The New York Mets are getting healthy, and that should scare the rest of the National League, now, and moving forward.
The run the New York Mets have been on in the second half has been remarkable. The Mets are 25-10 in the second half and that has catapulted them into playoff contention. What’s even more surprising is how they’ve done it.
Over the last week and a half, the Mets have played the Nationals, Braves, Royals and now, the Indians. That’s three teams in playoff spots and the Royals, and in those games, they have been missing numerous starters. Over half of those games have been played without Jeff McNeil, who has been one of the Mets best players this season. As of this writing, the Mets have collected four wins in six games without McNeil.
The usual lineup with him out has included Joe Panik, Juan Lagares and an ice-cold Todd Fraizer. Yet, the Mets have found ways to win. The good news for the Mets is that they won’t need to rely on below-average players for much longer. McNeil is scheduled to return shortly after he’s eligible, which is Aug. 24. Brandon Nimmo is in the middle of a rehab stint, which has already progressed to Syracuse. Lastly, Jed Lowrie has started his rehab stint in St. Lucie.
Over the next two weeks, the Mets could be getting back three players who put up a combined 15.8 FWAR in their last 162 games. It couldn’t come at a better time, either, with the Mets scheduled to face teams with a winning record until Sept. 16.
McNeil will likely be the first Met to return. His hamstring injury wasn’t serious and he should be back by Aug. 26. When he comes back. the first players likely to see the bench is Juan Lagares and Joe Panik.
Juan has played way better over this stretch of games than anyone thought he would. That much is true, but it doesn’t mean he’s likely to stay in the lineup over Joe Panik and Todd Fraizer. He is a bench piece who is best suited for late-inning defense at this point.
It’s easy to see that the Mets believe the same when they have him go up there bunting with runners on base like a pitcher would. That said, he will still likely see time against lefties. That was the plan before McNeil went down, and with Juan playing better lately, it’s likely that will still be the plan—even if Joe Panik has been hitting the ball well against both lefties and righties.
With McNeil back, the Mets get a guy who has been worth 3.7 FWAR this year, leads the NL in batting, has a .400 OBP, and a bat that’s hit 15 HR and 31 doubles this year—not to mention his excellent defense either in the outfield or the infield. Simply put, the Mets are getting their best all-around player back in the next couple of days, and he’ll be replacing players that should be on the bench on any given day. The improvement from Lagares/Panik to McNeil is a huge one and will make a huge difference as the Mets run the gauntlet the next four weeks.
Brandon Nimmo is likely to be back with the big club in a week or so, barring another setback. If that doesn’t excite you, I don’t blame you. After a fantastic 2018, Nimmo had an awful start to the 2019 season. He looked nothing like the player from 2018. That slow start was mostly due to Nimmo playing most of the season injured. He was not himself playing with his back injury.
When Nimmo comes back fully healthy, the Mets are getting one of the best bats in baseball back. Nimmo put up a 149 WRc+ last season, which put him sixth in baseball. He will also bring his incredible walk rate back with him. It’s entirely possible that with McNeil and Nimmo in the lineup that the Mets have two players with OBPs of .400 or better. Only one team in baseball could tout that this year, the Nationals. If the could consistently get two base runners on in front of Alonso, Conforto and Ramos there may be no stopping this lineup.
Obviously, there is a downside to Nimmo returning. When he returns, it likely means he will step into CF every day where he is a below-average defender. That said, his bat more than makes up for his defense in CF. Plus, Juan Lagares is always available late in games to replace Nimmo in CF and give the Mets the best defense possible to close out wins.
With Nimmo coming back it likely assures both Lagares and Panik will see the bench more often than not. Moving Panik to the bench could be a huge bonus for the Mets. Being able to call on a pinch hitter that they can be confident will put the ball in play is a huge help for a team like the Mets who have lacked bats on the bench all year.
Nimmo could transform the Mets offense into one of the best in baseball if he comes back, and looks like the player he was in 2018.
Mets fans haven’t seen Jed Lowrie this year. He didn’t even play in spring training. This has led to many fans openly wondering on Twitter whether or not he actually exists, birthing his new nickname, Bigfoot.
Well Mets fans, Lowrie is finally playing and looks ready to join the big club in a couple of weeks. That should get fans excited. Lowrie is a dynamic player that would add a dynamic the team doesn’t have yet. He’s a switch hitter with a great all-around game. He hit 23 HR last year, he’s hit 49 and 37 doubles in the last two years. He hasn’t hit below .260 since 2015 and has had an OBP over .350 each of the last two seasons. Jed Lowrie is a great bat.
He hits for contact, for power, he gets on base, his K rate is well below league average and he plays above-average defense at second and third. Having him in the lineup and on the field can fundamentally change the team. He can also hit anywhere in the order due to the fact he’s a switch hitter. He’s a swiss army knife that makes the team better no matter how you use him.
He would step into the lineup and replace Todd Fraizer. That is a boon for the Mets. Fraizer was an important player for the Mets early in the year. He was instrumental in keeping the Mets somewhat competitive in May and especially June. That said, he’s not the player he once was. Since the all-star break, Fraizer has hit just .194/.237/.373 with a K rate over 30%. Even his usually solid defense has started to fall off in recent weeks. He belongs on the bench where his power would be a huge boost.
Lowrie coming back would allow that to happen. It would also allow the Mets to replace a should be bench piece with an all-star level performer. That is an improvement that shouldn’t be understated. With Lowrie in the lineup, the Mets would not have a single weak point. It would be one of the deepest lineups in baseball.
Lowrie would provide the Mets a lineup that has an above-average bat at every single position on the field. If teams aren’t scared of the Mets now, they will be in a few weeks. The Mets are a team nobody should want to face in a playoff series. The Mets are coming, and are a real threat to not only make the playoffs, but to also make some noise once there.