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Boston Herald
Boston Herald
25 Mar 2023
Tribune News Service

NextImg:Final Mets 26-man roster projection as spring training comes to a close

PORT ST. LUCIE — Mets’ manager Buck Showalter has spent the last week of the Grapefruit League season evaluating the talent he has in the big league locker room and trying to balance their spring results with the track records that some of them have.

The manager made a poignant observation earlier this week: You can’t develop a track record if you don’t get the opportunity to develop one. So, will the Mets give one or two of their top prospects a chance? Or will they trust the track records of some scuffling veterans?

Injuries have taken a toll on the pitching staff and the Mets are still trying to figure out how to contend with the loss of closer Edwin Diaz, but the position player group may escape spring training unscathed. Brandon Nimmo worked out all week on the back fields of the Mets’ Clover Field complex and reported no pain or soreness in his sprained right knee or right ankle. He returned to action Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals, with the Mets rolling out a lineup that looks a lot like one they may use during the regular season.

The Mets held a personnel meeting ahead of their game against the St. Louis Cardinals to discuss final cuts. Some 40-man roster moves will need to be made but no major surprises are anticipated.

With that, here is my third and final shot at projecting the club’s 26-man Opening Day roster.

Omar Narvaez, Tomas Nido

This group was finalized earlier this week when the club sent top prospect Francisco Alvarez to minor league camp. This was a tough decision since he made strides this spring when it came to his framing and consistency, and coaches said the pitchers enjoyed throwing to him this spring.

But Showalter doesn’t want to carry three catchers and the Mets don’t want to rush a prospect that has the potential to make such an important impact. The 21-year-old catcher will start the season with Triple-A Syracuse and if all goes well with Narvaez and Nido then he’ll get a full season to build confidence and build up his bat.

Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Eduardo Escobar, Francisco Lindor, Luis Guillorme

Brett Baty and Mark Vientos are making the Mets’ decision tough. The two third base prospects have put up big numbers at the plate this spring and they have shown well defensively. Vientos has played first and third base and has an outfield glove with him. They’re happy with what they’ve done this spring and at some point this season both will be called up to the Major Leagues, but third base still belongs to Eduardo Escobar.

One possible scenario is keeping Vientos as a DH and cutting Darin Ruf, but the Mets are hesitant to do that with any of their prospects. The club feels strongly that they need to play every day at their defensive positions.

Brandon Nimmo, Mark Canha, Starling Marte, Tommy Pham

A week ago, it was looking like Nimmo would miss the start of the season. Showalter could have used Jeff McNeil in the leadoff spot since the NL batting champ can hit from just about anywhere, but without Nimmo to set the table the lineup would be lacking. Tim Locastro made a good push for an outfield spot and he adds an element of speed that the team doesn’t currently have. It’s a risk not to keep him because he’s out of options and the club will probably lose him on waivers, but they like that they can use Pham against left-handed hitters.

Daniel Vogelbach, Darin Ruf

The heavy hitters didn’t hit much this spring, and if the Mets can use Pham against lefties, then why keep Ruf? It’s a legitimate question and one the club might have to answer for if he fails to hit in New York again this season. But the Opening Day roster always changes. Ruf or Vogelbach could be out in favor of one of the kids early in the season. This is where the club seems to be favoring the track record over the potential.

RHP Max Scherzer, RHP Justin Verlander, RHP Kodai Senga, RHP Carlos Carrasco, LHP David Peterson

Scherzer will start on Opening Day and Verlander will start the home opener. The big question when it comes to the rotation is whether the Mets will carry five or six pitchers to start the season. If it’s five, will they carry David Peterson or Tylor Megill? Peterson has outperformed Megill this spring but not by much. If you want to look at his body of work, he outperformed Megill last season. Megill probably deserves a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he wasn’t great out of the bullpen last season and the Mets would probably prefer to keep him stretched out as a starter. If that’s the case, then the big righty will start the season in Syracuse, but they could call him up early to use a six-man rotation.

RHP Drew Smith, RHP Adam Ottavino, RHP David Robertson, LHP Brooks Raley, RHP Stephen Nogosek, RHP Tommy Hunter, RHP John Curtiss, LHP Zach Muckenhirn

The Mets will likely carry eight relievers, at least to start. Veteran Tommy Hunter signed a minor league contract over the winter and seems to have played his way onto the team by throwing eight scoreless innings, holding opponents to a .143 average, striking out nine and walking only one.

The Mets have been impressed with John Curtiss and Zach Muckenhirn as well. With Curtiss, the Mets see the potential to use in middle innings or save situations. Muckenhirn gives the Mets another lefty and could become the first and only player from the University of North Dakota to reach the Major Leagues since the school cut the program shortly after he was drafted.

Nogosek could be a tough one. Jeff Brigham and Jimmy Yacabonis have pitched better than him this spring, but only Brigham has options. This last spot might come down to the question of which pitcher the Mets are willing to lose.