PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Among the Mets’ players, the talk has popped up in the batting cage and in the clubhouse. It centers on what can be categorized as a good problem. With a lineup so deep — one that is loaded with power potential — who’s hitting where?
“We have talked about that, and we’ve said, ‘Wow, somebody’s going to be hitting sixth or seventh in this lineup that typically hasn’t hit sixth or seventh, that probably shouldn’t be,’ ” second baseman Neil Walker said.
Wednesday, in a 15-9 loss to the Marlins, manager Terry Collins offered what he said could be a preview of a potent Opening Day lineup. It produced all nine runs before the starters were pulled after seven innings.
Jose Reyes led off with Asdrubal Cabrera slotted behind him, an alignment that worked well last season. Yoenis Cespedes hit third, a spot he’s carved out for himself during his tenure with the Mets. Curtis Granderson hit a pair of homers and knocked in five runs as the cleanup man.
Walker ripped a two-run double in the five-hole ahead of Jay Bruce, who bashed a solo shot. That left Lucas Duda — a 30-homer threat when healthy — batting seventh followed by catcher Travis d’Arnaud.
If the Mets stay even relatively healthy, the seventh spot could be populated by players who have hit in the heart of the order for a significant chunk of their career. “I think that’s a strength of ours,” Walker said. “I think that’s a sign of guys understanding that somebody hitting seventh like that is a sign of a championship team, of a winning team.”
The Mets hit a franchise-record 218 homers last season, even after injuries knocked out mainstays such as Duda. They have the power profile this season to be just as prolific.
Seven times in franchise history have two players hit at last 30 homers for the Mets in the same season. There have never been three in one year. But this season’s projected Opening Day lineup includes four players with a 30-homer pedigree. This year, Duda returns along with Bruce, who has hit 30 homers four times in his career. That includes the 33 home runs he hit for the Reds and Mets last season.
Cespedes is coming off consecutive seasons of 30 homers or more and Granderson reached that figure last season for the first time since 2012. Meanwhile, Walker and Cabrera each hit 23, a healthy figure for a pair of middle infielders.
“You’re looking at guys hitting six, seven and eight who have a chance of hitting the ball out of the ballpark,” Collins said. “That makes it pretty good.”
Health remains key. It’s a particularly important issue for a Mets lineup that is comprised of players who are on the wrong side of 30. But should they stay on the field, that much pop could open up plenty of possibilities for the Mets when it comes to constructing the batting order.
“There’s some things you can do according to how they’re swinging the bat,” hitting coach Kevin Long said.
Collins intends to use a bench that includes Wilmer Flores, who proved lethal against lefthanded pitching. But as far as a set batting order, the manager’s preference remains consistency.
“A lot of those guys like to walk in the door of that clubhouse and not even have to look at the lineup card,” Collins said. “And they know where they’re going to hit. We’re going to try to do that.” However Collins stacks his pieces, depth will push accomplished hitters down the lineup. As Opening Day looms less than two weeks away, that seems to be just fine.
Said Bruce: “The fact that this is a veteran group, I think it’s going to help.”