Outfield Should be Area of Big Met Improvement in 2014
The New York Mets opened the 2013 season with a centerfield platoon of Colin Cowgill and Jordany Valdespin.
Whatever else there might be to critique about this 2014 Mets edition one week before the start of the season, it’s safe to say that their outfield situation looks a whole lot healthier now than it did a year ago.
In fact, right now there are four legitimate candidates for three spots. One of those starting spots is definitely going to belong to free agent signee Curtis Granderson. While it might be too much to expect Granderson to return to his 40-plus home run production in 2011 and 2012 without the benefit of Yankee Stadium’s tiny right field porch as a target, the Mets do hope Granderson can account for 25 home runs this season.
With Granderson in right field, the other two spots are coming right down to the wire with Eric Young Jr., Chris Young (no relation) and Juan Lagares in the running. And the operative word there is “running.” All three of those candidates have legitimate speed. Eric Young Jr. was the National League stolen base leader in 2013 and is, by far, the most qualified leadoff hitter the Mets have on their roster, even if he could walk a bit more than he does. Chris Young has seen his offensive numbers decline each year for the last three (down to .200 with 12 HR last year), but the former Oakland Athletic has had a very good spring, generating some hope that he could return to the 20-home run, .250 batting average output that was his norm.
And then there is Lagares, who is so brilliant defensively that he’s valuable even if he can just hit .250 with a little power and a .310 on-base percentage. Yes, the sophomore is really that good with the glove. Lagares might be the best defensive center fielder in the National League—that is, if he doesn’t open the season in the Pacific Coast League in Triple-A instead. Lagares has also swung a respectable bat this spring, in addition to making one or two breathtaking plays in center in seemingly every spring game the Mets have televised this spring.
The Mets’ outfield situation appears so much better now that perpetual “four-A” prospects Matt den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis almost loom at nonentities who seem almost destined to begin the season at Triple-A Las Vegas this year.