Posted by Mack Ade at 10:00 AM
Las Vegas in the summertime is not a pleasant place.
Average daytime temperatures exceed 100 degrees. The sun is relentless. The air is incredibly dry – good for hitting a baseball, bad for enjoying normal respiratory functions. Normal people do not want to be in the middle of the Mojave Desert during the hottest part of the year.
Unfortunately for Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo, Las Vegas is exactly where they need to be this summer.
Las Vegas, of course, is the Triple-A affiliate for the Mets, and fans of the 51s should be given the opportunity to enjoy Conforto’s and Nimmo’s talents during the 2017 Pacific Coast League season. It is not only what’s best for fans the 51s, but it is also what is best for the Mets.
The Mets have three established major league outfielders on their roster right now. Yoenis Cespedes is the undisputed star of the team and will be starting every day in left field. Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce are less productive than Cespedes (aren’t we all?), but the backs of their baseball cards have enough ink to rightfully give them first crack at the center field and right field jobs, respectively.
Where does this leave Conforto and Nimmo? Conforto has played left field for most of his professional career, but with Cespedes signed through 2020, Michael is going to be switching positions if he remains in the organization. Nimmo is a former first-round pick that may have had a breakthrough with Las Vegas last season, but you’d have to search far and wide to find anyone outside of Wyoming who thinks he should be starting for the Mets in 2017.
A complicating factor is that all four men bat left-handed, and none are particularly adept at hitting southpaws. Conforto and Nimmo particularly struggle in this regard, and neither is a viable candidate for a platoon role if they aren’t going to be on the long side of it. Juan Lagares, if healthy, is a lock for the fourth outfielder job, and a properly constructed Mets roster would include a fifth outfielder that can play right field and platoon with Bruce.
There’s just no way around it – no matter what your thoughts are on Conforto’s or Nimmo’s potential, the reality of the 2017 roster is that they must start the season in Triple-A, and wait for trade or injury to open up a roster spot. Both men will only stagnate on the bench or playing sporadically in New York, and the front office will be less likely to trust them with starting jobs in 2018.
Nimmo has the potential to be an everyday center fielder – Las Vegas can put his name at the top of the lineup every day against righties and lefties. Conforto can certainly hit, but it’s not clear whether his future in New York will be in right field or at first base. Give him two different mitts and see which one he takes to better. Then, come 2018, both will have the inside track on a starting job when Granderson and Bruce depart as free agents.
Bruce might be the most unpopular baseball player in Queens (at least until Chase Utley comes to town), and Granderson’s skill set is valuable but difficult to appreciate. It doesn’t matter. The Mets have to think with their heads and not with their hearts on this one. Conforto and Nimmo should buy stock in sunscreen – they are going to need it this summer.