One of the goals for David Stearns was to improve the Mets’ defense. And there are few center fielders in the game better than Harrison Bader when it comes to defense. Signing Bader allows the Mets to move Brandon Nimmo to left field. If Starling Marte returns to form, that gives the Mets a strong defensive outfield in all three spots.

Of course, defense is only part of the equation. As the Mets learned with Juan Lagares, it’s not a lot of fun to watch four lousy ABs day after day after day. And to make matters worse, Bader has had injury problems, too. He’s failed to reach 100 games played in either of the past two seasons and he’s reached that mark just three times since making the majors in 2017. So, what do we make of his great glove, his unimpressive bat and his injury risk? Here’s what the computer models project:

ATC – 410 PA, .244/.297/.387, 11 HR
Marcel – 403 PA, .249/.301/.392, 11 HR
Steamer – 410 PA, .245/.301/.400. 12 HR
THE BAT – 410 PA, .239/.295/.380, 11 HR
ZiPS – 381 PA, .254/.312/.401, 10 HR

Of course, none of the above numbers consider defense. If we look at fWAR, which includes defense, we see that ZiPS – despite having the least amount of playing time – has the highest fWAR with a 2.4 mark. Steamer is next with a 1.6, while ATC and THE BAT check in with marks of 1.3 and 1.1, respectively. Bader signed for $10.5 million, which means if he produces like ATC and THE BAT forecast, he’ll essentially be worth his contract. If he delivers like Steamer and ZiPS project, he’ll be a bargain.

At the end of the day, front offices should be aiming to win games, not win the dollar/WAR calculation. Now, frequently how you do the former is to do the latter. It’s just that in this particular case, adding Bader doesn’t feel overly productive to me. Perhaps the Lagares experience is just too fresh in my mind. My fear is that everything needs to go right for the Bader signing to work out. Let’s use Lagares to illustrate:

In 2014, everything went right and in 452 PA, Lagares posted a 2.9 fWAR
In 2015, not everything did and in 465 PA, Lagares posted a 0.6 fWAR

With Lagares, “everything” essentially boiled down to his BABIP. He had a .341 mark in the category in ’14 and a .308 mark in ’15. To be fair, his defense wasn’t quite as good in the latter season, also contributing to his fWAR decline. Defense is a young man’s game and Lagares saw the beginning of his defensive decline in ’15 at age 25. Bader will be in his age-30 season in 2024.

Because of his lack of games the last few seasons, let’s use UZR/150 to look at Bader’s defense on a per 150 games standard. In his age-24 and age-25 seasons in 2018 and 2019, Bader posted UZR/150 marks of 20.1 and 21.8, respectively. He fell off considerably in the Covid-shortened 2020, but let’s ignore that to give him the benefit of the doubt. In 2021, his mark was 15.1 and the next year it fell to 11.0 and in 2023, his UZR/150 dropped to an 8.5 mark.

To state the obvious, an 8.5 UZR/150 is a really good mark. It’s just that it’s fewer than half of the numbers Bader put up when he was younger.

Still, what’s most troublesome is not Bader’s defensive decline, it’s what he can reasonably be expected to give you at the plate. The computer models see someone putting up an OPS between .675 and .713, with three of the five systems seeing a sub-.700 OPS. Last year, Eduardo Escobar had a .695 OPS for the Mets and that translated to an 89 OPS+. In 319 PA last year, Bader had a 69 OPS+.

Bader’s trouble comes versus RHP. Lifetime he has just a .667 OPS against righties. In the past two seasons, a span with 502 PA, Bader has a .233/.267/.320 line against RHP. And for what it’s worth, he’s 1-7 with a .393 OPS against righties so far in Grapefruit League play.

By all accounts, the Mets are going to enter the season considering Bader as a full-time player. But even if he stays healthy, it’s hard for me to imagine that he isn’t busted to a platoon role at some point this year. The Mets are at least giving lip service to the idea of contending for a Wild Card in ’24. It’s just hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of contending while playing a guy who’s sub-Plaweckian versus RHP.

My totally biased forecast for Bader this season: 348 PA, .228/.276/.304, 4 HR

8 comments on “Mets 2024 projections: Harrison Bader

  • Steve_S.

    400 PA, .245/.290/.330, 11 HR

    • Steve_S.

      Error above, so it should be:

      400 PA, .245/.290/.375, 11 HR

  • Jimmy P

    Bader is part of the transition. A one-year deal, better defense, moves Nimmo to LF, with maybe some offensive upside for Bader (or a platoon vs LHP as a 4th/5th outfielder).

    Today in the Breakout Game Jett Williams starts in CF, Drew Gilbert in RF.

    One of those guys will be up by July; maybe both by September.

    Like iPhone, Bader comes with built-in obsolescence.

    BTW, after watching the organization play Mauricio at SS long after his due date, it is refreshing to watch them make the correct call with Williams in CF.

  • T.J.


    Clearly, Harrison is saving his hits for when the games start to count.

  • Metsense

    Stearns wanted defense and Bader fits the bill, but at what cost? He doesn’t hit RHP which is generally 67% of games played . There were good defensive center fielders available that were offensively better than Bader. If Stearns wanted to move Brandon Nimmo out of centerfield then Kevin Kiermaier ($10.5m/1) and Mike Taylor ($4m/1) would fit the budget. Stearns traded for Tyrone Taylor and he is an above average defensive centerfielder on the roster. He could have signed a corner outfielder for one year as insurance of Marte or the DH position. ( ie. Heyward $9m or Duvall $3m). Bader at $10.5m was an overpay.

    350 PA 243/292/378 9 HR

  • NYM6986

    Clearly a transition year pickup that will strengthen the defense and quite honestly bat him 9th if you need to in order to hide his bat. I liked Nimmo in CF and while he might be better suited for LF to cover up his less then dominant throwing arm, if the team was a few players away from a title, they would have secured a much stronger corner outfielder instead. But they are not. All these one year pacts are designed to pivot for 2025. I’m looking at 300AB if he can’t maintain a .250 or higher batting average and an OPS of at least .750 and then seeing more Nimmo time back in CF.

  • TexasGusCC

    Not thrilled but can live with him for one year:
    400 PA, .255/.312/.402: 9 HR

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