Mets’ Young Hitters Providing Hope for 2019

One of the many things that went wrong for the New York Mets during the first half of 2018 was their offense. And, more specifically, I’m referring to the general disappearance of it.

Heading into the All-Star Break, manager Mickey Callaway watched his club post a collective 89 wRC+ and .685 OPS, both of which were among the worst in baseball. This specific brand of futility at the plate runs a little deeper than that, though. When looking at past offensive performances as a team, that wRC+ was on pace to be tied with the 2010 squad for the fourth-worst mark since the 2000 season.

It’s not as if they’ve become an offensive juggernaut since returning from the midsummer classic, but hey, at least they’ve been an above-average club in this respect, right?

New York’s 105 team wRC+ in the second half is among the best in baseball heading into Thursday’s action, and while their .743 OPS isn’t as drastic as an improvement as one would like, it’s going in the right direction. After that horrendous free fall out of first place and everything positive they created during the month of April, this is something many will take with open arms.

This stretch of above-average offense has the Mets’ season-long mark sitting at 95, which is a number that’s basically in the middle of the pack when comparing it to the franchise’s other offensive performances since the turn of the century.

The question then remains, how exactly have they accomplished this? Outside of five plate appearances, Yoenis Cespedes has been non-existent, and New York also traded away one of its best hitters prior to the non-waiver trade deadline by shipping Asdrubal Cabrera to the Philadelphia Phillies. Well, the answer is quite simple, and it’s also one that could bring some more optimism heading into next year: the young guys have kicked it into a higher gear.

Among New York hitters with at least 50 second-half plate appearances, here are the top five in terms of wRC+ (with some other stats thrown in for good measure):

Brandon Nimmo 153 .943 3 14 163 1.6
Jay Bruce 58 .931 4 10 150 0.5
Jeff McNeil 173 .891 2 16 147 2.0
Michael Conforto 211 .852 13 34 130 1.2
Jose Reyes 80 .788 3 10 112 0.2

Although it’s notable to see Jay Bruce in this group despite the small sample size, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, and Michael Conforto are the important ones here — especially since they take the top three spots when ranking by fWAR.

For Nimmo, this has obviously been the continuation of a breakout year. He cooled off with each passing month after a hot April, which culminated in a bad July. However, he’s rebounded in a big way and is continuing to see his name toward the top of some offensive leaderboards. Part of that is likely because no matter how good or bad he’s been this year, his plate discipline has remained remarkably consistent.

It’s also hard to imagine a debut going any better for McNeil at this point. Even though the Mets waited too long to promote him to the big leagues, he wasted no time making an impact with his incredible bat-to-ball skills that reminds some of Daniel Murphy. Not only has he produced the highest fWAR among second baseman since the All-Star break, but his 8.7% strikeout rate would be tied for the second lowest in baseball if he qualified for the batting title.

With regard to Conforto, the second half was important because of how rough the first half of his year went. He’s more than doubled his homer and RBI production in just over half the number of plate appearances since the midsummer classic, giving us glimpses of last season’s All-Star performance.

The above table doesn’t have Amed Rosario in there because of his 92 wRC+ in the second half, but he’s been much better at the plate lately, especially during the month of August.

Whenever talks arise about the Mets and their chance of contending, discussions typically focus on starting pitching, and for good reason — after all, that’s what the organization honed in on during the most recent rebuild. Having a top three of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler ain’t too shabby.

If there’s anything that can be taken from this year, though, it’s that great pitching doesn’t matter when runs can’t be scored. Just ask deGrom what that’s like.

The Mets are far from a finished product (like, really far). However, there seems to be more of a young position player core forming than some may have expected. Let’s hope the strides these hitters have made stick throughout the winter and carry into next season.

About Matt Musico 56 Articles
Matt is a college counselor by day and baseball writer by night. His work has been featured at Bleacher Report, FanSided, numberFire, The Sports Daily and MLB Trade Rumors. He's a lover of all baseball, but the Mets have his heart -- for better or worse.