Coming into this season, The biggest question the Mets were facing was who is going to play in the outfield? So far, it has been a revolving door of 6 outfielders. It has not been a huge spot of weakness so far, but I wouldn’t say it is the teams strength at the same time. Terry Collins has been able to piece things together early on, but sooner or later, more established playing time should be set.
Although I like the idea of open competition, keeping these players on their toes knowing someone is waiting in the wings to take their job at any moment. But these guys need to play on more of an every day basis to get into a grove with one another and see what their full potential truly is. It is still early in the season, but I think we have an idea at the very least of what these places can bring to the table.
So far, only Lucas Duda has been a given in the outfield. He has been a mainstay in left field and he is off to a good start. He has shown signs of why the front office loves his bat, along with driving fans nuts at the same time. Duda, is batting .273 with five home runs and eight RBI on the season. The thing that has people most impressed? His OBP of .475, thanks mostly to his 15 walks. I realize the Mets offensive strategy is to be patient and work the count, but there are times when Duda seems to take that thought process too far. Too many times this season I have seen him put himself in a hole, taking two quick strikes or go down looking at strike three. He is off to a good start and I appreciate his commitment to the team’s strategy, but I think if he jumps at good pitches he sees earlier in the at-bat, he will do more damage at the plate. His OBP is great, it really is, but with him batting 5/6 in the line up, we need him driving in runs, not looking to work the count.
Center field, has had a mix of Collin Cowgill, Jordanny Valdepsin and on occasion, Kirk Nieuwenheis out there. Cowgill, was the teams opening day starter, but that doesn’t mean much. He is hitting just .200 on the year with two home runs and eight RBI. The most alarming stat early on is his .200 OBP, he has yet to draw a walk this season. He is a hard nose player, always giving it the maximum effort each and every time he steps onto the field, with that being said, I think he is better suited to be a back-up/defensive replacement on this team. His swing is too long for my liking, he seems to attempt to hit for power rather than to get on-base, which would be okay, if he weren’t batting lead off. I envision Collins starting to limit Cowgills starts, using him against lefty’s and coming in to play defensive late in games.
Valdespin, is the player who can really run with this position. He is capable of being a dynamic player, he has the ability to hit the ball to all fields and with power. He possesses speed on the base paths, which is something this roster lacks. The one downside, his lack of experience in the outfield. Although he has held his own so far, he still seems to take awkward paths to the ball, this is something he will only learn by playing more. With the current state of this team, I think it is time to let him playing on more of a regular day basis, he will certainly make his mistakes, but that is part of the process. He is the player best suited to bat lead-off for this team.
Nieunwenhis, may very well of won this job out of spring training, had he not been injured. That set-back has really cost him and he seems to be the odd man out in Terry Collins rotation. He has only 16 at-bats on the season with two hits. He might very well be the best defensive player on this roster, as he has been used mostly as a late inning replacement. But there are still questions surrounded his offensive skills. He has shown he is capable of providing some pop in his bat and can hit the ball to all fields, but he strikes out entirely too much. There are rumors that he may be sent down to Triple-A soon, this would probably be the best thing to do with him. This will allow him to play everyday and get more at-bats. I wouldn’t give up on Nieunwenhis just yet, if he can work out the kinks in his swing, he is capable to doing a lot of things on the field that could garner him more playing time in the near future if others begin to struggle.
Right field, has been a mix and match of Marlon Byrd and Mike Baxter. Byrd, is the lone veteran with extensive major league experience in this group. He is attempting to revive his career with the Mets and has been performed okay early on. So far, he has seen the majority of the playing time in right field, batting .259 with 10 RBI. Baxter, has been used as a pitch hitter, along with some starts to give Byrd a day off. He is batting .240, but has a .375 OBP, which is something the Mets have taken note off, his ability to get on base is his biggest strength. It’s time we see just what kind of player Baxter can be, we know he can be a great pitch hitter and occasional start. What we don’t know is if he is capable of playing everyday.
It’s early, but the outfield has been alright so far. I’m looking forward to seeing if Lucas Duda can sustain his early success and be the offensive player many believe he is capable of being. Valdespin, is the biggest wild card on this Mets roster. I would love to see him become the much-needed spark plug this team needs. Right field is where I would most like to see a platoon, I believe that will be the case as the season moves along.