The corner outfielders are as set as cement right now for the New York Mets. In left, the Mets will be trotting out Yoenis Cespedes, who hopes to return from injury and be the prominent slugger that his reputation suggests that he is. In right field, the Mets brought back Jay Bruce. While Bruce doesn’t exactly play the most beautiful brand of defense, he is almost a sure bet to secure 30 home runs and 100 RBIs for the team.
So that leaves centerfield, probably the most important of the outfield positions, up for discussion. The likely reality is that once Michael Conforto returns from injury, he will be put out there. The Mets need a bat like Conforto’s in the lineup, and they will sacrifice defense like they normally do to keep his bat in there. Conforto, a corner outfielder for his whole career, saw spot starts in center last season, suggesting the Mets want him to be able to play there moving forward.
Until Conforto returns though, the Mets need to fill the void at the position. As it stands right now, it looks like it will be a competition between Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares to determine who gets the vacant job in center. In terms of defensive prominence, and the ability to cover ground, Lagares is second to none. He is the recipient of the 2014 Gold Glove, and his highlight reel catches have been lighting up the screens of TVs and mobile devices of Mets fans for nearly five years now. Offense is a different story however.
Whether it be nagging injuries or receiving inconsistent starts over the years, Lagares has never been able to put up consistent offensive production. His best season came way back in 2014, where he put up a .281 average and posted 24 doubles. He has not hit over .259 since, and the Mets have been just waiting for him to regain that offensive production ever since.
On the other side of the ring is Nimmo. For the early part of his career, Nimmo wasn’t even known for his playing ability. He was known for his last name sounding like “Nemo” and his large smile and passion for the game. This has since changed. Towards the end of last season, Nimmo was put to the test by Mets brass, and had to prove himself to stay on the team. Nimmo, a notorious hard worker and hustler, proved his worth to the team. He showed great ability to get on base, and even handled the open space of center field moderately well. The problem is though that Nimmo’s best position is left field, and that is already occupied.
In the end, this battle will come down to what Mickey Callaway wants in his lineup. Is he willing to sacrifice consistency in the lineup to have strong defense in center with Lagares? Or will he want an on base guy that isn’t exactly the best fit in center with Nimmo? No matter who gets the start out there, they will be feeling the other guy right over their shoulder, waiting to grab the position from them.