The Mets 2020 season will rightfully be The Pete Alonso Show. But his supporting cast is something to behold. This time, the focus is on these two teammates…
The Mets 2020 season belongs to Pete Alonso. As the face of the team, he will lead the Mets charge forward to finish what was left undone in 2019. But even Mike Trout alone cannot propel his Angel’s team to an appearance in the postseason, or yet a winning season.
A supporting cast is needed. And the Mets have it – in spades. I’m not going to get delirious, but when you look at the Mets potential lineup of position players for the 2020 season – without subtractions or additions that may come – the team is set to be a formidable force in the National League East, Braves or not.
Earlier this week, we focused on Amed Rosario and J.D. Davis as two of the Mets’ most-improved position players. Today, we turn our attention to Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto by looking at how each serves as a complement to Pete Alonso in the Met’s lineup.
Two questions surrounded the Mets’ Spring Training camp back in February. After a stellar second half of the 2018 season, was Jeff McNeil a flash in the pan, or would he prove to be the hitting machine he appeared to be? Second, when in heaven’s name would Michael Conforto have the breakout season we all knew he was capable of producing?
Mets 2020 – Jeff McNeil – Hit Man
In the case of McNeil, the answer came fast and with a vengeance. McNeil’s month to month splits, shown in the table below, show consistency and balance that wasn’t obstructed until he was injured late in the season, cutting his plate appearances to only 75 in August.
A player of small build, McNeil nevertheless complemented Alonso’s record pace of 53 home runs with 23 himself. But more significant is the role McNeil plays as a set-up man for Alonso and others in the lineup.
More of the same is expected from Jeff McNeil in 2020. A notorious first-pitch hitter, McNeil engenders self-confidence in his ability to square off on a pitcher’s mistake.
McNeil can also be counted on to put his bat on the ball, as indicated in the low total of strikeouts (75), despite all those plate appearances.
It’s a toss-up between McNeil and Davis as to who inherits the spot at third base, which is expected to be vacated by the departure of Todd Frazier. Early betting, however, favors McNeil as long as Robinson Cano stays healthy and productive, in which case McNeil would move over to Cano’s spot in the infield.
Mets 2020 – Michael Conforto – Run Producing Machine
In Michael Conforto’s case, he did not explode out of the box as McNeil did. And his batting average fluctuated throughout the year. It wasn’t until August that he seemed to put everything together. Which, of course, just happened to coincide with Alonso’s march to record mania, and the Mets push for a Wild Card.
At the close of the season, Conforto divulged that he had set two personal goals for the 2019 season. He met one goal with 30 or more home runs (33) and narrowly missed 100 or more runs driven in (92).
Equally as impressive are his total of 90 runs scored, a .363 on-base percentage, and a .856 OPS, which is well above the league norm of around .750.
I will state two arguable but firm points about Michael Conforto. First, he has earned the title as Captain of the Mets, succeeding David Wright. A veteran of sorts on the team now, Conforto is entering his sixth season with the team. Like Wright, he is giving all appearances of wanting to be a New York Met for the duration of his career. If not now, then definitely in 2021.
Secondly, I submit that no one on the Mets is as important to the welfare and success of the team than Michael Conforto. I know what you are thinking (Pete Alonso), but Conforto’s position in the line-up leaves him on-duty to pick up those who come before him – who have failed with men on base.
Reference the table below – this how Conforto performed this year with runners in scoring position: (Too small? – click here)
27 strikeout in 168 plate appearances, with 63 RBI and a .982 OPS strikes a mighty blow at pitchers who had to face Conforto in stress situations.
In baseball, no man is an island. Unlike golf, for example, players rely on each other to pick them up when they have failed.
Jorge Soler could do nothing for the Kansas City Royals to prevent the team from losing 100 or more games. This, despite Soler’s record 48 home runs as the most ever hit by a Cuban-born player in the big leagues.
Similarly, Jacob deGrom‘s second successive Cy Young worthy season did not lift the Mets to the postseason.
And so it is with Pete Alonso. The difference, though, is that Alonso does have a supporting cast. With a full season of playing together as a unit, the Mets are poised to put it all together in 2020…