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Bryce Harper takes the first pitch he sees all spring and deposits it over the right field wall for a mammoth home run against the Mets.
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Last year, Tim Tebow surprised many by announcing his plans to play baseball. What followed was a series of ups and downs for the former quarterback as he fought to achieve his dream.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Dilson Herrera has inflammation in his right shoulder and will not throw for a couple days, taking the Colombian infielder out of the World Baseball Classic and hurting his chances for making the Cincinnati Reds.

Herrera, who turns 23 next Friday, also experienced shoulder soreness for parts of last season, including during spring training. He said it started bothering him again about a week ago.

The Reds acquired Herrera when they traded Jay Bruce to the New York Mets last summer.

"I'm OK. Sometimes we've got to be strong, get the mind right so we're ready for everything, so I feel normal," Herrera said.

Reds manager Bryan Price said Herrera probably won't throw again until Monday or Tuesday.

"He'll DH tomorrow. He's fine to hit," Price said Friday. "But he's not OK to defend and throw. Until we have that, his shoulder feeling good coming off the end of last year where he had the soreness, it doesn't make any sense at all to be playing defense in the WBC or for us."

Asked whether Herrera is going to get any tests on his shoulder, Price said: "He's been examined extensively and I don't think there's any structural damage. There's just inflammation."

Herrera spent last season in the minors, hitting .274 with 15 homers and 64 RBI in 110 games with Triple-A Las Vegas and Louisville. He is a .215 hitter in 49 career major league games, all with the Mets.


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After getting some tips from Noah Syndergaard, Randy Scott attempts to reach 60 MPH on the radar gun.
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Noah Syndergaard speaks with Randy Scott about the upcoming season and getting past the Mets' playoff loss to the Giants.
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While fishing, Mets pitcher Steven Matz catches a great white shark.

Neil Walker, Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera, New York MetsBill Streicher-USA TODAY SportsCurtis Granderson, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are all candidates to see at-bats in a leadoff role for the Mets.

The New York Mets' roster is stacked with plenty of hitters, but who's the best option in the leadoff spot? Veteran infielder Jose Reyes will most likely fill the role for New York when he's in the lineup, but he's no longer the everyday player he once was.

Manager Terry Collins has plenty of time to evaluate his options during spring training. Collins tells Mike Puma of the New York Post that Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are his three primary considerations for the leadoff role for when Reyes doesn't start.

Granderson seems like the most logical choice. The 35 year old has over 3,400 leadoff at-bats with a .260 BA, .340 OBP and 141 HR for his career. However, the veteran outfielder went through a slump at the No. 1 spot in the first half of last season before being moved to the middle of the lineup.

Walker and Cabrera both have minimal experience (eight AB and 315 AB, respectively) at the leadoff spot compared to Granderson, but both are open to the idea, according to Puma.

--Paul Saldana

Neil WalkerJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesNeil Walker and the Mets have yet to come to an agreement on a contract extension.

As the New York Mets come together for the first week of spring training, an important question continues to loom over the team's middle infield -- will second baseman Neil Walker agree to a contract extension?

According to Ed Coleman of CBS New York, "Walker [is] getting close to agreement on an extension [two years, plus an option]."

However, Newsday's Marc Carig reports that the negotiations have stalled, and the sides "are no closer to hammering out a contract extension."

"Sources said contract talks have hit a snag," Carig added. "While it’s still possible negotiations could heat up once more, a new deal as of Monday morning is not imminent."

Walker, who accepted a one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer from the Mets in November, told MLB.com's Anthony DiComo last week that "there's potential for a long-term deal" to stay with the team.

Last season, the 31-year-old batted .282 with 23 home runs and 55 RBIs in 113 games.

-- Isaac Chipps

Almost every team has a problem position -- you know, that spot where one season a hot prospect is starting (and failing), the next season it’s a washed-up vet, then some random Triple-A player -- and the team can never get out of that cycle.

Maybe your favorite club has one, like left field for the Seattle Mariners. This one goes way back. Ken Griffey Jr. patrolled center field 11 seasons for the Mariners and played next to nine different regular left fielders, including Pee Wee Briley, Jeffrey Leonard, Kevin Mitchell, Eric Anthony, Jose Cruz Jr. and Brian “The Fast One” Hunter. The Mariners have had problems filling the position in recent years as well. Norichika Aoki was supposed to be the answer last season, wasn’t the answer, and now they’re hoping Jarrod Dyson is the answer, although even that is a short-term fix as he’s an impending free agent.

So let’s see if Seattle’s left fielders have been as awful as Mariners fans believe, and who has had it even worse over the past decade.


