Mets: Ranking the top players at every position in the NL East
By Jordan Leopold
RF: Philadelphia Phillies, Starter: Bryce Harper
After a four-month-long standoff between Bryce Harper and Major League Baseball, the slugger finally received the payday he was searching for when the Philadelphia Phillies signed him to a 13 year $130 contract. This deal makes the Scott Boras client the highest paid player in baseball history and the second largest in sports history (only trailing Mexican boxer Canelo Álvarez). Harper to Philadelphia has been rumored for quite some time and now he finally has the chance to bring a World Series title to the City Brotherly love.
Harper will hit third in a lineup that now features 5 MLB All-Stars, not to mention likely breakout candidate Rhys Hoskins. Although it seems unlikely that Harper will return to 9 WAR form, he should be expected to contribute greatly to the Phillies offense and he remains the NL East’s best right fielder. Behind Harper, the Phillies have the ability to shift a number of players to right field including Andrew McCutchen, Nick Williams, and Roman Quinn if he were to make the big league roster.
Right field has no shortage of talent in the division. Queens faithful should be excited to see another season of Brandon Nimmo roaming the outfield. The 2011 first round pick broke out in his first season as a starting outfielder, finishing 11th in baseball in OPS (trailing Harper by one place) and 9th in walks drawn. Nimmo’s 149 wRC+ was 6th in baseball and trailed the likes of Mike Trout and Mookie Betts. Nimmo has a knack for getting on base and his .404 OPS should have the opposing pitchers scratching their heads.
Nimmo is no easy out; he has a very patient approach at the plate and even led baseball in HBP with 22. Brandon Nimmo is the perfect table-setter for the Mets offense and fits nicely ahead of Jeff McNeil and Robinson Canó in the lineup. Defensively, Nimmo covers a ton of ground and while he may not look comfortable in center field at times, he is certainly capable of playing plus defense in right. I would like to see Nimmo be more aggressive on the basepaths as aside from Rosario, the Mets lack a true stolen base threat. Nimmo should also focus on taking everything up the middle and stray away from getting pull-happy in order to be successful throughout the season.
The Nationals will be filling the Bryce Harper hole by plugging in one of their own. Adam Eaton will shift from center to right and while he is a capable player, doesn’t have nearly the same upside as Harper. In Eaton, the Nationals have a player who strikes out far less than Harper and is capable of playing all 3 outfield positions. Eaton has only committed 5 errors over 194 career games in right field. Eaton will be the veteran in the outfield as he will guide the likes of Victor Robles and Juan Soto who are penciled in as the other nationals outfield.
This is a talented group of outfielders and while they may not possess the same power as Harper, the Nationals should not be worried about the state of their outfield in 2019. The one area the Nationals could upgrade is signing a veteran outfielder for their bench. Eaton is the oldest outfielder on the roster at age 30 and Michael A. Taylor has not proven to be a reliable option off the bench at this point in his career.
Nick Markakis resigned with the Braves on a 1-year deal. Markakis has always been a very productive player and in 2018, made the first All-Star game of his career at age 35. It has been a long time coming for Markakis who is currently 5th among active players in hits for his career. Markakis has quietly been very solid throughout his career; he has produced at least 160 hits in 11 seasons and hit below .270 only once. Markakis is a 3-time Gold Glove winner and while it is reasonable to expect a decline in play, Markakis remains a steady option for the Braves who will be one of four teams competing for the NL East in 2019.
There is a theme here for the Miami Marlins. Although they aren’t in the NBA and can’t “Tank For Zion”, they can trade away all of their players in hopes to acquire young assets and find more talent through the First-Year Player Draft. This process has left Peter O’Brien as the starting right fielder for the Marlins for the 2019 season. O’Brien is 28 and should be seen as a placeholder for the next young outfielder who will eventually surface for the Marlins.
Miami has a tendency of trading their All-Star outfielders, dealing Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich in the same season. It should be noted that two of the three have won MVPs since moving on from Miami. O’Brien currently has 31 career hits and has bounced around the minor league levels of 7 teams since the Yankees selected him in the 2nd round of the 2012 MLB Draft. O’Brien will look to accrue MLB experience and will begin the season as an everyday outfielder for the first time in his career.