Five Mets who could gain most from a shortened MLB season

The 162-game marathon is headed toward becoming something more than a sprint, but much less of a grueling endurance test. Will it be 80 games? Sixty games? Even fewer?

As MLB and the players association try to find common ground that will deliver a season following the layoff from the COVID-19 outbreak, the Mets await returning to Port St. Lucie, Fla., for a preseason camp that would last about three weeks.

The shortened season would reduce paychecks, but could be beneficial to many players. Among the Mets, here’s a look at who might gain the most from an abbreviated season:

Yoenis Cespedes

The combination of a shortened season and the likely implementation of the DH could put the oft-injured outfielder in position to play a significant percentage of the Mets’ schedule.

First, Cespedes will have to show team officials he’s capable of running the bases. When spring training was suspended, Cespedes had been taking live batting practice, but there were questions whether his surgically repaired heels could withstand the rigors of playing the outfield and running. A universal DH would provide an optimum landing spot for Cespedes, anxious to collect on incentives built into his 2020 contract and show the rest of baseball he’d be a worthy addition as a free agent this offseason.

Yoenis Cespedes and Jeff McNeilAnthony J. Causi (2)

Jeff McNeil

As the team’s top contact hitter, McNeil would have the best chance at putting a big batting average on the board over a short stretch.

Nobody has hit .400 in a season since Ted Williams in 1941, but reduce the timeframe to 50 or 60 games, and the feat becomes more attainable. McNeil peaked at .356 last July before a late-season dive — during which his power numbers increased — pushed him to .318. Even though it wouldn’t be an apples-to-apples comparison, a player making a run at .400 over an abbreviated schedule would add a layer of excitement to the season.

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Michael Wacha

The veteran right-hander has battled shoulder issues throughout his career, and asking him to start 10-15 games would seem like a better proposition than hoping he can withstand a full season in the rotation.

Wacha is the de facto fifth starter following Noah Syndergaard’s Tommy John surgery that will keep the right-hander sidelined into 2021. That’s not to say manager Luis Rojas won’t take a chance on Seth Lugo in that spot, at least on occasion. But moving Lugo from a relief role would be a gamble given the bullpen’s shortcomings last season.

If Wacha’s task is only 10-15 starts, the Mets will have a better chance at surviving Syndergaard’s absence.

Andres Gimenez

Of the Mets’ top prospects closest to major league ready, Gimenez heads the list among position players. With it likely rosters would expand in the shortened season, the 21-year-old infielder — who was expected to play this season at Triple-A Syracuse — could get a chance to contribute with the Mets.

Luis Guillorme was the primary backup shortstop in spring training, but Gimenez would provide another option. He could also shift to second base if Robinson Cano needs a day off or gets inserted as the DH.

Dellin Betances

Another pitcher rebounding from injuries, Betances, if ready, could go full throttle during a shortened season without the concern of needing to survive a full marathon. Betances, who missed almost all of last season with a shoulder impingement and torn left Achilles, was working to improve his velocity when spring training was suspended. If the right-hander is ready, he could provide another power arm at the back end of the bullpen, joining Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia.