so far this spring, with four HRs and 10 RBIs in 19 at-bats. The Mets will need him to make a major improvement this year if they have any intentions of making the playoffs.

His backup, Guillorme, is a familiar face who will most likely play an important role yet again. He is versatile, having spent time at second and third base as well. Additionally, he has a reliable bat that has performed well off the bench in the past. Like many other players, the universal DH will help Guillorme get consistent at-bats throughout the season.

Third Basemen

At third base, we come across a fresh face. Escobar signed a two-year deal with the Mets this past offseason, giving them a great option at the hot corner. In his 11-year career so far he has played 601 games at third base and has a .965 fielding percentage there. Additionally, like Guillorme, he has plenty of experience at the other infield positions. At 33 years old, he also has plenty of experience.

Like McNeil, Davis was the talk of multiple trade rumors throughout the offseason. While he did garner some interest, he ends up sticking with the Mets. Even though he is younger than Escobar, his fielding percentage at third base is lower (.955) and he has made plenty of fielding mistakes with the Mets. Nonetheless, he has some great pop in his bat and also benefits from positional versatility.

Outfielders

The only returning player here is Nimmo, who looks to be the Mets’ starting centerfielder this year. He is an OBP machine, with a.393 for his career (.401 last season alone). Plus, NYC’s new mandate change means Nimmo will be able to play at Citi Field regardless of his lack of COVID-19 vaccination.

Next up are Marte and Canha, two offseason acquisitions who were brought on to bolster the Mets’ lineup. Marte signed a four-year, $78 million contract after having an impressive 2021 season that saw him slash .310/.383/.458 with 47 stolen bases–the most in the league. Although he has primarily played as a centerfielder, he has been getting reps in right field this spring and looks to start there in the absence of Michael Conforto (more on him later on). While he did deal with some oblique issues early on, he has just resumed swinging and is getting ready for the start of the season.

Canha signed a two-year, $26.5 million contract to shore up the rest of the outfield. He is a plus defender in left field that will be helpful to the Mets on defense. In the past couple of years, left field has been split between Davis, Smith, McNeil and even former Met Kevin Pillar. However, none of them have been ideal. In Canha, the Mets have a true left fielder they can trust.

Outfield Wild Card

  • Michael Conforto

As of right now, Conforto remains a free agent after rejecting multiple offers from the Mets (first an extension and then a qualifying offer). With Opening Day a week away, his time is running out after he falsely bet on himself–much to the chagrin of agent Scott Boras, who assumed his market would be much bigger. However, with mediocre stat lines last season, Conforto doesn’t have the “hot commodity” value that teams are looking for. In desperation, he could re-sign with the Mets on a one-year deal to try and build up his value once again.

Honestly, if I were GM Billy Eppler, I wouldn’t dismiss the idea right away. All three of the Mets’ starting outfielders have had some sort of injury history. On top of that, the Mets seem to have the worst luck when it comes to injuries. Signing Conforto would not only give the Mets some much-needed depth, but he would also make for a great DH option.

I’m not saying it will happen, I’m just saying it wouldn’t be the worst idea.

Starting Pitchers

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? With the newly-acquired Scherzer, the Mets have the best one-two punch of any rotation in baseball. In fact, MLB.com ranks the Mets’ entire rotation as the best in the league. Plus, in Bassitt, the Mets have a solid option as their #3 starter. Having recently been acquired in a trade with the Oakland A’s, Bassitt has pitched well so far this spring. Hopefully, his acquisition can help ease some of the load off of Walker, who had a terrific first half of last season before falling off tremendously. He looks poised to pitch better and more consistently this year.

As for the #5 spot, I have Carrasco over Tylor Megill and David Peterson. Peterson started last season in the rotation before falling off while Megill was a pleasant surprise after being called up to patch the rotation. Carrasco, on the other hand, did not pitch well last season and underwent offseason surgery. While he didn’t pitch the best in an intrasquad game recently, the focus at this point seems to be getting him back to game-day readiness. I think he will get the last spot based on respect and seniority but don’t be surprised if he gets relegated.

Relief Pitchers

I think the Mets will roll in with a 10-man bullpen because I think it will be the easiest to trim down when the time comes. The 28-man roster shrinks back down to 26 on May 1st, so new manager Buck Showalter will have some decisions to make. Diaz returns as the closer, with May, Lugo, Castro and Smith in their familiar roles. The loss of Aaron Loup definitely stings, but the Mets will hope to get the same effectiveness out of left-handers Shreve and Claudio. Both of these players have pitched well so far this spring. Finally, in Ottavino, the Mets have a NY-born veteran who has experience playing in the Big Apple with the Yankees. Even though his ERA last season was 4.21, he finished with a 1.90 in 2019.

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