Thanks to the wheeling and dealing of GM Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets have plugged a lot of holes and seemingly improved in a number of areas. The roster is still taking shape but, so far, it looks quite a bit different than the one with which we ended the 2018 season.
The addition of Edwin Diaz and the return of Jeurys Familia should really solidify the backend of the bullpen and secure the late innings next season. The arrival of Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, Keon Broxton, J.D. Davis and Jed Lowrie adds some pop and balance to our lineup and bench, while the long and growing list of marginal pickups including Rajai Davis, Gregor Blanco, Luis Avilan, Kyle Dowdy, Walker Lockett, Sam Haggerty, Hector Santiago, Cody Bohanek, Rymer Liriano, Dilson Herrera, Dario Pizzano, Arquimedes Caminero and Ryan O’Rourke help add depth to the roster.
We entered the off-season with clear needs – a closer, an upgrade at catcher, depth and at least one impact bat. You could argue that Cano is the impact bat, but really until Yoenis Cepedes returns in late 2019 or even early 2020, there’s a gaping hole in our lineup where his big right-handed bat stood. With Manny Machado clearly out of our price range, there’s no free agent available who could fill those shoes. But there is one potential solution available in house – Peter Alonso.
The 24-year-old first baseman demonstrated in AAA and in the Arizona Fall League that he’s got some serious thunder in his bat. Unlike the over-hyped Dom Smith, he doesn’t have warning track power. Alonso’s go the potential to be a 40-home run slugger in the Major Leagues. The question is, will he start slowly and progress gradually like Amed Rosario or will he come on like a house on fire like Greg Jeffries? In recent years Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger and Rhys Hoskins have shown that slugging first basemen can establish themselves as a cleanup hitter in their rookie year.
If, and this is a pretty big if, Alonso proves to be such a player, the Mets lineup goes from pretty good to very good. The lineup as constituted has balance and depth behind it on the bench. It has some good on-base guys and some good contact guys. From the right side, we have Broxton, Juan Lagares and Amed Rosario all providing little to no power. Todd Frazier and Ramos can hit home runs, but neither will be in the lineup every day.
As it looks now, Alonso probably starts the season in Syracuse to delay his service time clock with Frazier, Smith or one of the many other infielders holding down first base for a few weeks. Once he gets the call up, he may platoon with Smith or McNeil until he shows he can hit righties and lefties alike. He’ll probably bat sixth. By Memorial Day, if he proves himself, he could be the everyday first baseman batting cleanup. In that spot he’s be sandwiched by lefties Cano and Conforto, giving him great protection and the opportunity to thrive.
Until we get Cespedes back, this team needs a right-handed cleanup hitter and a better option than Ramos or Frazier might already be in a Mets uniform .A slugging Alonso could change the makeup of this lineup and the fortunes of this team.