One of the biggest questions this offseason by far has been the center field position for the Mets heading into Opening Day. With Michael Conforto sidelined with a shoulder injury to begin the season, the team was left with Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo as their options to play center field. Heading into spring training, Lagares was thought to have the early edge due to his exceptional fielding abilities. That is a totally valid point, considering that he is the most defensively adept player the Mets have on their roster. Nimmo’s only apparent plus was that he had a terrific .379 OBP last season.
Nimmo has had a much stronger camp then Lagares, swinging a .287 batting average and clocking 3 home runs with 10 RBIs. His OBP is at a solid .361. Lagares on the other hand has severely struggled, slumping his way to a .205 average with a single run batted in to his name. There is no question that Nimmo should be the Opening Day center fielder. With such a dynamic presence with Nimmo in the lineup, the Mets have a player that hustles and can reach base, an ideal lead off hitter. This is certainly something that you would not want to loose when Conforto returns from injury to reclaim his rightful spot in the outfield.
As good as Nimmo is, there is no question that Conforto is a better option to put in the lineup. However, simply because Conforto is better than Nimmo, doesn’t mean that Nimmo is undeserving of a spot in the lineup. There is a way that both Nimmo and Conforto can be in the starting lineup, and it has to do with another outfielder.
This offseason, the Mets resigned Jay Bruce to a three year, $39 million contract. Although they signed him as an outfielder, Bruce has experience playing the first base position. Although he registered two errors in the field, the offensive production that Bruce brings to the table would be worth the errors that he would commit. He would certainly be better than the other options that the Mets currently have at first base. Thus far, Adrian Gonzalez has shown nothing at the plate, and Dom Smith has shown nothing at the plate.
When Conforto is completely healed, the top four could potentially look like this:
Imagine the possibilities of having 90 home runs between your two through four hitters? With the power that Conforto, Cespedes, and Bruce have, it is certainly possible.
Nimmo would be a fantastic lead off hitter, and he’d have the potential to be on base for the top run producers that this team has to offer.
It is clear that Nimmo beat out, or should be out Lagares for the Opening Day spot in center field. The challenge will be once Conforto comes back, to keep Nimmo in the lineup. Nimmo is a capable major league player, and he has shown that so far in spring training. Mickey Callaway is a young manager, so maybe he will be willing to put Bruce at first in an attempt to keep Nimmo in this lineup.