New York Mets: Non-Roster Invitees with Best Shot to Make 25-Man Roster
Before anyone asks, the New York Mets did not extend Tim Tebow a non-roster invite to their major league camp for spring training.
They did, however, extend invites to a bunch of guys who actually have a prayer of making the team. And they're the ones we're here to talk about.
There's no point in pretending like each of the non-roster invitees in Mets camp this spring has a shot at making the Opening Day roster. These things don't work like that, so let's pick a smaller number to focus on.
Six? Yeah, six sounds good. Let's get to it.
Dominic Smith, 1B
With Tebow out of the picture, Dominic Smith is the biggest name among the Mets' non-roster invitees. Not so coincidentally, he's also the most talented of the bunch.
Smith was New York's No. 11 pick in the 2013 draft. Since then, the lefty swinger has carved out a .294 average and .360 on-base percentage in a minor league career that's advanced as far as Double-A. He's played a good first base as well.
The 21-year-old checks in at No. 63 in MLB.com's ranking of the top 100 prospects in baseball. And one way or another, he should be ready to make his major league debut in 2017.
Mind you, the odds of said debut coming on Opening Day are slim. Indications are Smith is only in Mets camp for a look-see before heading to Triple-A Las Vegas to start the year. That's only changing if the fates take a chisel to the club's first base depth chart.
That's not entirely out of the question, however.
Lucas Duda could run into complications in his recovery from back surgery. The club's desire, as reported by MLB.com's Anthony DiComo, to give Jay Bruce reps at first base is partially a preemptive strike against that, but it could backfire due to his limited experience at the position.
If the dominoes fall just right, the Mets could find themselves looking around for a lefty-swinging first baseman. And there will be Smith.
Champ Stuart, OF
The last thing the Mets need right now is another body in their outfield depth chart.
Simply finding playing time for the top guys will be a tricky enough task for manager Terry Collins. Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto give him four worthy players to fit into three spots. Worse, none is a true center fielder.
That's why Champ Stuart could stand out as the spring goes along.
The Bahamas native joined the Mets in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. His bat hasn't developed much since then, as he owns just a .637 OPS in four minor league seasons.
Stuart can fly, though. The post-2014 book on him from Baseball America describes him as a "double-plus runner." Among the areas where that speed comes in handy is in center field, where he's known as a strong defender.
The Mets must have one of those for late in games this season, as Collins should often find himself in need of better center field defense to help hold on to leads. Right now, that task falls to Juan Lagares first. After him, Brandon Nimmo looks like the next man up.
But if it's fair to play the "should something happen" card at first base, then it's fair to play it here, too. If any trouble befalls Lagares or Nimmo this spring, Stuart could get his shot.
Tom Gorzelanny, LHP
While there might be spots that open up in the club's lineup or bench, the Mets' pitching staff is a different story. The bullpen, especially.
As DiComo wrote, the depth chart there is "murky" after Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, Fernando Salas, Jerry Blevins and Jeurys Familia, who's facing a suspension following his domestic violence charge over the winter. As such, it'll be come one, come all.
Ol' standby Tom Gorzelanny will be among the competitors.
The 34-year-old lefty has been pitching professionally since 2003, including in parts of 12 major league seasons. He began as a starter but became a full-time reliever in 2014. Mixed success in the minors and majors has followed.
Nonetheless, Gorzelanny may emerge as somebody who could be useful for the Mets in the regular season. The .659 OPS he's held lefties to in his career points to a possible role as a lefty specialist.
The Mets would owe Gorzelanny a minimum of $1 million if he makes the majors, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. That's not a ton of money, but the club has cheaper options if all else is equal.
Adam Wilk, LHP
If Gorzelanny doesn't earn a role as an extra lefty in the Mets bullpen, perhaps Adam Wilk will.
The 29-year-old doesn't have Gorzelanny's experience, but he's been pitching professionally since 2009 and has made nine major league appearances.
If nothing else, that separates him from the two young lefties in Mets camp on non-roster invites, anyway. P.J. Conlon lacks experience above High-A. David Roseboom lacks experience above Double-A.
Wilk also has a solid track record. He owns a career 3.59 ERA and 4.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the minors. As a strike-throwing lefty who's both started and relieved, he could be useful as a specialist or a long reliever.
Beyond the fact they're only non-roster invitees, the disadvantage both Gorzelanny and Wilk are facing is that the Mets already have a fair number of lefty relievers on their 40-man roster. Even after Blevins, there's Sean Gilmartin, Josh Edgin and Josh Smoker.
As for the right-handers who could have a shot at the Mets bullpen, two names stand out...
Paul Sewald, RHP
There are six right-handers among the Mets' non-roster invitees. Of the bunch, two look like realistic options for major league roster spots.
Starting with Paul Sewald.
A 10th-round draft pick back in 2012, Sewald has spent the entirety of his pro career pitching in relief. And pitching well, to boot. He has a 2.20 ERA in five minor league seasons, with an impressive rate of 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
"I go for the strikeout when I get to two strikes," Sewald told ESPN.com's Mark Simon in 2015. "As a reliever it’s very important to get strikeouts. I try to get to two strikes as quickly as possible, then I try to put them away."
The fastballs Sewald has on record are all sinkers from his stint in the Arizona Fall League in 2014. On average, they barely cracked 90 miles per hour. Suffice it to say he does not throw hard.
The pitch that allows him to get by is his slider. He's not shy about using it, and the late break on it makes it good for missing bats. If he's going to attract eyes this spring, having that pitch in good form will be key.
If that doesn't pan out, it'll likely be to the benefit of...
Ben Rowen, RHP
Ben Rowen is essentially the right-handed version of Wilk among the Mets' non-roster invitees.
The Mets picked Rowen up on a minor league contract in December, and it's not hard to determine what drew their attention to him. He has some major league experience and has put up an impressive 1.85 ERA in seven minor league seasons. He's pitched exclusively as a reliever.
The 28-year-old isn't one to blow anybody away. The fastballs he has on record have averaged barely over 80 mph.
Rowen makes that work the same way Brad Ziegler makes his low-velocity fastballs work: by coming at hitters from underneath. The primary benefit of doing that is also the same. Rowen, like Ziegler, collects lots and lots of ground balls.
That alone could give him the inside track at a job in the Mets bullpen. Theirs was the worst of any bullpen at getting ground balls in 2016. In a related story, it was also among the worst at inducing ground-ball double plays.
Rowen may not have a roster spot yet. But by virtue of being the right guy in the right place at the right time, that could soon change.
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