The Mets’ outfield has been one of the most glaring weaknesses on the roster over the last few years, and it seemed to worsen with each passing season. The horror culminated at the outset of the 2013 season, with players like Collin Cowgill, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Lucas Duda, and a pre-resurgence Marlon Byrd all vying for playing time in what many hyperbolically panned as the “worst outfield ever.”
While it had certainly improved by the end of the 2013 season with the emergence of Juan Lagares and the trade for Eric Young, Jr., it was still far from a major league outfield. The dearth of quality outfielders on the roster forced the team’s hand in the free agent market, where they signed Curtis Granderson and Chris Young. These players, one on the downside of his career and one a reclamation project, definitely improve the overall quality of the outfield but come with questions. Is Granderson the next Jason Bay? Can Young once again be the 5+ bWAR player he was just a few short years ago in Arizona with more playing time?
Beyond the questions, the baseball season is lengthy and arduous. The Mets are going to need help in the outfield at some point in 2014. The problem lies in the lack of legitimate outfield prospects in the Mets’ system, especially those that are close to ready to jump to the majors. There don’t appear to be any star-quality outfielders at the highest levels, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t players who could be valuable contributors in 2014.
Matt den Dekker: Den Dekker was the best defensive center fielder in the Mets’ system until Lagares came out of nowhere. He also had the inside track on taking over center field mid-season once the Mets realized how awful their squad was at the position in 2013. Unfortunately for den Dekker, the injury he sustained in Spring Training not only derailed his 2013 season but led to the eventual opportunity and success for Lagares. The fact that the team has two players named Young that can also play center field doesn’t bode well for him either, but his power and the fact that he is on the 40-man could give him a leg up for a position on the bench.
Cesar Puello: Puello comes with Biogenisis-brand baggage and has almost universally been snubbed from most Mets top prospect lists. The 2013 season seemed to be the year when he finally started turning his tools and potential into results. He slashed .326/.403/.547 with 16 home runs and 73 RBIs in AA Binghamton last season before his suspension. He strikes out a lot and doesn’t walk enough, but he’s been improving (Dominican Winter League stats notwithstanding). There’s a chance that Puello sees some major league action at some point in 2014 if he can build on last year, especially considering he’s already on the 40-man.
Dustin Lawley: Lawley had quite the 2013 season. He spent most of the year in Hi-A St. Lucie where he slashed .260/.313/.512 with 25 home runs and 92 RBIs. Of course he was pretty old for the level, which may explain why the Mets chose to give him a taste of AAA Las Vegas to close out his year. Whether he starts 2014 in Las Vegas or Binghamton, there’s a chance that the 2013 Florida State League Player of the Year could slug his way onto the Mets bench at some point next season.