Under-the-Radar New York Mets Ready to Impress This Spring
Those have to be two of the best words in the English language.
Now that the New York Mets have commenced their spring training camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla., it's time to take a look at some under-the-radar players that are looking to really impress in the Grapefruit League.
May we have the envelope please...
P Jeff Walters
Jeff Walters, 26, is coming off a sensational 2013 season for Double-A Binghamton in which he notched 38 saves in 42 opportunities. That is a team record for saves for the Binghamton Mets.
Walters also posted a sparkling 2.09 ERA as well. Not bad for a player who was drafted five different times.
The bearded right-hander has a chance to make New York's bullpen with an impressive showing during Grapefruit League play.
"It was awesome, man," Walters told Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. "Pretty much from Day 1 they told me that I was going to be a back-end guy. I didn't know it was going to be every save opportunity, but I'm just thankful to be put in that situation and to capitalize on it."
Making the jump from Double-A competition to the big leagues is no easy task, but Walters appears up for the challenge. He certainly has a real opportunity here since New York ranked 22nd in MLB with a 3.98 bullpen ERA last year.
Now, Walters has to take advantage of his opportunity.
SS Wilfredo Tovar
The Miranda, Venezuela native signed with the Mets when he was just 16 years old in 2007. While Ruben Tejada is likely to be New York's starting shortstop on Opening Day by default, Tovar can impress Mets brass in spring training because he is a fine defensive shortstop.
Tovar had a brief cup of coffee with New York last season, hitting just .200 in 15 at-bats after being called up in September. At 5'10", 160 pounds, Tovar is slight in stature and is never going to remind anyone of Cal Ripken, Jr. in the power department.
In fact, Tovar's slugging percentage was just .340 in 133 games with Double-A Binghamton last season. He did hit .263 though and added 12 stolen bases.
What Tovar features is a very flashy glove with a lot of range in the field. His fielding percentage was a very solid .981 for Binghamton, and Fangraphs gave him a 1.0 UZR.
The wiry Tovar seems destined for Triple-A Las Vegas this coming season, but Tejada has been a disappointment and Omar Quintanilla hit just .222 for New York in 2013.
Could Tovar grab the starting shortstop spot?
Stranger things have happened though.
P Jacob deGrom
Twenty-five-year-old lanky right-hander Jacob deGrom is ranked as the 10th best prospect in the Mets organization, according to Baseball America.
A former ninth-round pick of the Mets in 2010, deGrom fashioned a 4-2 record with a 4.52 ERA after being promoted from Binghamton to Triple-A Las Vegas last season. That ERA may seem high, but Cashman Field in Las Vegas is a notorious hitter's park.
With a strong Grapefruit League effort, deGrom has an outside chance of earning the fifth spot in New York's starting rotation. The odds are against it, but he does have a shot.
Jake has really flown through the system. He was mainly a shortstop in college, didn’t pitch until 2010, missed ’11 with Tommy John surgery, started ’12 in Savannah and finished last year in Vegas. Certainly he’s close, but in terms of pitching years, he’s very young.