At the Winter Meetings in 2012, then-GM Sandy Alderson was asked if the Mets’ top priority was adding to an outfield that consisted of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and not much else. Alderson decided to respond with a joke, which didn’t exactly succeed the way it might have inside his head. He said, “Outfield, what outfield? We’re probably going to have to bring the fences in another 150 feet!”

Here it is, just over 10 years later, and we can essentially ask the same question. It’s not quite as bad, because at least there are three starting outfielders on the roster, assuming Starling Marte and Brandon Nimmo are healthy. But no outfield depth led the Mets to their seemingly annual tradition of bringing in a free agent/trade acquisition to be the team’s fourth outfielder. Here’s the recent breakdown:

2023 – Tommy Pham
2022 – Travis Jankowski
2021 – Kevin Pillar
2020 – Jake Marisnick
2019 – Keon Broxton

There are a couple of different reasons why the Mets still struggle with outfield depth but the biggest one is the team’s amateur draft. Most everyone agrees that you take the best player available when you’re on the clock. The implied part in that statement is that at some point BPA will include guys who are pitchers, catchers, infielders and, yes, outfielders. Here are the outfielders drafted by the Mets in the top 10 rounds since Alderson made the above quote in late 2012:

3rd round – Ivan Wilson, a tools guy who topped out at Lo-A.
6th round – Champ Stuart, a speed guy who couldn’t steal first base.
9th round – Patrick Biondi, an underslot guy who signed for $10,000 and played like it.

1st round – Michael Conforto, who became an All-Star.
9th round – Michael Katz, who I have no memory of whatsoever.

2nd round – Desmond Lindsay, who could never stay healthy.
9th round – Kevin Kaczmarski, who was an older guy when drafted and made it to the majors for 5 PA.

10th round – Gene Cone, who never cracked a .600 OPS in the minors.

5th round – Matt Winaker, who hit some in Lo-A but not much since.

1st round – Jarred Kelenic, who they traded.

4th round – Jake Mangum, who they traded.
6th round –Zach Ashford, an underslot guy signed for $10,000 who played like it.
10th round – Scott Ota, an underslot guy who signed for $1,000 – not a misprint.

1st round – Pete Crow-Armstrong, who they traded.
2nd round – Isaiah Greene, who they traded.


2nd round – Nick Morabito, who had a .303 OPS in 24 PA in his draft year.

So, in a 10-year span, with roughly 100 picks in the top 10, the Mets selected 16 outfielders and have had just two make the majors for them and one of those was for five PA. Of course, four of them were traded, including two first-round picks and a second. It might be a different story if those guys were still around.

Crow-Armstrong is a consensus top-30 guy. But as he split time last year between two A-ball clubs, he was unlikely to be much of a factor at the MLB level this year. Kelenic is hoping that this will be the year his monster Spring Training numbers will carry over to the regular season. But at age 23, he would likely be a fourth outfielder if he was still in the organization. Ditto for Mangum, at age 27, albeit with a .400 OPS this Spring. Greene played at Lo-A last season and is not ready for the majors.

Do 16 outfielders drafted in the top-10 rounds over the past 10 seasons provide enough bites at the apple? I don’t pretend to know the answer to that question. Gun to my head, it feels a bit light. The Mets have three years in the past 10 where they drafted just one outfielder and another one in which they did not take any in the first 10 rounds.

While we looked at guys picked in the first 10 rounds, it probably needs to be limited even more. In the past 10 years, the Mets have selected seven outfielders in the first three rounds. That’s where they had their big hit with Conforto. The jury is still out on Kelenic and Crow-Armstrong. If those two end up being solid MLB contributors – even at just the fourth-outfielder role – then it seems like it will be difficult to criticize the Mets’ drafting too much. But that’s hardly written in stone at this point.

Additionally, while we focused just on the draft, we have to look at the international free agent signings, too. There’s not as much readily-available information on who the club’s top 10 in any given signing period. We can go by bonus amount, but it’s not like that info is readily available at our usual stat sources.

But the bottom line is that the Mets as an organization have yet to have a ton of success in the IFA market, especially with outfielders. They’ve had highly touted outfielders who haven’t exactly panned out. We can easily recall the hype around Wuilmer Becerra, Alex Escobar, Adrian Hernandez, Fernando Martinez, Cesar Puello and Freddy Valdez. Perhaps it will be a different story with Alex Ramirez.

My sincere hope is that the farm system can develop to the point where signing reserve outfielders year after year after year becomes completely unnecessary. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part. But perhaps if they draft a few more outfielders in the top three rounds, quit trading away the ones that they do and occasionally hit on an IFA outfielder, things will change for the better.

15 comments on “A look at why the Mets consistently have no outfield depth

  • MikeW

    Really disappointed on how the Mets have not drafted and kept good young outfielders or IFA. We can say the same thing about starting pitchers.

    I sure would have like to have kept the Crow.

    • Brian Joura

      I think with the pitchers they’ve done a good job of selling high. Don’t feel they’ve done that with the OFers.

      The Crow – too bad we didn’t get to use that nickname.

