New York Mets 2024 MLB Spring Training Storylines

The Mets enter year of transition in 2024, with a new manager and front office, there are plenty of storylines to follow in spring training.

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 18, 2023: Mark Vientos #27 of the New York Mets hits a double during the second inning of a spring training game against the Houston Astros at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on March 18, 2023 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Spring training is well underway, and with it comes a sense of optimism that supersedes the disappointment from the previous year. Unless, of course, you’re the Texas Rangers coming off of a World Series championship.

For the Mets, 2024 has a chance to be a fresh of breath air, even if the expectations aren’t high. It’s the beginning of the David Stearns and Carlos Mendoza era, with several new front office members, coaches and players joining the team this past offseason.

There are several intriguing topics of discussion surrounding the Mets as the season nears closer, and I’ll be touching on a few of them here.

How Will the New Coaching Staff Work Out?

Carlos Mendoza was hired away from the Yankees, where he served as bench coach for four years, to manage the Mets. He spearheads a new coaching staff that includes a new bench coach (John Gibbons), two new base coaches (Antoan Richardson & Mike Sarbaugh) and a new bullpen coach (José Rosado).

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One positive that stands out right away is the experience that Mendoza is surrounding himself with. John Gibbons, on top of being a former Mets player and coach, was a big league manager with the Blue Jays for 11 years across two stints. He will be an invaluable resource serving as Mendoza’s top lieutenant.

Antoan Richardson served as the Giants’ first base coach and also coached the outfield and baserunning during the past four years. Mike Sarbaugh was in Cleveland as the third base coach and infield coach for the past decade. Additionally, José Rosado has experience coaching in the minor leagues, the KBO, and as a pitching coach for Team Puerto Rico during the last three World Baseball Classics.

The Mets also brought back Jeremy Hefner as the pitching coach, as well as hitting coaches Eric Chávez and Jeremy Barnes. Hefner has now survived several regimes with the Mets and is viewed around the league as an asset. Mendoza was never going to let him go.

Maybe the most interesting staff move of all, though, was the decision to bring back Eric Chávez as the hitting coach. Chávez served as the hitting coach in 2022 when Jeff McNeil won a batting title and the Mets won 101 games. He was promoted to bench coach for the 2023 season and the offense took a major step back.

If the Mets’ offense can revert to 2022 form, Eric Chávez will be a big reason why. Barnes who served as the hitting coach last year has remained on the staff in the same role. So while Barnes served as the assistant hitting coach for Chávez in 2022, they now share a title.

Mendoza will have the tough task of following Buck Showalter, who was beloved by his players, as manager of the Mets. Two things are abundantly clear, though: he can handle the pressure of New York, and he has established a sound support system to lean on as he begins his managerial career.

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Who Will Step Up in the Rotation Following Senga’s Injury?

Kodai Senga is expected to be sidelined for at least the first month of the season due to a right shoulder issue. The rotation was already in a precarious spot with a healthy Senga, and the outlook for the first month of the season without him is not good.

José Quintana, Luis Severino, Sean Manaea and Adrian Houser figure to be locks to start out in the rotation. That pins the final rotation spot between Tylor Megill, José Butto and Joey Lucchesi.

Megill figures to get the first crack at the rotation, with Butto maybe getting a chance to start the year on the major league squad as a long reliever. Megill finished 2023 strong, posting a 3.00 ERA over his final eight starts. He has also had a strong spring up to this point.

Quintana, Manaea and Houser are pretty predictable in terms of what they will offer.

None of them are No. 1 options, and it wouldn’t be crazy to suggest they’re not No. 2 or No. 3 options either. At least, not solid ones. The best-case scenario for all of them would be to stay healthy, eat up innings, and post a sub-4.00 ERA.

Luis Severino is the x-factor. He’s the guy that can really step up and fill Senga’s shoes for the first month. His 2023 season with the Yankees was abysmal as he recorded a 6.65 ERA across 89 1/3 innings. At his best, though, Severino has proven to be a stud.

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Between the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Severino was a two-time All-Star and recorded a 3.18 ERA in 63 starts. The Mets shouldn’t be expecting to get that version of Severino this year, but they should definitely expect a major improvement that makes the outlook of the rotation much better. If Severino can step up while Senga is down, it would make a tough situation much more bearable.

How Will the Mets’ New-Look Bullpen Perform?

The Mets entered the offseason with essentially an entire bullpen to replace after most arms in the bullpen disappointed in 2023. David Stearns and co. went out and acquired some intriguing arms.

The Mets brought in relievers such as Jake Diekmann, Shintaro Fujinami and Jorge López, as well as some lesser names such as Yohan Ramírez and Michael Tonkin to compete for spots in the bullpen.

Diekmann should be a solid second lefty option, but he has definitely been inconsistent in recent years. Fujinami and López are fascinating: both are flamethrowers with nasty stuff, but they have struggled to put it all together.

Fujinami can definitely attribute some of his 2023 struggles to adjusting to the major leagues and the United States, whereas Lopez is not even two years removed from being an All-Star closer. If those two, or even one of them, figures it out in 2024, the Mets could have one or two more legitimate arms to make their bullpen real scary.

Joining the new additions to the bullpen are returnees Phil Bickford, Drew Smith, Adam Ottavino, Brooks Raley, and Edwin Díaz. Bickford might be expendable but the other four have sure places in the back end of the bullpen.

