The New York Mets suited up for the 2021 season with different expectations on the defensive side of the ball. Shortstop Francisco Lindor was there to contend for a Gold Glove. Catcher James McCann, another newcomer, was a much-needed improvement behind the plate. Despite the shortcomings of each on offense, I think they lived up to the expectations with the glove.
The Mets also saw improvements from Pete Alonso at first base and Brandon Nimmo in center field. During the time Javier Baez was playing second base, their defense up the middle was about as good as you could hope for.
It will be a different story in 2022 with many changes occurring with the roster. Although Lindor and McCann remain, many other positions are occupied by other players.
How the Mets defense improved this winter
There are four positions on the field we know will change. Second base remains a question as does first base since we’re not really sure about the DH. If the Mets were to move Alonso into a DH role and use Dominic Smith at first base more often, there’s an improvement.
It’s third base and the three outfield positions we can assess. Nimmo moving to a corner spot can only be good. His growth as a center fielder last year should help improve his overall abilities on defense. This should be a plus no matter where he ends up playing the majority of his time.
Then there are the three newbies. Eduardo Escobar at third base, Mark Canha assumingly in left field, and Starling Marte in center field.
An unexceptional third baseman, Escobar is still an improvement over J.D. Davis. We have to count this as a win even if there’s no parade or flag waving to celebrate the upgrade.
The same story applies to Canha in left field. He never once posted a positive defensive WAR in his career. Left field is a good place to hide him. But as below-average as he has been, it is yet again an improvement over Dominic Smith. Smith has made some nice strides at the position. Unfortunately, time seems to have run out on him playing left field every day for the Metropolitans.
Finally, there’s Marte. A guy best suited in left field with two Gold Gloves to prove it, it wouldn’t be a major shock to see the Mets end up shifting things around quickly from the original plan. Center field is a top spot to play. In recent seasons, it has been Marte’s primary spot on the field. Unfortunately, the same Gold Glove-caliber defense he had as a left fielder hasn’t translated fully. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, it’s hardly something to criticize him over. His speed can help save some runs. For the Mets, they just need to hope his age doesn’t catch up with him faster than expected.
There isn’t much else the Mets need to or can do to improve the defensive alignment. They got better as a team but maybe only because some areas were so tremendously weak.
An outside possibility but still one to consider, the team could always throw us a curveball and move Escobar to second base and add a top-level defender at third base. I find it unlikely. Instead, the plan seems to focus on leaving the door unlocked for Brett Baty or Mark Vientos to take on the position.