When Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares sit, the New York Mets struggle to hit.
Streaks and slumps come and go. Successful teams find a way to coordinate streaks and slumps so hot players can pick up cold players. What happens when practically everyone is cold? The New York Mets are living it.
Even during the Mets historic 12-2 start, plenty of hitters were slumping, and Michael Conforto was still on the DL. Since then, they have lost five of their last nine. Even after a rainout and an off day, the Mets still seems to be ice-cold on all fronts.
So, even though the Mets have a 14-6 record and are in first place, should Mets fans panic?
My short answer is no. My long answer is Mickey Callaway has to shake things up with the lineup for starters.
Two of their hottest hitters have been rotting on the bench. Brandon Nimmo, who is an on-base machine and the ideal lead-off hitter, should be playing more regularly. It’s no coincidence that when Michael Conforto was on the DL, Nimmo was a catalyst for the hot start. He has speed, a great eye, and contagious energy. Nimmo was even sent to AAA so he could play more but was quickly recalled after Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki went on the DL.
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Since being recalled, he has hardly played, and the Mets everyday hitters are ice-cold. Mickey has to find a way to get Nimmo in the lineup, even if it means sitting Conforto or Bruce.
Juan Lagares was the odd man out during Spring Training. When Bryce Brentz was claimed off waivers, there was even discussion of trading Lagares, to clear his salary. His Gold Glove caliber defense still wasn’t able to justify playing every day due to his pedestrian offense. He was coached in the offseason by Craig Wallenbrock, who helped J.D. Martinez. Lagares was attempting to alter his launch angle in an effort to hit more home runs.
This season, Lagares isn’t hitting high fly balls. He’s hitting line drive bullets in the gap and has come through in the clutch to help the Mets win. He was even hitting over .400 at one point, and yet he is sitting on the bench as well.
Callaway made it clear that Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto, and Yoenis Cespedes are playing regularly. All three players have been slumping badly and Mickey has to be a little flexible early in the season and play the hotter hands right now.
Lagares probably will never be an everyday center fielder for the Mets again. However, he should play more while he’s hot to increase his trade value.
Nimmo, on the other hand, should be the Mets everyday lead-off hitter. Since there isn’t a DH in the National League, there is no logical position for Nimmo. That might change if the Mets decide to make a change at first base eventually and move Jay Bruce to the position.
With Dominic Smith and Peter Alonso waiting in the wings to play first base, I expect to eventually make a trade to clear some space. They could trade Nimmo, Conforto, Bruce, Smith or Alonso while releasing Adrian Gonzalez.
My hunch is that the Mets keep Nimmo and eventually trade Bruce or Conforto so Nimmo plays every day. The Mets are already in the market for a catcher, and will probably be looking for another starting pitcher and/or relief pitching by the trade deadline. They will need some chips to get talent back.
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In the meantime, Nimmo and Lagares have to play more. Their cold offense desperately needs them.