Despite continuing to hit anemically over a month into his New York tenure, Jay Bruce will continue to play every day. Bruce hit a new low Wednesday when he took a called third strike with the bases loaded in the first inning of what would become a 1-0 loss to the Nationals. The outfielder has hit .192/. 271/. 315 in 146 plate appearances since the Mets acquired him at the trade deadline. But still, Terry Collins says, the Mets have no choice but to stick with his imported slugger.
“I'm not going to make any excuses, but who do we [have] that's going really good that we can stick in there?” Collins said. “If you take [Bruce] out, you'd better have someone you're confidence can get the job done."
Which raises the question: who exactly do the Mets have?
The young-slugging darling of last season’s pennant-run would seem the most obvious choice to take over. Yet the Mets acquired Bruce in large part because Conforto had struggled so mightily. Since his torrid April, Conforto has hit .160/.252/.311 in 234 major league plate appearances. He was sent to Triple-A Las Vegas twice over that span, too, and hit .422/.483/.727 in 144 plate appearances at the level. At minimum, he has a .794 OPS against right-handed pitching in the big leagues this year and could take one half of a platoon replacing Bruce.
Alejandro De Aza
For most of the season, the thought of starting Alejandro De Aza every day would provoke about the same reaction among Mets fans as suggesting the team reacquire Oliver Perez and plug him into the rotation. And yet De Aza has turned a corner in the latter part of the season. Since his OPS hit a nadir on June 29, De Aza has a .754 OPS, getting on base at a .350 clips and hitting five home runs. An unsustainably low .255 BABIP has been responsible for much of his struggles this season, and that should continue to trend towards his his career average of .324. He also offers a decent glove. While Bruce notoriously struggles in the field, De Aza rates out as about league average, per Fangraphs.
Kelly hit .328 this season for Triple-A Las Vegas, but that was largely the product of extreme hitter-friendly environment in Vegas. St. Louis released the 28-year-old utility man last year after he hit .226/.322/.296 between the Blue Jays and Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliates. He’s served adequately at a variety of positions down the stretch for the Mets, but at 28, that probably represents something close to the peak of his major league production.
While most prospects are continually pressed on the importance of plate discipline, the Mets minor league coaches consistently told Nimmo he had to swing more. Nimmo’s most advanced skill is his plate discipline. He posted a .389 on-base percentage throughout the minors, and he offers enough speed and range to be an adequate defender in center and above -verage at a corner. The power the Mets hoped he would develop when they drafted Nimmo out of the first round as a toolsy high-schooler in 2011 has yet to truly appear, but the 23-year-old has been working on driving the ball with hitting coach Kevin Long. This year, he hit 11 long balls in 392 Triple-A plate appearances and one in his June major league cup of coffee. He’s struggled making contact in his brief major league time this season, with 19 strikeouts in 62 at-bats, but at minimum, he’ll offer a superior glove and might get on base more often than Bruce.