By any objective measure, Brandon Nimmo has been the Mets best outfielder this season, and with each passing game, he’s showcasing his undisputed value.
Nimmo’s start has led Mickey Callaway to say he’s going to be the team’s leadoff hitter ongoing.
How long Nimmo stays as the leadoff hitter will largely depend on what the Mets decide to do when Yoenis Cespedes returns from the disabled list. Sure, you’d like to believe Nimmo has earned a spot, but it’s hard to imagine the Mets benching Cespedes, Jay Bruce, or Michael Conforto to keep Nimmo in the lineup.
With that apparent conundrum, the MMO writers answer the question of how the Mets should handle the outfield rotation when Cespedes returns:
We wrote at least two articles during the offseason questioning the wisdom of that three-year deal to Jay Bruce. Considering what Brandon Nimmo showed in 2017, I felt it was a foregone conclusion that at minimum he would platoon in center field with Juan Lagares or even get a full every day shot. I surmised that maybe Bruce would play a lot of first base, but then two months later they sign Adrian Gonzalez, and I was baffled because now two Mets first rounders were out of a potential everyday job.
I love baseball because it has a way of auto-correcting itself. Nimmo pushed the envelope and widened the boundaries, and here he is, arguably the best pure hitter on the team and leading the majors in OBP. The cream always rises to the top. When Cespedes returns from the DL, the only player to lose playing time should be Jay Bruce – the guy we never should have signed in the first place. That $40 million should have been better spent on an elite reliever, upgrading the catching, or a better starter than 36-year-old Jason Vargas.
What outfield rotation? Cespedes in left, Nimmo in center, and Conforto in right every single day. The Mets shouldn’t have signed Jay Bruce in the first place, but nevertheless, we’re stuck with him. He has been not been playing well, and no matter how many zeros are on his contract, the Mets need to win games and play guys who will give them the best chance to win. Bruce can play first base, but with the other three guys the Mets have, he has no business being in the outfield.
Regardless of when Cespedes comes back from the disabled list, the Mets cannot bench Brandon Nimmo. He’s an ideal leadoff hitter and the best the Mets have had since Jose Reyes’s first stint with the team. Jay Bruce has been ice cold and should be mitigated to a bench role until he proves he can be an effective starter again. Cespedes, Conforto And Nimmo should be out there day in and day out.
Echoing what everyone else says, Cespedes, Conforto, and Nimmo should start. A great leadoff bat is invaluable, especially when you can put Rosario in the nine-hole effectively. Though Bruce will eventually shake this slump, shift him between the bench and first base – the Mets don’t need him in the outfield.
The best defensive outfield consists of Céspedes, Conforto and Nimmo, so those are the three who should get the bulk of the playing time. Bruce should dust off his first baseman’s mitt because he’ll be spending a lot of time there when he’s not on the bench trying to figure out how to get his OPS out of the .600s.
Céspedes should get routine rest if he doesn’t want to continue his membership in the Injury of the Month club. Then and only then should Bruce return to the outfield.
Cespedes and Nimmo are the only locks at the moment considering Conforto’s low level of play (though he has been heating up). I have faith in Bruce and his track record, which suggests that he won’t be a below-replacement level player for the entire season. If Callaway can find a way to get Conforto in the lineup four days a week, everyone should eventually begin to produce like they can.
I’ll tell you one thing. I’m glad I don’t have to make that call. Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Yoenis Cespedes all need to play. Unless Jay Bruce starts hitting, he will be the odd man out. Mickey Callaway has to go with his hot bats. There will be at-bats for Bruce, whether they’re at first or left when he matches up well, or as a DH during interleague play.
Cespedes-Conforto-Nimmo. Bruce to the bench or to first base.
The easy solution is put Bruce on bench since he has been the worst player but baseball doesn’t work that way. You have to figure Bruce gets hot at some point and it doesn’t send a good sign to other free agents that the Mets will bench guys just three months after signing them. That said, he has been the worst by a good amount. Have Bruce at first regularly while also allowing many many days off for Cespedes. The odds of Adrian Gonzalez keeping up his hot streak don’t seem very high and even then, Nimmo’s ceiling is too good not to try and play over him. They can throw Gonzalez on the bench in the event something happens and to be a left-handed hitter off the bench.
Before Saturday’s game, Callaway said Jose Reyes was a better option at shortstop than Luis Guillorme or even Wilmer Flores (pushing Jose Bautista to third) when Amed Rosario gets the day off. After the game, Callaway indicated that on a pitching staff with Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, Jason Vargas will keep his rotation spot because the Mets don’t have any other options.
Generally speaking, a vast majority of people believe the solution includes Bruce playing first or heading to the bench. However, based on Callaway’s statements on Reyes and Vargas, what would lead anyone to believe that’s what the Mets will really do?
What do you think the Mets will do? Is Nimmo now set in stone as an everyday player? Does Bruce turn things around to complicate the decision? We look forward to continuing this discussion in the comments section.