The New York Mets are ready to put Spring Training behind them and kick off the 2012 regular season on Thursday against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field.
Before the team packs up their gear and heads north, it's important to take a look at who stood out in the exhibition season and who spent the time on vacation. It's often easy to push aside Spring Training stats, but the Mets have so many problems and cannot afford a slow start out of the gate.
Here are a few players that stood out (for better or worse) along with their Spring Training stats.
Lucas Duda (.296 AVG, 1.001 OPS, 4 HR, 9 RBI): There is plenty of talk about David Wright and Jason Bay needing bounce back years (and they do), but "The Dude" is just as important to the Mets having any sort of offensive success. He has ripped the cover off the ball in the Spring, including an opposite field jack off Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg.
Josh Thole (.302 AVG, 7 RBI, 6 walks, 5 strikeouts, .388 OBP): No one is expecting Thole to ever tear up the league with his bat, but until (unless) his defense becomes a plus skill, he needs to hold his own. Most promising for the catcher is the patience at the plate, something he will need to continue showing when there aren't a bunch of minor leaguers on the mound.
Bobby Parnell (0.00 ERA, 12 innings, 10 strikeouts, .167 average against): We've been fooled by Parnell before, so it's understandable many Mets fans are cautious about his impressive Spring. However, this is the first time he's throwing a knuckle/curve that is helping him get his fastball by hitters.
Ramon Ramirez (5.25 ERA, 12 innings, 16 hits, 5 walks): Believe it or not, this seems to be par for the course with Ramirez. His numbers were even uglier last year with the San Francisco Giants (7.94 ERA) in Spring Training before turning in a solid regular season (2.62 ERA).
Frank Francisco (5.54 ERA, 13 innings, 18 hits, 4 walks): This is the most work Francisco has received in exhibition games the last three seasons and maybe that's part of what led to his ongoing knee problem. He claims he'll be ready to go on opening day and there's no cause for alarm, but there are few reasons to be confident about the Mets closer.
Jason Bay (.188 AVG, 4 hits, 7 strikeouts): The new dimensions at Citi Field aren't going to matter much for the right fielder if he can't get the ball out of the infield. Bay cannot carry this slow start into the regular season or he might never recover. His job is the first one that could be up for grabs by the end of April.