The 2020 season for the New York Mets ended with great disappointment. Even with the expanded playoff format, the Mets could never put together that one run to propel them into the playoffs. There certainly is plenty of blame to go around. But how much of this season was to blame on the Mets offense? The struggles the Mets pitching staff, as was written in this article, had is well documented. But did the New York Mets offense do their part? What about the defense?
As a team, the New York Mets hit 86 home runs which were good for ninth in all of baseball. The Mets had a slash line of .272/.348/.459 which was one of the best in the league. Their 286 runs scored was good enough for 13th overall. They even gave ace pitcher Jacob deGrom more run support than he has had in a few years. There were certainly some standout performances in 2020 which includes a pair of players who may have forced their way into the 2021 starting lineup and some players who could have earned a one-way ticket out of Queens. Let’s take a look into each position starting with the infield.
The defending home run champ, Pete Alonso got off to a really slow start. With only a 60-game season starting hot out of the gate was important. Alonso didn’t and the words sophomore jinx were starting to be heard. Yes, Alonso’s batting average took a dip down to .231 from .260 in 2019. In reality, when projecting Alonso’s 16 home runs and 35 RBI to a full season the numbers are more what you would expect. After hitting 53 home runs and driving in 120 runs in 2019 to expect a repeat performance would not be realistic. The bigger reality of the 2020 season was that in September Alonso saw himself in a platoon with Dominic Smith at first base and DH.
The biggest and most pleasant surprise of the 2020 season was the emergence of Dominic Smith. Smith was once the first baseman of the future but came into Spring Training in 2018 out of shape and he lost his position. After Alonso’s record-breaking season in 2019 Smith was the forgotten man. Smith proved he could hit in limited games in 2019 but if not for Yoenis Cespedes opting out after 10 games this year, Smith might not have ever got his chance. That plus the Designated Hitter in play for the first time in National League history also played a big part.
Once Smith started playing every day he took off. Smith slashed .316/.377/.616 hitting 10 home runs and 42 RBI. On top of that Smith became a hero among teammates and fans during a season where there was so much social unrest throughout the country. The Mets do have a problem finding a position for Smith to play. Smith played 25 games at first and 23 games in left field. But Smith has not proven to be a good left fielder. With the DH not in play for the 2021 season what to do with Smith will be a hot topic this offseason.
Year four for Amed Rosario was not so kind. All of Rosario’s projected numbers in 2020 saw a drop in every major offensive category. 2019 was seen as a building block season for Rosario and the Mets and big things were expected in 2020. Rosario was the subject of trade rumors last offseason and he could find himself in the same position again. To top it off two of the Mets brightest prospects are shortstops and one debuted and played well this past year.
Andres Gimenez was a surprise addition to the Mets opening day roster. Even more surprising was that he was not the last man on the bench. Gimenez played often early on in the season whether it was as a late-inning defensive replacement or the occasional start. By September, Gimenez played his way into becoming a starter. Whether he was starting at shortstop or second base Gimenez showed his importance to the Mets. He slashed .263/.333/.398, hit three home runs, drove in 12, scored 22 runs, and stole eighth bases only getting caught once. But his versatility is his best attribute. Rosario played second base, third base, and shortstop with the bulk of his time being at short. It is possible Gimenez played his way into becoming the 2021 opening day starter at short.
Robinson Cano had a really good shortened season. His numbers projected out to his all-star days. Cano hit 10 home runs which are three less than he had in 2019. His .316 batting average was his highest since 2014. The only problem is Cano again spent some time on the injured list. At 37 years old you have to expect Cano will be susceptible to injuries. The bigger issue is that Cano’s presence blocks Jeff McNeil from playing his natural position.
Luis Guillorme was another surprise in 2020. Guillorme batted .333 in 57 at-bats. That is a very small sample even in a shortened season. But Guillorme like Gimenez showed great versatility playing three different positions. At 26 years old you could maybe expect Guillorme to get better offensively. But playing time is going to be hard to find on this team.
J.D. Davis took control of third base in 2020. His 33 starts at the hot corner were the most by far of any player on the Mets roster. After playing left field every day in July, Davis became the exclusive third baseman in August and remained at third throughout September. Defensively Davis showed great improvement from 2019 when the Mets moved him to left field just to get his bat in the lineup. But for as much as Davis improved defensively, he regressed that much offensively. Davis’ batting average went from .307 in 2019 to .247 in 2020. His power dropped off dramatically which makes you wonder if Davis will hit enough to play third base full time. Barring a trade Davis will enter the 2021 season as the starting third baseman.
Super Utility Player
Jeff McNeil might be the best pure hitter on the New York Mets roster right now. He started real slow in 2020 and battled a knee injury to finally turn it on in September. Despite the slow start McNeil still batted .311 on the season which was very close to his 2019 average. McNeil did not come close to the power he showed in 2019 but that might be a good thing. McNeil is at his best when he does not try to hit the long ball. But does his lack of position have anything to do with that?
Last season McNeil started 26 games in left, four games in right, nine at second and third respectively. Davis is right now the everyday third baseman. The Mets have a log jam at second base and right field belongs to Michael Conforto. So where does McNeil play? Leftfield seems to be the only position left unless McNeil truly becomes a player who played every day at a different position. Whatever the case McNeil has to be in the lineup every day.
Michael Conforto has now established himself as one of the best right fielders in the game. After battling through a couple of injury-plagued seasons Conforto has now strung together three consecutive healthy seasons and his numbers are growing. Conforto slashed .322/.412/.515 which all are higher than his career numbers. His 2020 numbers project out to 27 home runs, 93 RBI, and 120 runs scored. Conforto has yet to have that magical 100 RBI season and 2021 would be a great time to achieve it. Conforto heads into his contract season as one of the team leaders and possibly the guy you want up in a big RBI situation.
Brandon Nimmo was the primary centerfielder in 2020 starting 41 games there. The other players who started the remaining games like Jake Marisnick and Billy Hamilton are basically fourth or fifth outfielders and are no longer with the team. Nimmo is a player who’s biggest contribution is a .404 on-base percentage. Nimmo hit eight home runs which was the same amount as last season. There has always been a lot of discussion on just how good of a player Nimmo is. His projected numbers do look to be very solid depending on where in the batting order Nimmo hits. Nimmo did not play as well defensively as he normally does. The Mets are a team that is full of hitters and can definitely carry a table-setter player like Nimmo.
Wilson Ramos is an offensive catcher. He was brought to New York to hit and not play defense. In 2019 Ramos proved that he can hit. But in 2020 as Ramos slumped offensively his defense was just as bad as it was in 2019. Even if you project Ramos’ numbers out it still equals the worst non-injury season of his career. Ramos was so bad offensively that the Mets brought in a catcher at the trade deadline to hopefully spark both the team and Ramos. Robinson Chirinos was acquired to provide the Mets some offense and a better defensive presence behind the plate. The catcher position was the weakest overall position on the Mets by far.
The New York Mets are entering a new era. Gone is the light spending Wilpon family and in is new owner Steve Cohen who is a billionaire. Cohen has promised to make a splash this offseason and there are some very big holes to fill. This could be a very different looking starting lineup in 2021. The New York Mets have logjams at certain positions and without the designated hitter in play, moves will have to be made. Is a 60-game season enough to make a determination on any player? Time will tell. But one thing is certain and that is the New York Mets problem in 2020 was not the offense.
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