As we look at the 2021 Mets, offensively speaking this team is an embarrassment of riches. This team is full of players who can be great hitting lead-off and can make the argument they should be hitting in the middle of the lineup. As you parse through it all, the debate begins over who exactly is the best hitter on this team.
It may come to surprise you the answer is actually Brandon Nimmo.
No, that is not going to be a popular answer, especially among a fanbase who has a contingent who bizarrely believes Nimmo is a fourth outfielder. To that point, if we look since 2017, here are the Mets top hitters according to wRC+:
- Jeff McNeil 139
- Brandon Nimmo 136
- Pete Alonso 136
- Michael Conforto 132
- Francisco Lindor 119
- Dominic Smith 116
- J.D. Davis 115
- Luis Guillorme 93
- James McCann 91
Now, looking at that list, McNeil is ahead of Nimmo, and Nimmo is in a dead heat with Alonso. Really, taking the top four into account the 132 – 139 range isn’t really much of a separation to adjudge who is best among that group. However, there is more to the story when you are looking at Nimmo.
Nimmo’s biggest issue in terms of these rankings is he mostly missed out on the super juiced ball of 2019. While everyone was putting up video game numbers, Nimmo first dealt with a sore hand after a HBP early in the season. Soon thereafter, he was found to have a bulging disc which cost him the vast majority of that season.
While injuries of that nature are certainly concerning, Nimmo has done nothing but shown he has overcame that injury. Nimmo was reactivated when rosters were expanded in September. From September 1 through the 2020 season, Nimmo hit .275/.412/.506, and he posted a 151 wRC+. That wasn’t exactly a fluke.
In Nimmo’s breakout 2018 season, Nimmo had a 148 wRC+. It’s of interest to note, Nimmo had the same mark in 2020. That’s elite offensive production, and in his last two healthy seasons, he’s posted that same number. Keep in mind, that’s better than any other player on the Mets has posted over the course of a full 162 game season.
Yes, last season, we did see some Mets players post a better wRC+. Specifically, Smith had a 164, and Conforto had a 157. In terms of both, we have seen enough in their careers to indicate they are capable of producing incredible offensive seasons like that. We know the same for McNeil and Alonso. We haven’t seen it in New York, but we know Lindor is a very good offensive player albeit it one a step behind the rest.
Still, no one on the Mets roster has produced the numbers Nimmo has when Nimmo has been healthy. When healthy, Nimmo has produced at a level commensurate with players like Juan Soto (152), Christian Yelich (147), and Freddie Freeman (146). Since 2017, that’s the level of offensive player Nimmo has been.
Certainly, people refuse to believe it and want to write it off because Nimmo walks too much as if that is a bad thing. They also dismiss his approach citing he’s taking hittable pitches while ignoring his .456 SLG and .850 OPS. Nimmo is a player who makes a pitcher work, he gets on base, and he hits for power. That should be seen as the ideal profile for a hitter.
Also, keep in mind, it’s not just about batting average or homers. It’s about the ability to get on base. Few in all of baseball are better than Nimmo in that department and certainly no one on the Mets.
Overall, when Nimmo is healthy, he is the best offensive player in this lineup. Sure, he could very well be surpassed by players like Alonso or Conforto. That is very well possible given the caliber of player they are. However, keep in mind even with all the great things they do, they still haven’t done what Nimmo when healthy over the course of a 162 game season.
Like it always seems to be, the New York Mets entered the offseason with the need to rebuild their bullpen. As the Mets entered Spring Training without Seth Lugo, there seemed to be a renewed emphasis on the need to add more relievers to the bullpen. However, when you break it down, the Mets may not need to actually add another arm.
Typically speaking, we will see the Mets carry a 12 man pitching staff which means seven relievers. Right off the bat, the Mets are set at closer with Edwin Diaz. He will certainly be joined in the bullpen by recent signees Trevor May and Aaron Loup. That trio right there takes care of the Mets closer, the eighth inning, and their LOOGY.
That leaves them having to figure out the other four relievers in the bullpen. Based upon the moves of Brodie Van Wagenen, three of those spots are occupied by Dellin Betances, Miguel Castro, and Jeurys Familia. This trio could very well become the core of what might be an excellent bullpen.