The Weakest Positions

Let the lineup of dishonor begin! Our top 10 weakest positions since 2007 based on wins above average (or, in this, wins below average) from the bad to the very, very bad:

10. Kansas City Royals SS: minus-13.0 WAA

Starters: Tony Pena (2 seasons), Yuniesky Betancourt (2), Alcides Escobar (6)

This one stands out because it has been relatively stable. Pena and Betancourt were awful, but the surprise is the low rating with Escobar. But his career OBP with the Royals is .297, with just 26 home runs over six seasons, so he’s pretty much an offensive zero, and the defensive metrics rate him as only average.

9. Chicago White Sox LF: minus-13.2 WAA

Starters: Rob Mackowiak, Carlos Quentin (2), Juan Pierre (2), Dayan Viciedo (2), Alejandro De Aza, Melky Cabrera (2)

The rating is this bad even though Quentin finished fifth in the MVP voting with a 5.3-WAR season in 2008. It has been a string of mostly bad defenders and low-OBP hitters with only moderate power. Cabrera is still around for 2017, although general manager Rick Hahn would happily dump him on somebody for a warm carton of milk and some of that special sand you put on the infield dirt when it rains.

Jason Miller/Getty ImagesMelky Cabrera's defensive woes have helped keep left field as a weak point in the White Sox outfield.

8. Tampa Bay Rays C: minus-13.6 WAA

Starters: Dioner Navarro (3), John Jaso, Kelly Shoppach, Jose Molina (3), Rene Rivera, Curt Casali

If you want to argue this rating is unfair because it’s not properly measuring catcher defense such as pitch framing, OK, but there’s no denying the offensive ineptitude, especially in recent seasons. Overall since 2007, Tampa Bay catchers are hitting .222/.287/.342.

7. New York Mets C: minus-14.2 WAA

Starters: Paul Lo Duca, Brian Schneider, Omir Santos, Rod Barajas, Josh Thole (2), John Buck, Travis d’Arnaud (2), Kevin Plawecki

Well, that’s certainly a mishmash of past-their-prime veterans and career backups given a chance to start. Mets catchers haven’t hit much better than Tampa’s group: (.240/.301/.361), and none of these guys was known for their defensive reputations. Once again, they’ll count on d’Arnaud to remain healthy and maybe hit like he did in 2015.

6. Chicago White Sox 2B: minus-14.7 WAA

Starters: Tadahito Iguchi, Alexei Ramirez, Chris Getz, Gordon Beckham (5), Carlos Sanchez, Brett Lawrie

Man, the White Sox gave Beckham opportunity after opportunity to find himself, but in those five seasons he hit .241/.300/.361 and wasn’t anything special on defense. Remember, as well, that the ballpark formerly known as U.S. Cellular Field has been a good home run park, further deflating the value of those power numbers.

5. Texas Rangers 1B: minus-15.1 WAA

Starters: Mark Teixeira, Chris Davis (2), Justin Smoak, Mitch Moreland (3), Prince Fielder, Moreland (2)

Some big names, but this mostly is about the long leash the Rangers kept extending on Moreland. His career OPS-plus is 100, which is league average, but a league-average hitter at first base isn’t a good thing. Davis had a terrible season in 2009, and 2014 was a merry-go-round of 11 different starters after Fielder was injured.

4. Minnesota Twins LF: minus-15.7 WAA

Starters: Jason Kubel, Delmon Young (4), Josh Willingham (3), Eddie Rosario, Robbie Grossman

Yes, Young was that bad. Twins left fielders produced a mediocre .321 OBP over the decade, but much of this rating is about terrible defense: A combined minus-101 defensive runs saved. Kubel, Young and Willingham were really DHs masquerading as left fielders, and Grossman rated an unbelievable minus-21 DRS in just 635 innings last year, which is why Rosario may be back out there this year despite his poor OBP skills.

3. Seattle Mariners C: minus-17.0 WAA

Starters: Kenji Johjima (2), Rob Johnson (2), Miguel Olivo (2), Mike Zunino (3), Chris Iannetta

The lethal double dosage of bad hitters and bad defense! Mariners catchers have hit just .223 with a .281 OBP. Zunino performed better last season after some time in the minors, and he’s at least a solid defender. And while Mariners left fielders just missed being in our top-10 worst positions, don’t worry, Mariners fans, we’re not done with you.

2. Seattle Mariners 1B: minus-19.2 WAA

Starters: Richie Sexson (2), Russell Branyan, Casey Kotchman, Justin Smoak (4), Logan Morrison, Adam Lind

This encompasses the decline phase of Sexson’s career, a good year from Branyan in 2009 (31 home runs, .520 slugging), the year Kotchman hit .210, the agonizing run of Smoak’s warning-track power, the year Morrison hit .225 with a .302 OBP and then Lind’s .286 OBP last season. Where have you gone, John Olerud?

