9 Burning Questions For Spring Training

Now that the calendar has flipped to March and the rest of the minor leaguers will begin trickling into Port St. Lucie, Inside Pitch offers the answers to 9 burning questions that face not only specific players but minor league camp as a whole. What will the early days of camp look like? What players are coming off injuries? And can anything be won or lost in camp? Look inside to find out.

1. What is camp like in the early days?

Minor league games with other affiliates are slated to begin on March 17. In the interim, there will be a lot of bullpen work with every pitcher, including one-on-one drills and PFP work. Position players usually engage in different technique drills such as base running and other situational drills. Additionally, there will be intrasquad drills, usually a five inning game that plays out more like a pick-up game. Additionally, position players will break out into position-specific drills.

Typically, these days usually last about three to four hours with meetings and workouts bookending their on-field work. An undetermined amount of prospects will also be brought over to the main field to participate in big league spring training games or hit the road with the big league club.

2. What is the most interesting part of camp?

For me, it is those intrasquad games. At no other time during the regular season do you see the Mets' top prospects square off against each other. Want to see Jenrry Mejia or Jeurys Familia square off against Wilmer Flores? Spring training provides that. Additionally, the camaraderie and back-and-forth also makes for some good entertainment. Sure, neither the pitchers nor the players are at peak performance, but it's like watching a Mets prospect All-Star game, especially with the so-called "first teamers", and those games make the 7 to 10 days leading up to intersquad games very fun to watch.

3. Will camp change with the minor league coaching changes and with Dick Scott taking over as the minor league field coordinator?

It's unlikely. The Mets have developed a pretty good system of preparing guys for the season and not pushing players returning from injury. Indications are that Scott will run the camp similar to Terry Collins last year, and if that's the case, the prospects can expect a lot of discipline and tight focus on development and activities. Otherwise, the affiliate managers and coaches will likely spend the majority of their time with guys they could coach come the regular season. However, managers with certain backgrounds (like Wally Backman and Tim Teufel with the middle infielders) may hold court with certain positions.

4. How important is spring training for the 2010 draft picks?

Camp is important for all of them because it will be the first spring training for the Class of 2010. Of course, almost everyone will be watching Matt Harvey who will take the mound in front of more than just Mets coaches for the first time in his career. Ditto for 24th round pick Erik Goeddel. Blake Forsythe wants to use spring training as a spring board following a mixed showing in Brooklyn last summer, while Cory Vaughn surely wants to keep his momentum going. Other than the biggest names (including Matt Den Dekker and Ryan Fraser), younger players who saw minimal field time last summer will hope to use camp as a launching pad. That group includes 8th round pick Kenny McDowall, 10th round pick Akeel Morris, 14th round pick J.B. Brown and 15th round pick Tillman Pugh.

5. Are there any older players who may be playing for their job?

It's not all about the top prospects. There are older players entering their 4th, 5th or later seasons on the farm. The improving depth of the Mets system may push out a number of fringe, organizational players that four or five years ago comprised the Double-A and Triple-A levels. D.J. Wabick, Carlos Guzman, Dylan Owen, Jose Coronado, Jonathan Malo – these are just a few names (my opinion) that could be playing for jobs this spring.

6. What position will have the greatest competition in camp?

Much of the focus at the big league level is at second base, and that can be extended to the minor league level. Reese Havens, Jordany Valdespin, Josh Satin, and perhaps Ruben Tejada to a lesser extent, are all jockeying for greater attention at second base at the higher levels.

However, those looking for a good competition should not overlook catcher either. Kai Gronauer is receiving the benefit of big league camp time as a non-roster invitee. Behind him, Francisco Pena and Blake Forsythe could be battling for the starting job in St. Lucie. While Albert Cordero will not compete for a job in St. Lucie or Binghamton, there is a good shot he finds himself in Savannah and cements further depth behind at the plate at the long-season level.

7. Who is coming off an injury?

There are a few players coming a variety of injuries and are at different stages of progress. As mentioned in the STEP camp piece, Kyle Allen is working his way back from a lower back injury and appears to be progressing ahead of expectations. Brant Rustich is coming back surgery to correct his thoracic outlet syndrome. Tobi Stoner is projected for an early June return after he was shut down with a shoulder issue late last summer. Francisco Pena faces a very, very big year after he missed nearly all of 2009 with a foot/ankle injury. Rumblings have Matt Bouchard ticketed to Binghamton after another year lost to a hip labrum injury.

8. Who are a few names that can gain a lot during spring training?

No prospect is going to significantly improve or hurt his stock during spring training, but there are a number of prospects who would help their cause by using spring training as a springboard into the regular season. As mentioned, Matt Harvey is one of those players. Sean Ratliff could use a good start in camp to get rolling in 2011 when many scouts want to see him repeat his 2010 performance. 2008 2nd round pick Javier Rodriguez finally put together a good season with Kingsport last season, but can he get the ball rolling into long-season ball? And of course, Reese Havens – coming off 32 games in 2010 – could be in a position to see New York late in the year.

9. Can assignments be won or lost during spring training?

Generally, no – at least for higher-level prospects. A strong camp showing among younger players may persuade the organization to drop one or two on the Savannah roster, but from St. Lucie on up, many assignments are affixed well before camp breaks. Some pitchers at those levels may be held back a level, particularly if they have not locked down a rotation spot.

