Harrison Bader is the new center fielder for your New York Mets, and he should be a fun player to watch. He was part of a roster reconstruction designed to provide short-term solutions for the team as they work to develop their best prospects, who will soon replace him. Bader signed a 1-year, $10.5 million deal with the team in January to boost the team defense.
Bader has played seven seasons in the big leagues with three teams, mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals, and he split time last season with the New York Yankees and the Cincinnati Reds. He is a career .243 hitter with 59 home runs, and won a Gold Glove in 2021, and comes to a place that had outfield questions this offseason, which Stearns seemed to answer with this move.
New York Mets oufielder Harrison Bader will be the Opening Day center fielder, and will play high level defense as long as he is healthy.
Bader's availability remains a question mark, thanks to several injuries in recent years. He failed to play in at least two thirds of his team's games in each of the past three seasons, and had three stints on the injured list last year alone. When Bader talked to the press last month, he said he was focusing on conditioning, so we will find out how that works for his availability.
Defensively, he is awesome. He constantly tracks down fly balls and line drives, even the ones in the gaps in left-center and right-center, has a strong arm, and has great instincts. Bader only has one Gold Glove on his resume, but the way he plays suggests he should have more. Hopefully, his great range will take some pressure off of Starling Marte, as the Mets try to get Marte back to his 2022 form.
Bader is a limited player offensively, however. His average exit velocity consistently ranks in the bottom portion of the league, and usually swings underneath pitches in the strike zone, leading to many pop outs. In fact, 28 of his 344 plate appearances last season ended in pop fly outs. That feels way too much. Also, he doesn't walk much, as his walk rate was less than 5.0 percent in each of the past two seasons. As for where he will hit in the batting order, it will likely be out of the ninth spot.
Bader is the type of player that you see on winning teams. After all, he's been in the playoffs in four of the past five seasons. He plays great defense, is an excellent baserunner, and can give his team timely hits. That is why fans should feel giddy about him as a Met because he will give the Mets a hard-nosed attitude they need to win in New York, whereas some players thrive in places other than New York because of that.
2024 stat predictions: .245 AVG, 8 HR, 40 RBI, .695 OPS