Now that Yoenis Cespedes is back in the Big Apple, we wonder how the New York Mets outfield will be deployed by Terry Collins in 2016.
The Mets also signed utility outfielder Alejandro De Aza, mainly because they thought they weren’t going to retain Cespedes initially.
That gives manager Terry Collins lots of flexibility in the outfield just like he has in his infield, but he has to find a way to give everyone decent playing time in order for them to be happy.
Excluding De Aza, who is expected to be a full time backup, all the other four, including 2014 Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares, is expected to get solid playing time.
So what will be the factors of who gets to play and when?
As of now, the projected starting outfielders are Conforto in left, Cespedes at center, and Granderson at right. That is what Mets’ fans will see on a daily basis during most game time starts.
However, there are a couple points that could determine how Collins uses his outfield, particularly Lagares.
The regularly starting outfield of Conforto, Cespedes and Grandy clearly provides the best hitting, but it could hurt their defense a little with Lagares on the bench. Cespedes will be the center fielder for most of the season, and while he has played center through most of his time with the Mets last season, he is clearly more of a corner guy.
Cespedes wasn’t bad at center when he played there last year, but he had some tough moments like we saw in the World Series. We all looked at Ces’s mistakes there and and wondered whether it would’ve been different with a Lagares. As we saw in the World Series last season, defense is huge.
Conforto was much better defensively than what most people viewed him as, while Granderson really stepped up in 2015.
The Mets outfield defense would clearly be at its best with Lagares in the mix.
Whenever the Mets go against opposing right handed pitchers, there’s no question about it: It will be Conforto, Cespedes and Granderson in the outfield.
It gets a bit tricky when left-handed pitchers are throwing as the opposition on a day at the old ballpark.
Here are all four outfielders averages vs left handed pitching in 2015:
- Lagares: .273
- Cespedes: .223
- Granderson: .183
- Conforto: .214 (although he only had 15 appearances vs southpaws)
So as you can see, Lagares has been the best vs lefty pitching out of the four, which makes it also logical to start him vs lefties.
Towards the end of last season and in the playoffs, Collins did start Lagares vs lefties and it worked for the most part. Lagares finished well hitting down the stretch and in the postseason so there’s little reason for him to sit vs. lefties especially with his stellar defense. For the most part, Collins sat Conforto against lefty pitching.
However, Conforto is expected, by many, to take a step up in 2016 and potentially be a star player. In order for that to happen, Conforto must start more vs. lefties. Conforto had limited at bats vs lefties last year and while his overall average vs them wasn’t that impressive, he actually did hit lefties pretty well in the minor leagues.
Plus one of the two home runs Conforto hit in Game 4 of the 2015 World Series came against Kansas City Royals lefty Danny Duffy. So that should give the Mets some hope for Conforto heading into the 2016 season.
One thing the Mets could also do vs. lefty pitching is to sit Curtis Granderson. Grandy had a great 2015, but he is 35 now and probably not equipped to play nearly everyday. This would also put Cespedes in the corner (left field since he’s so opposed to playing right) if Conforto is willing to move from one side to the other.
Collins will have his hands full with the outfield but a good tough choice. Stick with the projected outfield of Conforto in left, Cespedes at center, and Granderson at right. Against righty pitching, that should always be the outfield and then perhaps bring Lagares late in the game for defense and shift Cespedes to left.
When the Mets go against a lefty pitcher is where it becomes interesting. There are different and important things in mind in Collins’s decision. Juan Lagares clearly has to have his share at bats against lefties, but Conforto could blossom into a star so he too has to garner more attention in that spot.
I think Collins should mix and match. Some games you can sit Granderson, and a few of them you can give Conforto some rest.
The main question that’ll be asked is this: Who’ll lead off when Grandy sits. That’s a different issue to be dealt with and I don’t think that should be much of a problem as long as others can get on base.
I think these are what Collins should do in order to make everyone in the outfield happy and get enough playing time.