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Mets Player Performance Meter: Position players, 2019 season

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A quick review of how the Mets’ position players fared overall this season.

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

By most metrics, the Mets’ offense had a successful season as a unit. The Mets’ position players accrued 23.5 fWAR as a group, which is good for the sixth best mark in the National League. By wRC+, they ranked second on the NL only behind the Dodgers. The Mets had relatively good injury luck this season with a few notable exceptions. Jed Lowrie—one of Brodie Van Wagenen’s big offseason acquisitions—missed nearly the entire season with a litany of lower body injuries. Robinson Cano had a slow start and a latter part of the season that was punctuated with lower body issues of his own. Brandon Nimmo’s encounter with the outfield wall in April culminated in a lost season due to a herniated disc.

Despite these notable absences from the lineup for good parts of the season, the Mets averaged 4.88 runs per game in 2019—good enough for an 86-win season just short of a playoff spot. This was due in large part to monster seasons from Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil, as well as a solid season from Michael Conforto and breakout seasons from the likes of J.D. Davis, Dominic Smith, and Amed Rosario. For all of these success stories, however, there were also failures. The Mets bungled their catching situation badly, leaving them without a true viable backup catcher most of the season. Most of Brodie Van Wagenen’s depth signings ranged from poor to awful outcomes.

However, amongst the 23 position players that donned a Mets uniform in 2019, there exists a core of players that the Mets can feel optimistic about heading into 2020.

Chief among the players the Mets can feel optimistic about heading into 2020 (and beyond) is, of course, Pete Alonso. Unsurprisingly, he was the Mets’ most valuable position player in 2019, finishing with 4.8 fWAR and 5.3 WARP. He broke the single season rookie home run record with 53 long balls. He drove in a whopping 120 runs, 28 more than any other player on the team. He scored 103 runs and put up a .260/.358/.583 slash line with a team-leading 143 wRC+ for the year. He did all of this while exceeding expectations defensively at first base. In short, it was about as good of a rookie season a player can possibly have—an All-Star season. He is likely to run away with the National League Rookie of the Year title.

The Mets’ other offensive juggernaut this season was Jeff McNeil, who consistently produced at the top of the lineup all season long. He matched Alonso’s wRC+ for the year exactly with a 143. He showed that his 2018 was no fluke and that he can hit for average over the course of a whole season. He finished the year with a .318 batting average, but that alone doesn’t tell the complete story of his season, which was really a tale of two halves. The Mets’ other All-Star representative on the position player side, McNeil earned that honor on the back of his batting average, which hovered near the top of the leaderboard in the National League for much of the first half. After the All-Star break, McNeil started hitting for more power, ending the year with 23 home runs, 16 of which were hit in the second half. This came at the expense of his elite batting average, which was .276 in the second half, but he remains a high-average, contact-oriented hitter. He scored 83 runs in 2019 and drove in 75.

Going into 2019, many believed Michael Conforto was primed for a monster season. He didn’t quite reach what could be classified as such, but he still had a very solid year nonetheless. He reached the 30 home run milestone for the first time in his career with 33 long balls. 2019 was Conforto’s most valuable season by fWAR besides his All-Star season in 2017. He put up a .257/.363/.494 slash line and a 126 wRC+ over 648 plate appearances. Most importantly, he was healthy enough to accumulate 648 plate appearances, after a devastating shoulder injury cut his All-Star season short and impacted his 2018 season as well. He had 92 RBIs, ranking second behind Alonso on the team leaderboard. All told, he was easily one of the Mets’ most valuable offensive producers in 2019.

We now move from the “lineup stalwarts” category to the “pleasant surprises” category of Mets. Chief among that group is J.D. Davis, who the Mets acquired for minor leaguers Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Scott Manea in the offseason. Davis turned out to be arguably Brodie Van Wagenen’s most successful acquisition. After not hitting at all in his very brief opportunities with the Astros, J.D. Davis did nothing but hit as a Met in 2019. He posted a 136 wRC+ over 453 plate appearances. He collected 126 hits, 22 home runs, 65 runs scored, and 57 RBIs. His 2.4 fWAR in 2019 is suppressed by his poor defense at both third base and left field. When injuries took their toll on the roster, Davis hit well enough to overcome his defensive shortcomings and play himself into an every day role. He will need to sustain this level of production with the bat in order to get a sizable number of at-bats next season, but he was a vital contributor to the Mets in 2019.

Another pleasant surprise for the Mets in 2019 was the emergence of Dominic Smith. Despite Pete Alonso being a fixture at first base, Smith played so well that not only did he also make the team out of camp, the Mets were forced to find ways to get his bat in the lineup. Sometimes that involved playing him in the outfield—a mostly failed experiment. But his results at the plate this season were undeniable. In 197 plate appearances, Smith posted a 133 wRC+. He found his power, putting up a .525 slugging percentage in 2019. He had 11 home runs, 25 RBIs, and 35 runs scored before his season was cut short due to injury. However, he came back in time to end his season with a truly magical walk-off moment. With Alonso certainly not vacating the first base position any time soon, Smith’s future role with the Mets remains unclear, but after multiple seasons of being labeled a potential bust hanging over his head, he has finally established himself as a bona fide big league player.

