Outfielder’s Choice: Who Should Be the Starting Outfield for the New York Mets

Last year, an injury-ridden Mets team made what seemed to be a great trade for then NL RBI leader Jay Bruce from the Reds to supplement their under performing and injured outfield. That trade didn’t go as planned and Bruce had an awful second half of the season, and just didn’t click with the team. Michael Conforto, the Mets young stud who had a sub-par year last year when compared to his incredible year before that (his rookie year is statistically better than Bryce Harper’s) also presented a problem, and as a result has been constantly between Triple A and the Majors, playing great in the former and mediocre in the latter. Cespedes just got $110 million over 4 years, is an MVP candidate and is going absolutely nowhere. Lagares has an incredible glove and was the Secretary of Defense of the old Mets, but with the new additions his bat does not seem capable of meeting the team’s needs. Granderson has been a leader on the team, but has been slipping every year, and it seems this veteran could be on his way out. The scene is set for the Mets to make a move by the trade deadline, and what they do will have serious repercussions on their World Series chances.

Yoenis Cespedes

Yo was a huge add for the Mets, and after multiple contract negotiations two contracts in a row that was an emotional roller coaster ride for Mets fans, it is clear Cespedes loves New York, and based on the salary the Mets gave him, hes clearly the Guy. Yo is not going anywhere, so now there are essentially 4 guys competing for 2 spots in left and right field.

Jay Bruce

It is early in the season, but it seems Bruce has his sights set on solidifying his spot in right. After last season, most Mets fans were pushing for a trade for Bruce since he was under performing and taking up a spot in the outfield. This makes no sense, as he had vastly lowered his trade value, and had yet to give the Mets what he is actually capable of. As of today Bruce has 4 homeruns in 7 games, and is batting .308 with a .448 OBP, with a dramatic two-homerun game against the Phillies. This presents a vastly different situation than the one Mets fan predicted this spring, in which Jose Reyes was taking reps in the outfield, as if they needed more outfielders. If Bruce plays like he is capable, there is absolutely no way he can be justifiably replaced by Curtis Granderson. However, it is still very early in the season and if Bruce doesn’t produce like he should, don’t be surprised to see the Mets get what they can for him at the trade deadline.

Michael Conforto

Kid Conforto. The wonder boy. This young outstanding talent quickly became a fan favorite after impressive early showings with the franchise, and although he didn’t excel last year, it was difficult for him to get comfortable with such a deep roster and constant moves between the minors and majors. Conforto had a convincing playoff performance during the Met’s World Series run, and clearly has potential. However, after batting .220 last year with a .310 OBP, he is certainly not a for-sure starter, but hopefully this competition among the outfielders for rotation will bring out the best of Conforto. If not, he still has time to become a better player, and although he might not play as much this year, it is basically a guarantee that the Mets make room for him and he is an everyday starter next year. Being comparable with Granderson defensively also doesn’t help his case, as neither are exactly star defensive players. What will most likely happen is Conforto will be sent down to triple A and sporadically brought up to the majors when needed.

Juan Lagares

Lagares is a defensive stalwart, and at this moment it looks like he will be on the Mets for this year at least. Lagares bat is not impressive in the least, but he is a good batter against lefties, this combined with his gold-glove capabilities make him a useful tool on the team. With Cespedes an everyday player, and Bruce looking poised for a great season, Lagares will most likely provide some defense to this offense-heavy outfield. Cespedes had a poor defensive performance during the World Series against the Royals, but this is exaggerated and in reality Cespedes is a decent, consistent defender in left field, and Bruce’s arm is already an improvement over Granderson’s defense. Adding Lagares into the mix is adding defense into the mix, as long as he can stay healthy.

Curtis Granderson

Curtis Granderson is a great veteran presence, a dugout leader, but not the best outfielder on the New York Mets. In fact, in my opinion hes the worst, but thats not that bad considering the depth of this roster. Granderson has been slipping every year, supposedly, but not really. Granderson hit more home runs last year than he ever has as a Met. The rest of his stats are fairly similar to his career numbers, down a few here or there. His defense isn’t great and at times is borderline bad, and as I’ve mentioned before is comparable to Conforto’s.

So that is the basic breakdown and here is what the Mets should do:

Start Yo in Left, Rotate Lagares and Granderson in Center start Bruce in Right, and send Conforto to the minors so he isn’t withering away on the bench. Then, next year, move an asset or two, most likely Granderson, possibly Bruce depending on how they both play, and let Conforto blossom. Yes I would love to see Conforto play a lot of games right now and I think he is capable of it, I’m not sure it is justifiable for the rest of the team. Also, Bruce seems at the moment like a set starter because he is having a hot start, but Bruce as a Met has definitely not been what they were expecting, and although they got him for a steal in terms of immediate production (gave up prospects 2B Dilson Herrera and Lefty 19-year old pitcher Max Wotell), he still has some proving to do if he is to be an everyday guaranteed starter. Granderson could very easily start stealing some rotation from Bruce if he starts playing like he did last year.

All in all, if this is the biggest problem for the Mets, then they should have a great year. Having too many good players that you can’t start them all is a problem many teams want to have. The outfield is important to this defensive team, and whatever moves the team makes will have a huge impact on their season and perhaps the seasons to come.