\r\n \r\n\r\n1. What is camp like in the early days?
\r\n
\r\nMinor league games with other affiliates are slated to begin on March 17. In the interim, there will be a lot of bullpen work with every pitcher, including one-on-one drills and PFP work. Position players usually engage in different technique drills such as base running and other situational drills. Additionally, there will be intrasquad drills, usually a five inning game that plays out more like a pick-up game. Additionally, position players will break out into position-specific drills.
\r\n
\r\nTypically, these days usually last about three to four hours with meetings and workouts bookending their on-field work. An undetermined amount of prospects will also be brought over to the main field to participate in big league spring training games or hit the road with the big league club.
\r\n
\r\n2. What is the most interesting part of camp?
\r\n
\r\nFor me, it is those intrasquad games. At no other time during the regular season do you see the Mets' top prospects square off against each other. Want to see Jenrry Mejia or Jeurys Familia square off against Wilmer Flores? Spring training provides that. Additionally, the camaraderie and back-and-forth also makes for some good entertainment. Sure, neither the pitchers nor the players are at peak performance, but it's like watching a Mets prospect All-Star game, especially with the so-called \"first teamers\", and those games make the 7 to 10 days leading up to intersquad games very fun to watch.
\r\n
\r\n3. Will camp change with the minor league coaching changes and with Dick Scott taking over as the minor league field coordinator?
\r\n
\r\nIt's unlikely. The Mets have developed a pretty good system of preparing guys for the season and not pushing players returning from injury. Indications are that Scott will run the camp similar to Terry Collins last year, and if that's the case, the prospects can expect a lot of discipline and tight focus on development and activities. Otherwise, the affiliate managers and coaches will likely spend the majority of their time with guys they could coach come the regular season. However, managers with certain backgrounds (like Wally Backman and Tim Teufel with the middle infielders) may hold court with certain positions.
\r\n
\r\n4. How important is spring training for the 2010 draft picks?
\r\n
\r\nCamp is important for all of them because it will be the first spring training for the Class of 2010. Of course, almost everyone will be watching Matt Harvey who will take the mound in front of more than just Mets coaches for the first time in his career. Ditto for 24th round pick Erik Goeddel. Blake Forsythe wants to use spring training as a spring board following a mixed showing in Brooklyn last summer, while Cory Vaughn surely wants to keep his momentum going. Other than the biggest names (including Matt Den Dekker and Ryan Fraser), younger players who saw minimal field time last summer will hope to use camp as a launching pad. That group includes 8th round pick Kenny McDowall, 10th round pick Akeel Morris, 14th round pick J.B. Brown and 15th round pick Tillman Pugh.
\r\n
\r\n5. Are there any older players who may be playing for their job?
\r\n
\r\nIt's not all about the top prospects. There are older players entering their 4th, 5th or later seasons on the farm. The improving depth of the Mets system may push out a number of fringe, organizational players that four or five years ago comprised the Double-A and Triple-A levels. D.J. Wabick, Carlos Guzman, Dylan Owen, Jose Coronado, Jonathan Malo – these are just a few names (my opinion) that could be playing for jobs this spring.
\r\n
\r\n6. What position will have the greatest competition in camp?
\r\n
\r\nMuch of the focus at the big league level is at second base, and that can be extended to the minor league level. Reese Havens, Jordany Valdespin, Josh Satin, and perhaps Ruben Tejada to a lesser extent, are all jockeying for greater attention at second base at the higher levels.
\r\n
\r\nHowever, those looking for a good competition should not overlook catcher either. Kai Gronauer is receiving the benefit of big league camp time as a non-roster invitee. Behind him, Francisco Pena and Blake Forsythe could be battling for the starting job in St. Lucie. While Albert Cordero will not compete for a job in St. Lucie or Binghamton, there is a good shot he finds himself in Savannah and cements further depth behind at the plate at the long-season level.
\r\n
\r\n7. Who is coming off an injury?
\r\n
\r\nThere are a few players coming a variety of injuries and are at different stages of progress. As mentioned in the STEP camp piece, Kyle Allen is working his way back from a lower back injury and appears to be progressing ahead of expectations. Brant Rustich is coming back surgery to correct his thoracic outlet syndrome. Tobi Stoner is projected for an early June return after he was shut down with a shoulder issue late last summer. Francisco Pena faces a very, very big year after he missed nearly all of 2009 with a foot/ankle injury. Rumblings have Matt Bouchard ticketed to Binghamton after another year lost to a hip labrum injury.
\r\n
\r\n8. Who are a few names that can gain a lot during spring training?
\r\n
\r\nNo prospect is going to significantly improve or hurt his stock during spring training, but there are a number of prospects who would help their cause by using spring training as a springboard into the regular season. As mentioned, Matt Harvey is one of those players. Sean Ratliff could use a good start in camp to get rolling in 2011 when many scouts want to see him repeat his 2010 performance. 2008 2nd round pick Javier Rodriguez finally put together a good season with Kingsport last season, but can he get the ball rolling into long-season ball? And of course, Reese Havens – coming off 32 games in 2010 – could be in a position to see New York late in the year.
\r\n
\r\n9. Can assignments be won or lost during spring training?
\r\n
\r\nGenerally, no – at least for higher-level prospects. A strong camp showing among younger players may persuade the organization to drop one or two on the Savannah roster, but from St. Lucie on up, many assignments are affixed well before camp breaks. Some pitchers at those levels may be held back a level, particularly if they have not locked down a rotation spot.
\r\n
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