The sixth installment of our 10-part series highlights 10 left fielders who had underrated or overlooked years in New York. If you missed any of the earlier installments, you can find them by following the links below:
As always, please leave your own suggestions in the comment section, and remember to vote in the poll at the bottom of the page!
Tommy Davis, 1967
After a productive career with the Dodgers, Tommy Davis was traded to the Mets for two-time All-Star Ron Hunt and Jim Hickman. In 1967, Davis’s only year in New York, the left fielder hit .302/.342/.440 with 16 home runs, 73 RBI, and 72 runs scored, good for a 123 wRC+ and 2.7 fWAR. The Mets then traded Davis to the White Sox in a deal that brought Tommie Agee and Al Weis to New York, helping to lay the foundation for the team’s 1969 championship run.
John Milner, 1972-1977
John Milner was a solid Met for much of the seventies: from 1972 to 1977, Milner compiled a .246/.340/.417 battling line with a 115 wRC+, and averaged 16 home runs and 56 RBI per year. His best season was in 1976, when the lefty hit .271/.362/.447 with a 136 wRC+, 15 home runs, 78 RBI, and 2.9 fWAR. Milner was also a key part of the National League champion Mets’ offense in 1973, hitting .239/.329/.432 with a 114 wRC+ and a career-high 23 home runs, along with 72 RBI.
Steve Henderson, 1977-1980
Of the four players the Mets acquired for Tom Seaver in their infamous "Midnight Massacre," then-prospect Steve Henderson was by far the best. Unfortunately, Henderson’s role in that trade—and the fact that he played on some pretty brutal late-seventies Mets teams—overshadowed an otherwise productive career in a Mets uniform. In his four years with the team, Henderson hit .287/.360/.423 with a 121 wRC+ and averaged a solid 2.2 fWAR per year. Of course, Henderson, Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, and Dan Norman combined would never come close to replicating Seaver's production.
Danny Heep, 1985-1986
Danny Heep is a perfect example of what made the ’86 Mets so good. Heep was part of a deep bench of players—including Kevin Mitchell, Howard Johnson, and Lee Mazzilli—who didn’t play every day, but who produced when given the opportunity. In 1986, Heep hit .282/.379/.421 with a 126 wRC+, five home runs, and 33 RBI in 227 plate appearances, the vast majority of which came against right-handed pitchers. He also went 9-for-30 with four walks as a pinch hitter, good for a .300/.382/.367 batting line. Heep’s strong 1986 season followed a very solid 1985 campaign in which the backup outfielder hit .280/.341/.421 with a 116 wRC+, seven home runs, and 42 RBI in 305 plate appearances.
Kevin McReynolds, 1987-1991
Known for his quiet nature and aversion to the press, Kevin McReynolds had a quietly productive Mets career. In his five years as the team’s everyday left fielder, McReynolds hit .273/.331/.463 with a 122 wRC+ and an average of 24 home runs, 87 RBI, and 2.9 fWAR per year. His best season came in 1988, when McReynolds finished third in NL MVP voting on the strength of a .288/.336/.496 slash line and a 144 wRC+, 27 home runs, 99 RBI, 21 stolen bases in 21 attempts, and four fWAR.
Bernard Gilkey, 1996
In 1996, Bernard Gilkey wasn’t just good; he was an MVP-caliber player. In addition to his tremendous offensive production—.317/.393/.562, 152 wRC+, 30 home runs, 44 doubles, 117 RBI, and 108 runs scored—Gilkey added another 1.5 defensive bWAR on 23 total zone runs saved and 310 putouts. Gilkey’s 7.6 fWAR were third most among position players in the National League, sixth most among all major league position players, and was the fourth-highest single season WAR total of any position player in Mets history, behind only David Wright in 2007 (8.4 fWAR), John Olerud in 1998 (8.1 fWAR), and Carlos Beltran in 2006 (7.8 fWAR).
Rickey Henderson, 1999
When the Mets signed Rickey Henderson before the 1999 season, the 40-year-old was coming off of the two worst years of his career since his rookie campaign in 1979. Henderson’s offensive production had declined to a league-average 100 wRC+ in 1998, down from a slightly-above-league-average 112 wRC+ in 1997. But in 1999, Henderson enjoyed an offensive resurgence, hitting .315/.423/.466 with a 135 wRC+, 42 extra-base hits, 89 runs scored, and 37 stolen bases, and won the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award. It might seem odd to call any aspect of the Hall of Famer’s career "overlooked" or "underrated," but it’s easy to forget just how good Rickey was for the Mets in 1999.
Benny Agbayani, 1999-2000
Although Benny Agbayani’s star as a major leaguer rose and fell fairly quickly, he managed to pack a lot of memorable moments into his five-year career. In 2000 alone, the Hawaiin Punch hit two notable home runs: one an 11th-inning grand slam in the second game of the season against the Cubs in Tokyo, and the other a 13th-inning walk-off home run in Game Three of the National League Division Series against the Giants. (We would be remiss not to mention another memorable Agbayani moment when, in an August 2000 game against the Giants, the left fielder infamously handed the ball to a fan after mistakenly believing that the inning was over, which allowed two runs to score with the bases loaded.)
As memorable as those moments were, Agbayani’s value to the Mets extended far beyond just a couple of walk-off bombs. In 1999, his rookie year, Agbayani hit an impressive .286/.363/.525 with a 122 wRC+, 14 home runs, 42 RBI, and 42 runs scored in 314 plate appearances. He followed that up with an equally good sophomore campaign in which he hit .289/.391/.480 with a 127 wRC+, 15 home runs, 60 RBI, and 59 runs scored in 414 plate appearances. While Agbayani’s offensive skills would decline in the years that followed, Mets fans shouldn’t forget the important role that he played in the team's consecutive playoff runs in 1999 and 2000.
Fernando Tatis, 2008-2009
It may not have included two grand slams in one inning, but Fernando Tatis’s tenure as a Met was fairly remarkable in its own right. From 2004 to 2007, the once-promising Cardinals third baseman played a total of 28 major league games, all of which occurred in 2006 after a late-season call-up. After the Mets signed him to a minor league deal in 2007, Tatis made his return to the big leagues in 2008 and experienced somewhat of a resurgence as a utility outfielder. In 306 plate appearances, Tatis hit an impressive .297/.369/.484 with a 126 wRC+, 11 home runs, and 47 RBI, and was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year. He followed that up with another productive year in 2009, hitting .282/.339/.438 with a 106 wRC+, eight home runs, and 48 RBI, again in a part-time role.
Gary Sheffield, 2009
Like Rickey Henderson, Gary Sheffield might seem like an odd choice for this list given his outstanding career. But also like Henderson, Sheffield enjoyed a far better age-40 season with the Mets than he probably gets credit for. After a down year with the Tigers in 2008 led to his release, Sheffield signed a one-year deal with the Mets in early April 2009. Sheffield's first hit and most memorable moment as a Met was his 500th career home run, which he hit on April 17 at Citi Field. Far from mailing it in after reaching that milestone, Sheffield went on to hit .276/.372./451 with a 122 wRC+, 10 home runs, 43 RBI, and 44 runs scored as a part-time outfielder in his final big league season.