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NY Mets: 1 prospect most likely to make the Opening Day roster

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 21: Khalil Lee #26 of the New York Mets celebrates after hitting a go-ahead RBI double against the Miami Marlins during the twelfth inning at loanDepot park on May 21, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 21: Khalil Lee #26 of the New York Mets celebrates after hitting a go-ahead RBI double against the Miami Marlins during the twelfth inning at loanDepot park on May 21, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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We saw him in 2021 briefly and the results were poor. Khalil Lee, who joined the New York Mets last offseason in a three-team trade, struck out in 13 of his 18 plate appearances at the major league level. He picked up only one hit before getting sent back down to Triple-A.

This wasn’t the end of Lee’s year, though. He rebounded nicely and finished his Triple-A season with an impressive .274/.451/.500 slash line.

I checked it twice. That’s no mistake. Lee paid homage to Brandon Nimmo in the minors. Next year, he has a chance to continue his rise with the big league club.

Mets prospect Khalil Lee has a nice shot to be on the 2022 Opening Day roster

As excited as we can be about Brett Baty, Mark Vientos, or any other prospect making their way closer to the big leagues, it’s Lee who has already been there and should get a shot again very soon. If he’s not on the Opening Day roster, it’s likely he’s the next in line for a promotion when an outfielder goes down with an injury.

Lee’s game remains imperfect. He strikes out a lot but makes up for it in some ways with his high walk rate. His power is difficult to pinpoint, too. He hit 14 home runs in only 388 plate appearances in Triple-A. In 2019, down in Double-A for the Kansas City Royals, he swatted only 8 of them in 546 trips to the plate.

This is possibly a case of Lee growing as a ballplayer. While some youngsters are obviously future sluggers or leadoff hitters, others aren’t so easy.

Can the Mets accept growing pains from Khalil Lee in 2022?

I don’t expect Lee to win the starting right field gig next year. More likely, he is the team’s fourth or fifth outfielder. With Kevin Pillar and the organization both declining his 2022 option, I like those odds. The downside to this would be fewer at-bats to get his work in. The upside is he will get to see better pitching when he does play.

I’m not yet ready to proclaim Lee as the next starting outfielder in the Mets starting lineup. Whether it’s center field or one of the corner spots, there is an opportunity for him to outperform others and win his way into a starting gig.

The best situation for him might be a platoon. However, I don’t really think this is what the Mets should be aiming for. The 2022 season should be about making up for the mistakes in 2021. It’s not a year to grow, get better, and see where the future takes them.

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One thing we do already know: the Mets can’t show much patience with him. They cannot afford to do so with him or anyone else in a year where winning is going to matter.

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