Amed Rosario finished his 2019 season with an even 100 wRC+ over 655 plate appearances. While that seems pedestrian on the surface, it still represents a step forward for the Mets’ young shortstop. While he struggled defensively early in the season, his hard work with Gary DiSarcina and others on the Mets’ coaching staff combined with the tutelage and leadership of Robinson Cano, he made massive improvements later in the year. Rosario hit 15 home runs, drove in 72 runs, scored 75 runs, and stole 19 bases in 2019, accruing 2.7 fWAR on the season. The Met with the most plate appearances on the team besides Alonso, Rosario’s job is no longer imminently threatened by prospect Andres Gimenez and his status as the team’s long-term solution at shortstop is secure.

Part of the blockbuster trade that also had Edwin Diaz coming to Queens, Robinson Cano’s first year as a Met was what most would classify as a disappointment. Mostly, it was the most injury-riddled season of his career. In the end, he only played in 107 games in 2019 and had his worst season with the bat since 2008. That said, he still did collect 100 hits and hit 13 home runs in that time, posting a 93 wRC+. There were times when the Robinson Cano of old reared his head, such as when he had a three-homer game for the first time in his career in late July. And his mentorship to Amed Rosario and others on the team has been a valuable addition to the Mets’ clubhouse. The Mets are on the hook for the remainder of Cano’s contract and they will have to do everything they can to keep him healthy and productive in order for the team to succeed in 2020.

While Brandon Nimmo missed a major chunk of the season due to a run-in with the center field wall that turned into a months-long saga dealing with a bulging cervical disc, he still looked very much like the Nimmo of 2018 when he was finally healthy again. For the year, Nimmo posted a 114 wRC+, but over his 93 second-half plate appearances, he put up a 159 wRC+. Unsurprisingly, his 18.1% walk rate led the Mets in 2019. His presence at the top of the lineup will be a much needed boon to the team in 2020.

Speaking of missing a major chunk of the season due to injury, I suppose it’s time to discuss Jed Lowrie. Lowrie was activated from the injured list on September 7th after a long injury saga, during which the Mets were purposefully evasive as to his exact condition. First, it was a strained knee capsule. Then, a “slight” hamstring strain. Next, it was his “entire left side” that was giving him problems, with Brodie Van Wagenen making vague references to his “kinetic chain.” After missing nearly the whole season, Lowrie finally did record eight plate appearances with the Mets in September and did not record a hit in any of them. He did not play the field at all in the final few weeks of the season. Therefore, in the second year of his contract with the Mets, Lowrie goes into 2020 a complete unknown as far as how much he will be able to contribute.

At this juncture, it is also worth mentioning that Yoenis Cespedes remains under contract for next year, which will be his last season as a Met, barring anything unforeseen. He does not appear on this table because he did not appear in any games for the 2019 Mets, after suffering an ankle fracture on his ranch during his recovery from heel surgery, which caused him to miss the entire season. He is also a complete unknown in 2020.

The Mets do have a vacancy on the infield that is left by Todd Frazier, who had a very Todd Frazier season. An oblique injury kept him off the Opening Day roster and he got off to a dreadfully slow start after returning, but his bat came to life in May and June. In mid-August, he had perhaps his biggest hit as a Met—an epic game-tying home run off Sean Doolittle against the Nationals in the heat of the Mets’ race back into Wild Card condition. Overall, his production was pretty much in line with his career norms. He posted a 106 wRC+ over 499 plate appearances with a .251/.329/.443 slash line. He had 112 hits, 21 home runs, 67 RBIs, and 63 runs scored. While he was frustrating to watch in a slump, his tenure as a Met was one that pretty much fell in line with expectations—a low-average bat with some power, good defense at third base, and plenty of New Jersey energy.

It is tough to find an adjective that properly captures Wilson Ramos’ season. His 73 RBIs are only behind the “lineup stalwarts” category of Mets (Alonso, McNeil, and Conforto) as far as run production is concerned, but over 524 plate appearances, he posted just a 105 wRC+, far below the mark he is capable of in the power department. He hit just 14 home runs. This is due, in part, to the Chili Davis school of hitting, which emphasized situational hitting and deemphasized launch angle. As a result, Ramos’ ground ball rate soared—probably not the best outcome for a slow-footed catcher. But, he excelled with men on base, hitting .307 with runners in scoring position. However, Ramos hurt the Mets defensively. He was poor in every aspect behind the plate, from throwing runners out to actually catching the baseball. But perhaps the most important takeaway from Ramos’ season is that, above all else, he was healthy. He played in 141 games, which is a career-high. The Mets cannot necessarily count on that happening again and would benefit from seeking out a better backup plan in 2020.

