Ranking the Mets 2021 Starting Lineup

Ranking the Mets 2021 Starting Lineup

by February 23, 2021 0 comments

The New York Mets have undoubtedly improved their lineup heading into the 2021 season. They acquired arguably the best shortstop in the league in addition to an All-Star catcher. But how do they all stack up against each other?

There are a few factors that went into deciding the list:

  1. Each player’s performance the last three seasons
  2. Each player’s projected performance in 2021 (using FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections)
  3. Wins Above Replacement was weighed as the most important statistic, but there were a variety of statistics used

To be clear, this list is not what the Mets batting order should look like. It’s the eight projected starting position players ranked 1-8. Without further ado, here is the Mets’ projected starting lineup ranked in reverse order:

8. J.D. Davis (Combined 2.2 WAR Since 2018/2021 Projected WAR: 0.8)

Ranking J.D. Davis as the worst starting position player on the Mets shouldn’t be portrayed as an insult to Davis. It just shows how talented this lineup is on paper compared to last season. Davis was hitting right in the middle of the lineup at the end of the 2020 season but he will be finding himself in the bottom third of the lineup come April 1.

Davis’ best season of his career came in 2019 when he had a slash line of .307/.369/.527 and hit 22 home runs in his first season in Queens. If Davis is able to replicate his 2019 season to some degree (like he is projected to), he will be a very valuable bat at the bottom of Luis Rojas‘ lineup.

Part of the reason why Davis is ranked eighth is due to his defensive struggles at third base. He has logged -17 DRS the last two seasons, which makes it hard for him to be seen as one of the best third basemen in the league despite his offensive talent.

Davis may not end up being the Mets’ third baseman the entire season, as the Mets have checked in with the Cubs about Kris Bryant and the Reds about Eugenio Suarez.

7. James McCann (Combined 3 WAR Since 2018/2021 Projected WAR: 1.3)

While Mets fans wanted Steve Cohen to overpay for J.T. Realmuto, he ended up signing James McCann to a four-year deal that gives the organization more payroll flexibility. McCann is one of the most underrated catchers in the league, but it’s understandable considering he wasn’t the starting catcher last season due to the White Sox signing Yasmani Grandal.

McCann was named to the American League All-Star team in 2019 when he drove in a career-high 60 runs. You could argue he would have had an even better season in 2020 if it was a full season despite being Grandal’s backup. In just 31 games McCann earned a higher WAR (1.5) than Dodgers catcher Will Smith, who played in more games.

McCann’s framing improved from 2019 to 2020 thanks in part to a change in his catching setup where he got lower to the ground in order to make strikes more appealing to the umpire.

6. Dominic Smith (Combined 2.1 WAR Since 2018/2021 Projected WAR 1.7)

Dominic Smith has cemented himself as an everyday player for the New York Mets because he can swing the bat. Smith’s first two years in the big leagues weren’t a real indicator of his talent, as he wasn’t in great shape and didn’t play in more than 60 games in either season.

His 2019 slash line was .282/.355/.525, which is a pretty solid offensive season for anyone’s first full season in the big leagues. In 2020 he improved his line in all three categories (.316/.377/.616) and was worth 1.8 wins–which amounts to over four wins in a regular-length season. His hard-hit and barrel percentages improved by 12% and 6.5% respectively.

Don’t read too much into his fielding statistics because he is being forced to play left field. Before too long, he will be moving back to his natural position (first base) where he is a better defender.

Smith went from unranked to ranked as the 67th best player on MLB Network’s annual Top 100 Players Right Now list.

5. Brandon Nimmo (Combined 7.3 WAR Since 2018/ 2021 Projected WAR: 2.5)

Brandon Nimmo looks like he will be the team’s starting center fielder on Opening Day assuming there is no universal designated hitter, and the reason for that is due to his offense. Nimmo has been an on-base machine at the top of the Mets lineup for the last three years with his best season coming in 2018 when he was worth 4.5 wins.

Nimmo could be one of the best outfielders in the National League if he improved his defense. The 27-year-old has had negative DRS in every season since 2017. It is widely known that Nimmo will improve defensively once he gets out of center field–a move that should happen in 2022 when the universal DH is included in the new CBA.

