Going into 2017, the Mets have a very good problem in that they have a surplus of talented players on their Major League roster. So many players, in fact, that it makes the every day starting lineup difficult to pin down. While there will surely be injuries of varying degrees as well as other factors, these are what the lineups could be against right and left-handed pitchers.
Vs. Right-Handed Pitchers
With David Wright‘s questionable health as well as his effectiveness against southpaws, it leads me to assume most of his starts will come against lefties. Jose Reyes, who showed he can play a passable third base, will provide a spark at the top of the lineup against righties. Neil Walker fits nicely into the second spot, posting a .282/.347/.476 slash line in 2016.
Deciding who hits fourth behind Cespedes is a tricky question, however, as they must be strong enough to make opponents regret pitching around him. I decided on Curtis Granderson, as that was where he was at his best in 2016, hitting .321 with six home runs and 18 RBIs in 100 plate appearances.
Behind him is Jay Bruce, a perennial 30+ HR and 100+ RBI threat, and Asdrubal Cabrera who hit .280/.336/.474 last season. While I would prefer Cabrera hitting cleanup behind Cespedes, that would leave three lefties (Bruce, Granderson, and Duda) hitting consecutively in the order, making the Mets extra susceptible to a lefty specialist in late innings. Lucas Duda hits 7th, however if he proves that he can hit like he did in 2014 and 2015, he could definitely be moved up to the clean-up spot.
Unfortunately, Michael Conforto is left out of this lineup. It seems likely if both Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce are on the Opening Day roster, Conforto will start the season in Triple-A Las Vegas. It is imperative for him to get consistent at-bats, and while he would probably be better served recording them in the Bigs, it doesn’t seem likely.
Vs. Left-Handed Pitchers
This one might get me in some hot water, but before you scathe me in the comment section, hear me out. David Wright has a career .337/.430/.568 slash line against left-handed pitching, good for a .998 OPS. While his spinal stenosis might limit his power, he should still get on base at a more than respectable clip against lefties.
Next would again be Neil Walker for the same reasons as above. However, in this case, he hit .330/.391/.610 against left-handed pitching last season. That .391 on base percentage paired with Wright’s .430 should provide plenty of RBI opportunities for Yoenis Cespedes batting third.
I have Wilmer Flores in the cleanup spot against lefties, who has improved each of the last few years. He hit for a sneaky amount of power in 2016, smashing 16 home runs in 335 plate appearances. He is specifically successful against lefties, as he hit .340/.383/.710 with 11 HR against them last season. He would provide tremendous protection for Cespedes with a lefty pitching, and if/when the opposing manager brings in a right-handed reliever, Lucas Duda could pinch hit and play first base in Flores’ stead.
Another notable change is Juan Lagares starting in center field. He has slashed a respectable .276/.322/.412 against lefties in his career, better than Granderson’s .224/.297/.401 career mark. On the other side of the ball, Lagares provides elite defense in center field and his starting would give the 35 year-old Granderson some days off. The Mets have an elite starting pitching staff, and having Lagares in center field (as well as Cespedes in left) will definitely save some runs and increase the effectiveness of the pitching staff.
Until Travis d’Arnaud can prove he will hit, Rene Rivera should start against left handed pitching (as well as Noah Syndergaard‘s starts). In 2016, Rivera hit .314/.429/.514 against lefties while d’Arnaud hit only .190/.266/.190 against them. Rivera provides superior defense, so starting him against lefties would be prudent.
Both of these lineups will be subject to change on any given day. There will be days when Wright starts against righties, Duda starts against lefties, and even when Yoenis Cespedes needs to sit a spell. It is also possible that one of Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson are traded before the season begins. In any case, the Mets will have a very strong offense with a deep bench stretching into the Minor Leagues with names such as Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, T.J. Rivera, Ty Kelly and Matt Reynolds.