Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo are tearing it up as backups

Through the end of April, the Mets have an interesting outfield situation. The best numbers being put up by their outfielders belong to the two backups, Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo. Both these players have exactly 43 PA each to date, which basically means the two players are tied for the role of fourth outfielder at this point. The normal starters, Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce have respectively 113, 82, and 98 PA.

But the two backups have the better production so far. Lagares is slashing at a .342/.395/.368 rate, while Nimmo has a stunning line of .313/.488/.563. That translates to an OPS of .764 for Lagares, and 1.051 for Nimmo. The regular outfielders are all lower, with Bruce checking in .736, Cespedes at .729, and Conforto at .708 for their OPS totals.

With respect to defense, former gold glover Lagares is way ahead of the pack with a UZR of 1.8 and some spectacular plays to boot, including his homer-robbing catch in the recent San Diego series. The other outfielders all have posted negative UZR figures, with Nimmo at -.02, Conforto at .01, Cespedes at -1.0, and Bruce bringing up the rear with a -1.3 UZR so far this year.

By pure merit, Lagares and Nimmo should be getting more playing time. It’s a near inverse ratio for playing time so far, with the most PA going to the players with the lesser stats, and the two playing the best getting the least PA. There is some progress on this front. Recent reports state that manager Mickey Callaway wants to give some starts for Bruce at first base against right-handed pitchers. Although Bruce did not play any first base during spring training, he has started taking some grounders during practice. His MLB experience at the position is just a handful of games with his original team, the Cincinnati Reds.

Since both Nimmo and Lagares are good enough to start on at least some MLB teams, some might suggest that the Mets should trade one or the other, to shore up another position, perhaps catching. That could be short-sighted, both Cespedes and Bruce are north of thirty while Lagares and especially Nimmo should have years of productive play ahead.

As a small consolation, if Lagares and Nimmo remain the backup outfielders for the rest of the year, they could have the distinction of being the best pair of backup outfielders in MLB history, ever.

As a comparison, the powerhouse 1998 Yankees won 114 games. Their two main backup outfielders were Tim Raines and Darryl Strawberry, with a combined OPS of 1.674. Adding Lagares and Nimmo’s OPS yields a total 1.815, with far better defense. In 1998 Raines was 38 and Strawberry 36, and both played more DH than outfield that year.

Both Lagares and Nimmo are likely to tail off some at the plate as the season wears on. But it sure would be nice if Callaway could find a way to take better advantage of his backup outfielders.

8 comments for “Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo are tearing it up as backups

  1. Name
    May 1, 2018 at 9:41 am

    Lagares’s hot streak ended eons ago. The first week he went 7-14. Since April 10th he’s had a .613 OPS and at the end of the year you can count on him to end with a sub 700 OPS.

    • May 1, 2018 at 10:15 am

      Yeah it’s not much playing time but nothing we’ve seen so far has made the case for more PT.

      He was supposed to have overhauled his swing. But we still see GB 50% of the time and while he’s not striking out, he’s not hitting the ball for hard contact. He’s got a .026 ISO which is horrible. He’s got a .371 BABIP so what happens when the hits stop dropping in? This is a guy with a lifetime .316 BABIP who in four of his five years in the majors has put up a mark of .310 or less so if you think he has this ability, you’re dreaming.

      • Chris F
        May 1, 2018 at 11:40 am

        grounder, pop up, grounder pop up, grounder pop up. Its ugly for Lags who is lifted by his defense, which is what keeps him in the convo.

  2. G
    May 1, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Jay Bruce’s only MLB experience at 1B was with the Reds? What? He played 11 games at 1B for the Mets last year.

    • John Fox
      May 1, 2018 at 1:27 pm

      My bad, G, I cited that fact from memory from a 2016 article I did, I should have checked to see if there was any change

  3. TexasGusCC
    May 1, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    Of all the outfielders on the Mets, the best three today and forward are Cespedes, Conforto, and Nimmo. Bruce is and was a sub .250 hitter that can’t play defense. The three year deal was one of Alderson’s annual brain farts in free agency.

    Even if Nimmo isn’t a stud, you match him up with Lagares and that’s a nice combo. Bruce is a first baseman playing right field, and that should be corrected.

    As Name says, Lagares hasn’t been as good once the regular at bats of spring training ended and the sporadic at bats of the season started. He needs to play, or he needs to go. A decision must be made on players’ performances as a whole, not a good week or a bad week.

  4. Mike Walczak
    May 1, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    Harvey is at it again. While the Mets were on their San Diego road trip, Harvey was up partying in LA. He needs to grow up. Johnny Baseball.

    • May 1, 2018 at 8:21 pm

      Please put comments that are not related to the article in the Catch-all thread, which are posted on Mondays and Fridays. Thanks.

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