Posted by Peter Hyatt at 12:00 PM
2017 New York Mets: Outfield Outlook
The NY Post reported that one baseball insider said he’d be very surprised if Brandon Nimmo survives the trading deadline this year.
Not so fast here, there is more to consider in the New York Mets 2017 outfield.
The signing of Yoenis Cespedes brings with it the expectation of 30 home runs, 90 runs batted in, and, we hope, about 130 games.
Cespedes appears to have finally found a home in the big leagues in New York. In spite of what his agent may have floated, demand may not have been as high for him as presented. There are questions that linger over the talented but enigmatic outfielder including his actual age, his ability to stay healthy, and the under-reported issues with his attitude.
After being all but a savior to the New York Mets 2015 run to the World Series, when Cespedes did not hit, Cespedes turned sullen, and took this attitude to both the field and the club house. When production turned south in the post season, he even showed a willingness to blame a rookie for his own mistake. In Spring 2016, he showed up with the self promoting circus like presentation, from his horse to his fancy cars, of which the younger players could not help but be influenced by. The fretting of both Terry Collins and Alderson came out in early, cautious statements, particularly as the Mets did not get off to a great start.
Cespedes’ language shows a lack of familiarity with humility, and has run up against another, howbeit, cleverly masqueraded one in Sandy Alderson.
Alderson has a very high opinion of his own opinion. When Daniel Murphy did not want to be involved in any extra-baseball activities regarding sexuality, this was an affront to the moral narcissism of Alderson. There was never a chance he would offer Murphy a viable contract. With Cespedes, Alderson had to make some personal compromises and concessions in order to sign Cespedes, and in exchange, got a few from Cepedes.
Alderson, for example, bristled when told that he and the Mets were to communicate to Cespedes through Cespedes’ “people” regarding attitude, toning down his flamboyance or about the hours of golf Cespedes devoted himself to. In fact, Alderson knows that Cespedes is fluent in English, but abides with the translator, in exchange for productivity. No such concession was made with Murph, as Dilson Hererra appeared destined to take over second base. (Alderson was also frustrated with Murphy’s defense). The union between Cespedes and Alderson is one of an uncomfortable necessity: Cespedes needs New York and New York needs Cespedes’ bat.
The early promotion of Cespedes in March was that he was in phenomenal shape and getting up early for work out. The intimation was clear: he was serious this Spring, compared to the previous. His Spring Training productivity thus far has been thrilling. We hope it continues, but the first sign of a slump and we may see him refuse to run out a ground ball, dog a fly ball, and return to his “Potentate” persona. He gets his adulation in the slow tater trots, but that comes from hitting the big one. He is, in spite of his talent, a risk for the Mets.
Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo
The Mets must consider that Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are both options that the 2017 Mets are going to need in the outfield this season. They should be getting plenty of at bats.
Conforto has the talent of an all-star slugger. He has the drive, intellect and talent to go very far, but will need at bats. We are looking at a possible .300 plus line drive hitter who bangs out 25 home runs and provides steady defense. Always in shape, he has showed up in Spring training this year with significant muscle mass addition and looks terrific.
With Nimmo, we have an infectious positive attitude and late maturing strength. He is a strong line drive hitter who may be of best value as a fourth outfielder. The Mets should think long and hard about what Nimmo may bring. His is a big, strong kid and may begin to show more long ball power, as well as one with the potential to bring 40 doubles to the offense.
Cespedes’ strength is in his legs. He has tremendous lower body strength in projecting the bat forward and as such he is at constant risk for leg and groin injury. He is, in this regard, similar to the power arm pitchers: we watch in awe, while waiting for an injury.
Besides the risk of injury to Cespedes, there is the declining productivity of Curtis Granderson to consider in the ensemble of the 2017 New York Mets’ outfield configuration.
Curtis Granderson’s contract and Alderson’s ego are also a factor here.
Alderson is not one to own an error, hence the playing time of De Aza last year. With the exception of a few week period, he did not bat his weight yet received valuable playing time over others. When Collins was asked about this, he generally diverted attention away and kept the company line. He was not happy about penciling in De Aza day after day just to justify the millions Alderson committed to him; he should have been J-Bayed well earlier than he was.
Granderson is a “locker room guy”; one of whom both Alderson and Collins like around the kids. He leads by both example and by encouragement. He is someone who the Mets should consider maintaining ties with after his playing career is over.
As an outfielder, he is another year older and age appears to have caught up to him in a steady decline. He holds value to the team: he is a natural leader, he maintains a positive attitude regardless of personal production, which is evident in both his words and his effort. Pouting and dogging by a millionaire impacts young players. With Granderson, we have a strong positive influence, yet his productivity is not such that should jettison Nimmo, nor cut into the playing time of Conforto.
Grandy is not a viable lead off center fielder for us at his age. Competition for the starting outfield positions should take precedent over contract consideration.
Lagares is another player fans have taken to. Hidden injuries appear to have impacted his swing, and it is of concern that some of the adjustments made to play through injuries may have settled into things. He remains a solid defensive outfielder, but thus far this Spring, his offensive struggles appear to continue. He is likely the odd man out, barring a trade of Nimmo.
Bruce is a talented hitter. He seemed overwhelmed and unhappy coming to New York and like Conforto’s slump, it fed upon itself and the heavy New York scrutiny was likely very difficult to cope with.
Bruce is more physically durable than Cespedes and could bring 30 homers and 100 RBIs should he find contentment in New York. Thus far this Spring, he appears far looser and more engaged with his teammates, hitting the ball with authority and power.
He is also playing for a contract this year which traditionally works out well for the player. If he is playing well and there are no indications of him wanting to stay, he, rather than Nimmo, might be on the trading block. I do not expect him to slump the way he did upon arrival in 2016.
The 2017 New York Mets outfield has unanswered questions, but not perhaps to the level that media suggest. While media loves a story, fans love competition instead.
Can Conforto take over center field? Or, should he be wearing a first baseman’s glove?
Can Nimmo fill in for Bruce or an injured/tired Cespedes?
Can the Mets get productivity from Cespedes and keep his legs healthy?
Will Alderson insist on playing the contract over the productivity with Granderson?
Next: 2017 New York Mets Infield Outlook