With pitchers and catchers reporting in just 36 days, it’s time to start talking about names to watch in spring. Spring training may be just a bunch of workouts or a way to ease your body into the rigorous season for veterans, but for unproven young players, it’s their time to shine. Prospects play as hard as ever as they try to earn roster spots or attention from people in the front office. With that said, here are the top five names that Met fans should look out for this spring:
(Note: this is not a top prospect list)
5. Jenrry Mejia
We’ all know Jenrry Mejia. In 2010, at the age of 20, he pitched 33 major league games in what ended up being a disaster for him, one that may take him another year to recover from. Last year, Mejia had Tommy John surgery and missed most of the season. Now, he has a chance to earn a role as a spot starter if he impresses this spring.
Mejia has what scouts call “electric stuff.” He has loads of potential, and has the repitoire of an ace in the making. If Mejia can control his secondary pitches, he can make some noise in Spring Training. He probably won’t break camp with the big league Mets, but he could earn the role as the “sixth starter” if someone gets hurt mid-season.
After a fantastic season down in the minors last season, hitting .294 with 17 home runs, Jordany Valdespin has a chance to take a bench spot from a veteran like Justin Turner. Valdespin made an impact with his bat last spring, but wasn’t developed enough to get big league time.
At first glance, Valdespin has all the tools to become the second baseman of the future– good range, good swing, nice speed, quality arm, and a smooth swing. It would take another Daniel Murphy injury for Valdespin to actually win the job at second base, but he could definitely back up him and Ruben Tejada.
3. Cory Vaughn
Vaughn was talked about a lot last season, and was regarded as one of the top Mets seven or eight prospects. However, talk has subsided due to a .219 slump in Port St. Lucie. This may have been in part due to a knee injury that plagued him most of the season. Now that he’s healthy he will be ready to prove himself again this spring. The 2010 4th-round pick hit .307 with 14 home runs in just 72 games in 2010 with Brooklyn, so we know the talent is there. A roster spot is virtually impossible for Vaughn, but with a good spring, he could earn back that attention he was getting before last season, and raise a few eyebrows.
Of the four big pitching prospects in the Met system right now (Harvey, Wheeler, Mejia, Familia), Jeurys is the closest to the majors at this point. Familia, 22, went 5-5 with a 2.90 ERA between Port St. Lucie and Buffalo last season. Like Mejia, Familia has electric stuff, with a fastball in the high-90s and a deadly breaking ball. However, he has control problems, too. There have been talks of him going to the bullpen, so he may also be auditioning for a bullpen spot. Although, the Mets are probably going to be wait on him going to the bullpen. They’ll probably want to wait as long as possible to see if he can develop the control he needs in order to become a starter. If he doesn’t, he will go to the ‘pen.
1. Zach Lutz
After a few years of irrelevancy, probably because of is age, Zach Lutz can no longer be ignored. Lutz is the best power-hitting prospect in the organization. He hit 11 home runs in 63 games in the minors and if healthy, could make a major case for the last bench spot on the Mets roster. Personally, I would love to have Lutz on the roster to see if his power translates to the majors. Many see him as a future journeyman Nick Evans-type guy, but I could see him developing into a Lucas Duda. If Lutz can stay healthy, I would even consider him to be a favorite to win a spot on the Met bench.