Nimmo was ranked as the 89th best player on MLB Network’s annual Top 100 Players Right Now list.

4. Pete Alonso (Combined 5.2 WAR Since 2018/2021 Projected WAR: 2.7)

Pete Alonso might not deserve to be this high based on his 2020 season, but it was a two-month season and I am a big believer in the Pete Alonso we saw in 2019 when he hit 53 home runs–a rookie record.

In a less impressive 2020 campaign, Alonso didn’t get out to a good start–hitting only two home runs in his first 18 games. But, he finished the year on a better note–hitting his 15th and 16th home run of the year in the team’s last game of the season in a 15-5 loss to Washington.

For the time being, let’s focus on the greater body of work in his two-year career, which was the 2019 season. He won the Rookie of the Year and earned a 4.8 WAR, which was tied with Max Muncy for the highest WAR in the league among qualified first baseman and was better than the WARs of Bryce Harper (4.6), Francisco Lindor (4.5), and 2020 NL MVP Freddie Freeman (4.0).

The Polar Bear is projected to have a bounceback third season, according to ZiPS. He is expected to hit 41 home runs and have a career-high .524 slugging percentage. If Alonso has a great season at the plate, the Mets will be right up there with great offensive teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, and Padres in runs scored.

Alonso was recently ranked as the 66th best player on MLB Network’s annual Top 100 Players Right Now list.

3. Jeff McNeil (Combined 8.4 WAR Since 2018/ 2021 Projected WAR: 3.0)

Jeff McNeil is going to be transitioning into his first full season at second base–a position that he was ranked as the second-best player at despite only playing there for 12 games in 2020.

McNeil was an All-Star in 2019 and would’ve been one again in 2020 if there was a game. The 28-year-old earned a .311/.383/.454 slash line while lowering his strikeout rate and increasing his walk rate.

His .384 on-base percentage over the course of the past two seasons is the 14th best OBP in baseball–higher than the on-base percentages of George Springer (.376), Ronald Acuna Jr. (.374), and Kris Bryant (.365).

A positive sign is McNeil is projected to finish the 2021 regular season with a lower strikeout rate compared to last year and a career-high slugging percentage. Any power coming off of McNeil’s bat will be a plus considering he will be hitting in front of Michael Conforto, Alonso, and Smith.

2. Michael Conforto (Combined 8.6 WAR Since 2018/2021 Projected WAR: 3.3)

Now we move to the best outfielder on the Mets roster. Conforto has only gotten better since the start of the 2018 season. Here are his slash lines the last three years:

2018: .243/.350/.448

2019: .257/.363/.494

2020: .322/.412/.515

The National League is stacked with talent but if Conforto improves his numbers yet again in 2021 and the Mets are a contender, he could very well find himself in the NL MVP conversation.

He has earned the 12th highest WAR (8.7) among outfielders since 2018–more wins than Marcell Ozuna (7.8), Tommy Pham (7.4), Charlie Blackmon (5.7).

Conforto was ranked by MLB Network’s “The Shredder” as the seventh-best right fielder in baseball right now, which is a bit low if you ask me. He is currently scheduled to hit free agency at the end of the 2021 season, so time will tell if the Mets can lock him up before then.

1. Francisco Lindor (Combined 14 WAR Since 2018/2021 Projected WAR: 5.1)

If there’s one player that you want an organization to build around, it’s Francisco Lindor. And if all things go as planned, Steve Cohen has found the new face of his franchise for the next decade.

Lindor is arguably the best player in the NL East after being traded by the Cleveland Indians where he was worth 29.2 wins in his six-year tenure, which was the third-most wins by any player in that span behind Mike Trout and Mookie Betts. Not too shabby.

Some say Lindor had a down year in 2020, but he was one of the numerous players that weren’t able to get in a groove in the two-month season. Christian Yelich (.205 average) and J.D. Martinez (seven home runs) are two players that weren’t themselves.

Lindor is making $22.3 million in his walk year, which will be a bargain. FanGraphs says the four-time All-Star was worth $35.8 million in 2019 and $61.7 million in 2018. Time will tell if he can help carry the Mets to their first postseason appearance since 2016.

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