The New York Mets made it a point to address their outfield this offseason. However, it has left them with a somewhat unique problem. They will be left with four outfielders to fill three spots. Chris Young played only an inning before hitting the disabled list but is about to begin his rehab assignment with Triple-AAA Las Vegas. The Mets have been playing an outfield of Eric Young Jr., Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson in his absence. The question is, which member of that outfield gets benched?
Granderson will be playing just about everyday no matter what because of the investment the Mets gave him this offseason. He is expected to provide 20 home run power and certainly will not be coming off the bench.
Lagares has been very impressive in the early going this season, including hits in 9 out of the first 10 games and a team high six RBI. Additionally, he is almost certainly the best defensive outfielder on the roster.
Eric Young Jr. got off to a very slow start but in the series against Atlanta he showed his value. He is a spark plug capable of creating runs through his speed. He’s the best leadoff hitter the Mets have and stole 5 bases in three games against the Braves.
Chris Young was signed to a one year $7.25 million contract this offseason. That is a hefty price tag to pay to a player to ride the bench. Young is also expected to provide 15 home run power and some speed to the lineup as well as solid defense in the outfield.
The most likely solution will be a platoon in left field of Young and Young Jr., with Chris getting the occasional day in centerfield to get Lagares a day off. Chris Young may even find himself a near direct replacement for Eric as he may see some time in the leadoff spot. Other possibilities for the leadoff position could be Lagares or even Daniel Murphy.
Eric Young Jr. would likely still see significant playing time against certain tough right-handed pitchers as well as as a pinch-runner and a valued switch hitter off the bench. It’s also easier to make Eric the bench player. Younger players have tougher times adjusting to being pinch-hitters and that role could be detrimental to their confidence. A veteran such as Eric Young Jr. should be able to handle the role better and be effective as a 4th outfielder.
This would mean that Juan Lagares will be playing almost every day in centerfield. Lagares was pretty impressive in both aspects of his game last season and this year he has shown to have improved his patience at the plate as well as his clutch hitting while still maintaining a flair for the incredible in the outfield.
With Chris Young set to return in under a week, the Mets will likely be taking a close look at both Juan Lagares and Eric Young Jr., but expect to Lagares to have a leg up to keeping his starting job.