Spring training has begun down at the Mets’ camp in Port St. Lucie and with it comes the hope of new beginnings. The atmosphere is loose and the breeze is gentle in the Florida sun. The tiki bar down the third base line at Tradition Field is an inviting place to watch the game while having a cold one. The people are friendly and even the picnic area beyond the right field fence has its share of spectators watching the game while lying lazily on the grass. It’s a wonderful time to follow the decisions and moves that will help to shape and define the season leading into April.
The funny thing about spring training games is that it’s a revolving door of player changes and a scorekeeper’s worst nightmare. It’s a good thing the games don’t really count. And some of you have probably taken a glance at the Mets’ box score the past couple of days to find out how your favorite players are doing. Some of you probably have wondered if you were even looking at the correct box score because of so many unfamiliar names of players that make their way into games during spring training. So I thought it might be a good time to go over some of the players that are in Port St. Lucie who may be off the radar. Sure we know all about Jason Bay, David Wright and Oliver Perez, but what about all of those rookies and non-roster invitees? So let’s spend some time to get acquainted with a few of the cast of characters that are competing for positions and hoping to earn a roster spot.
Jack Egbert – Pitcher – Throws: Right – Bats: Left — Age: 26
Jack Egbert came to the Mets via the White Sox when he was claimed off waivers last September. He was a former top prospect with Chicago and finally managed to make his major league debut last season, pitching a couple of games and ending up with a 27.00 ERA. Egbert has also struggled in his time at the AAA level but has done better in the lower divisions in the minors. He has a very good sinker that hits the radar gun in the high 80’s and has a decent change that will give hitters another pitch to think about. Perhaps the best attribute about Egbert is his ability to keep the ball on the ground.
Clint Everts – Pitcher – Throws: Right – Bats: Right — Age: 25
Clint Everts became a minor league free agent at the end of 2009 after spending 7 seasons in the National’s farm system. He was the #5 overall pick in the 2002 amateur draft by the Montreal Expos (remember them) and has yet to break into the majors. He put together a pretty nice 2009 which saw him bounce from A+.,AA, and AAA while compiling an overall 8-1 record, 1.65 ERA and 10.2 K/9. The word out is that after several years of struggling, Everts’ fast ball has picked up its velocity once again and has a curveball and outstanding change. If he impresses in spring training, he could be a sleeper to make the club.
Eddie Kunz – Pitcher – Throws: Right – Bats: Right — Age: 23
Eddie Kunz is a name that many people will recognize as the Mets #1 choice in the 2007 supplemental draft. The Mets knew that they were drafting a guy who was slated as a pure reliever and possible closer for the future. The big right hander has a mid 90’s fastball that has some nice sink to it that will induce a lot of swings and misses and groundballs. But he has a poor change and has not been able to establish any type of effectiveness against lefties. This is Kunz’s biggest issue with becoming a potential closer and seems more suited for a future set up role. The heat is on Kunz who is on the verge of slipping as one of the Mets more promising prospects and needs to step it up this year in Triple A. He isn’t off to a great start in his first appearance in spring training allowing 4 earned runs in a 0.1 innings.
Tobi Stoner – Pitcher – Throws: Right – Bats: Both — Age: 25
If you were paying close attention to the Mets towards the end of the season (and if you weren’t, you could hardly be blamed for checking out early), one of the Mets minor league call-ups was Tobi Stoner, a 16th round amateur draft choice in 2006. He appeared in 4 games in ’09 for the Mets, pitching 9 innings with no decisions and a 4.00 ERA. Stoner possesses 4 decent pitches with the velocity on his fastball topping out in the high 80’s. What Stoner really has going for him is excellent control and the ability to throw consistent strikes. While he isn’t at the top of the Mets’ prospect list, Stoner could be a useful add-on to the bullpen at some point in the season because managers love a guy who can come into a ball game and get the ball over the plate.
Jay Marshall – Pitcher – Throws: Left – Bats: Left — Age: 27
The Mets acquired Jay Marshall back in January as a waiver claim from the Oakland A’s. Marshall is a wiry left-handed submarine style pitcher who can be effective against left-handed hitter but doesn’t have amazing stuff. He does induce a large amount of ground balls which has keep his home runs way down and he has put together a tidy 2.85 ERA over the course of 6 seasons in the minors. Marshall will probably be getting some time on the mound this spring and is certainly a relief pitcher that is worthy of taking a closer look at it.
Shawn Bowman – Third base – Throws: Right – Bats: Right — Age: 25
Shawn Bowman came to the Mets organization via the 2002 amateur draft as the Mets 12th pick. Some of the shine has left Bowman the past few years and he has yet to establish a consistent offensive approach to the plate, lacking plate discipline but he does possess plus power. He’s had back injuries in the past that unfortunately has slowed his development but his defensive skills remain some of the best in the organization as he started out as a shortstop. Bowman’s biggest problem with trying to make the big club is that there is some guy named Wright that is blocking his way who I don’t think is going anywhere.
Jason Pridie — Centerfield – Throws: Right – Bats: Left — Age: 26
Jason Pridie was originally drafted by Tampa Bay as a 2nd round choice (43rd overall) in the 2002 amateur draft. He was acquired by the Twins in a rule 5 draft and then sent back to the Rays and back again to the Twins. The Mets acquired Pridie off of waivers last month and should get a good look in spring training. The book on Pridie has him regarded as a free swinger and has hit .276 in 8 seasons in the minors. The lack of discipline has prevented him from having a good OBP (.319) but he has been able to steal 153 during his minor league career. He has excellent defensive skills, a strong arm and good base running abilities which makes him a decent candidate for a 4th or 5th outfield spot. We’ll see what he is able to do in Port St. Lucie but he is a good back-up option to have on a squad.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis – Centerfield – Throws: Right – Bats: Left — Age: 22
Here’s a guy to keep an eye and track his progression. Kirk Nieuwenhuis (say that 10 times fast) is a fast riser in the Mets farm system having been drafted in the 3rd round (100th overall) of the 2008 amateur draft. He’s a fleet-footed centerfielder who covers a lot of ground with some good power and speed. Last year splitting his time between high A and AA ball, Nieuwenhuis was able to crack 17 homers and steal the same number of bases. One area needing improvement for Kirk is his ability to make contact. If he able to improve that he should be close to a .400 OBP guy (.364 OBP in ’09) as he has shown solid plate discipline.
Ike Davis – First Base – Throws: Left – Bats: Left — Age: 23
Highly doubtful that you haven’t heard about this guy, but if you haven’t you better get used to his name. Ike Davis is currently penciled in as the future first baseman of the Mets and from the reports has all the tools to be a big thumper with 35+ home run potential. He’s already made his presence know in spring training with a .750 batting average and a home run. The first round draft choice (18th overall) has a smooth swing and plays a solid first base defensively with a good arm. He has had some difficulty repeating his swing consistently which exposes holes in his hitting but some additional seasoning at AAA should help with that. He’ll probably be hanging around quite a bit for spring training and get exposure to big league hitting, but expect him to start the year in AAA, but could be a call-up in 2010 depending on how the season goes.
Obviously this is far from a complete list of players that are competing for spots, but just a sampling of some of the guys who’ll be getting into games. There are many other names that you’ll see in the box score, Hisanori Takahashi, Jesus Feliciano, Russ Adams and some older, but familiar names like Josh Fogg, R.A. Dickey and newly acquired Kiko Calero. We’ll see how the spring develops and revisit some of the players that we haven’t covered that are still competing for roster spots, but this will certainly get you started.