The 2018 Mets outfield is poised to rebound

In 2017, the production from the Mets outfield was similar to the production from the starting pitching in that the talent was there in both cases, but injuries played a big part in reduced production.

The left fielder, Yoenis Cespedes, had an excellent slash line at .292/.352/.540, higher in all three categories than for his lifetime stats. However, his playing time was literally a half a season, at 81 games. This was due to injuries including a pair of leg hamstring issues, one in each leg that lead to long stints on the DL at different times.

In the 2016-2017 off season, Cespedes seemed to emphasize upper body workouts, further developing his already sculpted upper physique. As reported by Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News, Cespedes has realized that his off season regimen needs to be different from last year, presumably involving more stretching exercises for his lower body.

If that results in say 130 games or even more for Cespedes at similar production rate to last year, that would be a big boost for the Mets in 2018. Cespedes just turned 32 in October, so he still should have a few good years left in him.

In right field, Michael Conforto was having a breakout season in 2017, recording a slash line of .279/.384/.555, with 20 doubles and 27 homers in just 109 games. Conforto’s season ended early, as we all know, when he suffered a dislocated shoulder and torn posterior capsule while swing at a pitch in an August game. That’s an unusual injury, and a severe one.

Fortunately, as the New York Post reported, his rehab is proceeding well and he should be able to start swinging a bat in January. It’s still a bad injury, but that latest report shows progress and could mean nearly a full season of play.

Conforto will be 25 next season, moving right into the usual prime baseball ages. He not only hits but is a plus defensively, Fangraphs shows his UZR at a cumulative 15.5 over his three seasons in the big leagues, so he has saved some runs with his glove. If he can start the season, or at least close to the start of the season with the kind of production he flashed last year, he would be another big plus for the team.

In center field, the main in-house choices would be Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo. Lagares brings a great glove (golden in 2014) but spotty offense and a history of injuries. His 2017 slash line was .250/.296/.365 in 94 games. He is taking a different approach this off-season working with noted hitting savant Craig Wallenbrock. Several players in recent years have revamped their swings and shown big improvement at the plate. Notable examples would include Justin Turner, Daniel Murphy and J. D. Martinez ( a Wallenbrock pupil.) No such guarantees with Lagares but if he can improve somewhat at the plate and keep up his defense, he will be a big asset to the team.

The other center field candidate is Brandon Nimmo. In 2017 he was in 69 games and turned in a .260/.379/.418 slash line. That OBP is pretty good, and his SLG was held down by a bad June when he was coming off the DL and turned in a .286 SLG, but he clearly improved in that as the year went on.

A good approach for the Mets might be to let Lagares and Nimmo fight it out for the starting CF position and use the other player as the fourth outfielder, and if that player is Lagares, use him as a defensive replacement in the late innings of any game the Mets have a small lead in.

16 comments for “The 2018 Mets outfield is poised to rebound

  1. Name
    December 5, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Rebound? Reduced production? Hogwash! This was one of the best OF units in 2017 statistically…

    Their collective OF had a 118 wRC, which was 4th in the majors last year. Only the Marlins, Yankees, and Astros were better.
    Their collective OF had a UZR of 13.0, 3rd in the majors last year with only the Rays and Red Sox had them beat.

    Best case scenario Cespedes and Conforto stay healthy for a longer period of time while not suffering a decline in production to replace what Bruce did and whatever CF we get is almost league average and our OF stays in the 3-5 range for both offense and defense.

    More likely scenario is that one of the OF pieces disappoints and we can’t find production to match what Granny did last year, who after a horrific start managed to eek out a 105 wRC and 2.4 UZR, and our OF falls into the 10-15 range.

    • December 5, 2017 at 4:13 pm

      And Nimmo had a 117 wRC+ and Aoki had a 106.

      Yes, the Mets had some misfortune with injuries in the OF but they had remarkable production from guys who weren’t even on their radar on May 1. Nimmo was hurt in the beginning and then crappy in the minors when he first came back.

      Everyone remembers the lousy, awful start that Granderson got off to last year. I hope they also remember the final 298 PA, when he put up a .267/.386/.579 line. That was from May 3 – Aug 17.

  2. MattyMets
    December 5, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    The Mets simply cannot start the season with just these four. Too many injury questions. Here are a few better scenarios, depending on how much we spend and improve at other positions: a) sign Cain and use Lagares as the 4th. b) sign Bruce and have him split time between right and first while Conforto rotates between right and center or c) sign Dyson or Jay to platoon with Lagares and let Nimmo be the depth guy.

