February 11, 2014

The Biggest Questions Of Mets Camp

As the players continue to file into Port St. Lucie, FL, the 2014 New York Mets don't appear set to challenge in the NL East.  They seem to be well removed from the likes of the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, yet don't really have many questions to answer as the spring plays out.

First base is without a doubt the biggest question mark of camp, and to be honest I'm not 100% sure its much of a question at all.  The Mets appear set to offer Ike Davis 80-100 at-bats this spring in an effort to "win" the job.  It begs the question, when will Lucas Duda get his reps?  If this is truly a competition, I would expect each player to get his equal share.  There certainly haven't been any references to Davis playing some other position he's fair from suited to play.  I'll let you in on a pretty poorly kept secret...  If Ike Davis is still with the team come March 31st, unless he has just a simply awful spring, he will be the team's first baseman on opening day.  He provides the higher upside, has the higher salary and still remains the distant front runner to assume the role.

Next up would have to be the role that Juan Lagares plays when camp breaks.  For all the hype about his surprise play in center field last season, the Mets have been very non-committal on where he fits in this year.  It seems the biggest threat to his playing time in 2014 is the team's lack of a leadoff hitter.  In an effort to have Eric Young Jr. assume that role, Lagares would likely be the odd man out under the guise that the lineup cannot afford to have two outfielders with little to no home run pop at one time.  As a result, we've heard there will be an open competition between Lagares and Chris Young for the center field spot.  This may be a question as we go through camp, but it shouldn't be.  Juan Lagares was amongst the best defensive center fielders in baseball last season.  Posting him in centerfield, with Chris Young and Curtis Granderson on either side should provide the Mets pitching staff with what would likely be the best outfield defense in baseball.  That's well worth the offensive gamble he presents, in my opinion.

Finally, there is the team's bullpen.  To date, the Mets haven't added the veteran reliever with closing experience they coveted all winter.  That means, despite reportedly being two weeks from throwing off a mound, the closer role remains with Bobby Parnell.  As a result, any competition will be for the spots behind him.  Can Jeurys Familia make the bullpen out of camp?  Is Vic Black ready to be a setup man after only a handful of major league appearances?  Will Jack Leathersich surprise the masses, cut down on his walks, and threaten to steal a spot in the bullpen?  These are all valid questions, but few if any are season shifting ones.

Yes, the Mets are preparing to enter camp with questions about whether they're good enough to compete in 2014, but there are precious few questions about who will make the trip north next month.  Our spring will be spent watching to see if Ike Davis can show progress, whether or not Juan Lagares has learned to take a walk, whether or not Bobby Parnell can still throw gas, and most importantly if they can all stay healthy.  The Mets roster is basically set, so for now we can simply enjoy the fact that baseball is back because there aren't many other reason to watch closely this spring.

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