As previously detailed, Betances induced very weak contact last season, and he would miss a lot of bats. Looking at Baseball Savant, there was also a lot of promise with Jeurys Familia‘s season as he also induced a lot of weak contact, and he had terrific velocity. What really hampered each of their seasons was a mixture of walks and plain old bad defense.
Betances had a 1.56 GB/FB last year, but despite the weak contact, he yielded a .353 BABIP. Familia didn’t have the same issues with ground balls turning into outs as Betances, but he did see a career worst walk rate come back to bite him. Keep in mind, in only two of the 10 appearances where he didn’t walk a batter did the opposition score off of him.
Both relievers will be helped by the improved infield defense we should see with Francisco Lindor at short. Also, while we may see J.D. Davis start at third, in all likelihood, he should be removed late in games for Luis Guillorme thereby making the Mets defense elite for these groundball pitchers who induce weak contact.
Keep in mind, while Betances and Familia have typically had higher walk numbers, neither had really posted numbers that poor in their careers. Part of that could easily be explained by them trying to regain their prior form in a disjointed offseason. Really, both pitchers needed to hone a number of things, and the pandemic really cost them the opportunity to work with Jeremy Hefner like they needed.
Given a normal offseason and Spring Training, it is reasonable to assume both could be reasonably relied upon to at least easily handle the middle innings. Perhaps, they could eventually be reasonably be able to be relied upon for the seventh and eighth. In fact, we should be able to see them close a game or two here and there.
In terms of Castro, no one throws it harder. Really, that makes him a bit of a wild card not too dissimilar to what Hansel Robles used to be for the Mets. If you can harness him, you have an elite reliever. If you don’t you have an interesting mop up reliever. Either which way, he is out of options, and he is going to get every chance for the Mets to be the team to finally unlock his abilities.
When you add Lugo to these relievers, this bullpen could be the envy of every team in the majors. The question for the Mets is what to do in his absence. In terms of that, the Mets have plenty of options.
Joey Lucchesi profiles as a potential elite reliever. We have seen Robert Gsellman be elite out of the bullpen for stretches. If nothing else, we know he can absorb innings. The same could also be true for Jordan Yamamoto. The Mets also have a number of interesting young relievers to throw at the problem with Jacob Barnes, Yennsy Diaz, Sam McWilliams, Sean Reid-Foley, Drew Smith, Stephen Tarpley, and Daniel Zamora. Of course, there is also Mets fan favorite Jerry Blevins here on a minor league deal.
The moral of the story is the Mets have the talent in the bullpen. The real challenge is going to be for Hefner to work with them to get the most out of them. Then, perhaps the even bigger challenge is for Luis Rojas to deploy them properly. Overall, if Hefner and Rojas are successful, the Mets will get the most out of what is an extremely talented group, and we will begin to wonder why exactly we were so overly concerned about adding a big name reliever in the offseason.
Look across the diamond. The New York Mets are a significantly better baseball team. It’s not just better in terms of the rotation and starting lineup, but it’s also better in terms of their burgeoning depth. Despite that, somehow, the Mets failed to address their biggest need of the offseason – third base.
J.D. Davis is the incumbent third baseman, and simply put, he has done nothing but prove he has no business playing the position at the Major League level. In his career, he has played 770.0 innings there, and he has amassed a -19 DRS. As previously put in perspective, that was worse than what Wilmer Flores posted as the position, and there was near unanimous consent Flores should never man the position again.
The Mets were well aware of this, and that’s why they seemingly went out of their way this offseason to say they were going to upgrade at third base. He said the position was “up in the air,” and the team went on what seemed to be wild goose chases for Kris Bryant and Eugenio Suarez. For all we know, they are still doing all they can to pry those players loose from their current teams.
When the Mets were unable to acquire a real third baseman before the start of Spring Training, Luis Rojas was reluctant to name anyone as the team’s third baseman. That would appear to be an indictment of Davis, especially with second base becoming vacant with Robinson Cano‘s season long suspension.
At least on the surface, it would seem Davis would keep his slot at third with Jeff McNeil becoming the everyday third baseman. However, that’s not entirely possible with Davis not being able to play the position. In fact, Davis is literally the worst fielder in the Major Leagues.
