Monday, March 29, 2021

Play Ball!

The Mets finished their spring training schedule today in a rather fitting manner for games that don't count, their game against the Cardinals ending in a 3-3 tie. The next time they play will be Thursday night in Washington to open the season. That game will be telecast only on ESPN, which is a real shame. I know that quite a few Mets games are likely to wind up on national tv. I'm not going to whine about each and every one of them. However, it really is regretful that the ESPN circus is taking Opening Day away from Mets fans. I guess I should be grateful that Alex Rodriguez will be in the broadcast booth and not the owner's box.

There was only one real surprise among the players the Mets elected to open the season with on their 26-man roster. I was somewhat startled to see pitcher Robert Gsellman make the cut. He has a Minor League option left and hasn't pitched all that well this spring. In 8 IP, he's allowed 14 hits, 2 walks, and a pair of home runs. I'd rather see Jeurys Familia or Dellin Betances pitching in a game where the Mets have even a chance to win, which makes Gsellman literally the only pitcher on the staff I trust less than those two guys right now.

On the other hand, Gsellman is the one pitcher on the 26-man roster who seems certain to be sent down at some point if a fresh arm is needed. Certainly, the Mets may decide they want another lefty in the 'pen, with Stephen Tarpley, Daniel Zamora, or Jerry Blevins possibly getting the call. Then again, if any of that trio looked good this spring, they'd be on the Opening Day roster over Gsellman. In 16.2 combined innings, they allowed 10 walks. With no Minor League games until May, it's going to be difficult for these gentlemen to prove they can throw the ball over the plate in real game action. As nice as it would be to have that second lefthander, it's useless if they can't come into a game throwing strikes.

Everyone else on the 26-man was a player we expected to be there. In my post yesterday, I singled out Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis as two players who really need to show that they can produce enough offensively to justify being everyday players. Given the direction that the club seems to be headed, they have to do it over the first couple of months. I like both players a lot. I hope they do earn full-time roles. Both of them had rough springs, though, with Davis' anemic .216/.420/.297 line still outpacing McNeil's pathetic .109/.255/.239 slash numbers. I understand that spring numbers don't mean anything, but I would have liked to have seen both of these guys showing a bit more than they did.

Barring injuries or catastrophic underperformance, I don't believe any other position player is in any danger of losing playing time. Jonathan Villar had some injury issues and didn't hit much, but he and Luis Guillorme will be backing up all the infield positions.

I believe this can be a really pivotal year for Guillorme. He's likely to earn playing time as a defensive replacement. If McNeil or Davis falters with the bat and Luis can continue the offensive improvement he showed last season, Guillorme can earn a chunk of playing time. Even if things go well for the other two, Luis Guillorme could still become a valuable part-time player. 

It's too bad there is no DH in the National League in 2021. If there was, I think both Kevin Pillar and Albert Almora could have seen some significant playing time. Both have done well this spring. Almora's excellent play has served as a rebuke to me for making fun of his signing. You win, dude. Along with Guillorme and Villar, there is the potential for the Mets to have their finest bench in decades. Of course, we still have to see how guys who are used to being regulars handle their new role as bench guys.
Anyway, now that spring training is over, it will be good to play games against teams other than the Marlins, Nationals, Cardinals, and Astros. Of course, our first two games are against the Nationals, then we play 3 against Philadelphia and see the Marlins again. Oh, well. I'm still looking forward to the season a lot.

I'll be back with more tomorrow. Please stay safe, be well, and take care.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.

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