New York Mets News

Mets Center Fielder of the Future: Is he already here?

By Judy Kamilhor
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 16: Third baseman J.D. Davis #28 of the New York Mets makes a catch after almost colliding with shortstop Amed Rosario #1 on a ball off the bat of Bryce Harper of the Philadelphia Phillies in the fourth inning at Citizens Bank Park on April 16, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 16: Third baseman J.D. Davis #28 of the New York Mets makes a catch after almost colliding with shortstop Amed Rosario #1 on a ball off the bat of Bryce Harper of the Philadelphia Phillies in the fourth inning at Citizens Bank Park on April 16, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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Who is the New York Mets center fielder of the future and is he already here?

If the New York Mets want to upgrade one of their weakest positions for the 2020 season, they will have to be more creative than usual. Since they are rarely creative, that isn’t saying much.

The usual suspects to play center field in 2020 include Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and former-CF-of-the-future Desmond Lindsay. Let’s look at each, both offensively and defensively.

Brandon Nimmo’s Offense

Nimmo broke out last season on offense (.263/.404/.483/.886).

More esoteric 2018-19 offensive statistics:

  • Baseball Reference’s Offensive Wins About Replacement (oWAR)
    • 2018=5.1
    • 2019=0.3 (on pace for about 0.9)
  • Baseball Reference’s OPS+
    • 2018=149
    • 2019=86
  • Baseball Prospectus’ DRC+
    • 2018=123
    • 2019=73

Nimmo has gotten off to a slow start this year, and is currently recovering from a possibly serious neck injury that may have long-term effects.

Nimmo’s Defense

Nimmo’s defense in CF trails behind his ability at the plate. According to three major statistical websites for Nimmo’s 2018 defense in 44 games in CF:

Given his age and injury situation, Brandon Nimmo should not be the CF of the future, unless he finds a way to surpass 2018’s breakout offensive season.

Michael Conforto’s offense

In 2018, this was Conforto’s slash line: .243/.350/.448/.797. In 2019, it’s a more impressive .251/.387/.491/.879.

More esoteric 2018-19 offensive statistics:

  • Baseball Reference’s Offensive Wins About Replacement (oWAR)
    • 2018=3.7
    • 2019=1.6 (on pace for about 4.8)
  • Baseball Reference’s OPS+
    • 2018=123
    • 2019=140
  • Baseball Prospectus’ DRC+
    • 2018=112
    • 2019=124

Conforto’s Defense

Conforto’s defense in CF also trails behind his ability at the plate. According to three major statistical websites for Conforto’s 2018 defense in 58 games in CF:

  • Baseball Prospectus FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average) = -7.3, per Baseball Prospectus 2019
  • FanGraphs’ UZR/150 = -12.5
  • Baseball Reference’s Rdrs/yr = -19

This year, Conforto has not played CF, even in the absence of Nimmo and the poor start by Lagares. Looks like the Conforto in CF ship has sailed, but fortunately, he is at least average in LF and RF, with enough offense to easily justify those positions.

Desmond Lindsay

Last year in A+ ball at St. Lucie, Lindsay had a slash line of .218/.310/.320/.630, with a DRC+ 0f 90. His FRAA in CF was 6.0 in 75 games, according to Baseball Prospectus 2019.

So far in 2019 back at St. Lucie, his .196/.305/.294/.599 is unsightly, and his FRAA is -0.5, a huge drop from last year. His chances of being the Mets starting center fielder look extremely remote at best.

So who’s left? External options

Trades are entirely unpredictable, so who knows if the Mets will fill this void by making a big trade. And assuming the Mets don’t trade for Mike Trout, the options are not great. No way Byron Buxton, Cody Bellinger, or Kevin Kiermaier are coming to Flushing either.

There are no top center fielders expecting to be free agents in the 2019-20 offseason. Marcell Ozuna is the closest thing, and he has not played regularly in CF since 2016. And his arm has deteriorated to the point of saying goodbye to CF forever.

So for right now, the solution has to come from inside the organization.

My solution

A few facts I considered before coming to my conclusion:

  • Lagares will be gone as a free agent in 2020.
  • Andres Gimenez is the Mets top prospect.
  • Amed Rosario has not developed into even an average fielding short stop in almost two full seasons.
  • Mets have the excellent fielding Luis Guillorme to fill in at SS until Gimenez proves he is ready.

The New York Mets CF of the future is . . . Amed Rosario!

Obviously, this has been suggested before over the past year or so, especially by me. I wanted to see this start during the offseason, even in one of the Latin American winter leagues. Obviously this did not happen.

Once the Mets are out of contention, I mean “If” the Mets are out of contention, they can give Rosario a little exposure to CF this season, and give him lots of time in Spring Training to get comfortable.

Pros

  • Rosario is extremely fast and athletic with a strong arm.
  • His weaknesses at SS are more about lack of infield instinct, rather than lack of physical skills.
  • His projected FRAA at SS by Baseball Prospectus 2019 for 2020 is -3.9.
  • Gimenez’s projected FRAA at SS by Baseball Prospectus 2019 is 6.3.
  • Andres Gimenez looks like a very good prospect, with more reliable defensive skills at SS.
  • His improving offense will play in CF as well as at SS.
  • There are way more excellent young shortstops in MLB and the high minors than there are center fielders.

Cons

  • Rosario seems to be a bit of a slow learner on defense.
  • Gimenez is no sure thing to stick as a major league regular SS.
  • Rosario’s offense needs to keep improving to justify playing either CF or SS on a regular basis.

Next. Tomas Nido can do everyone a favor and hit better

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In my book, the pros outweigh the cons here. There is no reason not to give Rosario some reps in CF in Spring Training or before to see what he looks like. For those who doubt this kind of transition, remember former shortstop, Juan Lagares.

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