Throughout the year, I didn’t give much thought to the various players trotting out to three outfield positions every Mets game. I kind of just glazed over the names and their attachments to LF, CF, and RF in the lineup.
Recently, though, it occurred to me: is the Mets outfield the worst in all of baseball?
I’m seriously wondering about this. Surely there is some statistical breakdown to provide an answer one way or the other — I’ll let someone else figure that out (if it’s already been done, please, post the link in the comments). Without the stats, judging only by what the eyes see from the outfielders in Mets uniforms as they track fly balls, throw to (or overthrow) cutoff men, run the bases, and take at-bats, I really have to wonder if there is a worse collection of all-around outfielders in MLB. I’m not necessarily saying Mets outfielders are terrible; rather, they simply seem to be incredibly ordinary (if one can be “incredibly ordinary”).
Here’s a question: is there a Mets outfielder you would want on your fantasy team? Even in a deep league? In a “keeper” league? I had Lucas Duda on my team for a few weeks, and I know some people picked up Kirk Nieuwenhuis when he was hot, but is/was anyone else worth a roster spot? Maybe Scott Hairston, though he plays too irregularly for most fantasy leagues.
The current Mets outfield is any combination of Andres Torres, Mike Baxter, Jordany Valdespin, Jason Bay, and Scott Hairston. They’re all average fielders; some argue that Torres is above-average but I disagree. All are average baserunners at best. All are average hitters at best, though some worse than others. Valdespin and Hairston occasionally blast one over the fence but otherwise, not much production coming from this group. How many MLB clubs can put up a winning record — much less win a championship — with a group of average players filling the outfield?
Of course, most fans remember the 2000 Mets that went to the World Series with what was considered a below-average group of outfielders. True, it was underwhelming, but the performance of Derek Bell, Jay Payton, and Benny Agbayani in 2000 was still more impressive than the top three Mets OFs of 2012. Agbayani had a career year, posting a .868 OPS, and all three of the 2000 regulars hit at least 15 homers and put up OPS above .770.
Looking around the rest of MLB, the only teams I see with similarly average or below-average collections of players tending the outfield are the Astros, Cubs, and Mariners — all terrible teams.
Is it a big deal to have an “average” or “below average” outfield? I think so — especially considering that the best comps listed above are last-place clubs. Unless a team has extraordinary players at most of the other positions, it’s difficult to put up a winning record. Looking at the 2000 Mets again, they had the greatest offensive catcher of all-time, spectacular production from Edgardo Alfonzo at 2B, and one of the best defensive infields in MLB that year, to make up for a below-average outfield. I’m not seeing a similar counter-balance from the current Mets personnel.
Perhaps what’s more concerning is that there doesn’t seem to be any help for the outfield corps coming from within the organization. Duda, Nieuwehnuis, and Matt Den Dekker are all struggling in Buffalo, and Juan Lagares — who will be 24 next March — seems to have hit a wall in AA. Maybe Brandon Nimmo and/or Wilmer Flores will eventually be patrolling the outfield in Flushing, but both seem to be at least two to three years away. In other words, unless the Mets are able to pull off a few trades in the winter, and/or make strong free-agent signings, it’s very possible the Mets will again boast one of the worst three outfields in MLB in 2013.
Does this concern you? Am I making too big a deal out of something that should be considered a minor issue? Or do you feel that the Mets desperately need to upgrade their outfield? Voice your opinion in the comments.
About the Author
Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.