The Mets begin their spring training schedule on Saturday with a tilt against the Atlanta Braves. The knock on spring training baseball is usually that it is both a poor indicator of season performance, while presenting none of the drama of a regular season baseball game.
The former is true, but the little battles within spring training can produce the kind of drama most regular season games can't possibly match. How often does a player's career possibly ride on a single at-bat? During spring training, that happens quite often.
Here are some of the battles to watch and enjoy. Remember: battles aside, this is actual baseball being played by professionals. We have no right to complain. Treasure it, the way you would your family, if your family were nearly as entertaining as baseball.
Second Base: Luis Castillo impressed some people by fielding his position better than Daniel Murphy or Brad Emaus, which is kind of like me getting excited when my cat doesn't wake me up at 4 AM. Of course Castillo, the lifelong 2B, should field his position better than Murphy, a converted 3B/1B/LF, or Emaus, who is more of a second baseman in a third baseman's body. Either of those latter two are also good bets to put up more than a .600 OPS, meaning that if they are ambulatory, they should edge out Castillo.
Fourth and fifth starters: This should be Chris Young and Chris Capuano, if the two are healthy. If not, it opens up a world of possibilities, and those possibilities are things like Boof Bonser and Dillon Gee. If you see Oliver Perez starting spring games, DO NOT PANIC. The upside of a strong Perez spring is some team will take him off the Mets' hands, pay some small fraction of the $12 million he is owed, and give the Mets a D+ prospect.
Center Field: Is Carlos Beltran running like a man without a degenerative knee condition? If yes, he may have harvested someone else's knee. If no, Angel Pagan will be the center fielder. And that's not a bad thing.
Bullpen: Two primary focuses here: Pedro Beato, who was a Rule V pick like Emaus, reportedly has the best fastball in camp. Seeing him on the roster means the Mets have a GM who knows how to gain, rather than just lose players, via Rule V. Better yet, notice how Jenrry Mejia isn't in the mix, so he can learn to actually pitch in the minor leagues. Roster management is like jazz- sometimes, it is about the notes you don't play.