Will Mets Have One of Best Outfields in Baseball?

On the first day of spring training, Chris Young let the world know where the Mets stood in terms of their outfield — as quoted by Adam Rubin of ESPN-NY:

“I think we can be one of the best in baseball in the outfield,” the ex-Diamondback said. “You’re talking about guys with a lot of experience out there, a lot of speed, guys with good arms. Hopefully we can get on the good side of our pitchers, and hopefully they’ll love us out there.”

Young also made crystal-clear that his preferred position in the outfield is the center-most.

One thing about spring training is that it’s so full of optimism and hope. Everyone starts out February tied for first place. Fireballing young pitchers are poised to become the next Sandy Koufax. Strapping young hitters are about to win batting titles and homerun crowns. Managers talk about concentrating on “the little things,” such as baserunning and fundamentals. And fifth outfielders who suddenly become starters upon arrival for second-division clubs talk about being part of “one of the best outfields in baseball.” It happens every spring.

Oh, how I hate to be the realist in the room.

Of course, the Mets outfield won’t even be the best in New York, much less “baseball.” Though, it will definitely be “one of” the best outfields in New York — even if you count the ones in Syracuse and Buffalo. Though, the word “best” is subjective, and the phrase “one of” is vague. For all we know, Chris Young meant to say, “one of the best 20 outfields in baseball.”

I hope that’s what he meant, because taking a cursory glance at the outfields in MLB, there are quite a few that — on paper — look a lot more talented than the one expected to show up in Flushing.

(For those unaware, the Mets’ projected main four outfielders are Chris Young, Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares, and Eric Young, Jr.)

For example:

Atlanta Braves: Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, Jordan Schaefer.

Yeah, B.J. was awful last year — but Chris Young wasn’t much better. So, cancel those two out, and we’re left with Curtis Granderson and Juan Lagares vs. Jason Heyward and B.J.’s brother. Which pair would you prefer?

Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Denard Span, Nate McLouth.
Is this really a contest?

Philadelphia Phillies: Domonic Brown, Marlon Byrd, Ben Revere, John Mayberry, Jr.
OK, this one is close, though it gets tough if you’re one of those Mets fans who thought Byrd was the bomb and will have another career year in 2014.

Miami Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton, Chris Yelich, Ben Bogusevic, Marcell Ozuna, Jake Marisnick.
Another close one, if only because we don’t know if 2014 will be the year that young phenoms Yelich, Marisnick, and Ozuna break out. Though, I’ll take Stanton by himself standing in center field over any three guys the Mets can put out there.

That’s just the NL East. How about we take a look at a handful of clubs outside the division …

Cardinals: Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Peter Bourjos, Oscar Taveras.
Bourjos is the weak link. Taveras might not make the big club out of spring training. Still, Craig and Holliday are pretty decent ballplayers.

Dodgers: Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford.
No discussion.

Rockies: Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer, Drew Stubbs, Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon.
Well, the Rox have a question mark in LF, but Dickerson hit .371 in AAA last year — not too shabby. Stubbs or Blackmon is the backup plan. Even if the Mets’ left fielder(s) is better, there is the matter of matching up to CarGo and Cuddyer.

Brewers: Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Khris Davis, Logan Schafer.
Again, there’s one spot where you might argue the Mets have a better player. And maybe Braun won’t hit so well without PEDs. In which case, maybe the Mets outfield will be better.

Giants: Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Mike Morse, Gregor Blanco.
This group is somewhat comparable to the Mets’, though it’s no longer a discussion if Morse can return to being the beast he was in 2011.

Padres: Carlos Quentin, Will Venable, Cameron Maybin, Seth Smith.
Finally! An outfield with more questions than the Mets. Quentin and Maybin have to be healthy, and if they are, chances are good that the Mets’ outfield won’t match up.

Pirates: Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Jose Tabata.
I’m not sure who the fourth outfielder will be; I’m not sure it matters.

I’m not even going to delve into the Adulterated League because this discussion will get more ridiculous. It’s nice that Chris Young is feeling good about his club and his teammates, but there’s a point where one should filter thoughts before they cross the lips, lest they become the butt of a joke.

Maybe I’m wrong — maybe the Mets really could have “one of the best outfields in baseball,” whatever that means. Give me the brutal truth in the comments.