1. Miami Marlins 1B: minus-22.5 WAA

Starters: Mike Jacobs (2), Jorge Cantu, Gaby Sanchez (2), Carlos Lee, Logan Morrison, Garrett Jones, Justin Bour (2)

Justin BourPatrick Gorski/Icon SportswireIs Justin Bour the answer to problems at first base that have plagued the Marlins for years?

Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at those names and see that this ranking isn’t a surprise. It does show how teams can be fooled by first-base production. Marlins first basemen have averaged 21 home runs and 86 RBIs, but with a lowly .738 OPS. The MLB averages for first basemen since 2007 are 25 and 91, but with a .797 OPS. Basically, Marlins first basemen have hit like second basemen and fielded like DHs. In related news, the Marlins haven’t made the playoffs since 2003.


Worst position for each team

Just because a team's weakest position doesn't make the worst of the worst, that doesn't mean they don't have an area coming up short. Let's go division by division to see where each franchise has produced least over the past 10 seasons:

AL EAST

Orioles LF: -10.0

Red Sox C: -5.3

Yankees RF -5.8

Rays C: -13.6

Blue Jays LF: -12.8

AL CENTRAL

White Sox 2B: -14.7

Indians 1B: -10.5

Tigers RF: -6.7

Royals SS: -13.0

Twins LF: -15.7

AL WEST

Astros LF: -11.6

Angels LF: -7.0

A’s DH: -8.1

Mariners 1B: -19.2

Rangers 1B: -15.1

NL EAST

Braves LF: -8.0

Marlins 1B: -22.5

Mets C: -14.2

Phillies 1B: -14.8

Nationals LF: -14.2

NL CENTRAL

Cubs RF: -8.3

Reds LF: -8.7

Brewers 3B: -5.1

Pirates 1B: -12.0

Cardinals 2B: -0.9

NL WEST

Diamondbacks LF: -7.5

Rockies 1B: -8.2

Dodgers LF: -5.9

Padres SS: -12.0

Giants 2B: -10.5

You may note all the left field positions here. I think a possible explanation could be that position adjustment used in the value metrics is penalizing left fielders too much -- that the models haven’t properly adjusted for the decline in offense in left field in recent years. Dave Cameron wrote about this decline in an ESPN Insider piece a few weeks ago. He went back to 2002 and looked at offense from left field:

    weighted runs created plus or wRC+ is an index metric, meaning that it is centered so that 100 is always average, and every point away from that indicates a percentage point above or below the average hitter at all positions for those years. For the first three years of this graph, the line is flat, noting that hitters put up a 113 wRC+ when they were playing left field. From that, we could say that left fielders were, on average, 13 percent better than average hitters in those years. From 2005 through 2010, there was a slight decrease, but left fielders were still comfortably above-average hitters. The trend continued down, though, with a huge dip in 2011, before reaching a 15-year low of 97 wRC+ last year, meaning that left fielders hit 3 percent worse than an average major league hitter overall.

As Dave pointed out, one reason for the offensive decline is teams are playing better defensive left fielders. Another reason, however, is that left field has kind of become a dumping ground for talent, the position teams are mostly likely to punt.

Left field has been the least “stable” position each season. It follows that it has been the weakest position for many teams.


Positions with the most turnover

Unfortunately, no team scored a perfect 10 in our quest to identify baseball’s revolving doors. We did have 11 positions, however, that had nine different primary starters in 10 seasons:

Coming next -- Part 2: The strongest positions!

Matt HarveyAP Photo/Kathy WillensMatt Harvey is among the Mets' starters who dealt with injury issues in 2016.

The New York Mets do not appear to be in a rush to seek contract extensions with any of their young starting pitchers.

Marc Carig of Newsday reports the Mets "likely wouldn’t hold discussions" during spring training with their talented crop of starters that includes Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz.

Harvey is eligible for free agency after the 2018 season, and the others are under club control for at least three more years. All but Syndergaard are coming off surgery, giving the Mets an incentive to proceed with caution.

This month, young right-hander Carlos Martinez agreed to a five-year, $51 million extension with the Cardinals even though he was three years away from free agency. That deal reportedly did not prompt any of the Mets to seek a similar form of financial security. "None of the Mets' core starting pitchers have given any indication of starting a dialogue. Of course, the Mets aren’t particularly motivated to act, either," Carig writes.

This winter, ESPN’s Buster Olney ranked the Mets third on his list of the top 10 rotations in baseball.

Though the long-term status of the pitching staff remains in question, second baseman Neil Walker said Wednesday there was "potential" for a long-term deal.

- Doug Mittler

Neil WalkerCharles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsNeil Walker hit 23 homers in 2016, his first season with the New York Mets.

Second baseman Neil Walker isn't ruling out the possibility of staying with the New York Mets beyond his current contract.

