As is often the case (especially in Florida) when teams travel any distance for a road Spring Training game, the lineup is often a bit short on star power. That isn’t always the case, but it happens. The Mets did meet the minimum of “regular” players that made the trip from Port St. Lucie to Kissimmee to take on the Astros. However, the names that one would expect to be the focal point of the 2016 charge for the World Championship were not on hand.
Dom Smith did make the trip. I had seen his impressive line drive bat in this past Arizona Fall League. He’s a non-roster player and doesn’t have an invite to Spring Training according to the media handbook. But there he was, in the lineup playing first base. In his first at-bat he smoked a line drive that he thought had cleared the 330 foot wall in right field. Uh, not so fast. Not so fast is correct. Smith jogged to first base. He should have been standing on second with a long double. It shows that a player must run hard until he’s in the dugout. Smith went to school on that one. I hope. He also had another hit and showed that his bat will eventually play against quality pitching.
And, he’s a pretty good first baseman with good hands and quick, agile feet. So keep Dom Smith on your radar.
Eric Campbell had a couple hits and looked the part of a quality spare part player. He has some pop in his 6-3 frame and along with a player like Matt Reynolds, he could fill-in nicely if either is needed. I still remain concerned that David Wright will have difficulty playing a full season with his back issues. If he does play, he will be hard pressed to hit like the David Wright in his earlier years. That’s why the Mets have to find some depth. They have Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores on the roster as well behind veteran players like Wright, Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker.
Right-hander Robert Gsellman started for New York. He isn’t anywhere near the class of Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, or Steven Matz. But if an emergency starter is needed, he might help. He’ll bring a big 6-4, 200 pound body with the required long hair of a prototypical Mets starter. For now, he’s an emergency pitcher.
Quite simply put, the Astros have an amazingly deep roster. When a team can load up on top draft choices based upon losses from previous ineptitude, the drafts better be superb. Well, through the draft and from trading veteran players not in their plans, general manager Jeff Luhnow and his staff have done a fine job stockpiling very talented players at virtually every position. I never thought I’d say that. But I did. And I believe it. I like the results metric analysis have provided in terms of building the Astros organization.
I saw Collin McHugh start the game. He very quietly and without much fanfare won 19 games last year. In all the fantasy talk, I rarely hear his name mentioned. His wins were not a fluke. He threw 203 2/3 innings, walking 53 and striking out 171. He’s just a good, solid starter with a plan, self confidence and a big arsenal that includes four to five quality pitches. I didn’t see anyone other than Dom Smith make solid contact off McHugh in his two innings of work.
I’ve always backed off George Springer due to the high strikeout rate. But man, when he makes contact it’s for real. Those chronologically advanced will remember Dick Allen. Dick Allen dented the baseball when it hit his bat (not really, I’m just trying to make a point here.) Springer hits the ball very, very hard. And very, very far. And he runs very, very fast. Although I did see him get picked off first when he went on the pitcher’s first move. It was a mistake. He was a dead duck.
The sleeper Astro for me is Andrew Aplin. Who? The left-handed hitter may not get much of a chance in an organization dripping with potential stars, but Aplin can play the game. He’s an outstanding defender, has excellent speed and makes solid contact at the plate. For me, he’s the ideal 4th or 5th outfielder. A left-handed hitter, he isn’t big and strong and won’t hit home runs, but he plays hard, plays the game properly and can inflict line drive damage. I also like Preston Tucker, another left-handed hitting outfielder with a similar frame as Aplin.
A new player to me is Tyler White. I have never seen the big corner infielder before. He has a powerful swing and is the type of hitter that can help an organization if they need a jolt of RBI long balls. Of course, I want to see more. But my first impression was very positive. White is primarily a DH type hitter-and there is always a place for a guy that can hit.
Tomorrow I will discuss more of the star power of the Astros. They have two of the finest all-around players in the game in Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. I just hope every baseball fan gets to see those two guys play in person. They really are special. Especially Correa.
Tomorrow-more Astros and my look at the Toronto Blue Jays, who barely made the requirement to send regular players. But I’ll write about Marcus Stroman, Pat Venditte, and up and coming players like Anthony Alford and Rowdy Tellez. Watch this space.
Thanks for reading my Spring Training blogs. And thanks for following me @BerniePleskoff.
That’s it. I’m done. For now.