Report from Mets’ camp

Posted: March 8, 2010 in Mets

Attended the Nats-Mets spring training game yesterday afternoon with my wife, and I have to say I’m growing more and more optimistic about the upcoming season. Despite last year’s horrible mess of a year, there are several positives to report.
The most exciting development lies with the Mets’ prospects, mainly the fact they have some for a change. First baseman Ike Davis, son of former major-league reliever Ron Davis, could be a stud at first. He’s a big lefty stick who is also a plus-defender around the bag. He rocked a booming opposite-field double yesterday and is now hitting .571 (8-14) with 14 total bases. Outfielder Fernando Martinez, labeled a bust by some impatient fans despite the fact he’s only 21, is building off a strong Winter League playoff performance by getting off to a .600 start. This kid has all the tools, he just has to prove he can stay healthy for a full season.
Perhaps the buzz of the camp has been generated by 20-year-old pitcher Jenrry Mejia. Former Mets star slugger Darryl Strawberry, who also played for the Yankees in the late 90s, compares Mejia to a young Mariano Rivera. The ball explodes out of the kid’s hand. Not only does he have upper 90s velocity, but the ball cuts and sinks for plenty of sawed-off bats and weak grounders. He needs more seasoning in the minors, and while he’s being groomed as a starter, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes his debut in the Mets’ bullpen later this summer.
Also, just from personal observations, the guys seem much looser than they have in the past. Really looks like they’re having fun out there, and the additions of Jason Bay and a full year of Jeff Francouer have a lot to do with this. I know statheads hate Francouer due to his horrible OBP, but I really like what he’s brought to the Mets, namely energy, attitude and an absolute howitzer of an arm in right field. He nailed two Nats at the plate yesterday, and jogged off the field laughing at the Nats’ third-base coach Pat Listach, almost in a “keep running on me and I’ll keep gunning them out” gesture. The whole team was loving it.
I also believe the additions of quality defensive catchers (Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco) will be a big help. These guys frame pitches well and work well with the staff, which includes newcomer Hisanori Takahashi. The Japanese lefty tossed three shutout innings of relief yesterday, striking out six and escaping a first-and-third, no out jam in the fifth. The dude was a master of changing speeds, mixing an 89 mph fastball with a bevy of breaking balls and offspeed offerings. His delivery was deceptive as well, with the hitters not seeming to pick the ball up very well.
Most prognosticators aren’t expecting much from the Mets this year, and early in the offseason, I wasn’t very optimistic either. But having seen the team firsthand and the way they’re approaching their business this spring, I think the Mets will surprise a lot of people. They still don’t have the starting pitching to combat the Phillies, but if any of John Maine, Mike Pelfrey or (less likely) Oliver Perez step up, the Mets have the makings of a quality bullpen behind them. The NL East should be interesting, and I would love to see the Phillies knocked off from their perch. Dealing with my many friends who are Phillies fans has been excruciating the last three seasons. Would be nice to have something to celebrate for a change….

  1. Jason Cronk says:

    Living in Phillies/Yankees territory myself, I feel your pain. We deserve something after the suffering of the last three years.
    I hope they do the right thing with Mejia and we see an ace in the rotation in 2012 rather than a wasted Joba-esque bullpen stint in 2010.
    And Francoeur’s personality and gamer attitude are infectious in that clubhouse. He’ll step up as one of the leaders this year for sure.

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