  • ChrisF

    Total condemnation of failing to draft needed positions as part of a healthy draft plan. The quote from Alderson was a classic showing his complete and total ineptitude as a team leader. the flip side of the ugliness of the draft is the countless zillions dumped on the string of garbage collected in FA or trade from Jason Bay to Chris Young, no not that Chris Young, the other Chris Young, to Jose Bautista, or to Jay Bruce to name but a few.

    We can only hope the mantra of building a deep farm system is something Cohen will stick to. Sure seems like it so far. We can have the likes of Duda, Smith, and McNeil playing OF and expect anything close to winning.

  • Bob P

    I’m not so concerned about the number of OFs the Mets have drafted as I am with trading away the good ones. Whether Kelenic and Crow-Armstrong develop into good or great players or not, those were bad moves. As has been stated here on Mets360 many times, the Mets should not have had to include Kelenic in the Cano trade since the Mariners were looking at a salary dump, even with Diaz included. And I hated the Baez for PCA trade from day one.

    They’ve shown a willingness to do deals where they are not taking advantage of the leverage they have and give away too much (for a lesser example see Ruf, Darren).

  • DAEngel1969

    The Baez rental for PCA will haunt the Mets far more than Diaz for Kelenic.
    Ordinarily, it’s easier to pick up a free agent outfielder than any other position, so a lack of depth there bothers me less than what is an absolutely barren pitching cupboard. There isn’t one top flight starting pitcher in either Syracuse or Binghamton. (No way can you count Matt Allan – who seems to be perennially injured.)

    • Brian Joura

      It will be curious where they start certain guys. They may or may not have pitchers in Double-A or Triple-A that you’d want as one of your starting five but hopefully they will in the next couple of years. Perhaps we can say the same then about Ofers, too.

  • Mike W

    Parada is a nice prospect, but we have Alvarez. Why draft him when we need outfielders and starters.

    What do we do when Scherzer and Verlander age out in two years? If we pay Ohtani $ 50 million a year we will need some good young inexpensive arms. Last year the Braves brought up Strider and now, rookie Jared Shuster is going to earn a spot in the rotation.

    We gave up the Crow, but let’s be grateful that we didn’t sign Baez to a long term deal.

    • Brian Joura

      Parada was a potential top-5 pick that we got at #11. I make that pick 100 times out of 100.

      • Denis Engel

        Parada is insurance against an Alvarez disaster (either by injury or otherwise). He plays the most difficult position in the game. If disaster doesn’t strike (how could it – this is the Mets), then maybe he moves to another position or he is trade bait for pitching. I agree that his signing was a great thing.

        • Steve_S.

          I agree. Parada can be the DH and co-catcher with Alvarez.

  • Metsense

    The article answers the question as to why the Mets don’t have consistent outfield depth. The Cohen ownership solve the problem. Free agents and trades.
    Sure, draft the best player regardless of position. The Mets had three young shortstops in Rosario, Gimenez and Mauricio but they still traded for Lindor, a potential MVP player. Now they have three good prospects to play 3B in Baty, Vientos and Mauricio. Eventually they can trade two for a need.
    The Cohen philosophy is about winning, not saving a dollar, or not spending like a drunken sailor on shore leave.

  • JoeVasile

    Yeah, it’s pretty crazy how the team has picked really only Nimmo and Conforto as OFs in the last 12 years who have panned out to be MLB starters. Obviously jury is out on Kelenic and Crow-Armstrong, but that is way too many whiffs in the top 10 rounds in too long a period of time when you’re not pursuing guys via trade or free agency.

    • Brian Joura

      It’s hurt them more earlier than it has later. At least among the three starting OFers. Since 2016, they’ve generally been able to put representative outfields together. It helps that’s when Conforto and Nimmo start showing up. I just can’t believe how they really haven’t had a fourth outfielder, a guy to reliably play three positions and put up an 85 OPS+, available in the system.

  • T.J.

    It is clear that the Mets haven’t drafted many OF over the last decade, but I’m not sure that should be considered a mistake. Lower round picks are lottery tickets for sure…let’s say 4th round and lower. For top 3 rounds I’d say it make sense to go for best available talent…maybe that is what they did and it yielded few OF.

    Certainly dealing Kelenic and PCA when they lacked OF depth didn’t help. And, clearly the IFA OF group all fizzled, with the exception of a few years of Lagares and his top shelf defense. Perhaps another mistake they have made is not moving guys from IF to OF soon enough. Clearly, they hung guys like Duda and Smith out to dry trying to learn the OF in the major leagues. Should Vientos have had more reps in LF already? Would it matter? Ditto Mauricio.

    Lastly, of all the commodities in baseball to acquire via FA, corner OF as well as 4th/5th OF are probably the least expensive. I don’t mind so much that they need to fish. Unfortunately, they haven’t come up with enough Endy Chavezs as we’d like when shopping in that aisle.

    • Brian Joura

      Regardless of how cheap it may be, five years in a row where you have to go out and get a fourth outfielder is not a good thing. And those guys have mostly stunk. Marisnick was good but due to Covid and an injury, he had all of 34 PA. Pillar gave it everything but it was an 87 OPS+. If I’m going to pay above minimum wage for an OF, I want that guy to be putting up a 120 OPS+.

      Just thru blind luck, your farm system should be able to have one guy in a 5-year stretch who can put up an 85 OPS+ as a reserve outfielder in a 200 PA role.

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