Inside look at biggest storylines

Here’s an inside look at some issues facing the Mets as the 2023 season approaches: 

Best position battle: Hmmmm. There are jobs possibly to be won at the back end of the bullpen, but there isn’t much ambiguity about who will be where on Opening Day if everybody remains healthy. Team brass will want to get a long look at David Peterson and Tylor Megill as rotation depth and perhaps one will emerge ahead of the other as next in the pecking order. 

Most intriguing minor leaguer: The Mets haven’t had a big-time offensive force at catcher since the Mike Piazza era. Francisco Alvarez has the potential to bring raw power and productivity to the position, but the 21-year-old Venezuelan must first show he’s ready to handle a major league pitching staff. Omar Narvaez and Tomas Nido both excel behind the plate and will serve as ideal mentors for Alvarez, the organization’s top prospect, this spring. 

Story to watch develop: Which hitters and pitchers will be most affected by the new pitch clock that will be implemented? Adam Ottavino, who is among the Mets’ most deliberate pitchers, worked out this offseason using a pitch clock. The maximum effort pitchers won’t have a cushion for recovery and that could lead to more off-speed pitches thrown. Spring training will be a giant laboratory. 

Francisco Alvarez
Francisco Alvarez could provide a major boost to the Mets’ lineup.
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Manager’s toughest challenges: Kodai Senga will be adjusting to American baseball after a standout career pitching in Japan’s Pacific League. Buck Showalter and his staff will have to get a feel for the right-hander, speaking through an interpreter, and try to find a comfort level for him. Among the adjustments: Senga was used to pitching on a set day every week in Japan and throwing 135-140 pitches. Senga is the Mets’ first Japanese starting pitcher since Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2014. 

Most intriguing newcomer: Justin Verlander is coming off his best season, in a year he turned 39 and coasted to his third Cy Young award. Only weeks after celebrating a World Series title with the Astros, he joined the Mets on a two-year contract worth $86.7 million that includes a vesting option for 2025. It left the Mets with MLB’s most accomplished 1-2 combo atop a rotation, as Verlander joined Max Scherzer and his three Cy Young awards. 

Most notable absence: Jacob deGrom received an offer he couldn’t refuse from the Rangers — possibly as much as double the Mets’ initial proposal — and took his two Cy Young awards to Texas. The right-hander remains an elite pitcher when healthy, but the Mets craved more dependability in the rotation and weren’t ready to commit long term to the 34-year-old deGrom, who missed half of 2021 and two-thirds of last season while rehabbing from injuries. DeGrom was the last remaining piece of the rotation that got the Mets to the 2015 World Series: Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz have long departed. Another talent of that era, Zack Wheeler, has emerged as an ace with the Phillies. 

Starling Marte
Starling Marte’s injury hurt the Mets last season.
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Jose Quintana
Jose Quintana will participate in the World Baseball Classic.
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Don’t be surprised if it becomes an issue: The Mets are sending their entire starting infield to the World Baseball Classic, along with Ottavino, Jose Quintana, Edwin Diaz, Brooks Raley and Narvaez, among others. Will all be handled with care by their respective teams and return healthy? It’s one thing to lose a player to injury in the Grapefruit League, but there is almost sure to be finger pointing if the WBC produces casualties that lead to games missed in the regular season. 

Biggest comeback: Starling Marte missed most of the final month of the regular season with a fractured right middle finger after he was hit by a pitch, and returned for the NL wild-card series at less than full strength. After the season, the 34-year-old outfielder underwent core muscle surgery and potentially is still in rehab mode as spring training begins. Marte’s absence from the lineup was notable during the stretch run last season. The Mets need him in the No. 2 hole as the ideal blend of power and speed that can energize the lineup.

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