When Cespedes Returns Granderson Could Head to the Bench

Terry Collins will soon have to decide who is going to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Yoenis Cespedes, who has been out since April 27th with a strained hamstring, is nearing a return perhaps as early as this week. Collins says Cespedes is in second week of “an extended running program”, though the Mets have not given an exact date for his return. (David Popper, NY Daily News)

Curtis Granderson seems like the likely candidate to lose playing time as he has started the season mired in a deep slump.  He is batting .169 with four home runs and a .338 slugging percentage in 156 plate appearances so far.

“When he’s in that lineup,” Collins said of Granderson, “we got to get some offensive production out of him.”

In yesterday’s 12-5 loss to the Angels, Granderson went 2-for-4 with a home run and a double, giving the Mets hope he may start to heat up.

Over the past several seasons, Granderson has been one of the team’s best contributors.  In 2016, he belted 30 home runs with a .799 OPS in 150 games. And in 2015, he hit 26 home runs with 33 doubles and a .821 OPS.

Despite Granderson’s past productivity, it will be hard for Collins to justify keeping him in the lineup given how well Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce are playing.

Conforto with his 12 home runs and 1.076 OPS has emerged as arguably the team’s best player, and Bruce has started the season off on a powerful tear.

Bruce, who crushed 33 home runs and 99 RBI in 147 games last year, looks like he’s well on his way to reaching the 30 home run plateau once again.  He has hit 11 home runs with 30 RBI and a .847 OPS in 174 plate appearances this season.

The other possibility Collins might consider is taking Lucas Duda out of the lineup and moving Bruce to first base as Bruce has shown he can handle the position starting six games at first this year.

Duda has struggled since returning from the disabled list with an elbow injury, and is batting .206 with a .798 OPS in 84 plate appearances this season.

While outfield logjam has been subject to much debate since the offseason, it shouldn’t be seen as a negative as it has created extra motivation for players like Conforto.

“(Collins) was honest with me (in the preseason) saying that everything I get, I’m going to have to earn,” Conforto said. “And I was completely ready for that.”

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Brian is a die-hard Mets fan and is a staff writer for Metsmerized Online and MetsMinors.net. Follow him on Twitter @briandevine16