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Mets outfielder Albert Almora can be more than just a defensive replacement

Mar 13, 2021; West Palm Beach, Florida, USA; New York Mets outfielder Albert Almora Jr. (4) at bat against the Washington Nationals during the second inning of a spring training game at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 13, 2021; West Palm Beach, Florida, USA; New York Mets outfielder Albert Almora Jr. (4) at bat against the Washington Nationals during the second inning of a spring training game at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports
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Albert Almora came to the New York Mets this winter to play spectacular defense and chew gum and sources say he’s all out of gum.

Seen as almost exclusively as a defensive replacement with eighth and ninth inning appearances as the center fielder plenty in 2021, is it possible we get to see a little more from him in 2021?

A lifetime .271/.309/.398 hitter, Almora isn’t about to steal an outfield job away from anyone. However, he can be much more than a late-inning defensive replacement.

Albert Almora can be much more for the Mets this season

Paired with Kevin Pillar on the bench this year, Almora should also get his share of at-bats. He’s playing the fifth outfielder role on a team without much help beyond the major league roster.

If there’s one position the franchise needs some development, it’s in the outfield. Fortunately, they do have Khalil Lee to possibly look forward to. Let’s also not forget about last year’s first-round draft pick, Pete Crow-Armstrong.

Those two are unlikely to do much to help out the big league club in 2021. Instead, we should count on Almora as one of the cavalry members to help out the team in their time of need. He’ll need to do much more than field baseballs well to truly contribute.

Stumbling across his 2021 projections from Baseball-Reference, I saw some promising numbers. Almora is projected to hit .252/.304/.384 with 7 home runs this season all while getting 282 plate appearances. I think the number of trips to the plate might be a tad high.

Almora is coming off of two down years with the Chicago Cubs which might be why many are sleeping on how productive he can be with a bat in his hands this season. He slashed .236/.271/.381 in 2019 with 12 home runs. Last year, in only 34 plate appearances, he hit .167/.265/.200.

Remove those two years from his resume and the Mets have a .289/.326/.412 hitter on their bench this year. Though very limited in power, Almora has shown in his early years that he can hit for a good average.

What’s a fair expectation in 2021?

A hit once every four at-bats for Almora would be fantastic. Getting on base at a clip of .300 or better would be a fine treat as well.

I’m not setting the bar very high on Almora because he’s not on the Mets to do significant damage. He’s a role-player brought in to make up for any late-inning nail-biting Brandon Nimmo may cause in center field.

I think exactly what Baseball-Reference projected is more than fair albeit in fewer opportunities. Almora should be saved for his defense in games and not put up to the plate ahead of Pillar or Jonathan Villar. Pinch-hitting opportunities will come as well as the occasional start.

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There is always a chance we see Almora outhit some of his bench mates and win a few more opportunities to hit. No DH in 2021 means nightly pinch-hitters and double-switches. Almora will get his innings in regardless of how the club uses him. Don’t expect him to tear the cover off the ball but don’t believe he’ll be an automatic out either.

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