|The health of 2014 Gold Glove CF Juan Lagares is paramount to a productive Met outfield.|
The Mets made the first splash for 2015 by signing outfielder Michael Cuddyer to a two-year deal. With Cuddyer, the Mets get a veteran with a good bat for a corner outfield spot. The projected starting outfield for 2015 looks like:
LF- Curtis Granderson
CF- Juan Lagares
RF- Michael Cuddyer
on a daily basis. However, against tough lefties, Cuddyer should move to first to platoon with Duda, leaving the outfield like this:
LF- Curtis Granderson
CF- Juan Lagares
RF- Eric Campbell
I cannot imagine Kirk Niewenhuis or Matt den Dekker will start many games with Cuddyer in the mix. Although, as a 35-year-old and with Juan Lagares needing rest and perhaps a game off against a tough righty or two, den Dekker should see 10-15 starts in 2015. The elite defender is a must-have on the 25-man roster--especially with the potential of a Juan Lagares injury. Eric Young Jr. returns to the same role from 2014.
For a RHH rest day, the outfield will look like:
CF- den Dekker/EY
RF- den Dekker/EY
Let's give Matt den Dekker 15 starts, 220 at bats, and a number of late-inning defensive replacements for both Granderson and Cuddyer to total 450 innings--comparable to what Endy Chavez got for Seattle in a similar role last year. While Eric Young Jr. could see a similar work load, Cuddyer should cut into his time more than den Dekker's--as den Dekker is the superior defender.
Lagares should see a small bump in innings for next year.
The rest of the outfielders (Campbell, Kirk Niewenhuis if on the roster, and others) should be right around replacement level players.
Last year's fWAR for the 2015 Mets outfielders:
Juan Lagares: 3.8
Curtis Granderson: 1.0
Michael Cuddyer: 1.5 (season cut short by injury)
Matt den Dekker: 0.7
totaling 7.0 Wins Above Replacement which is remarkably close to the 7.1 WAR the Mets entire outfield unit gained in 2014 (this included Eric Young Jr., Bobby Abreu, Andrew Brown, Kirk Niewenhuis, and a staggering 287 at bats to Chris Young).
Steamer's projections are so conservative that I would rather use my own. I'll give an optimistic and pessimistic range.
Lagares: 3.0-4.6. I see no way Lagares slips below 3.0 WAR unless he misses a ton of time. I don't expect him to play more than 145 games given his playing style, but he should also make advances with the bat and he was steal-happy (and effective) late in 2014 on the bases. 4.6 is a nice ceiling for baseball's best defensive outfielder.
Curtis Granderson: 1.0-3.0. I just do not see how Granderson could be worse than he was last year. He is too good to repeat 2014 and a number of things are working in his favor already: 1.) Better protection in the lineup with the addition of Michael Cuddyer and a healthy David Wright. 2.) Citi Field is getting smaller in right field which will add homers for LHHs 3.) A likely move to left field will help his defensive numbers. The above should add close to a full win to his value. With an offensive rebound, he could approach 3.0 WAR.
Michael Cuddyer: 0.9-2.0. 0.9 is Steamer's projection and I do worry about the defense. Cuddyer will be a steady, albeit unspectacular player for the Mets but will not be more than a 2-win player.
Matt den Dekker/Eric Young Jr.: 0.5-1.2. Floor is high, ceiling is low for these part-time defensive specialists. They will save a lot of runs with their gloves but create few with their bats. Valuable pieces, though, and will see a lot of playing time.
The rest: Combine to 0.0 WAR. Until we upgrade the Kirk Niewenhuis' and Eric Campbell's of the world with better talent, they are replacement level players. We should find a true power bat off of the bench and preferably a RHH to give Cuddyer some time off when needed. Until then, the fill-ins not named den Dekker or EY do not contribute to above-replacement level value in 2015.
Stephen's low-end 2015 Outfield WAR: 5.4
Stephen's high-end 2015 Outfield WAR: 10.8
Stephen's average 2015 Outfield WAR: 8.1
Based on these projections, the Mets outfield marginally improves from 2014 to 2015 with the potential to improve drastically, or possibly slip slightly.
The Mets outfield finished 17th out of 30 major league teams with their 7.1 WAR in 2014.
|The Mets finished 17th in outfield Wins Above Replacement in 2014.|
With my optimistic projection, the Mets would have finished 8th in the MLB--a very strong showing for an entire unit.
With my pessimistic projection, the Mets would fall to 20th, a mere three spots from their rank in 2014.
With my average projection, the Mets would have finished a respectable 15th out of 30 major league teams in 2014--smack dab in the middle.
The question is: Is the Mets infield and pitching enough above average to survive a potentially just-average outfield?
Or, is the question, can the Mets outfield over perform and be a true strength?
Of the ten playoff teams, seven (!) finished within the top 10 in outfield Wins Above Replacement in 2014.
Given the absence of Chris Young from the outfield, I expect the Mets to hit my mean projection of 8.1 and I would not be surprised if they finish in the 9-10 WAR range and be close to, but not in, the top 10 units in baseball. I do see Granderson having a much better year but Michael Cuddyer does not add as much value as people think. Overall, a solid unit but far from dominant.
Comment below: What sort of WAR value to you see a Mets outfield core of Juan Lagares, Curtis Granderson, Michael Cuddyer and Matt den Dekker/EY producing in 2015?