Let’s operate under the assumption, which isn’t hard to do, the New York Mets won’t acquire the long-ball hitting left fielder they covet. Given that, the Mets’ outfield – from left to right – should be Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker.
Lagares is a finalist for the NL Gold Glove in center field, along with Billy Hamilton and Denard Span. The award is determined by 75 percent input from managers and coaches and 25 percent by statistics.
Lagares proved this season he can field the position and steal a base, but he’s far from polished offensively, evidenced by a low on-base percentage and propensity for striking out. If he’s going to compete for the leadoff spot those two areas must be improved.
I would move Granderson from right to left – there’s your homer hitting left fielder – because it’s easier to play than right. You want a polished defender in right, which is den Dekker.
This should the full time opportunity he didn’t get last season because the Mets wasted their time with Chris Young. Yeah, I know it’s piling on.
All three could benefit from new hitting coach Kevin Long’s tutelage.
Granderson thrived under Long with the Yankees, hitting over 40 homers and driving in over 100 runs in 2011 and 2012. Unfortunately, he also struck out 169 and 195 times in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
Maybe Granderson will benefit with the closer fences in Citi Field, but if Long can get him to cut his strikeouts and use the whole field, he could live up to that contract. Granderson’s on-base percentages and strikeout rates were much better playing in spacious Comerica Park, giving the impression he was seduced by the Yankee Stadium bandbox.
As for Lagares, his 87-to-20 strikeouts-to-walks ratio is something he must improve because in this era teams can’t afford to carry an offensive liability no matter how good he is in the field.
Den Dekker showed he’s worthy of the opportunity based on his production over a limited 152 at-bats with a .250 average and .345 on-base percentage.
This is potentially a good outfield defensively, but if they prove they can hit, the Mets will be greatly improved.