How Should Granderson Be Utilized in Center Field?

curtis granderson

In the past three seasons Juan Lagares has been the New York Mets center fielder on Opening Day, but that will most likely change in 2017 with Curtis Granderson getting the start.

Granderson, now the Mets elder statesman at 35, is in the final year of his four-year contract and could be playing a majority of his time in his old home, center field. Grandy has been the Mets Opening Day starter in right field the past three seasons and has played 401 of his 471 defensive games for the Mets in right.

Grandy has played 53 games in three seasons with the Mets in center field including 36 in 2016, the most since 2012 for the New York Yankees at 31 years old.

The veteran Granderson told Mike Puma of the NY Post this about playing center field daily, “It is doable definitely, but we also have a lot of great guys who at any time, if needed, can go out there.”

Indeed, the Mets have former Gold Glove center fielder Juan Lagares that will give Granderson rest against lefties (assuming he stays healthy). The 27-year old Lagares played in only 79 last season due to thumb surgery in August. Lagares has hit lefties better in his career (.276/.322/.412) than Granderson (.224/.297/.401).

Lagares bounced back defensively last season with eight defensive runs saved in just 325.2 innings in center field. He also posted a 5.2 UZR and showed off a better arm than we saw in 2015.

Granderson himself put up respectable numbers defensively in center last year (albeit in small sample size/250 innings) with one defensive run saved, 0.3 UZR and that tremendous catch in the Wild Card game. If he could repeat that performance in 2017 the Mets will certainly be very happy given that in the previous five seasons in center he had -9 defensive runs saved.

The Mets also have Michael Conforto as a center field option, whom was better than expected in center last year, in a very small sample size of 39 innings. Conforto is likely to start the season in Triple-A given the presence of Jay Bruce and his offensive struggles in 2016 with a disappointing .220/.310/.414 slash line.

One thing the Mets have made pretty clear is that Yoenis Cespedes is left fielder and that’s where he will stay this year. Cespedes played a career high 63 games in center last season, but had trouble keeping his legs healthy and his offense is too important to worry about stretching him in center.

With Cespedes locked into left and Jay Bruce (currently) locked into right field, one question is how many games will Grandy play in center? Collins said this to the NY Post, “Yeah, I have got to get Grandy out of there a little more than I have in the past. I think he’s got to be smart, and he certainly is, that you have got to make sure he can have some days off so you can maintain that quality of play you are going to need in that position.”

Granderson is coming off a solid offensive season in which he hit .237/.335/.464 with 24 doubles, five triples, 30 home runs, 59 RBI and a 114 wRC+.

He proved he can still be an important part of the offense, however, it would probably be best for him and the team if they used Lagares as much as possible for defense late in games and against most lefties. But is that how Terry Collins will use the soon-to-be 36-year old that hasn’t played center field regularly in the past four seasons?

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About Michael Mayer 912 Articles
Lifelong Mets fan born in 1987 meaning I still haven't witnessed a championship. Lived in Maine my entire life so I get my Mets fix from and Still playing and coaching baseball.Follow me on twitter @mikemayermmo