Over the past two seasons, Davis has amassed a combined -29 DRS. That includes a -17 DRS at third and a -12 DRS in left field. Just to put in perspective how bad that is, he is the only player to appear TWICE among the worst 30 fielders over the past two seasons. As we’ve seen, the Mets just can’t hide him in the field. That goes double for third.
Making Davis at third even worse is the current complexion of the Mets pitching staff. Overall, this is a heavy ground ball pitching staff. To wit, here are their GB/FB ratios since 2017:
- Marcus Stroman 2.66
- Noah Syndergaard 1.68
- Carlos Carrasco 1.35
- Taijuan Walker 1.34
- Jacob deGrom 1.34
- Joey Lucchesi 1.33
- David Peterson 1.22
- Jordan Yamamoto 0.80
Looking at the make-up of the Mets top eight starting pitching options, seven of them induce batters to hit the ball on the ground. That makes having a good defensive infield more of an imperative. Yes, Francisco Lindor goes a long way towards doing that, but by playing Davis next to him, the Mets are effectively neutralizing Lindor’s effect.
Digging deeper, the Mets are going to play Pete Alonso at first where he is not a good fielder. That means the Mets are going to trot out a ground ball staff and have the Major League worst defense at the corners. Really, this does not remotely make any sense whatsoever. Really, it’s ponderous the Mets would even consider going in this direction.
When you look at it from that perspective, Davis cannot play third everyday. It only serves to hurt the team. Ideally, the Mets would pull off that blockbuster we’ve been waiting for them to pull off all offseason to acquire a third baseman, or they need to play Luis Guillorme everyday at second pushing McNeil to third, where he is a better fielder.
No matter what the Mets do, they simply cannot make Davis the everyday third baseman. They’ve done far too much this offseason, and they’ve built their team a certain way. Allowing Davis and his defense, or lack thereof, diminish or neutralize it, makes zero to no sense.
I had the privilege of appearing on the Simply Amazin’ podcast with the great Tim Ryder. During the podcast, names discussed include but are not limited to Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, Rick Porcello, Francisco Lindor, J.D. Davis, Carlos Beltran, Bobby Valentine, David Wright, Bobby Thompson, Ralph Branca, Alex Cora, Luis Guillorme, Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Jonathan Villar, James McCann, J.T. Realmuto, James Paxton, Trevor Rosenthal, Aaron Loup, Mike Piazza, Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver, Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores, Jose Martinez, Alex Gonzalez, James Loney, Moises Alou, John Olerud, Davey Johnson, Pete Alonso, Wilson Ramos, David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, Jordan Yamamoto, Corey Oswalt, Luis Rojas, Jeremy Hefner, Jim Eisenreich, Alex Fernandez, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Darryl Strawberry, Albert Almora, and more
Please take a listen.
— Simply Amazin' (@SimplyAmazinPod) February 15, 2021
When discussing the 2021 roster, we continue to wonder what the Mets will do at third, left, and center. Part of the rationale there is the overriding assumption Jeff McNeil will only play second.
This isn’t just the Mets furthering the talking point of 2018 that McNeil is only a second baseman. Really, it’s not that at all. Instead, it’s just finding a position for McNeil and a replacement for Robinson Cano.
That said, sticking McNeil at second is reaching the pathological. It’s at the point where many are suggesting Luis Guillorme is a possible option at third. Not second where he is great, but third.
Having McNeil on the roster is an absolute gift, and just pigeonholing him to second is baseball malpractice. Remember, not only can McNeil play multiple positions, but in his career, he has a positive DRS at all four positions he has played at the MLB level (2B, 3B, LF, RF).
Yes, you absolutely can play McNeil everyday at second. However, it is arguably his worst position. Even with his early season struggles there last year, third is actually his best position with left field probably his next best position.
In essence, this is like having Ben Zobrist in his prime. Yes, Zobrist did eventually settle at second, but he also played all over. The operating plan with Zobrist seemed to be he had to play everyday, but where he would play would be dictated by the rest of the roster and lineup.
That’s how the Mets should be entering this season. It’s all well and good to think McNeil could be your best second base option, but they can’t overlook displacing McNeil from that position and shifting him elsewhere should another option emerge.
