It’s possible that the people who most look forward to spring training games are minor leaguers. Players that spent the previous season in the lower ranks of the organization are put in a prime opportunity to showcase their skills in front of team brass and the major league coaching staff, including rookies on the 40-man roster, non-roster invitees, and call-ups from minor league camp.
The Mets had a great chance to take an up-close look at a slew of players over the weekend, as the team opened its Grapefruit League schedule.
On the pitching side, the team had to be impressed by what they got from Corey Oswalt, the 2017 Eastern League pitcher of the year, who worked two spotless innings on Friday. He worked in the low 90s, used his secondary pitches well, and pounded the zone, striking out four of the seven batters he faced.
Two other notables from the weekend slate were P.J. Conlon and Gerson Bautista, who is likely the most promising arm acquired in the Addison Reed deal last year. Bautista did his thing, slinging 97 mph fastballs that ended up outside of the strike zone more often than they landed inside it, while Conlon, also true to form, sat 86-87 mph.
Conlon, who will pitch out of the bullpen this season, did look strong despite the lack of velocity, mixing in a solid changeup to record three strikeouts in 1.2 innings of work. He works fast and has quiet, repeatable mechanics, which leads me to believe that he could help the major league team at some point this season.
The Mets gave a bunch of at-bats to their young hitters across the first three games, and nobody made a louder impact than Luis Guillorme, who blasted a home run to straightaway center field on Saturday.
Power is the last piece of Guillorme’s puzzle, and if he can improve on a career .043 ISO, the Mets could be looking at a future starting middle infielder.
Elsewhere, Peter Alonso (who looks to be in much better shape than last year), David Thompson (who made some very nice plays at third base), and Kevin Kaczmarski put some very strong swings on the ball.
All three could be integral members of the Las Vegas 51s in 2018.
Zach Borenstein, a seven-year minor league veteran in camp on a non-roster invite, ripped an impressive two-run double to the opposite field on Friday, while former Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton homered on Sunday, reasonably raising the question of whether he could potentially supplant the optionless Kevin Plawecki as the major league backup catcher.
Other minor league call-ups who earned a taste of big league action include Arnaldo Berrios, Patrick Biondi, Luis Carpio, Drew Gagnon, Jay Jabs (barely missed a home run on Sunday), L.J. Mazzilli, Tyler Moore, and Ian Strom.