NY Mets shouldn’t platoon Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Pillar

Mar 2, 2021; Port St. Lucie, Florida, USA; New York Mets center fielder Brandon Nimmo (9) runs the bases against the Houston Astros in the third inning at Clover Park. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 2, 2021; Port St. Lucie, Florida, USA; New York Mets center fielder Brandon Nimmo (9) runs the bases against the Houston Astros in the third inning at Clover Park. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

The New York Mets signed center fielder Kevin Pillar to a one-year deal on Feb. 15. Recently Brandon Nimmo, a natural left fielder, has been manning center field for the Mets.

Although Nimmo is good in left, he’s a very poor defensive center fielder and was actually one of the worst defenders at his position in MLB in 2020 (-5 DRS, -4.1 UZR, -4 OAA).

Heading into the offseason, it was believed that a significant upgrade at the center field position (à la George Springer) was a priority for the new ownership. That turned out not to be the case.

The Mets first signed righty center fielder Albert Almora Jr. on Feb. 7, and then Pillar about a week later. Almora is a significantly better defender at center than Nimmo, but his offense is not, at all.

That leaves two options: Nimmo and Pillar. Nimmo is a left-handed hitter who’s proven his talent to the baseball world and worth to the Mets. Pillar has been a fantastic defender throughout his career and solid at the plate.

Because Nimmo is a poor defender in center and Pillar is not, and because Nimmo is a left-handed hitter while Pillar is not, the Mets might be interested in platooning the two in center field.

Arguments can be made in favor of that decision, yes, but taking an everyday role away from Nimmo would be a mistake.

The Mets shouldn’t platoon Nimmo and Pillar 

Pillar’s good glove and the fact that he’s coming off a career year has allowed some to entertain the idea of giving him a decent amount of playing time.

After spending the first seven years of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays, Pillar was traded to the San Francisco Giants at the beginning of the 2019 season. He spent the first half of the 2020 season with the Boston Red Sox before being traded to the Colorado Rockies.

The 2020 season was the best of Pillar’s eight-year career, offensively. He was on pace to set a career-high in walks, total bases, hits, and runs had the season been 162 games.

He did set a career-high in batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, BABIP, wOBA, and wRC+. Even in a career year, Pillar still wasn’t better than Nimmo at the plate. Nimmo was better in all offensive categories besides runs, RBI, and BABIP, and he was still really good there, too.

Nimmo has been one of the most underrated hitters in baseball, but the 2020 season might have been the first step to putting him on the map. He’s 27 and only just entering his prime, whereas Pillar is 32.

It really shouldn’t be a question that Nimmo’s bat is much more valuable to the Mets’ lineup than Pillar’s. The fact that he’s an OBP machine and gets hit by pitches more than practically anyone in the league is impressive enough.

Combined with his ability to hit and the fact that he is the quintessential leadoff man, Nimmo must be used as often as possible. His bat is just too valuable to not be in there every day.

It then comes down to the elephant in the room: defense.

Everyone is aware that Pillar has been praised for his great defensive play throughout his career. Nimmo, on the other hand, has been good in left (his natural position), but notoriously quite poor in center.

As we mentioned earlier, Nimmo was one of the worst defenders at his position last season. One would expect Pillar’s numbers to be significantly better, correct? Well, that actually wasn’t the case.

In 203 innings in center during the 2020 season, Pillar had a -4 DRS, -2.2 UZR, and 0 OAA. These are some of the worst defensive numbers Pillar has ever put up while playing center field.

This shouldn’t require too much analysis. Pillar’s numbers in the field were better than Nimmo’s in 2020, but they weren’t better enough for him to start around the same number of games as Nimmo in 2021.

Pillar has been getting worse in the field year by year, something that is expected from a 32-year-old, so we shouldn’t be surprised if he’s even worse this season. Plus, Nimmo has clearly been putting a great deal of work into improving his defense.

Why would the Mets take playing time away from a fantastic bat and a glove that’s getting better in order to give more playing time to an inferior bat and regressing glove? It doesn’t make sense.

For these reasons, the Mets shouldn’t even entertain the idea of platooning Nimmo and Pillar. Pillar is an excellent depth option to have and should come in later on in games and should get the start every now and then. Most teams would be lucky to have that kind of depth at center field.

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However, he shouldn’t be taking any playing time away from Nimmo, who’s one of the best at what he does in the league.