Overall, if you’re limiting McNeil to just second, you’re taking away part of what makes him great. Instead of treating him like just a second baseman, they should treat him like the player who can and should be moved around the diamond to help the Mets offensively and defensively.
With the slow crawl of the free agent market, there were still a number of quality depth players available in free agency. Instead, the New York Mets opted to sign Jonathan Villar.
Villar, 29, has been an everyday player for most of his career. The last time he served in a utility role was with the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers. In that season, Villar hit .241/.293/.372. That 2017 season also happens to be the worst year of his career. By and large looking at that and his career as a whole, there really isn’t evidence Villar is well equipped to be a utility player.
That said, this is still a Mets team without a third baseman, and they don’t have a clear path at the moment to get one. Given the situation, it doesn’t hurt to add a player like Villar who has shown he can handle playing everyday, and he has shown the ability to play at different positions. However, that is only part of the equation.
When you look at Villar’s career, especially of late, you’d be hard pressed to find a reason why this is a good signing.
Since 2017, Villar is hitting .258/.320/.397 with a 91 wRC+. His being below average offensively is all the more alarming when you consider much of that was buttressed by a 2019 season where he hit .274/.339/.453 with a 109 wRC+. That 2019 season was mostly driven by a juiced ball and a .341 BABIP.
Looking at Baseball Savant, there is little hope for Villar to prove to be a good hitter. He has always had low hard hit rates, barrels, and launch angles. Yes, the noted exception was 2019 which had a juiced ball. If we are to believe baseball, they are going to go in the complete opposite direction and deaden that ball thereby removing all hope for Villar to repeat that season.
Suffice it to say, Villar is not a good hitter. Conversely, Villar has proven to be a very good pinch hitter with a .315/.327/.500 batting line in 55 appearances. While promising, that is a very small sample size.
Now, utility players need not be perfect. After all, if they were, they would be everyday players and not utility players. There is nothing wrong with having a utility player who doesn’t hit all that well but is a good fielder. Unfortunately, Villar is not a good fielder.
Since 2017, Villar is a -2 DRS at second base, -5 DRS at short, and a -3 DRS in the outfield. He hasn’t played third since 2016, and he has been a -7 DRS there in 429.0 innings. Really, there isn’t any place in the infield you feel comfortable sticking him and providing you good defense. All told, Villar is a classic case of just because you’ve played a number of positions, it doesn’t really mean you should play any of them. And if you can’t play positions well, you’re not really versatile.
Really, if you look at Villar the only thing he can provide is really good base running. He is a very good base runner who can steal bases even if he has declining speed. While he’s exceptional at that, it is not something which helps the Mets all that much. Most of the Mets everyday lineup has speed and are not going to be removed normally for a pinch runner. Really, teams don’t utilize pinch runners all that much until rosters expand late in the season, which they don’t really expand all that much anymore.
When you look at Villar, this is player who doesn’t hit and can’t field. He doesn’t solve the Mets third base need, and his presence promises to take away reps from Luis Guillorme who is a superior player. There were also far more superior options available and better fits for this Mets roster like Jedd Gyorko and Todd Frazier.
Really, the Mets could have and should have done better than Villar. In the end, we can only hope the Mets knew something we don’t about him because based on all that we see this isn’t a move which really helps improve the Mets roster.
After needlessly trading Steven Matz to the Toronto Blue Jays an missing out on Trevor Bauer, the Mets are left looking for a depth starting pitcher. Ideally, they want a pitcher who can both allow them to have David Peterson start the year in Triple-A and push Joey Lucchesi when Noah Syndergaard is ready to return to the rotation.
There are still a few options available. There is James Paxton who is coming back from injury and seems eternally injury prone. There is also Taijuan Walker who has had poor velocity and spin on his pitches. The Mets are also talking with Jake Arrieta who has not been the same since leaving the Chicago Cubs.
Seeing the lengths to which the Mets are going to find that one extra starter, you do wonder how long it will take before they consider bringing back Rick Porcello. While it may not be a popular decision, it would be a decision that would make a lot of sense for the Mets.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way – Porcello was bad in 2020. In 12 starts, Porcello was 1-7 with a 5.64 ERA and a 1.508 WHIP. He had a career worst 75 ERA+, and he allowed a 11.3 hits per nine. By nearly every measure, this was the worst season of Porcello’s career, and for many, this happening with Porcello being 31 was an indication he was effectively done being a Major League caliber starting pitcher.