The 31-year-old told MLB.com's Anthony DiComo that "there's potential for a long-term deal" to remain in Queens. Walker accepted a one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer from the Mets in November.

Walker, who spent the first seven years of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, was traded to the Mets in exchange for left-hander Jonathon Niese (who was eventually dealt back to New York at the trade deadline) in December 2015. He slashed .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBIs in 113 games during his inaugural season in New York.

--Alex Tekip

WEST POINT, N.Y. -- The New York Mets are returning to West Point to play Army in an exhibition game for the first time in 33 years.

The Mets announced Wednesday that the game will be held at Doubleday Field at Johnson Stadium on March 31 at 3 p.m. It will be the Mets' ninth game at West Point, but their first since 1984, when the Mets defeated Army 6-0.

"Sandy Alderson and I were so inspired by our visit to the West Point campus last year that we wanted our players to have that experience," chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said in a statement. "The Mets are proud to be able to continue the strong bond we have with our military, and this is a new way to show our appreciation for the sacrifices and bravery of our nation's armed forces. We are looking forward to the game."

The contest will be the Mets' final exhibition game before the start of the 2017 season, which begins April 3 at Citi Field against the Atlanta Braves

The Mets played their first-ever game at West Point one year after the team joined the National League, posting a 3-0 decision over the Black Knights on May 6, 1963.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- From the far end of the clubhouse, David Wright gazed across the room at the side-by-side lockers of the men who will determine the fate of the 2017 New York Mets:

HARVEY ... SYNDERGAARD ... DEGROM ... MATZ ... WHEELER

If those five names form the best starting rotation in the National League from start to finish this season, we'll be seeing the Mets in another World Series telecast. If those five names spend more time in Dr. David Altchek's office than they do on the mound, well, never mind.

If that 50-word burst of pithy analysis comes as a shock to the Yoenis Cespedes Fan Club, just listen to the only man in the room who has worn a Mets uniform for the past 14 seasons.

"You could ask anybody in here, 'What's this team based off of?'" Wright said. "And the answer would be, 'It's our starting pitching that we're built around.' And that's no knock on our offense, our bullpen, our defense or anything else. But when I think of, 'Whose back can you jump on to get us to where we want to go?' I don't think there's any question: It's our starting pitching."

After all, Wright has to remember back only 16 months to relive the unexpected joy ride the Mets took on those backs -- all the way to the 2015 World Series. That, Jacob deGrom said this week, "was only a taste" of what these guys are pretty sure they're about to unleash on the rest of Planet Baseball.

"We know now what it takes to get there," deGrom said. "Now we've got to go win it."

You don't visit many clubhouses in the first week of spring training where people talk matter-of-factly about winning the World Series. But deGrom had no reservations about broaching that subject with unabashed confidence.

"Winning the World Series," he said, almost casually, "that's the plan."

Hold on. Don't book those hotel rooms quite yet. The Mets aren't winning the World Series if they spend the next seven months talking about bone spurs and impingements and thoracic outlet syndrome -- all fun topics that invaded their world pretty much nonstop last season. The road to winning the World Series is paved in basic math.

As in: 4 x 30. Or even: 5 x 30.

The translation of that equation comes to four or possibly five starters making 30 starts apiece. Asked what his rotation might be capable of if that happens, deGrom made zero attempt to suppress a laugh.

"Heh-heh," he said. "I think we know what could happen. And we know what we want to happen. We just have to go out there and do it still. It all looks good on paper. And it's great talking about it. But until we go out there and actually do it, it can't be a reality. So that's the plan. And that's what we're here working for. That's the goal: to win a World Series. And it starts now."

Just the other day, before the first workout of spring training, manager Terry Collins laid out his own goal for 2017. He wasn't talking World Series. He wasn't talking wins. He wasn't talking losses. He was talking about five starters teaming up to make 150 starts.

"I had a meeting with those guys," Collins said. "And I told them, 'That's the objective. I know people are saying, "Make 33-34 starts." I'm not even pushing that. I'm telling you five guys: If you get 30 starts apiece, that's 150 games. And you guys are so good, I know we're going to win the majority of those 150 games.'"

Now it's time to inject a little reality into the manager's foolproof formula for success. According to research by Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information, just nine teams in history have had five pitchers make 30 starts apiece. Getting four starters to the post 30 times is so tough that only two teams -- the Cubs and Cardinals -- pulled that off last season.

That means the math is challenging even before you get to the five pitchers Collins is talking about, five guys who combined to make 93 starts last season, almost a third of them by Noah Syndergaard


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SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Bartolo Colon
WINS ERA SO IP
15 3.43 128 191
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Cabrera .280
HRY. Cespedes 31
RBIY. Cespedes 86
RC. Granderson 88
OPSY. Cespedes .884
ERAN. Syndergaard 2.60
SON. Syndergaard 218