It’s hard to fully judge the Mets’ outfield so far this season since it is mostly comprised of infielders. Others have come and gone, but for most of the past few weeks, the team has opted for offense and put together an outfield of Dominic Smith, Michael Conforto, and Jeff McNeil. It’s been a defensive liability, to say the least, but barring unforeseen circumstances, this arrangement will probably be the outfield going forward. Yoenis Cespedes is out for the year, there hasn’t been any update on Brandon Nimmo recently, and Juan Lagares has been brutal with the bat all year. Perhaps there will be more of a platoon for Smith and J.D. Davis as the Mets play out the season, but it’s just swapping one infielder for another to avoid an all-left-handed outfield.
All things considered, though, the Mets have been getting decent production out of their outfielders. They are ranked sixth in the league in fWAR, just behind the Braves. Their wRC+ comes in third, just behind the Brewers and Dodgers, two teams that feature an MVP-caliber player in their outfields. The Mets’ rank is all the more impressive considering Carlos Gomez, Rajai Davis, Keon Broxton, Juan Lagares, and an injured Nimmo have all seen time in the outfield.
Obviously the bulk of the production has come from the duo of Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto, the latter of whom missed some time with a concussion but finished the first half hitting .244/.359/.470 with 16 home runs and 44 RBIs. He came into the break in a bit of a slump but is still putting up solid numbers.
McNeil is the real standout and made his first All-Star roster as a result. Playing his first season in the outfield, he’s adjusted well, especially considering he started in left field and now has shifted over to right. There have been some missteps in the outfield, but he does have an outfield assist this year. McNeil finished the first half batting .349/.409/.509 and has a real shot at winning a batting title.
After refusing to put Smith in the outfield for the first couple of months of the season, the Mets have been giving him regular playing time there. Smith put together a good first half, hitting .304/.389/.551, which is why the Mets had to find a way to get his bat into the lineup.
That’s where the good news ends. Juan Lagares, the only true center fielder on the team, is hitting just .172/.242/.252, and his defense is far from what it once was.
Unsurprisingly the Mets’ outfield hasn’t ranked very high when it comes to defense. Their cumulative -10.2 UZR is almost dead last, and their -14 DRS isn’t much better, with only three teams worse than that mark. The defensive metrics aren’t perfect, but they match the eye test.
So how did we get here? The outfield should have been one of the Mets’ strengths this season, but injuries and under-performance derailed their plans. The bench outfielders have been a rotating cast of Brodie Van Wagenen’s depth moves, and while some had their moments, none were good enough to stick with the team. Rajai Davis is still in the system after getting designated for assignment, Keon Broxton is now on the Orioles, and Carlos Gomez is a free agent. The only one who hasn’t seen time in the majors is Matt Kemp, who is still sidelined with an injury.
Overall, the Mets are trying to do their best with the personnel they have, and it’s worked offensively. The outfield’s defense probably won’t get better, but at least the players who are playing out of position might continue to learn and improve upon at those positions.