Before addressing that, we should consider his August 5 start. In that game, Porcello earned his one and only win as a member of the Mets. Over seven innings, he would allow one earned on five hits while walking none and striking out four. Aside from his winning that game, there was something else unique and important about that game. In that game, the Mets had Luis Guillorme and Andres Gimenez up the middle, and they were flashing the leather.
That game was an important reminder Porcello is a sinkerball pitcher who pitches to contact. Really, he wasn’t a different pitcher in that game as he was in most of the season. The real difference was the defense behind him.
Again, the Mets defense was terrible in most of 2020. In fact, their -22 DRS was the fifth worst in the majors. That’s one of the reasons why Mets pitchers had a .316 BABIP which was the fourth worst in the majors. All told, the Mets defense was horrible, and it severely impacted not just their pitching, but it really derailed their season. It’s at this point we should revisit Porcello’s 2020 season.
Despite the poor results, Porcello had a 3.33 FIP which is indicative of him pitching SIGNIFICANTLY better than his final 2020 results indicated. Over at Baseball Savant, Porcello posted very good exit velocity numbers and was middle of the pack in terms of hard hit rate. Despite that, he yielded an absurdly high .373 BABIP, which was not just the worst of his career by a preposterous margin, but it was also well above his .308 career mark.
Keep in mind, Porcello generated the weakest contact he ever has in his career, and he did that in what was a Mets schedule facing a number of very good offensive teams. He also had the best HR/9 and HR/FB rate of his career. All told, there was absolutely no reason why Porcello should have had a poor year. He induced weak contact, and he was keeping the ball in the ballpark.
Well, no reason except for the atrocious Mets defense. Keep in mind most of the batted balls against him went to the left side of the Mets infield. As we know, that defense has been significantly improved with the addition of Francisco Lindor‘s Gold Glove caliber defense at shortstop, and it will be further improve by having literally anyone other than J.D. Davis at third base.
Suddenly, not matter who is on the mound, those soft balls hit on the left side of the infield will be the sure outs they should have been. Also, those 50/50 balls will suddenly turn in the Mets favor. Maybe, just maybe, they will start getting to some of those balls few teams could ever turn into outs. Put another way, this is now a Mets team built to allow Porcello to be a successful starter.
Keeping in mind Porcello grew up a Mets fan and would be driven for redemption, a reunion could make a lot of sense. This is a Mets team built for him defensively, and this is a rotation in need of just one more starter to sure it up. All told, the Mets should now be looking towards Porcello instead of considering the likes of Arrieta.
The New York Mets are losing out on potential third base and potential depth options, there are reports the Mets are among the teams interested in Marwin Gonzalez. There are some good things Gonzalez can offer, and there are some real problems with Gonzalez.
On the bright-side, Gonzalez is a versatile player. Over the last three seasons, he has a -1 DRS at first, 2 DRS at second, 6 DRS at third, -4 DRS at short, and a 15 DRS in the outfield. Over the past three seasons, he has played every position except pitcher and catcher. He has played some capably, and he has played others at an elite level.
At least defensively, Gonzalez is a player like Jeff McNeil you can stick anywhere on the diamond, and you can feel comfortable with trusting him to play that position for a game or two or for a full season. There is immense value in that, and that is not something which should be overlooked.
However, that is part of the equation with Gonzalez. Since leaving the Houston Astros, who we now know were stealing signs, Gonzalez has not been a remotely good hitter. Over the past two years with the Minnesota Twins, Gonzalez has had an 85 wRC+. He is hitting .248/.311/.387. When you look at his Baseball Savant page, you see this is who he is now as Gonzalez is below average in hard hit rate, barrels, and walk rate.
As an everyday player, this is very problematic. When you break it down, this is someone who really isn’t a better option in the infield than what the Mets already have in Luis Guillorme. Given Gonzalez has been in decline offensively and in terms of his declining speed, it can reasonably be argued he is a step below Guillorme now. In 2021 and beyond, Guillorme is very likely going to be the superior player.
