It appeared that the New York Mets had begun to move Todd Frazier to the bench until his bat started to ignite once again.
Coming into this season, the New York Mets were confident that third baseman Todd Frazier would be able to rebound from his forgettable season in 2018. Last season was the first time since 2013 where Frazier had produced fewer than 20 home runs and 75 RBI in a season.
So far this season, we have seen Frazier at his highest point and his lowest point through 121 games.
Following a productive first half of the season, the 33-year-old has endured a significant decline since the All-Star break. After slashing a line of .256/.340/.443/.783 through his first 64 games of the season, Frazier has limped through the dog days of summer with a line of .223/.286/.446/.731 in 54 games since the break.
The two-time All-Star has gone on a few hot streaks that have kept his SLG percentage at a respectable rate, particularly the streak that he’s currently riding. Over his last four games, Frazier has hit a pair of doubles, three home runs, seven RBI and has created a monstrous line of .462/.500/1.308/1.808 as well.
Before Frazier’s bat started to heat up, manager Mickey Callaway and the Mets had begun taking away some of the veteran third baseman’s playing time. Since the start of September, Frazier has started at third base in just seven of the Mets’ twelve games this month. That number would also likely be even lower if not for the start of this recent hot streak from Frazier.
This impressive performance from Frazier over the last few games has also created a logjam at third base as well. Callaway and the Mets have had to juggle their starting lineup since the start of Frazier’s impressive stretch. The one player who’s been in limbo ever since this recent performance from Frazier has been Jeff McNeil.
With the return of second baseman Robinson Cano on Sept. 4, that meant McNeil could no longer play regularly at his natural position this season. So, that meant the Mets needed to move the first-time All-Star over to third base to receive regular playing time. Before Frazier’s bat ignited, McNeil had played two-straight games at third base. But, this hot streak from the Todd father has now taken away regular at-bats from McNeil.
Moving McNeil to left field until Frazier cools down is also something the Mets have attempted to do. Although, J.D. Davis deserves to receive regular at-bats as well. Since the 26-year-old began receiving regular playing time in the second half of the season, he’s hit ten doubles, ten home runs, 27 RBI along with a hitting line of .341/.403/.576/.980.
The Mets have also been extremely impressed with Davis’ performance in the field since they moved him from third base to the outfield. Davis committed five errors and recorded a -9 DRS, -1.5 UZR and a -5.5 UZR/150 during 220 innings at the hot corner this season. Conversely, Davis has made just a single error through 501 innings in left field this season. So, removing Davis out of left field and onto the bench is definitely not an option Callaway and the Mets want to take.
For the time being, it seems that McNeil will have to move all around the field to find himself in the lineup regularly. McNeil’s versatility is definitely a trait that he’s going to largely benefit from until Frazier’s hitting woes at the plate return. So far this season, McNeil has spent time in left and right field along with second and third base as well.
Since Michael Conforto and Davis have been so productive this season, Callaway will likely only want to remove them from the lineup for McNeil on days where they need some rest, or when they don’t face a favorable matchup against an opposing pitcher. Cano’s performance since his return from the IL has also earned him continuous starts at second base through the rest of the season. Since returning to second base, Cano has hit three home runs, five RBI and slashed a line of .400/.448/.800/1.248 through eight games.
While the Mets have gotten impressive production from all of the players mentioned above, McNeil remains one of the best hitters within their lineup, which is why they’ll need to become creative to find him consistent playing time. Since the start of September, McNeil has produced a pair of doubles, four home runs, eleven RBI along with a line of .289/.373/.600/.973.
Thankfully, Callaway if he’s still here next season and the Mets shouldn’t have this logjam issue during next season. With Frazier set to become a free agent after this season, the Mets will likely take the opportunity to cut ties with him. In doing so, the Mets could then position McNeil as their every day third baseman going forward, which would allow them to keep Davis in left field as well.
With two weeks remaining, the Mets will be doing everything they can to put themselves in the best position to take over one of the two Wild Card spots. According to FanGraphs, the Mets will need to finish the season with a record of 12-3 to give themselves the best chance to surge back into the playoffs.
In order for the Mets to win that number of games, they’ll need to have McNeil in their lineup, along with continued performances from the rest of their roster as well. With very little room for error, the Mets can’t afford to become complacent with who’s in their lineup each game, which is why they’ll need to find a way to fit both Frazier and McNeil in their lineup regularly for the time being.