Wishing Tommy Pham Well and Other Mets Thoughts

If you’re paying too much attention to Mets spring training games, then you understand why we all should hope and release positivity towards Tommy Pham in hopes he can get a hit.

I know we are still in March and haven’t even reached double digits in days, but for a fanbase that still is looking for a way to get Darin Ruf off this roster, Pham may be next. He’s 0-for-13 in five games. Yes, the team has only played eight games; and yes, the results aren’t important since everyone is getting ready for the marathon that is 162 games.

So I won’t get too excited about Pham’s inability to prove he is a professional. Same way I won’t get too excited about Ronny Mauricio hitting .444 with nothing but extra base hits. Here are some additional thoughts while I remind myself we are weeks away from Opening Day.

Rule Changes Worked Across the Board

By now, you have heard about the new rules for the 2023 MLB season, or had someone else explain them to you. Or overexplain them to you if you were unfortunate enough to pay attention before charts and graphs could be replaced with live video.

Once players actually got on the field, there were a few controversies. Manny Machado, who was going to be a Met for like three days, earned a strike for stepping out too late and because he’s an All-Star, it made news. For those that stuck around after, the perennial Sliver Slugger at the hot corner followed with a hit in his next two at-bats. That’s also the last time he’s been called for a strike in that same manner.

Hitters adjust to an umpire’s strike zone, the way a catcher is calling pitches from behind them and how the pitcher is throwing on the mound. Any hitter who’s been in the minors at any time over the past five years has some familiarity with the clock and the older ones will eventually adjust. Speaking of which…

Expecting More from a Slimmer Vogelbach

The left-handed joy that is Daniel Vogelbach wasn’t introduced to Met fans until the trade deadline last year. He was a .228 hitter with 12 home runs for the Pittsburgh Pirates and didn’t look like he could field much except for the buffet tray. OK, he just wasn’t what was expected but Vogelbach adjusted well and had a couple of amazing moments that immediately endeared him to Mets fans. Chugging from first base to home against the Braves can do that.

While he only had six home runs in 55 games, his .393 OBP with 33 walks showed a patient eye that only enhanced a lineup that specialized in chasing opposing starter pitchers by the 5th inning. The shift rule with benefit pure hitters like Jeff McNeil, left-handed bats who won’t see three infielders on the right side of the infield. That benefit extends to Vogelbach, who will also be smack dap in the middle of a lineup and likely coming to bat with people on base. His career season highs of 30 HR and 76 RBIs are in jeopardy.

The Kids Are Alright, But Not Ready

Jeopardy! has recrafted their Teen Tournament this year; bringing back former contestants from three and four years ago to compete. It’s been fun watching their video introductions as high schoolers and the older version a moment later; usually after seeing themselves do something silly.

But these contestants weren’t on Jeopardy for nothing. They moved on to top universities and showed their expertise during the game. The same can be said about the top of the Mets’ minor league system on display in the opening days of spring. Baseball America released their Preseason Organizational Talent Rankings and rated the Mets the fifth best. This seemingly goes against what others, like The Athletic, have said; but there’s an easy explanation.

As a whole, the Mets’ farm system is in the middle of the MLB pack and they are few young arms of note. But as far as the talent level that will start the season in Syracuse, the Mets should be near the top. I haven’t seen Tylor Megill or David Peterson yet this spring, but am certain they would be starting pitchers on at least 20 other rosters.

But it’s the logjam of position players that rates the Mets so high. Francisco Alvarez is unquestionably one of the top prospects in MLB. He’s also 21 years old with little beyond a strong throwing arm. He’s in no place to catch veterans like José Quintana or Carlos Carrasco. And yes, I purposedly didn’t mention Justin Verlander or Kodai Senga; each of whom will soon be making their first starts of the spring. It’s a special bond between pitcher and catcher; one Alvarez needs to work on this season. Just like Brett Baty.

The 6-foot-3 lefty-swinging third baseman has been good at the plate. His willingness to drive pitches to the opposite field will play well at Citi Field. But his inability to field ground balls is what will keep him in northwest New York for part of the season. It’s only two errors in seven games, but it’s a small window before the starting infield leaves for the World Baseball Classic.

During the following three weeks, we’ll see a lot of Alvarez, Baty, Mauricio and Mark Vientos; another bat-first prospect who’s 49 home runs over 184 games the past two seasons in the minors have got him knocking on the door. Only problem is his glove doesn’t do enough to distinguish him from anyone. In fact, that’s half the problem because they’re no place to play him.

Both Vientos and Baty played third base, the same place Mauricio played a little while leading Tigres de Licey to the Dominican Winter League and earning an MVP trophy. Vientos played first base against the Nationals on Friday and watched a ground ball go past him on a play where Gary Thorne and Ron Darling mentioned the new position for the 23-year old.

Rest assured; this is a good problem for a team with a win-now attitude. Any of those career minor leaguers can be moved at the trade deadline for whatever necessary talent is available. Who knows who that could be this year. Might the Padres be ready to move on from Juan Soto and be willing to take Mauricio, Vientos and something else for the left-handed slugger who becomes a free agent after 2024?

These are the first steps of a long journey to September; one I’m hoping goes far beyond that and that’s the truth.