Coming into this season, it looked like the revamped Mets infield was going to be one of the team’s strengths this season. With solid players at each position and depth coming out of their eyeballs, the infield would have to be a key factor to the Mets season if they were going to have any success this year.
So with the infield unit not exactly living up to expectations, it’s not surprising that the Mets aren’t, either. One of the players who taking much of the blame for that, fairly or unfairly, is Robinson Cano. The former All-Star second baseman was acquired from the Mariners this offseason in Brodie Van Wagenen’s first big move as GM, so he was always going to have the spotlight on him—with major expectations attached. And while Cano may be taking too much criticism for a 36-year-old player likely still compromised by a quad issue that the Mets never gave a chance to fully heal, his performance has been unquestionably bad.
Cano hit a home run in his first at-bat as a Met on Opening Day, but it’s been all downhill ever since. The 36-year-old has hit to just a 74 wRC+ in 258 plate appearances to this point, and is below replacement level by every calculation of WAR out there. Despite this, the Mets still insist on batting Cano third or fifth in the lineup most days, right between the big hitters in the lineup, because the team still seems to care more about name value than anything else.
Over at shortstop, Amed Rosario has not been as bad as Cano, but he has not exactly shown much improvement from his sub-par 2018, either. His 89 wRC+ is only a slight increase over last year’s 85. He is hitting for more power this year with 9 home runs and a .414 SLG, though that may be more a product of the juiced ball than anything else.
Defensively, Rosario hasn’t made significant strides at all. His overall numbers are still skewed from a two-week period in April when he clearly had the yips and made 8 errors over the course of those two weeks, which was not indicative of his talent level. That said, the defense otherwise has not been notably improved, and the Mets’ poor positioning likely isn’t helping him. Rosario has been worth just 0.5 fWAR overall so far, and that’s just not going to cut it if he’s going to be a long-term piece.
Things are much better at the corners than they are up the middle, at least. Third base was supposed to be manned by Jed Lowrie this season, but Lowrie has not played a single game for the Mets yet and may not play at all this season. In his absence, Todd Frazier has been at the hot corner, and he’s been one of the more pleasant surprises this season. After a slow first few weeks, Frazier came on strong in mid-May and hasn’t let up since. He owns a 112 wRC+ for the year—which would be his highest mark since 2015—and has a 138 wRC+ since May 17 with 9 home runs in that time.
Over at first base, of course, is Pete Alonso. There’s really not much to say about Alonso than what has already been said. He is an All-Star, the Home Run Derby champion, the Mets rookie home run record holder, and he leads all MLB rookies in hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, runs scored, SLG%, ISO, and fWAR. His 162 wRC+ is second only to Fernando Tatis Jr. among rookies and sixth in baseball among players with at least 200 PAs.
Alonso is a star. He is the new face and pride of the Mets. He is a beacon of light in this dark, twisted tunnel that is the 2019 Mets season. He is a reason to keep watching. With 30 homers for the season already, Alonso is only 12 homers shy of breaking the Mets single-season home run record. He needs 23 more to pass Aaron Judge to break the MLB single-season rookie record. What he’s doing right now is unprecedented. What’s more, his defense, which was his main liability as a prospect, has turned out to be completely fine defensively.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Wilson Ramos, who is having a dreadful defensive season behind the plate. According to the metrics at Baseball Prospectus, Ramos has been terrible at every aspect of catching this year, with -2.7 framing runs, -1.5 blocking runs, and -2.5 throwing runs. Overall he is at -5.0 FRAA for the year, which ranks 85th out of 90 catchers in baseball. His struggles behind the plate are evident just by watching a game, and Mets starters have even expressed their desire not to pitch to Ramos anymore.
That said, the backstop is having a solid offensive season by today’s catcher standards, with a .757 OPS, a 99 DRC+, and a 103 wRC+. That solid offensive output has been mostly negated by his defense, though, as he’s been worth just 0.3 fWAR and 0.7 WARP to this point.
Ramos’s defense has been so bad that Tomas Nido has been getting more playing time than anyone would’ve expected, and it hasn’t gone terribly. A 73 wRC+ in 84 PAs may not seem like anything to boast about, but it’s a much better pace than Nido was on over his first 100 career PAs in 2017 and 2018. And with his defense, he doesn’t really need to hit much to be valuable. BP pegs him at +1.7 FRAA for the first half of the year; putting him in the top 30 catchers this year.
As far as the depth pieces go, the depth has remained solid. J.D. Davis is the standout reserve, with 9 homers and a 116 wRC+ in 220 PAs. His defense at third base was rather dreadful though, so the Mets are keeping him in the lineup by rotating him and Dom Smith in left field. Smith, for his part, has amassed 106 innings at first base, though mostly as a defensive replacement for Alonso in the late innings.
Adeiny Hechavarria has hit some juiced ball special homers, but still owns just an 80 wRC+ for the year. His glove is still slick, so he’s fine as a 25th man, but probably not one worth the $5 million he’ll earn from the Mets, either. Luis Guillorme has also gotten some time at second and shortstop, but has been up and down between Syracuse and New York this year. He has just 3 hits in 21 ABs at the MLB level this season.
Overall, the five main starters on the infield have combined for just 4.9 fWAR so far this year, and 73% of that total comes from Alonso. That’s just not going to be good enough for this team to contend with all of its other issues. The offensive output from the infielders has actually been mostly fine outside of Cano, but the Mets are one of the worst defensive teams in baseball, and that offsets much of the offensive value.