Mets Outfield Season Preview…
The Mets have a great problem on their hands with an abundance of quality outfielders at their disposal. After the resigning of Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets went from having a good outfield to having a great outfield. How Terry Collins decides to manage the playing time and matchups will be vital to this team’s success. Everyone in this group brings something different to the table, and I believe that is what makes this group of outfielders special. Along with the pitching staff, this group of outfielders will be a big factor in how this team performs both offensively and defensively.
We start off with the big-ticket player of the bunch in Yoenis Cespedes. After the Mets had acquired Cespedes at the trade deadline, he outperformed my expectations as he set the National League on fire. His bat could not be contained and his cannon arm seemed to be on display every single night he was in the lineup. Cespedes bat and defense however fell short when it mattered in the World Series, which led many to believe the Mets should go in a different direction. I am glad they didn’t as Cespedes was reportedly battling a wrist injury during the postseason, and it had to have an effect on his play on the field. We didn’t see the same dynamic ballplayer we saw in the regular season. Cespedes resigning turned this ball club from playoff contender to World Series contender with the potential to win 95 ballgames. Cespedes loves playing under the big lights of New York and his performance has backed that up. Cespedes is technically playing out another contract year and I believe he will do his absolute best to redeem himself after last postseason. Cespedes has never been a high average hitter with the exception to last year and his rookie year of 2012. His power however has never been questioned and with a deep lineup behind him, I see Cespedes putting up similar numbers offensively to last season. 35 HR’s and 100 RBI’s are not unreasonable expectations given the circumstances. I don’t believe he will hit .291 again as that was his average combined between both the Tigers and the Mets. An average between .270 and .280 is what I expect he will hit at the plate. I don’t believe Cespedes will be a liability defensively like many experts predict him to be. He does have lapses in judgment it seems every so often, but I believe with him playing in a contract year he will limit his mistakes as much as possible this season. This is Yoenis last possible chance to cash in big in the offseason, and if worse comes to worse he stays a Met the next two season after that. Expect big things out of Cespedes this season, as the world will be watching him with a microscope and he seems just fine with that.
Granderson was surprisingly thrust into the leadoff spot on Opening Day last season. While many questioned the move at first, myself included, it was one of the best managerial decisions Terry Collins made all season. Curtis was an on base machine and a catalyst at the top of the lineup. Granderson was a big part of this team’s success last year as he was consistently good all season. Curtis also brings rare power to the leadoff spot (26 HR’S), making the Mets lineup more dangerous than it already is. Granderson does have his struggles against left-handed pitching, he only hit .183 last season against southpaws, but that is where the Mets outfield depth comes into play. The Mets will mix and match their lineups based on matchups and with the amount of depth they have, they will not try to overexpose their weaknesses. Granderson similar to Ruben Tejada loved to hit with the bases loaded. Granderson had a line of .455/.579/.455, with the bases loaded. Defensively Granderson doesn’t have the strongest arm, but he still plays a solid defense in right field. I don’t expect Granderson to have the exact same power numbers from the leadoff spot, but an average of .250 and a similar OBP to last year of around .350-.360 would be ingredients to a successful 2016 campaign for CG3.
Michael Conforto is the present and future of the New York Mets. While he will be getting a great deal of starts in left field and some starts in right field as well, Conforto will be counted on to produce and show growth. The good news for Conforto is he will not have the spotlight directly on him, with a great supporting cast around him. Many scouts questioned Conforto’s defense in the Minors but I saw him play an above average left field for the most part during his rookie campaign. It will be interesting to see how his defense translates to right field but he is young enough to make the adjustment. Conforto also played some right field back at Oregon St. The biggest expectations for Michael are to keep hammering right-handed pitching and show improvement against left-handed pitching. Conforto will be expected to carry this team a couple of years down the road. It’s important Terry Collins exposes him to enough left-handed pitching in order for him to grow and make adjustments now, while there is no pressure or spotlight on him. I believe Conforto can hit between 20-25 HR’s with around 70 RBI for his first full season. Last season he had a .270 average, and I believe with the amount of contact he makes at the plate he can hit for average again this season. Conforto will get a lot of pitches to hit in this deep Mets lineup and it is important he make the most of his opportunities.
Lagares is an important role-player for the Mets this season. He is a Gold Glove winning center fielder and his glove will be important for late inning situations. Lagares will also be regularly filling in center field when Cespedes slides over to left field. Lagares battled an elbow injury last season and was regulated to a bench role when Cespedes was acquired, but make no mistake Lagares can field his position with the best of them. Lagares is only 26 and the Mets would love to see his bat come back to life this season, if he wants to be considered a full-time starter down the road. Lagares has also had a lot of success against left-handed pitching as he hit .349 in 2014 and .273 in 2015 against lefties. This will likely give Lagares some playing time in right field for Curtis Granderson. Lagares also is very clutch at the plate as he had a .300/.347/.478 line with RISP last season. Lagares can provide a very valuable bat off the bench when he is in the right situations. Lagares also provides Gold Glove defense for this ballclub off the bench. How many teams can say they have a Gold Glove winning 4th outfielder?
Alejandro De Aza:
De Aza was originally signed with the expectation that he would platoon with Juan Lagares in CF. This happened back when the Mets believed Cespedes was way out of their price range. Well a few weeks’ later things took a drastic change with Cespedes returning and De Aza without a defined role on the team. Many MLB insiders believe De Aza isn’t long for the team as he could be dealt before the end of Spring Training. It doesn’t make much sense for the Mets to keep a 5th outfielder that is making $5 million. I expect De Aza to also be traded before the end of Spring Training to a team in need of an extra outfielder. It will be interesting to see what the Mets will be able to get in return for De Aza. It would be great if they can add another arm for the bullpen. De Aza would have been a good 4th outfielder for this ball club. However with Lagares sliding to that role, De Aza will be showcasing his skills for other ball clubs this spring, baring injury to another Mets outfielder.