Breaking Down The New York Outfield Candidates
Breaking Down The New York Mets Outfield Candidates
Coming into the 2013 season the biggest question mark for the New York Mets, by far, was their outfield. The Mets outfield has been a vacuum of productivity for quite some time, and the front office failed this offseason to make a significant acquisition that would have given the Mets outfield a proven commodity and a reliable player in their outfield.
Things went from bad to worse when spring training started, as some of the more notable names in the New York outfield struggled at the plate or suffered injuries. As a result, even players that were locks or near locks to be a part of the Mets outfield this season were no longer guarantees, which has made it an open competition for all three outfield spots.
Despite the disappointment of some players, there have been pleasant surprises from some of the other Mets outfielders in camp, which have given some hope that the unit may not be as inept as in past years. However, there is still no guarantee that the players that have impressed in spring training will be able to carry that performance over to the regular season, and so there is still uncertainty in the Mets outfield.
With time running out until the start of the regular season, it’s tough to know who, if anyone, will be guaranteed a spot on the Mets opening-day roster, and what their roles may be. To help make sense of things, let’s run down the list of outfielders in Mets camp, and try to determine if they’re going to be on the Mets roster to start the season and what role they may be playing:
Baxter is the closest thing to a lock in the Mets outfield. He hasn’t swung the bat well this spring, but he has a good track record and the Mets know what he’s capable of. Baxter figures to platoon in right field, but he could also play left field and be an option to hit in the leadoff spot as well, which will make him a useful and versatile part of the Mets outfield.
Brown was a candidate to earn a bench spot and possibly platoon in right field, but he has not performed well this spring and is a long shot to make the team. He’ll likely head to AAA, but if the Mets need a right-handed bat with a little pop later in the season he could find his way back to the Mets if he’s performing well in the minors.
Byrd was an intriguing signing this offseason and he has had a fantastic spring. At this point, Byrd figures to be the primary right fielder for the Mets, but he’s also seen playing time in centerfield this spring, which indicates he could have a larger role than anyone expected. The Mets would prefer him to take more walks than he has this spring, but otherwise they’ve been impressed by his performance and once the regular season starts he should get loads of playing time at any of the three outfield positions.
Cowgill has been a pleasant surprise in the Mets outfield this spring, and has earned a lot of Grapefruit League at bats. He was expected to be a right-handed platoon player in centerfield heading into the spring, but the more he plays the more his role appears to be growing. He should make the team and he may even be the Mets opening day centerfielder.
Matt den Dekker
All of the uncertainty in the outfield has kept den Dekker in the competition. He is a brilliant defensive centerfielder, which is something the Mets could really use, but his hitting is still not at an acceptable level, even considering his defense. He still strikes out a lot, which makes him a long shot to make the opening-day roster, as the Mets would be sacrificing a lot on offense, but if he can swing the bat in AAA and keep his strikeouts down, look for him to earn a mid-season promotion to the big leagues.
Terry Collins said that Duda was the only Mets outfielder guaranteed of a spot heading into spring, but that seems to have changed. It’s still likely that Duda will start the season as the Mets everyday left fielder, but he could still play his way out of that role if he continues to struggle. If the Mets think they have three or four outfielders better prepared to help them win games in April, there’s a chance Duda gets sent to AAA to start the season.
Hoffman has struggled this spring to win a role as a bench player, and appears to be a long shot. However, he should see plenty of time at AAA, which should give him an opportunity to prove himself should an opening on the Mets roster become available later in the season.
Nieuwenhuis was penciled in as the starting centerfielder heading into camp, but he got off to a sluggish start and then suffered an injury that kept him out for a few weeks. Right now he has a lot to prove and a few guys to jump over if he expects to make the opening-day roster, much less play a significant role on the team; he also needs to stay healthy. At this point, Nieuwenhuis starting the season in AAA is a distinct possibility.
Heading into spring, Valdespin was on the outside looking in, but he’s had as good of a spring as anybody in camp, and now it’s difficult to imagine him not making the opening-day roster. What his exact role will be is uncertain, but he can play all three outfield positions, as well as second base, and he proved last season that he could provide power coming off the bench. If he can start taking a few walks, he could start seeing time as the leadoff hitter, which is something the Mets are still looking for. Assuming he makes the team, look for Terry Collins to give Valdespin as many at bats as possible.