Mets: A Rojas dilemma – How to relieve the conundrum at third and left field

Mets manager Luis Rojas will get a headache when he looks at the multitude of options he has at two positions. Here’s a look at what he is facing…

When the Mets open camp in a couple of weeks, newly appointed manager Luis Rojas will inherit a starting lineup that is pretty well set.

Assuming Rojas goes with newly acquired Jake Marisnick in centerfield, only third base and left field will require some thought and possible shuffling.

Mets: Who’s On Third?

However, with the departure of Todd Frazier, All-Star Jeff McNeil is a perfect fit to play at third, especially since he led the team in defensive runs saved (DRS).

Jeff McNeil - Rooted (Photo:
Jeff McNeil – Rooted (Photo:

McNeil confirmed this by telling the New York Daily News, “I think I’ll be playing a lot of third,” McNeil said on Saturday at the team’s inaugural FanFest.

When asked if he anticipates playing more at third base than any other position, McNeil said: “I would imagine so.”

Of interest to Luis Rojas is that McNeil also led the Mets in DRS at two other positions, left and right fields. Mr. Versatility.

Unless the Mets can unload him in a trade, the imminent return of Jed Lowrie, who claims third base as his normal position, adds fog to the picture, but not to the extent that J.D. Davis does.

Davis had explosive offensive numbers last year, batting .307 with 22 home runs and a .895 OPS in only 450 plate appearances. A natural third baseman, Davis was converted by the Mets to the outfield to get him at-bats.

Davis, however, is not gifted defensively. At both third base and left field, Davis dipped into negative numbers in defensive runs saved (-9 and -11 respectively).

The Mets can’t have this with a staff containing ground ball artists like Marcus Stroman and fly-ball pitchers like Steven Matz. They have to catch the ball.

Mets: Who’s In Left?

Staying with the theme of defense, Brandon Nimmo is penciled in as the regular left fielder, giving way to Marisnick in center field. Nimmo, while not outstanding defensively, is an upgrade over Davis with a neutral +- 0 DRS.

Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets Sparkplug
Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets Sparkplug Photo credit: Risingappl;

Not only with Mets fans but the team itself, Nimmo, mainly based on the sheer joy he plays the game, has captured the heart of New York.

A platoon between Nimmo and Davis is a possibility that depends on whether or not Luis Rojas buys into the lefty/lefty – righty/righty – lefties can’t hit lefties thing. Each hits from a different side of the plate.

Given Nimmo’s splits provided by Baseball-Reference, show he is ineffective against left-handed pitchers with a considerable drop-off in power and batting average.

In contrast, right-handed Davis hits everyone. He maintains a .300+ batting average against lefties and righties, and oddly his power numbers are better against righties.

Adding to the dilemma facing Luis Rojas is the wild card in the mix – Yoenis Cespedes. When healthy, Cespedes typically plays in left field.

Dominic Smith - Mets best trading bait 2020 (Photo: SNY-TV)
Dominic Smith – Mets best trading bait 2020 (Photo: SNY-TV)

With a pay as you play contract now in hand, Cespedes can be expected to be pounding on the door of Rojas with demands to let him play.

No one wants to think about the potential for disruption Cespedes, in a scenario like that, would cause.

Luis, I am so sorry, but how could I get this far without mentioning Dominic Smith? A hitting machine, Smith, has worked hard to make himself an outfielder. He’s not there yet, but he’s making great strides.

Smith and Davis go hand-in-hand as productive offensive players but only passable in the field.

Van Wagenen Can Throw Rojas A Lifeline

As we shift gears now, the dilemma reaches into the Mets front office, and specifically to Brodie Van Wagenen.

Brodie Van Wagenen, Mets GM (Photo: Associated Press)
Brodie Van Wagenen, Mets GM (Photo: Associated Press)

Van Wagenen can relieve the pressure on Rojas to find playing time for all who come to play by executing trades involving Lowrie and Cespedes, both of who seem better suited for the American League and the DH.

Van Wagenen could, but his ego says he won’t admit that Jake Marisnick, whom he acquired by trade, is unexplainable and not a fit on this Mets team. With Marisnick gone, that would open up Nimmo to play center, removing a vital cog in the left-field log jam.

Van Wagenen’s retort, however, can be “not so fast.” We (the Mets) can’t predict injuries, and if they happen early in the season you’ll be all over my case when we don’t have enough players…(paraphrasing)

And for that reason only, Van Wagenen will stand still while leaving it Luis Rojas to work his way through these first challenges as he walks into the fire in a couple of weeks.

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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.