Mets Spring Training Question 10: Who Will Be the Phenom?

With ten days before pitchers and Molinas report, let’s look at who might be the PSL “phenom”.

Nearly every spring training, there is one youngster who tears it up, or lights up the radar gun, and performs so overwhelmingly impressively that we fans are convinced we’ve seen the next Mets superstar … or at least, an All-Star. It’s that player who proves the philosophy of “hope springs eternal”, or “spring training hopes are eternal”, or something like that.

In the recent past, the “phenoms” of spring training have included Lastings Milledge, Fernando Martinez, Brian Bannister, and Ambiorix Burgos, among others. Sometimes — like Dwight Gooden — the phenoms pan out. Other times — like Gary Rajsich — things don’t quite work out so well once the regular season begins.

Considering that the Mets are entering a rebuilding year centered around their youth, one would think that this is a good opportunity for at least one “phenom” to emerge. Who might that be?

The best guesses are Jordany Valdespin, Reese Havens, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, and Zack Wheeler. But those are easy, right? OK, I’ll pick a few “no-names” to throw in the mix: Kai Gronauer, Zach Lutz, Matt Den Dekker, and Cesar Puello. Those last four have no pressure on them, not much in the way of expectations, and nothing to lose, so my bet is that they’ll be aggressive, feel loose, and as a result have a good shot at gaining spring training stardom.

What say you? Who do you think will establish himself as the “phenom” in Port St. Lucie this spring? And what phenoms do you remember from spring trainings past? Answer in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. HobieLandrith February 10, 2012 at 4:06 pm
    I remember Tim Leary being a spring training phenom, making the team, then blowing out his arm in his first start on a freezing cold day at Shea.

    I’m predicting the same thing for Wheeler/Harvey.

    • mic February 11, 2012 at 1:45 pm
      Then coming back as a dodger and factoring big in derailing Davey’s Mets
  2. argonbunnies February 10, 2012 at 4:58 pm
    I’m sure Harvey will get some outs, as pitchers are always ahead in spring training.

    But the guy who’ll get our hopes up will be Valdespin. Power, speed, and athleticism at 2B and SS. Spring training with the big boys will bring out his max effort, which hasn’t always been there in the minors.

    He’ll leave enough of an impression that when Tejada struggles in April, fans will be clamoring for Jordany.

    Joe, do all the guys you listed actually have ST invitations? I was pretty sure that Wheeler did not.

    • Joe Janish February 10, 2012 at 11:10 pm
      I’m not sure whether Wheeler was invited or not, but even if he wasn’t, he’ll be in PSL with the minor leaguers, which means if he does something remarkable — like hit 99+ MPH on the gun — it will be seen and noticed by someone and reported.
  3. John February 10, 2012 at 5:27 pm
    Just a couple of years back Chris Carter. I think Dan Norman hit like 8 home runs in spring training one year.
  4. BCA February 10, 2012 at 6:49 pm
    Reece Havens (i think i spelled his name right). Kirk Neisweises (don’t know the spelling of his last name). Matt Harvey. Those are my picks.
  5. DaveSchneck February 10, 2012 at 10:10 pm
    I remember Butch Huskey tearing up the Grepefruit League one spring.

    My 2 cents this year is on Josh Edgin.

    • Joe Janish February 10, 2012 at 11:12 pm
      I also remember Huskey having a big spring. Edgin is intriguing … big lefty who misses bats, but I don’t know much else. Does he throw really hard?
      • DaveSchneck February 11, 2012 at 11:27 pm
        Haven’t seen him but read that he throws hard, strong numbers at A, is 25 and the Collins would love another LOOGY.
  6. John D February 11, 2012 at 11:34 am
    I think Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt Den Dekker are the best bets. I would probably be easier for one of them to move Torres to the bench than it would be for Valdespin or Havens to move Murphy to the bench. I saw Den Dekker play in New Brittan last year. The kid can go get the ball in CF. I’m not sure he’s ready to hit big league pitching, though.
  7. jerseymet February 11, 2012 at 3:07 pm
    Ike Davis lit it up two years ago. I’m thinking Lutz is at a make or break point.
  8. Josh Z February 15, 2012 at 10:53 pm
    Den Dekker has gotten some attention and i think he will do well. Wheeler and Harvey will be fine so long as they can develop before the majors