By: Matt Williams

Who is the 5th Outfielder on the Mets?


Coming into spring training the Mets have five names connected to their outfield for the 2018 season. Yoenis Cespedes is the team superstar and will be cemented in the starting left field position. In right field the Mets resigned Jay Bruce, who will have a stranglehold on that position as well (unless he is needed at first base). That leaves centerfield where Michael Conforto is the man Sandy Alderson hopes to occupy that spot for most of 2018. However, he is still recovering from shoulder capsule surgery and will be out until May. This leaves a platoon of Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares to man centerfield until Conforto is prepared to take the reigns. This leaves the Mets with four ball players to play the outfield on Opening Day. Although with Cespedes, Lagares and Nimmo having consistent injury histories, the Mets could use a plan B. So who will be the Mets 5th outfielder? Let’s take a look.

The most talked about option is to not even have a 5th outfielder. This would involve having players like Jose Reyes or Wilmer Flores taking reps in the outfield when needed. For those who remember, this was already tried with Reyes last year. It did not go well and Reyes did not look comfortable judging fly balls. I will say that both players are excited to help the team in any way that they can are eager to stay in the lineup. This is a terrible idea though, plain and simple. The Mets should look to roster a power bat who can adequately defend in the outfield and come off the bench to pinch hit.

An intriguing option for that spot is Zach Borenstein. He was signed back in November by the Mets after he opted for free agency from the Diamondbacks. Borenstein is a pure power bat that was the Angels minor league player of the year and California League MVP in 2013. That year he batted .337 with 28 home runs and 95 RBIs in Class A ball. Before starting his highly anticipated 2014 season in Double-A, Zach’s family was stunned by the passing of his 20 year old younger sister. This tragedy obviously shook up Borenstien and put his life and career in a different perspective. Borenstein struggled for next couple of seasons, being traded to the Diamondbacks in the middle. In 2017 Zach was able to bounce back, batting .279 with 24 HRs and 91 RBIs in Triple A, impressive numbers even for the PCL. It was after the 2017 season that Borenstein opted to become a free agent and seek an opportunity to play. The Mets have given him the opportunity to play almost everyday in Spring Training. He has shown good power so far with a pair of doubles and has also struck out 4 times in 20 at bats (a problem that has plagued him in the past). Zach Borenstien is an interesting player who merits a closer look, should the Mets need an extra outfielder who can provide power off the bench.

Other options include Kevin Kaczmarski, who was drafted by the Mets in 2015. He has had a rough spring so far, going 1 for his first 10. Kaczmarski has not shown much power in the minors, but has shown the ability to get on base and even steal a few in AA Binghamton (.274 AVG .370 OBP and 15 stolen bases). He may be an option in the future, but he certainly needs to stay in the minors and continue to improve this year. That leaves Ty Kelly and Matt Den Dekker as the only other options currently on the Mets roster. The consensus is that Den Dekker will head to AAA to serve as organizational depth in the event of an injury in center field. Ty Kelly was released by the Mets in 2017 and has since been claimed by the Blue Jays, sold by the Blue Jays to the Phillies, and then released by the Phillies. This led to Kelly signing back with the Mets in January. He has shown the ability to handle minor league pitching as a contact hitter, but has yet to show he can handle the majors. I do not foresee this changing during Spring Training.

So who do you think will be the Mets 5th outfielder when they take the field on Opening Day? It is shaping up to be a “show us you are better than just putting Reyes/Flores out there” contest. Let’s see if anyone can.

About Matt Williams

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