Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
With news Tuesday that Brandon Nimmo will be shut down for 30 days came a potential new outfield alignment for the Mets -- one that could provide the team with an offensive jolt while sacrificing defense.
Manager Mickey Callaway said that with Nimmo now out long-term, a change could be coming in center field. And that change would have a ripple effect throughout the rest of the outfield and open up playing time for hot-hitting Dominic Smith.
Here's how things could shake out with each impacted player...
Callaway suggested Tuesday that under the new alignment, the likeliest player to shift to center field would be Conforto -- who started 56 games in center field in 2018 after starting 39 games there in 2017. Conforto was worth -8 DRS in center field in 2018, which would be around -24 DRS if you extrapolate it over a full season.
Asked on Tuesday about a potential shift to center field, Conforto said that he was fine with it. But it's fair to wonder if it makes more sense to simply keep him in right field (where he has been slightly above average this season) and shift someone else to center. That takes us to...
Under the scenario laid out by Callaway, Conforto would shift from right field to center field and McNeil would slide from left field to right field. McNeil, who played sparingly in the outfield during college and played only a handful of games there in the minors, deserves credit for the way he's handled his nearly full-time shift to left field.
McNeil, despite having a below-average arm for the outfield and learning on the fly, has actually been worth 2 DRS so far this season in left field.
Aside from two games in right field in 2017, McNeil's only experience out there as a professional is the two innings he played there earlier this season.
Regardless of where Conforto and/or McNeil shift, Smith will likely wind up in left field -- a potential boon for the Mets' lineup. Smith, slimmed down and more acclimated to left field, has been exactly average out there -- according to FanGraphs -- after being well below average out there in 2018.
While Smith might not have enough power to profile as an outfielder long-term, the idea of him as someone who can handle left field defensively is no longer crazy.
Is Smith/Conforto/McNeil from left to right the proper way to handle things?
The Mets are getting next to nothing offensively from Juan Lagares and Carlos Gomez, who have been splitting time in center field. So pivoting away from them and hatching a new plan with Nimmo out long-term makes sense. But it's fair to wonder if shifting McNeil to center and leaving Conforto in right might be the better idea.
Yes, McNeil would be learning center field on the fly. But...
1. He would pretty much be doing the same thing in right field anyway.
2. Shifting him to center would mean displacing just one outfielder instead of two.
If McNeil is comfortable with the idea of playing center field and the Mets think he can handle it, that's probably their best bet at this point.