You have to work with what you’ve got.
And it looks like that’s what the Mets will have to do this season in regards to the outfield. As it stands, unless somehow the Mets end up signing Bourn, we’re looking at an outfield mix of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter, Collin Cowgill, Andrew Brown, and if what Terry Collins said late last year holds true – possibly some Justin Turner. At this point, it’s not even sounding like Valdespin is in the mix. Marlon Byrd is also in camp on a minor league deal, but given the prior PED suspension and a terrible 2012 – I’m not including him at this point, either.
So with these 6 outfielders in place, are we looking at the possibility of a true platoon at all three positions until someone steps up and forces their way into a full time job or one of the youngsters on the farm makes his way in?
Duda, Nieuwenhuis, and Baxter are all lefty bats. Brown, Turner, and Cowgill are all righty bats – an “ideal” platoon situation. We already know that Turner will be making the team as a utility infielder that can back up at first, second, third and in an emergency situation, at short. This leaves 5 outfield spots to be filled by the other above mentioned five players.
Duda, Nieuwenhuis, and Baxter all performed much better against righty pitching (granted, small sample sizes -given they are younger players and there is a particularly small sample size against lefties for Baxter) – but for their MLB careers, here is how this trio they shapes up:
Duda – .265 BA; .356 OBP; .465 slugging
Nieuwenhuis – .265 BA; .317 OBP; .412 slugging
Baxter – .268 BA; .352 OBP; .421 slugging
Duda – .232 BA; .285 OBP; .351 slugging
Nieuwenhuis – .183 BA; .290 OBP; .233 slugging
Baxter – .048 BA; .200 OBP; .095 slugging
Serviceable, but far from stellar, against right handed pitching – downright awful against lefties. OBP for Duda and Baxter against righties is above the major league average OBP, which means they’re not automatic outs in the lineup. Against right handed pitching and this outfield combo, there’s a serviceable lineup in place along with a good infield. Add in a good rotation and some holes plugged in the bullpen and the team has a chance against a righty starter. They’re still a 4th place team, but a far cry from the Astros.
Put that outfield combo in against a lefty starter, you may as well chalk up an “L”. You’re giving away outs and it provides plenty of opportunity to pitch around the lineup’s good hitters to get to the almost sure-fire outs.
With Hairston gone, who was a threat against left-handed pitching, those awful lefty on lefty matchups have to be replaced with more favorable matchups. At the moment, it looks like that could very well be Brown, Turner, and Cowgill.
So how does the other side of the platoon fit?
Andrew Brown – .207 BA; .250 OBP; .415 slugging
Justin Turner – .264 BA; .328 OBP; .328 slugging
Collin Cowgill – .223 BA; .273 OBP; .241 slugging
Andrew Brown – .250 BA; .333 OBP; .365 slugging
Justin Turner – .236 BA; .316 OBP; .318 slugging
Collin Cowgill – .298 BA; .379 OBP; .415 slugging
Looking at the splits, Duda is in the best position to land a full time gig. A Duda/Turner platoon in left really isn’t adding a tremendous amount of value as Turner is better against right handed pitching.
A platoon of Nieuwenhuis/Cowgill in Center looks like it makes sense. Again, we’re talking about small sample sizes – but Cowgill has done well against lefties (where Kirk has been terrible) and Kirk has done better against righties than Cowgill.
A platoon of Baxter/Brown in Right is looking like it may be in the cards. Baxter has a decent OBP against right handed pitching and needs a caddy against the lefties. Brown is going to get his shot – the question is can he handle it? Valdespin, a lefty, is not that caddy. Turner may get some cracks there as well, especially if Duda lands a full time spot.
While platooning looks like the best option, it isn’t anything that will make anyone jump for joy looking at these splits. And we wonder why Marlon Byrd was brought in?
Key to beating the Mets this year – start a lefty. If you have a lead and need to go to the pen, bring in a lefty.