Tim Tebow and a bunch of top Mets prospects headlined a list of 28 non-roster players invited to major-league spring training, unveiled by the team Saturday.
Tebow’s presence isn’t a surprise. This will be the fourth big-league camp for the former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback, who is entering his fifth season of professional baseball. He has not played since July 2019 due to injury and the pandemic-induced cancellation of the 2020 minor-league season.
The notable prospects are catcher Francisco Alvarez, shortstop Ronny Mauricio, righthander Matthew Allan, third baseman Brett Baty, centerfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong and third baseman Mark Vientos.
Among the Mets’ top tier of minor-leaguers, only righthander J.T. Ginn — a draft pick last year — is not on the spring training roster. He had Tommy John surgery in March, before joining the Mets, and has been rehabilitating mostly at Cressey Sports Performance in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
None of the above prospects are expected to reach the majors in 2021.
But teams are bringing more players like that to camp this year because minor-league spring training won’t begin until major-league spring training ends. Having them arrive in February allows them to benefit from an extra six weeks of formal practice and instruction — particularly important after they didn’t play in 2020 — as well as exposure to the big-league environment, players and coaching staff.
A full 40-man roster plus 28 non-roster invitees gives the Mets 68 players in spring training. The MLB-mandated maximum is 75, so the Mets have wiggle room to add more players before and during camp.
The lowdown on Lee
How did the Mets end up acquiring outfield prospect Khalil Lee from the Royals in a three-team trade with the Red Sox on Wednesday?
The Mets never actually talked to the Royals, acting general manager Zack Scott said. His former Boston co-workers, knowing he long had liked Lee, a 2016 draft pick, called to ask if the Mets wanted to get involved in a trade that revolved around Andrew Benintendi joining Kansas City.
"Just they reached out and asked if there would be interest here, and we were excited and I know our pro scouts here really like the player," Scott said. "He's got a lot to like, a lot of tools and athleticism. We like a lot of things about his performance as well.
"I believe in being pretty active in talking to other teams because you never know what ideas might come up in those conversations, especially the informal ones. And that was one of those cases."
The Mets still expect Noah Syndergaard to return from Tommy John surgery in June. "I’m sure at some point the player will want to try to speed things up, because I know he’s competitive and eager to get back on the field," Scott said. "But that’s still the plan." . . . Scott on the past two months or so, during which he interviewed for the GM job, lost to Jared Porter, came on as an assistant GM and in effect replaced Porter when the latter was fired: "It’s certainly had its ups and downs."
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