Now, that doesn’t mean the Mets don’t have the need for Gonzalez. They can certainly use the bench depth. If Luis Rojas is adept enough, he can rotate McNeil, Guillorme, and Gonzalez enough to keep them all fresh and very effective. Obviously, McNeil would get the vast majority of the playing time. It should also be noted in the event of an injury in their infield or outfield, it would benefit the team greatly to have a player like Gonzalez able to step in and play everyday.
Overall, Gonzalez would be an improvement for the Mets. If they are looking to add him for depth, it would be an incredible signing. If it is a starting job, it would be a sideways move at best. Much of how to analyze adding Gonzalez is just how the Mets intend to use and deploy him. In some ways, that is a very good problem to have.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming, the New York Mets still do not have a third baseman for the 2021 season. With the Nolan Arenado trade their options are dwindling.
We are not sure as to the realistic chances are of obtaining either Kris Bryant or Eugenio Suarez in a trade. We also know Justin Turner is seeking too many years, and his preference is to stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Mets aren’t in on Kolten Wong, and there aren’t any more free agent third base options available. The end result is the Mets running out of time and options to fulfill their massive third base vacancy.
And yes, it’s a massive vacancy as J.D. Davis has proven wholly incapable of playing that or any other defensive position. As we saw last year, without a juiced ball or overly inflated BABIP, he’s not worth playing on an everyday basis.
The end result of all of this means Luis Guillorme is probably the Mets best bet. He’s shown he can be a good everyday option at second base. While some may question his bat still, his defense there is elite and can carry his offense.
This means Jeff McNeil moves to third. Last year aside, he’s proven he can play the position, and as we know, his bat will play anywhere.
If that’s the plan, it’s a good plan. The only problem is the Mets don’t have the depth to cast Guillorme in a starting role. That’s obviously not his fault, and being fair, that shouldn’t preclude him from getting the starting position he’s earned.
Overall, the Mets are nearing Spring Training, and there’s no obvious third base plan. They don’t have the internal depth, and there are very few external options available.
All told, the Mets still have a lot of work to do.
Entering this offseason, the New York Mets have discussed building depth, but to date, they haven’t quite accomplished it. Surveying the remaining free agents, Asdrubal Cabrera stands out.
As we remember, Cabrera and his family loved being part of the Mets. There was an opportunity for him to return, but Brodie Van Wagenen botched it. Fortunately, Van Wagenen is gone and can no longer screw things up for the Mets.
Since leaving the Mets, Cabrera has been a 98 OPS+ hitter. While below average, he was still the clutch hitter we remember. Case-in-point, Cabrera hit .323/.404/.565 in 38 games with the Washington Nationals helping them claim a Wild Card spot.
While we saw he wasn’t a shortstop anymore, he did provide a capable glove elsewhere, and he’s been quite versatile.
Since 2018, Cabrera has been a 5 OAA at second, 8 OAA at third, and a 0 OAA at first. It should be noted DRS paints a significantly different picture. Melding the two and taking other defensive metrics into account, Cabrera can capably fill-in across the infield.
Remember, at this point in his career, Cabrera is a utility player. As such, on a game-in and game-out basis, he just needs to establish he can give the other infielders a rest of be able to enter on a double switch.
With respect to Cabrera being a depth option, he’s been a good pinch hitter in his career. As compiled by Baseball Reference:
Looking at Cabrera’s ability to come off the bench, you see he could be a very useful player. He can certainly give you a full game at first, second, and third, and in a pinch, he can be thrown in at short.
He’s an effective pinch hitter who is also a switch hitter. That’s important for this Mets team. While we see most of the starting lineup is left-handed, much of the bench is right-handed. Cabrera offsets both.
Now, at 35, he’s not likely going to get a Major League deal from anyone. That actually inures to the Mets benefit as their roster is full with the team still needing at least a third baseman and center fielder.
On a smaller note, signing Cabrera would free up Luis Guillorme to start at second. At the moment, Guillorme is partially relegated to the bench because of his ability to play across the infield. Adding Cabrera could allow Guillorme to slot in just at second.
Overall, Cabrera was a popular and clutch Met. He has the ability to play multiple positions. Cabrera can still hit. For a Mets team looking to upgrade their depth, Cabrera certainly checks all the boxes, which is why the team should push to bring him back.