By Brad Kallet
» More Columns
Aside from perhaps adding a much-needed middle reliever, the Mets’ roster appears to be all but complete.
After months and months of speculation, Jay Bruce is not expected to be traded before the regular season opener, and should break camp as the club’s starting right fielder.
With all of the pieces in place — again, barring some unforeseen activity — we have a pretty strong indication of what this team will look like come April 3, when the Mets host the Braves. Here is my projected 25-man roster, with the batting order and rotation order subject to change if further transactions are made over the next two months.
— CF Curtis Granderson
— SS Asdrubal Cabrera
— LF Yoenis Cespedes
— RF Jay Bruce
— 2B Neil Walker
— 3B David Wright
— 1B Lucas Duda
— C Travis d’Arnaud
I like Granderson and Cabrera, a switch-hitter, at the top of the lineup. Reyes will hit leadoff when spelling Walker, Cabrera or Wright. Despite Bruce’s streakiness, his 30-homer potential will provide insurance for Cespedes, and Cespedes-Bruce-Walker is a solid righty-lefty-righty middle of the order. (Walker, too, is a switch-hitter.)
Say what you will about where I put Bruce, but he remains a dangerous slugger with a track record, and the only way he’s going to get going is if he’s smack dab in the middle of the lineup and has RBI opportunities. Pitchers won’t want anything to do with Cespedes, so Bruce should see some great pitches to hit.
It’s also time for Wright to move down to sixth in the order. He strikes out way too much to hit second — not to mention that Cabrera, Reyes and Granderson are all more dependable hitters at this point — and the hope is that, with less pressure in the bottom half, he’ll relax and settle into a groove.
— No. 1 Noah Syndergaard
— No. 2 Jacob deGrom
— No. 3 Matt Harvey
— No. 4 Steven Matz
— No. 5 Robert Gsellman
Syndergaard has established himself as the undisputed ace of this staff, and after the brutal year that Harvey had in 2016, deGrom slots in ahead of him. But the order is rather immaterial. If these top four starters stay healthy and pitch to their abilities, manager Terry Collins will have a quartet of aces at his disposal.
The loss of Bartolo Colon isn’t a huge one, as there is depth in this staff. I’m giving the fifth-starter nod to Gsellman over Seth Lugo, although a case could certainly be made for the latter. If Gsellman struggles or one of the starters hits the disabled list, Lugo will have a spot in the rotation.
Also, don’t forget about Zack Wheeler, who is expected to return in 2017 after missing the last two seasons. If he returns to form, and builds up stamina — two big ifs — he could supersede both Gsellman and Lugo at the back end of the rotation.
— OF Michael Conforto
— OF Juan Lagares
— INF Wilmer Flores
— INF Jose Reyes
— C Rene Rivera
So many quality players, so few spots. Conforto, the club’s wild card and X-factor, might start the season with Triple-A Las Vegas. There’s also a possibility that he begins the season on the bench, gets red hot and takes over for a slumping Bruce.
Reyes, the first man off the bench, will get a lot of starts, spelling Wright, Cabrera and Walker.
Lagares is a useful pinch runner and late-inning defensive replacement, and Rivera, who’s basically become Syndergaard’s personal catcher, is a far superior defensive backstop than d’Arnaud. If Collins opts to take a third catcher, Kevin Plawecki will get the call.
Infielder T.J. Rivera and outfielder Brandon Nimmo, both of whom impressed during their rookie seasons and can play multiple positions, will be waiting in the wings. They’ll be in Queens at some point.
— RHP Jeurys Familia
— RHP Addison Reed
— RHP Hansel Robles
— LHP Josh Edgin
— RHP Seth Lugo
— LHP Josh Smoker
— RHP Erik Goeddel
Like with pretty much all bullpens, this unit is a mishmash of young fireballers and veteran journeymen. Familia has yet to be suspended, but I still expect MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to levy a punishment at some point before April. If that ends up being the case, Reed will probably be called on to close.
I expect the Mets to add one, if not two, relievers before the offseason concludes. Jerry Blevins, Craig Breslow, Sergio Romo or Joe Smith could very well be in this ‘pen sometime this week. Wheeler, too, could start his season in the bullpen as he builds up his arm strength. Lefty Sean Gilmartin will battle for one of the last bullpen spots during spring training.
Brad Kallet is the managing editor of TENNIS.com and a frequent contributor to WFAN.com. Follow him on Twitter @brad_kallet