There’s no All-Star game in 2020 yet if there was one, the Mets would have no fewer than six candidates worthy of a long look. It’s kind of remarkable that the team with the fourth-worst record in the league could make a case for that type of representation. It’s either a perfect representation of how crazy the year 2020 is or a scathing indictment of just about everyone else on the team. Having watched a fair number of games, it seems like the latter more than the former.
The breakdown includes four position players and two pitchers. And while there are six candidates, clearly not all six would make the team. But that doesn’t make what they’ve done any less impressive. The four hitters all rank in the top 20 in wRC+ among qualified hitters in the National League. And no one doubts that the Mets’ ace would make the All-Star team, too. Let’s look at the case for each of these six players, listed below in alphabetical order:
Michael Conforto – He’s in the top 10 in just about every major offensive category there is. If the Mets were among the top teams in the league, he’d be a top-five MVP candidate. As it is, he might still draw some down-ballot support, depending upon how strong he finishes the final 11 games of the season. Among his many achievements this year is that he leads the league in singles. Part of this is because of a terrific approach at the plate, where he’s hitting to all fields and taking advantage of what the defense gives him. And part of it is because the hit gods are smiling upon him. That’s okay – those still count.
Jacob deGrom – The hamstring issue that caused the early exit in Wednesday’s game against the Phillies likely ends his quest for a third-straight Cy Young Award. But there’s little doubt he’d make the All-Star team. deGrom has been better across the board than he was in 2019 and nearly as good as he was in 2018, when he ended the season with a 9.0 fWAR. And the cherry on top of this season is that the Mets are putting up an incredible winning percentage in games he pitches. They’re not all going to deGrom, who is 4-1, but the team is 8-2 in his 10 starts, a far cry from the past two seasons when they were under .500 both years in games he started.
Edwin Diaz – Yeah, he lost the closer’s job after three games. But he also won it back by simply overpowering guys in his last 18 appearances. Overall, he has an incredible 19.3 K/9 and his ERA+ of 252 dwarfs the 208 mark of his magical 2008 season. In his last 18 games, opposing hitters have just a .541 OPS against him. And it’s only that high because of a .444 BABIP. Diaz has allowed just one homer in that span, a good thing to see after all of the trouble he had with the gopher ball last season. In his last seven games, he’s retired 23 of the 29 batters he’s faced, allowing just three hits and holding batters to a .322 OPS. It seems doubtful he’d make a mythical 2020 All-Star team given the Mets’ other candidates. But that doesn’t make his output any less noteworthy.
Jeff McNeil – If you hadn’t watched any games in 2020 and just looked at McNeil’s line right now, you’d say, “looks right to me!” McNeil features a .331/.401/.497 line, which results in a 145 wRC+, which ranks 17th in the NL. When he debuted in 2018, McNeil put up a 137 wRC+ and last year it was 143. But after his first 23 games, McNeil had just a .619 OPS. Since then, he’s posted a 1.165 OPS in his last 66 PA, with 11 XBH in that time frame. The only thing left is for Luis Rojas to quit batting him seventh in the order. It’s embarrassing for a guy on the verge of making his second straight All-Star game.
Brandon Nimmo – People focus so much on what he doesn’t do that they lose sight over what he actually does. No one thought that playing Nimmo in center field was an ideal solution and he’s been even worse than expected defensively this season. And he’s not hitting LHP particularly well, either. But 17 of his 43 hits have gone for extra-bases, his already good BB% has gone up and he’s cut down on his K-rate. Essentially, the only difference between Nimmo and Conforto is that Nimmo is putting up a BABIP below his career rate while Conforto is having an extreme outlier season in the category. Nimmo came into 2020 with a lifetime .342 BABIP and currently sits with a .310 mark. Conforto entered the year with a lifetime .294 BABIP but currently boasts a .417 mark. Nimmo is having a season almost as good as his breakout 2018. Since he didn’t make the All-Star team that year, he likely wouldn’t make it this time around, either. He remains both underrated and underappreciated.
Dominic Smith – It took a lousy start and ultimately an opt out by Yoenis Cespedes to get Smith regular playing time in 2020 but he’s been neck and neck with Conforto for the team’s top offensive player. His 169 wRC+ is just two points behind Conforto and good for fourth place in the NL overall. But while Conforto has a .214 ISO, Smith has a .287 ISO, which is tied for the eighth-best mark in the league. With Pete Alonso scuffling, Smith has taken over as the team’s starter at first base, with Alonso relegated to the DH slot. It’s still up in the air how the Mets will handle Smith in the long term. But they should be thrilled that Brodie Van Wagenen didn’t trade him this past offseason for pennies on the dollar. It’s far from certain that Smith will be on the 2021 Mets but if they do trade him, they’ll get a return suitable for an All-Star.
There are two other players who deserve a mention in this look at potential All-Stars. Robinson Cano is having a better season than even his strongest backers would have imagined possible. But he hasn’t had enough PA to qualify for the leaderboards and while McNeil is surging down the stretch, Cano is fading. In his last 10 games, Cano has a .167/.231/.194 line. And that’s with a 3-hit game in the laugher against the Blue Jays earlier this week.
And the other player worth mentioning is Seth Lugo. Switching roles like he’s done – along with a couple of poor relief performances – eliminates him from serious consideration. But he also has a 2.63 ERA, a 1.098 WHIP and has limited batters to a .626 OPS. If he had done that all season as a starting pitcher, the Mets would be in much better playoff position. It’s not his fault that he’s made just four starts this year. Hopefully Lugo comes up with a big outing tonight and solidifies his hold on a starting position for 2021 and beyond.