The New York Mets have a very formidable lineup heading into the 2020 season. They have a pair of all-stars from last season, including Pete Alonso, who hit 53 home runs. The Mets also have some youth in Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto but are missing that true leadoff that New York hasn’t had since the days of Jose Reyes. For the past few seasons, former managers Terry Collins and Mickey Callaway used to experiment in that spot. They have had some success from players like Curtis Granderson and Conforto, but are looking for someone more accustomed to that.
Overall, Jeff McNeil is the best hitter in the Mets lineup when it comes to putting the ball in play. Last season he showed that he could hit for a high average and then showed his home run ability with his power surge in the second half. For a player that has above-average speed, McNeil likely fits as a possibility to be Mets’ best leadoff hitter.
The one negative with this plan is that McNeil doesn’t work the count much. He is a fastball hitter and tends to do the most damage when he sees a pitch he can hit. However, in today’s game, teams sometimes use their best hitter to start games off to give them the extra at-bat.
The best fit for a prototypical leadoff hitter on the Mets is Nimmo. He can work the count and has excellent speed. The biggest issue with this plan would be how much Nimmo plays. Nimmo missed two months in 2017 with a collapsed lung and in 2019 Nimmo had a serious neck injury. That neck injury sidelined Nimmo for over three months. But when he plays he is productive.
Still, with the potential plan of a designated hitter throughout MLB, it will open up another position in the lineup which could eliminate any sort of platoon with Yoenis Cespedes. It could also allow for a left-handed hitter like McNeil to bat second in that scenario, opening the hole between first and second with a runner on base.
The hope would be that Amed Rosario could be the Mets leadoff hitter for the next decade. He brings speed to the top of the lineup and is learning how to steal bases. However, like McNeil, he doesn’t walk and has had the most success batting in the eighth hole. While having a nice season last year, Rosario also hit .311 against left-handed pitching. He would make the most sense in those games with McNeil behind him.
With a shortened season, MLB is likely to experiment with some rule changes. Come 2020, New York needs to find that staple at the top of the lineup. They have started to find that with Alonso and Conforto in the middle, and adding Cespedes for a season could help.
While the leadoff spot doesn’t always play a huge factor, many championship teams have terrific lead-off hitters. In the past few seasons Trea Turner, Mookie Betts, and George Springer have batted leadoff on the last three teams to win the World Series.
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