Tim Tebow is about to receive his most significant exposure yet to top-level baseball competition. The Mets announced Friday that they have invited Tebow to Major League Spring Training, giving the former college and professional football star another opportunity to stride forward in his baseball career.
Tebow is among 13 non-roster invitees to Spring Training — a list that also includes blue-chip first-base prospect Peter Alonso (ranked as the Mets' No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline) former Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton and Drew Smith, the reliever the Mets acquired for Lucas Duda last July.
But the most significant number of eyes will surely follow Tebow, as they did a year ago when the Mets — citing a need for outfielders, though general manager Sandy Alderson later admitted that his motivations at least partially had roots in the "entertainment business" — frequently borrowed him for Grapefruit League games. Tebow hit .148 in nine such contests, going on to bat .226 with eight home runs over two Minor League levels. Following a successful debut at Class A Columbia, Tebow ended his season with Class A Advanced St. Lucie.
"I think he's exceeded a lot of people's expectations," Alderson said during the summer.
The former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at the University of Florida drew rave reviews for his plate discipline and power, putting on batting practice shows during Spring Training. He took so many practice cuts early in the year that his hands bled, calloused over and bled again. But it wasn't all storybook stuff; Tebow also struck out in 26 percent of his professional plate appearances and was raw on defense, his overall numbers overshadowing his clear improvement over the course of the season.