Reese Kaplan -- Look At Me, I Can Be Center Field


Welcome to part 7 of the 11 part series on the 2017 New York Mets roster (assuming the choices exist among the existing personnel in the majors and minors).  Today we'll see who screams loudest, "Put me in coach, I'm ready to play today."  Let's see who can be centerfield.

Curtis Granderson

Yes, the power is there but the poor batting average and RBI production are in serious decline.  Furthermore, does it make sense to entrust arguably the most important defensive position in the outfield to a guy on 37 year old legs?  He's playing a lot of CF now while the manager juggles Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce as best he can, but looking for Granderson to be the full time solution out there is foolhardy.

Michael Conforto

When it seemed as if the Mets were destined primarily due to injuries to finish at or around .500, I was beating the drum loudly to let Conforto play CF on a regular basis to see how he would handle it.  You can't learn the position from the bench, and with Juan Lagares on the shelf it seemed pretty much up for grabs.  Then the second consecutive September surge arrived and Conforto has found himself sitting on the bench nearly every day.  At this point no one knows if he's capable of playing there or not.

Yoenis Cespedes

I often quote Jim Bouton's Ball Four with respect to the pecking order of people associated with a ballclub.  Superstar player is higher than the manager, so don't expect Cespedes to return to CF anytime soon.

Juan Lagares

He's a Gold Glover who shows flashes of potential with the bat.  He'll never win a batting title but he's not likely going to embarrass himself out there either.  His low home run potential means he had better play up the speed aspect of his game if he's got aspirations to be a starter.

Brandon Nimmo

Oddly the Mets have not given him much opportunity to play his natural position.  He doesn't have Lagares' speed nor throwing arm, but he seems pretty athletic overall and mentally focused when he plays the game.

My Prediction

Again, it hinges upon the Yoenis Cespedes contract situation.  If he stays, then Conforto may actually get a shot to play there.  If not, Conforto likely goes to LF and old man Granderson is the likely recipient of the starting nod.  If it was up to me, if they do wind up playing Conforto in LF or shifting to 1B I'd look at a platoon of Lagares and Nimmo unless one wins the job outright.  It worked out pretty well when they did that with Mookie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra, no?


Thomas Brennan said...

It will be a conundrum for next year and this off season.

Right now, Terry Collins has somehow ushered this team to the very cusp of the post season. Amazing, and of course impossible without the incredibly great pitching of Lugo and Gsellman.

Back to your list, all of the listed guys are quality OF players, and that is a nice problem to have heading into 2017. A very nice problem to have.

Adam Smith said...

it's hard to get a handle on this when there's so much uncertainty about what they'll do with Cespedes and Bruce (and Granderson). Ten days ago I'd have said they should pick up Bruce's $13mm option and trade him to a team figures that he just didn't like playing in NY. Now both his trade value, and the odds of them keeping him are on the rise. Cespedes you have to keep despite his flaws, but will they? Could they really let him walk the year after letting top-3 MVP candidate Murphy walk? They could, and they might. Granderson is another question. Can you really count on him to hit another 30+ HR next season? To stay healthy? To play CF? Would anyone be surprised if he spent next season struggling to keep his BA over .200? Does he have any value in a trade? And how much of his $16mm would they have to pick up to make that happen? And what might it do to the clubhouse and chemistry of this team of they jettison Grandy after he helped carry them through this unlikely run to the playoffs (which gets even more complicated if he helps carry them through a postseason series or two). Lagares is the only legit CF on the roster (sorry Brandon) and Conforto is (still, I think) a potential middle of the order bat, cheap and under team control for multiple years. It's kind of a good problem, but it's also a three-dimensional puzzle where the wrong move(s) could leave you really hurting.

At this point, I'd start by re-signing Cespedes while promising him that he'll be in LF (barring a real emergency) for the duration. (Shame he won't play RF, he's the most natural RF on the roster). I'd pick up Bruce's option and then get to work figuring out the best trade option for he or Grandy, with trading Grandy my first choice (even for a lesser return). I just don't think you can keep two LH all or nothing power hitting corner guys. Then I'd audition Lagares and Conforto for CF, while giving Conforto - And Bruce, if he's here - as many reps as possible at 1B in the spring. I want to give Duda a shot to be the every day 1B next season if he can stay healthy, but also want to be prepared if he isn't, or needs copious rest. Cespedes, Bruce and Duda is a pretty formidable (potentially) middle of the order, and gives you the option of Lagares in CF, or could get even more so with Conforto (if he hits, which I think he will). And, as Reese notes, you could always platoon them there.

Adam Smith said...

Or maybe you can convince Cespedes to play 3B. Kidding. Sort of.

Thomas Brennan said...

Adam, let's give Conforto a 3B mitt. What the heck. Leave Cespy in the OF - for the next 5 years.

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