Mets confident in roster that's virtually identical to '16 squad

Wheeler a wild card in projecting who will make Opening Day cut

Mets confident in roster that's virtually identical to '16 squad

With Spring Training fast approaching, will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Mets squad each day this week. Today's topic: Predicting the 25-man roster.

NEW YORK -- Because the Mets did little this winter, aside from re-signing several of their own free agents, the group that reports to Spring Training this month will look almost identical to that which departed Citi Field for the last time in October. The rotation, the lineup, the bullpen -- almost nothing has changed.

But there are still a few roster battles that will unfold over the next several weeks and some jobs to be won. With that in mind, here's a look at the Mets' projected Opening Day roster heading into Spring Training.

• Spring Training: Tickets | Schedule | Gear

Catcher (2): Travis d'Arnaud, Rene Rivera
The Mets eschewed an opportunity to sign Matt Wieters, who remains a free agent as camps open around the Majors. Put simply, the front office felt that d'Arnaud -- whose $1.875 million salary is a fraction of what Wieters is expected to make -- can produce superior numbers in his age-27 season. It's a gamble which the Mets softened by retaining veteran backup Rene Rivera. He'll compete this spring with Kevin Plawecki, who is likely to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.

First base (1): Lucas Duda
The Mets' forgotten man, Duda hit 57 home runs from 2014-15 before missing much of last season due to a stress fracture in his lower back. Again entrenched at first base, Duda will start most days -- giving way to Wilmer Flores against some left-handed pitchers. If Duda is productive, he is capable of providing Yoenis Cespedes with some much-needed protection in the middle of the lineup.

Duda's bases-clearing double

Second base (2): Neil Walker, Flores
Though Walker is the clear starter here, he -- like Duda -- missed time last season due to a back issue. While falling way short of a platoon situation, the Mets will nonetheless look for ways to give their 31-year-old veteran a bit more time off in 2017, giving plenty of at-bats to Flores -- one of baseball's best hitters against left-handed pitchers. If injuries strike either player, it could create an opportunity for T.J. Rivera to return to the big leagues.

Third base (2): David Wright, Jose Reyes
Health, again, is the most important factor here. Until Wright proves he can play three to four times per week without issue, the Mets will be skeptical. In addition to coming off neck surgery, Wright must brush aside the spinal stenosis that will affect him for the rest of his career. Luckily, general manager Sandy Alderson has an insurance policy in Reyes, who proved plenty capable of playing third base in Wright's absence last summer.

Shortstop (1): Asdrubal Cabrera
One of the Mets' most critical offensive players last season, Cabrera will be back as the Mets' everyday shortstop and likely No. 2 hitter. Entering his age-31 season with a balky left knee, Cabrera will need regular time off, as well. But Reyes remains a capable backup at his natural position.

Outfield (5): Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo
Perhaps the Mets' most interesting camp battle will come in the outfield, where Michael Conforto must prove he belongs in the Majors. The Mets might be reticent to keep him there, considering Cespedes, Granderson and Bruce -- still on the roster, despite a winter full of trade rumors -- will command the lion's share of outfield playing time. If Conforto instead winds up at Las Vegas, Nimmo is the obvious choice to serve as the fifth outfielder.

Conforto's three-run jack

Rotation (5): Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Robert Gsellman
Zack Wheeler may have something to say about how the final quintet shakes out, however. The great wild card in camp is Wheeler, who has not pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery in March 2015. To make the rotation, he'll need to prove he's a better option than Gsellman, who was stellar for the Mets down the stretch last season, as well as fellow 2016 rookie Seth Lugo. The first four names on this list are rotation locks, assuming health.

Bullpen (7): Addison Reed, Jerry Blevins, Fernando Salas, Hansel Robles, Wheeler, Josh Edgin, Erik Goeddel
This assumes a suspension for closer Jeurys Familia, who had a domestic violence charge against him dismissed in December. Should Familia miss time, Reed will step in at closer, with everyone else moving up a peg. The recent additions of Blevins and Salas give the Mets depth, with Robles rounding out the list of bullpen locks. After that, it's murky. The Mets have spoken openly of their desire to try Wheeler in the bullpen, in an effort to limit his innings. But it might not happen. Edgin and Goeddel will compete with Josh Smoker, Adam Wilk, Paul Sewald and a host of others for spots at the back end of the bullpen.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.