  3. TexasGusCC
    December 6, 2017 at 9:21 am

    I have a thought that isn’t my usual, but…

    Can’t Curtis Granderson learn to play first base? He’s plenty athletic and a perfect depth piece. I’d give Granny two years and tell him to start taking grounders. He will be cheaper and a good backup. I know he stunk it up with the Dodgers, but, he can’t dive off a baseball cliff.

    I don’t trust Bruce, and I want to give Smith a chance, yet have depth. Two guys I like are Howie Kendrick and Granderson, in this department.

    How much better is Bruce anyway?

    • December 6, 2017 at 11:06 am

      Granny clearly has the worst arm and yet you never heard any talk of him moving to 1B. It’s curious.

      • TexasGusCC
        December 6, 2017 at 1:33 pm

        While we all joke about Granny’s noodle arm, he covers alot of ground and charges the ball aggressively. However, I saw video of when he first came up and he threw over the top. Now, he slings it from the side like he’s been dealing with a bad shoulder. Have never heard a word about the difference or the possibility.

    • Jimmy P
      December 6, 2017 at 2:08 pm

      God, no. Can we stop trying to recreate last season’s roster? Which was 2015’s roster?

      Granny is so up and down, so extreme, and no longer an everyday player. He can be very good for stretches, but this organization needs to move forward.

      Too much lazy thinking. Walker, Bruce, Granny, Reyes. Ugh, no.

      Team needs a transfusion and these doctors keep telling us to take two aspirin and call us in the morning.

      • Chris F
        December 6, 2017 at 3:53 pm

        So very true. When we got shots in the arm from the outside at the right time things changed (Ces, KJ, Uribe, Clippard etc). New blood new faces are desperately needed. Yes the coaching staff turnover was overdue, and so is the need for players.

        • Metsense
          December 6, 2017 at 5:40 pm

          A solution is to trade Lagares (for prospects and to obtain salary relief and sign Lorenzo Cain, who is a good defensive center fielder and good hitter to bat lead off.

          • Chris F
            December 6, 2017 at 6:15 pm

            I could do that. If you expect prospects then we will eat a lot of the $.

      • TexasGusCC
        December 6, 2017 at 7:21 pm

        James, it’s one guy; as a backup. You need to consider the players that will accept this role, but it’s an important one. Granny may not be a stud day to day, but he can step in and carry his weight for a while, which is what a backup needs to do. Otherwise, I think the Mets may have the best rounded outfield in MLB, if they are healthy and playing to their abilities.

        I don’t want all the old gang – the windmills, as I called them – but it was a talented gang that wasn’t used well and had no pitching. It wasn’t the hitters’ fault. Besides, we’re just talking and since you are open to Bruce, why are you mocking my suggestion of Granny, LOL? Seems inconsistently opposed to our lazy thinking.

        • Chris F
          December 6, 2017 at 8:44 pm

          Gus, you want to throw 30% of the total budget on a 37 yo back up player? really???

          • TexasGusCC
            December 6, 2017 at 9:59 pm

            Chris, what made you throw those numbers out there? I was think at somewhere around $5MM per year. How did you get that conclusion?

            • Chris F
              December 6, 2017 at 10:27 pm

              no chance hes taking 5M$. There will be vet back ups for 1-2M$ for 1 yr contracts.

              Granny served his time. Its over. We need new faces and directions, not retreaded retreads.

  4. Metsense
    December 6, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    Health and durability will be a huge factor into the success of the 2018 Met outfield. Fifty one major league outfielders played in 126 or more games in 2017. Cespedes and Conforto need to be in that group. Nimmo and Lagares should be platooned. Nimmo’s .879 OPS in 2017 vs RHP and .810 OPS career vs RHP should be rewarded. Lagares, because of his elite glove and career 710 OPS vs LHP, would make the platoon more than passable (as Name noted above). Even with good health, the Mets need to sign a power first baseman/outfield to spell the corner outfielders and serve as a plan B if someone gets injured. Dom Smith would then be promoted up from AAA and get another opportunity.

    • Name
      December 6, 2017 at 5:59 pm

      Woa woa, for the record I never said that Lagares is capable of being part of a passable platoon.

      In my ideal world Lagares isn’t on the 25 man roster as i don’t value defensive subs

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