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.
  1. Dan42 February 18, 2014 at 7:35 am
    Strange that he would mention strong arms. While an outstanding CF defensively, a strong arm was not one of his tools.
  2. NormE February 18, 2014 at 8:31 am
    Chris Young’s statement is the typical pablum you get from spring training interviews. What is the guy to say? If he says we are not very good, or we’re mediocre, how do you think that would play in the clubhouse? Adam Rubin is just filling space.
  3. Steve February 18, 2014 at 8:38 am
    NormE…Adam Rubin is just filling space. Sure. Sort of like you did with your lovely use of the word “Pablum”
    • NormE February 18, 2014 at 11:48 am
      Steve, thanks. I think it would be helpful to Joe Janish to keep our comments on the high road if we could all find more inventive words to use in place of the more jarring “street” terms in vogue. Or am I just getting old?
  4. TexasGusCC February 18, 2014 at 8:41 am
    We are forgetting that the Mets want to continue playing a certain first baseman in the outfield. A certain first baseman that spoke openly on the record about his dislike for playing there. This, of course, because the original plan of letting Davis and Duda battle it out for the starting position was quickly masked with talk of giving Davis 90 at bats in spring training, to “find himself”.

    So, while we are throwing Duda’s name into the list, I hadn’t noticed too many converted first baseman on that list.

  5. Murder Slim February 18, 2014 at 10:37 am
    Firstly, Young is talking about defense and you’re almost exclusively talking about hitting. The debate about the Mets’ outfield offence being the best in the league is of course silly. I think – which was Young’s point – that the defense (at least with Lagares in) will be pretty darned good.
    Secondly, I think if anyone relies on consistently insightful analysis from players then they’re in trouble. “Well, Adam, I think our OF hitting is gonna be in the bottom half of the pack this year. I’ll strike out a bunch but I could scratch .250 with 20 home runs. But, hell, I know it’s more likely to be .220 and 15 because they’ll throw me breaking stuff. Hey ho.” Is that gonna happen?
  6. Joe February 18, 2014 at 12:33 pm
    Shooting fish in a barrel here.
  7. DaveSchneck February 18, 2014 at 6:26 pm
    Joe,
    I’ll try to be the devil’s advocate for once and look on the “positive” side. Strictly from the standpoint of D, this assessment could be true, so long as Mr, Duda only uses his 1B glove this season. This is no given, but we know Lagares is plus, maybe plus plus. Not sure about Grandy’s arm in RF, but his range should be fine. EYjr is avg to slightly plus in LF, and I think C young could man either corner with slightly plus D. If allt he OF are going to hit .220 anyway, at least they can help the pitchers.
  8. Vilos February 18, 2014 at 10:16 pm
    The brutal truth is there isn’t truth in proyecting a season before it starts. There is probability but not truth.
    Therefore, even though I agree with you that it doesnt seem like the Mets have one of the best outfields in baseball, it could end up being true.
    In any case, just for the récord, I like our outfield.
  9. crozier February 19, 2014 at 10:25 am
    The brutal truth is that Chris Young’s spring training optimism doesn’t deserve your withering analysis. The new guy says the pitchers are going to enjoy the support of a strong trio of outfielders, and for that he’s taken to task? I welcome more winning attitudes on this club.

    Here’s more optimism: should Lagares, Young, and Granderson play to their potential and remain healthy, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them rank in the upper third in run prevention.

    Here’s less optimism: if the middle of the lineup doesn’t produce 100 home runs, the pitchers will need all the help they can get from defense.

  10. argonbunnies February 20, 2014 at 4:24 am
    Eric Young Jr. is good at finishing the play on a ball in front of him, contributing a few nice diving grabs last year. I don’t think that qualifies him as “plus”, given his trouble going back on balls and iffy arm.

    An OF of C.Young-Lagares-Granderson might be the best defensive OF in baseball. That’s mostly thanks to Lagares. If he sits, never mind.

    The Mets have a deep cast of league-average pitchers. That plus stellar defense should keep a lot of games within reach. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Mets have one of those “when we homer we win, when we don’t we lose” kind of years.

    • DaveSchneck February 20, 2014 at 9:43 am
      Argon,
      Spot on…short and sweet summary…excellent job.
      • NormE February 20, 2014 at 10:31 am
        I agree. I’d rather see a mediocre Mets with a starting OF of Grandy, C.Young and Lagares/den Dekker than have TC pencil in EYJr.
  11. argonbunnies February 21, 2014 at 6:58 am
    Joe, give us a post about Nick Franklin! Looks like he might be who Reese Havens was supposed to be, and he’s available. Cerrone speculates that Vic Black would get it done — much as I’d miss Black, that sounds like a good idea to me.
  12. Colin February 21, 2014 at 2:18 pm
    I think we have in young one of the most underrated outfielders in the bigs, but its Eric Young and not Chris.
  13. rogers February 21, 2014 at 4:20 pm
    You’ve linked the wrong Chris Young and wrong Eric Young…