By Mike Steffanos
With spring winding down and struggling somewhat to come up with a topic for today's post, I thought it might be interesting to try to pick which players might contribute more than expected to the success of this club in 2008.
With the Mets likely to carry only 5 bench players, Marlon Anderson, Damion Easley and Ramon Castro would seem to be locks, if healthy. Almost undoubtedly the Mets will choose to keep either Rueben Gotay or Anderson Hernandez to have a backup SS on the roster. That leaves a scrum of players battling for the final bench spot. While Saenz doesn't bring much to the table defensively, he's a very good right-handed hitter and one of the best pinch hitters in the game. He had a tough year in 2007, but his 3 previous seasons with the Dodgers featured OPS of .857, .805 and .927. That kind of pop off the bench is rare in baseball. He could spell Delgado at first, who isn't exactly a glove man anyway. Also, with Damion Easley figuring to get his share starts in both the OF and at 2B, you'd still have a righty bat on the bench.
It seems a given that the Wise will have a bullpen spot coming out of spring training, but it wouldn't shock me at all if Wise becomes a very important part of this bullpen. He's coming off a rough season, but he was terrific for Milwaukee in 2005 and solid for them in 2006. He gets his share of strikeouts for a guy with a mid-80s fastball thanks to a changeup that is as good as any on the club. He doesn't walk people. His over the top delivery offers a contrast to the 3/4 deliveries of the rest of the bullpen. His demeanor reminds me of Chad Bradford, who never seemed flustered.
If he only pitches as well as he did the last 2 seasons he will be the solid sixth and seventh inning guy that was lacking last season. A return to close to his 2005 form (.160 AVG, K/9 8.7, H/9 5.2) would be tremendous. At 32 years old and seemingly prospering under Professor Rick, that's a possibility.
The 35-year-old backstop has almost three times as many minor league than major league at bats in a career that goes back to being an eighth round pick of the Mets in 1990. The switch-hitting catcher has a little more pop in his bat than the veteran catch and throw guys the Mets have utilized for catching depth the last couple of years. With Ramon Castro's inability to survive a full season healthy and Brian Schneider's own hamstring problems, there would certainly seem to be an opportunity for Casanova to add to his big league at bat totals. Last season he managed to hit 6 HR in only 79 AB for Tampa Bay.
The rule 5 pick would need to stay on the major league roster for a full season or he would have to be offered back to Colorado. That doesn't really seem likely at this point, but the Mets could always try to swing a deal with the Rockies. We've seen the importance of bullpen depth over the years, and Register has looked like a capable middle reliever so far in camp.
With the news that Washington has released last year's opening day starter, you would think that Minaya's previous relationship with Patterson would give the Mets a leg up in signing him. With almost no starting pitching depth that's major league ready in the organization, there is an opportunity for Patterson. His velocity is way down and the Nats obviously don't believe he'll ever come close to reaching his once high potential, but this wouldn't be a bad insurance pickup for the Mets.