Mets Spring Training Question 1: Who Will Be the 25th Man?

With pitchers and catchers reporting to Port St. Lucie tomorrow, we have one more question that needs to be answered during Mets spring training: who will be the 25th man on the Opening Day roster?

A few weeks back, MetsToday staffer Dan Capwell counted 23 individuals who were more or less guaranteed spots on the roster. Let’s review:

1. Johan Santana
2. R.A. Dickey
3. Jonathon Niese
4. Mike Pelfrey
5. Dillon Gee
6. Frank Francisco
7. Jon Rauch
8. Ramon Ramirez
9. Tim Byrdak
10. Bobby Parnell
11. Manny Acosta
12. Josh Thole
13. Mike Nickeas
14. Ike Davis
15. Daniel Murphy
16. Ruben Tejada
17. David Wright
18. Jason Bay
19. Andres Torres
20. Lucas Duda
21. Scott Hairston
22. Ronny Cedeno
23. Justin Turner
24. ?
25. ?

There’s a chance that Terry Collins chooses to head north with 13 pitchers, with the possibility that lucky pitcher #13 is either a long man / swing man and/or a LOOGY. If that’s the case, and if the above 23 players are indeed going to make the club, then there is exactly one spot up for grabs among position players.

Personally, I’m not convinced that Justin Turner making the team is a guarantee — even though I believe it should be. However, I’m going to give the Mets’ brass the benefit of the doubt and believe they know a valuable ballplayer when they have one.

So, then, the last player on the bench is likely to be an outfielder, wouldn’t you think? Ideally, someone who can provide some pop off the bench and can catch a fly ball. Maybe, it’s a lefthanded version of Hairston.

Here are the top candidates:

Mike Baxter
Adam Loewen
Vinny Rottino
Josh Satin
Zach Lutz
Kirk Nieuwenhuis

Of the above, I think Nieuwenhuis is a long shot; my feeling is that the Mets would rather see him play every day in AAA than ride the bench in the bigs. But who knows — with a big spring, maybe Nieuwenhuis wins the starting job in centerfield, making Andres Torres player #25.

Lutz, also, would seem to be a long shot. But again, with a big spring, who knows? No longer a “kid”, Lutz is now 25 years old, turning 26 in June. In a way, he is where Lucas Duda was last year — poised to either break out of AAA and into MLB “for keeps”, or slide toward AAAA-ville. He has good pop and can play both infield corners, but his glove at 3B is sketchy. What he has going against him — other than incumbents Ike Davis and David Wright — is the fact he’s a righthanded hitter, and the Mets might be leaning toward bringing an extra lefty bat north. I wonder if the Mets will have him shag flies in the outfield, to further his versatility?

Vinny Rottino is another player whose righthandedness might prevent him from making the club. However, the 31-year-old minor league journeyman can play every corner of the diamond and squat behind the plate, AND he can hit. Rottino has hit close to or over .300 at every stop in the minors, but hasn’t shown enough homerun power to make a big league roster. Still, you have to like his versatility and, in a pinch-hitting role, often all a team needs is a clean base hit. While I have no idea if he has a real shot at making the club, I suspect he will emerge as the fan favorite / underdog of the spring.

Like Rottino, Josh Satin has versatility and pop from the right side. Like Lutz, Satin is also in that “make or break” point of his career. There has been no doubt about Satin’s bat — he’s a career .307 hitter with a .864 OPS — but he can’t find a position. One might refer to him as the righthanded-hitting Daniel Murphy. I think it’s going to take an injury to someone for Satin to make the club.

What seems most likely is that the last spot on the roster will be a battle between lefthanded-hitting outfielders Adam Loewen and Mike Baxter. Loewen is the former ace pitcher of Team Canada and Baxter is the local kid from Queens. We saw a hint of Baxter’s capability; it appears he can chase a fly ball well enough but we don’t know for sure if he’s a Major League hitter. Loewen is a similar mystery; after spending most of his pro career on the mound, he spent the last three years as a full-time outfielder and has shown improvement every season. He hit over .300 with an .884 OPS in AAA last year, but it happened in the hitter-friendly PCL. Loewen appears to have great power but he strikes out quite a bit. Both he and Baxter are in the same place in their career right now: staring at the AAAA label.

So that’s the lowdown on the lowest man on the totem pole. What do you think? Will one — or more — of those candidates make the Opening Day roster? Did I miss anyone? Speak up 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. Izzy February 19, 2012 at 7:41 pm
    If the Mets need to start the season with 13 pitchers that is a super indication that lord Sandy has failed completely in his attempt to find stars out of mediocrity. 4 man bench in April. I guess the great one is still dreaming of his glory days with roids with the A’s and the DH, especially with the new rule allowing a 26th man when you have DHs so you don’t need the swing man Mr has been has been floating all Winter. . Oh well, a lousy owner helped by a lousy commish picks the GM. what does one expect?
  2. Joe February 19, 2012 at 9:57 pm
    In the NY Daily News, we hear the hope Santana will be at worst “almost” ready at the start of the season. As the boss in Office Space says, yeahhhh. I’m thinking they will need another starter. At least a long guy. Maybe birthday boy (so says a Tweet) Miguel Batista will be available. [the NY Mets tweet feed also gives us a photo of the first team bowling event. so useful!]

    I think your suggestion it will likely be one of those two OF (L/B) to be Mr. 25 makes sense. I think there is a decent chance some longshot or wildcard will take a slot. No, I’m not going to guess there. Who knows there.

  3. George February 19, 2012 at 10:15 pm
    Do you think the Mets could add a free agent?

    Jay Gibbons, a left handed outfielder formerly with the Orioles and Dodgers, is a free agent. He hit .280/.313/.507/.819 in 2010 and .255/.323/.345/.668 in 2011. He could come cheap since the Dodgers gave him $650K last year.

    • Joe Janish February 19, 2012 at 10:39 pm
      I don’t think they would bother signing someone like Gibbons, though I could be wrong. Gibbons had a good ’10 but was awful last year, so the Mets probably figure that Baxter or Loewen is as much of a gamble as Gibbons.
  4. Blog Surface February 19, 2012 at 11:14 pm
    Great post. Regarding Rottino and Satin, both have some pop, but the Mets need power ASAP and don’t think these two players can give it early in the season, plus probably won’t have too many chances to do so.

    One thing is for sure, Look for Lucas Duda to break out for the Mets. New York is going to need all the help they can get.

  5. Jimmy Prinzler February 20, 2012 at 12:32 am

    You forgot Jose Reyes on the list?? Oh wait! He took his talents to South Beach, I forgot.

  6. mic February 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm
    Since Johan is on the 25man above thats THREE open spots since technically he could begin on the 60day DL.

    -Kirk. The only reason he goes to AAA is to prove his health & get more ABs. I think he would wipe the floor with all of his competition including Bay if he had to compete for a spot.

    -Disappointment: Yanks traded away Burnett to Pitt (?). I WANT Bay to succeed and lead these Mets. But with Kirk, Duda et al vying for spots where does Torres and Bay fit? Certainly I see Torres as opening day CF, and then bowing to Kirk and settling as 4th OFer. Duda needs ABs but probably as a corner OFer.

    -Rottino: There seems a chance that this guy will break camp as the #2 catcher. Nickeas then goes back to Buffalo.

    -Other people to watch…Jenry, Den Dekker, Carson…and despite the Sandman…Matt Harvey.

    -Hairston IS the 25th man….supersub.

    • Joe February 24, 2012 at 4:44 pm
      If Johan is not counted, then the bigger question would be who fills in.

      Wariness of using him too much suggests the need for a long man to fill a spot early on even if he’s available.