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How will Edwin Díaz Rebound from Missing an Entire Season?

Speaking of Edwin Díaz, how will the best closer in baseball look after being off the mound for an entire season? It’s not easy to return from an injury such as a torn ACL, but by all indications Díaz will be fully healthy on Opening Day.

Díaz boasts a 2.27 ERA over his last three seasons with the Mets, including a 1.31 ERA in 2022. It’ll be difficult to match that, and the 17.1 K/9 rate he put up in 2022, but he should still be one of the league’s best closers.

If Díaz can get his velocity up to 100-plus on his fastball and 90-plus on his slider, his stuff will be unhittable. If he begins the year with lowered velocity, he might be more vulnerable to allowing runs. Either way, the trumpets are returning to Citi Field and that alone gives the Mets’ bullpen instant credibility.

Can the Young Kids Show They Belong?

This question doesn’t necessarily apply to Francisco Álvarez. The 22-year-old had one of the better rookie seasons for a catcher in the history of Major League Baseball. The question does apply, however, to Brett Baty and Mark Vientos.

Baty has so much potential. The former first-round pick just hasn’t been able to put it together at all. The story of his career so far has been to dominate the minors and disappear when he gets called up to the majors. His career OPS in the major leagues is .597.

The 2024 season could be make-or-break year for him if he’s to be viewed as the Mets third baseman of the future. Baty will either break through and establish himself, or he’ll struggle mightily once again and make the Mets think twice about their plans at third base next offseason.

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Mark Vientos is in a similar position. He possesses impressive power, but that hasn’t yet translated to the major league level. Not to mention, he’s a defensive liability. Luckily for him, he’ll likely get everyday playing time at the DH position to start the year. He can either make the most of his opportunity and prove he belongs, or the Mets may have to move on.

The 2024 season being a year of transition is good for the Mets in this way. They can figure out what they have with some of their young players and come to a better understanding of what they can offer. Unfortunately, a deeper study of Ronny Mauricio will have to wait until at least 2025 as he is set to miss the entire season with a torn ACL.

Which Prospects Can Have an Impact in 2024?

The Mets have a few prospects in their minor league system who could reach the majors in 2024. Let’s see which ones have the best chance.

Luisangel Acuña: Maybe the most likely to reach the majors at some point in 2024 is Luisangel Acuña. He struggled in Double-A Binghamton last year following his trade from the Rangers, but he provides defensive versatility that not many others can. He is also already on the 40-man roster, so that would make a call-up easier.

Drew Gilbert: The former Astros first-round pick was fantastic with Double-A Binghamton in 2023. The Mets have a bridge center fielder in Harrison Bader and a question mark in Starling Marte taking up two outfield spots in 2024. If either one gets hurt or doesn’t perform up to their standards, Gilbert could be one of the first called upon to replace them.

Nate Lavender: One of the more underrated Mets prospects, Lavender is a lefty reliever who has made the most of his chances. The 24-year-old has risen through the minor leagues quickly with a stellar ERA at each stop, and he has impressed in each of his spring training outings. The Mets have a lot of relief pitcher depth so Lavender won’t start the year in the majors, but it would be a surprise if he’s not there soon enough.

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Mike Vasil: The Mets have a ton of upper level starting pitching prospects: Christian Scott. Blade Tidwell. Dominic Hamel. Tyler Stuart. Each of these guys could find themselves in the major leagues in 2024, though it’s unlikely given the Mets’ depth ahead of them. I’ll focus on Mike Vasil, though, as he is the only one of these prospects to have reached the Triple-A level last year. Whether he makes the majors or not in 2024 is unknown, but if the Mets endure several injuries or are out of the playoff picture early? Vasil should get a decent look.

Can Jeff McNeil and Starling Marte Bounce Back?

Two of the main contributors during the Mets’ fantastic 2022 season were Jeff McNeil and Starling Marte. Two of the severely underwhelming players during the Mets’ disappointing 2023 season were, again, Jeff McNeil and Starling Marte.

There’s a common thread here. When McNeil and Marte play at their best, they add two All-Stars to the Mets’ lineup. When they play at their worst, they create two glaring holes in a lineup that already has areas of weakness.

In 2022, the two combined for 8.6 fWAR. In 2023, they combined for 2.3 fWAR. That’s more than six fewer wins between just McNeil and Marte alone. So, can they bounce back?

There’s no reason McNeil shouldn’t. For whatever reason, he has alternated great and below average years each of the past four years. With Eric Chávez returning as hitting coach, hopefully McNeil can return to being the elite hitter he’s been for most of his career.

As for Marte, it’s not so hopeful. Age and injury concerns are valid reasons to believe Marte can’t bounce back. However, it would be nearly impossible for him to be as bad as he was last year. If he can be even 75-percent or 80-percent of the player he was in 2022, that alone adds a few more wins for the Mets.

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The Mets have a lot of new pieces in place in 2024. Expectations are lower and the pressure is off. That doesn’t mean, however, that the Mets can’t exceed expectations and surprise people in 2024.

They would need everything to go right, but crazier things have happened.

Still, the most likely outcome for the 2024 Mets is that they’re a fringe playoff team on the outside looking in, or maybe they’re not in the playoff race at all. Either way, 2024 is a year in which David Stearns, Carlos Mendoza and the Mets will figure out which pieces deserve to be in Queens long-term, and which pieces don’t fit into the picture.