Speaking of which, the Mets’ catching situation behind Ramos was, to put it bluntly, an absolute disaster. First, they tendered Travis d’Arnaud a contract; d’Arnaud was not ready for Opening Day, then struggled to the tune of an .087 batting average of 25 plate appearances before being unceremoniously designated for assignment at the end of April, only to later find his way with a playoff contending team. Tomas Nido was then recalled and served as the backup catcher for the remainder of the season. While his defensive skills behind the plate are undeniable, they are not enough to make up for a 40 wRC+, which he put up over 144 plate appearances. He hit four home runs and drove in 14 runs. Rene Rivera was called up to serve as the third catcher in September and did so adequately, posting a 108 wRC+ in 20 plate appearances down the stretch. However, the fact remains that the backup catching position is something the Mets will need to address in the offseason.

In his final season with the Mets, Juan Lagares did not exactly go out on a high note. He was still a very good defensive center fielder (although perhaps not as stellar as he was in his prime) with +5 outs above average, according to Statcast. Interestingly, it’s a similar mark to Conforto, who finished the season with +6 OAA. And at the plate, he struggled, posting a 60 wRC+ over 285 plate appearances. He hit five home runs, including the first grand slam of his career in the Mets’ four-game sweep of the Diamondbacks in September. He scored 38 runs and drove in 27.

We will now journey into the “that guy played for the Mets?” category of 2019 Mets, starting with the slightly more memorable players in that crew. 2019 saw a triumphant reunion between Carlos Gomez and the Mets. While his overall numbers as a Met were mediocre—a .198/.278/.337 slash line and a 67 wRC+ over 99 plate appearances—he ye, ye, ye’d his way into our hearts nonetheless by hitting one of the more memorable home runs of the season, leaving his shoe on the field, and being generally fun.

Speaking of being generally fun and hitting memorable home runs, Rajai Davis’ 2019 Mets story was much the same. Outside of his crazy Uber ride to Citi Field and the madness that followed, he posted just a 63 wRC+ over 26 plate appearances. He scored four runs and drove in eight runs.

A constant up-and-down fixture for the Mets, Luis Guillorme also played a bench role for much of 2019. He provided his usual defensive excellence and speed at multiple infield positions, but did not hit much. His 87 wRC+ over 70 plate appearances is a respectable mark for a backup infielder, however. He scored eight runs, drove in three, and walked seven times. He is another Met that hit a very unlikely home run in a key spot—his only long ball of the year.

Joe Panik is certainly not the name people will think of first when they remember the 2019 Mets, but he was brought in for a very specific role and played his role well. After being designated for assignment, the Mets brought him in at a time when injuries were finally taking their toll; Robinson Cano and Jeff McNeil were both on the injured list and the Mets desperately needed a fill-in second baseman. Panik played that role cromulently and then returned to the bench when the Mets got healthy. He posted a 99 wRC+ over 103 plate appearances, collecting 26 hits, two home runs, 12 RBIs, and 17 runs scored, all while playing a solid defensive second base. The Mets have outrighted Panik and he has declared free agency.

Adeiny Hechavarria was yet another on the list of peripheral Mets to hit some unlikely key home runs. In his case, they happened to come both for the Mets and against the Mets. Hechavarria was brought in as a non-roster invitee in the offseason and after putting up a 62 wRC+ over 151 plate appearances, he was cut from the roster very shortly before a roster bonus was set to kick in. This did not leave Hechavarria with a very good taste in his mouth and he later infamously thanked God that he was no longer playing for the Mets, as he donned the uniform of a playoff bound division rival. If not for Dominic Smith’s heroics in the final game of the season, Hechavarria’s revenge may well have been a lasting memory of the 2019 Mets.

At this point, we’re really starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Many forget that Keon Broxton started the season on the Mets, let alone that the Mets traded three minor league players to acquire him. Broxton’s Mets tenure was pretty much a disaster. He put up a 5 wRC+ over 53 plate appearances and was designated for assignment in mid May. He then played 33 games for the Orioles, over which he hit .204, and finished the season in Seattle, where he hit .115 in 23 games.

Aaron Altherr’s Mets tenure was just as bad, albeit it was mercifully shorter than Broxton’s. Over 35 plate appearances, he had just four hits and two walks and struck out nearly half the time. He scored six runs and drove in two. He was designated for assignment in late August after hanging around on the 40-man roster for far too long.

Carlos Gomez wasn’t the only reunion the Mets had this year. That’s right, you forgot that Ruben Tejada played for the 2019 Mets, didn’t you? He did. It was brief, fun, and unproductive. After tearing up Triple-A, Tejada was called up in mid August and went hitless over nine plate appearances before being designated for assignment a week later. He scored one run over that span. And so it was.

Last, but not least, we have Sam Haggerty, who was a September call-up making his big league debut in 2019. He appeared in 11 games down the stretch, mostly as a pinch runner thanks to his speed. He had just four plate appearances, over which he went hitless. He scored two runs. He will look to be in the mix as the Mets break camp in 2020.