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Mets Player Performance Meter: Position players, March 28-April 7

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A quick review of how the Mets’ position players fared over the first couple of weeks of the season.

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the very first set of Player Meters for 2019! As a quick refresher, every week I bring you a quick review full of small sample size fun—for both the Mets’ position players and the Mets’ pitchers—of who is hot, who is not, and who is poop over the course of the season.

Offensively, the Mets have done quite well for themselves over the first nine games of the year. The team is 6-3 thus far in the young season and the offense has scored five runs or more in seven of their first nine games. The Mets have gotten contributions from pretty much everyone in their lineup, but let’s take a look at how each player has fared individually so far in 2019.

We’ll start with a quick review of who has opened the season on the injured list. Yoenis Cespedes is obviously the furthest from returning, recovering from surgery on both of his heels. He is expected back sometime in the second half of the season. Jed Lowrie, dealing with a sprained capsule in his knee, has been running but has yet to resume full baseball activities or play in any rehab games. Todd Frazier, who started the season on the IL with a strained oblique, is playing in rehab games and set to rejoin the team soon. Travis d’Arnaud was activated from the injured list yesterday, at which point the Mets optioned Tomas Nido to Triple-A Syracuse.

Nido didn’t see much playing time while filling in for d’Arnaud, but when he did, he gave the Mets pretty much what one who watched him play last year would expect. He went hitless in his six plate appearances, striking out a third of the time. But he remains a solid defensive catcher and a good option to have around in the minor leagues should injury once again befall either of the two injury-prone catchers currently on the active roster.

Without further ado, let’s discuss that fireball at the top of that chart, which belongs to Pete Alonso, who has been everything the Mets could have hoped for and more. After mashing all spring, the Mets rewarded Alonso by not manipulating his service time and installing him as the starting first baseman right out of the gate, even given Dominic Smith’s early successes. Alonso has repaid the Mets in kind, to the tune of a team-leading 216 wRC+ over his first 37 plate appearances as a Met. His eleven RBIs lead the team and are more than double anyone else’s total. He is tied for the team lead in hits with 13. He leads the team in both home runs and doubles. What’s even more encouraging than watching his majestic dingers is realizing that he is hitting the ball hard nearly every at-bat in a repeatable fashion. His average exit velocity is in the top 9% of the league so far in 2019. Not only that, but he has shown that he is certainly at least playable at first base on the defensive side, assuaging concerns regarding his glove.

If it wasn’t for the human wrecking ball that is Alonso, Dominic Smith would be quite the storyline himself and would be getting a lot more playing time at first base. As things stand, his production has still been rewarded with a spot on the big-league roster, despite the fact that both he and Alonso are first base only players. But Smith has been a great left-handed pinch hitting threat off the bench and defensive replacement at first base so far this season. He has five hits, four RBIs, and four runs scored in his first twelve plate appearances. He boasts a 196 wRC+, second only to Alonso for the team lead.

Just behind Smith on the wRC+ leaderboard is Jeff McNeil, who appears to be picking up right where he left off last season. He has posted a 192 wRC+ and his .409 batting average is second only to Smith for the team lead. He continues to be a contact-oriented hitter, walking just 7.4% of the time and striking out just 11.1% of the time so far on the young season. Thus far, McNeil has been in a pseudo platoon with J.D. Davis, in part because his knee has been a bit sore and in part because Davis has also been hitting well. But once Todd Frazier returns to the lineup, McNeil should be shifted to every day duties in left field.

Speaking of J.D. Davis, his two home runs in Saturday’s raucous win lifted him to a 146 wRC+ over his first 28 plate appearances. He has collected seven hits, three walks, six runs scored, and four RBIs over that span. While it appears the hitting abilities he demonstrated in the minor leagues appear to be for real so far, he has had somewhat of an adventurous tenure at third base in the field, demonstrating very little range and uneven throwing skills. It is also important to note that he has been used almost exclusively against left-handed pitching. It is unclear what Davis’ fate will be once Frazier returns from the disabled list (and eventually when Lowrie returns as well). He has options, so the Mets may choose to send him down, depending on how much they value having a backup shortstop on the roster in Luis Guillorme.

Like Nido, Guillorme has had few opportunities to get himself at-bats so far this year—such is the life of a glove-first backup shortstop. He has a hit, a walk, and a run scored in five plate appearances so far this season.

The big boppers in the middle of the Mets’ lineup have had good results so far in 2019, which has contributed a huge amount to the team’s early success. Michael Conforto has posted a 159 wRC+ in 41 plate appearances and is tied with Alonso for the team lead in hits with thirteen. He also leads the team in runs scored with nine. So far, he is striking out at a more frequent clip than he has historically over his career, which is something he showed in spring training as well and potentially something to keep an eye on moving forward.

Wilson Ramos is proving to be a shrewd signing and fantastic addition in the early going, delivering hit after hit. He has only one fewer hit than Alonso and Conforto. The overwhelming majority of those hits have been singles, but Ramos seems to be one of many Mets taking Chili Davis’ situational hitting approach to heart. He is second only to Alonso for the team lead in RBIs. He holds a 129 wRC+ so far in 2019..

It’s time to talk about Brandon Nimmo. I don’t want to talk about Brandon Nimmo because it makes me sad, but we do need to address Brandon Nimmo briefly. In short, it’s not been good. He posted a 26 wRC+ over the first nine games of the season and is striking out an absolutely alarming rate of 47.2%. Maggie Wiggin wrote a great piece on Friday about the concerning trends Nimmo has shown so far this year, including his high swing rate and fly ball rate. However, he is already showing encouraging signs of late and hopefully this is a short-lived poop emoji stint for last year’s breakout Met.

Robinson Cano has had a somewhat slow start to his season as well. After his torrid spring and subsequent Opening Day homer, his bat cooled off considerably and he has posted just a 59 wRC+ overall over his first 40 plate appearances. When he has hit, however, it has been timely. After Alonso got the Mets within a run on Saturday, Cano followed him with a majestic shot to the Shea Bridge to tie the game, one of the more exciting moments of the season so far. In the field, the 36-year-old has shown he is still an asset at second base and it’s hard to believe he’ll have a 59 wRC+ for long.

Amed Rosario is also off to a slow start in 2019. He holds a 57 wRC+ over his first 38 plate appearances. He has eight hits so far, including one double and one triple. He has scored four runs and driven in five. One encouraging sign from Rosario is that he has seemed more selective at the plate early; he has already drawn three walks this season. But he is striking out quite a bit as well, to the tune of a 32.4% K rate.

Juan Lagares was seemingly the only Mets hitter not to rake in spring training and that has carried over to the start of the season. He’s hitting just .167 over his first 20 plate appearances, good for a 59 wRC+. On top of that, Lagares is striking out 40% of the time. That said, he continues to play a fantastic defensive center field.

One figures that if Lagares continues to falter, Keon Broxton could start to see the majority of playing time in center field, at least until McNeil relocates to the outfield full time. Broxton has fared better at the plate than Lagares, posting a 100 wRC+ over 15 plate appearances. He has amassed four hits, two walks, an RBI, and a run scored.