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Grading the 2021 Mets' hitters

Pete Alonso #20 of the Mets strikes out

Pete Alonso #20 of the Mets strikes out in the second inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field on Wednesday, Sep. 29, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Mets failed in 2021 by any measure that matters, having missed the playoffs and finished with a losing record.

But if you graded them on an individual basis? Well, it’s still not pretty.

Here is a hitter-by-hitter look at how they graded out, in one writer’s view.

C James McCann: C. The Mets gave McCann a four-year contract betting he was more his White Sox self (.808 OPS) and less his Tigers self (.653 OPS). In his first season, it looks like they bet wrong (.643 OPS). How different would the Mets’ and their NL East’s season have gone if they had J.T. Realmuto instead?

1B Pete Alonso: A. After a historic rookie year in 2019 and a down season (relatively) in 2020, he settled right in between this year. He had a highly successful season, including 37 homers. His 106 long balls are the most in the majors since his debut.

2B/LF Jeff McNeil: D. The talent is obvious, but he underperformed his career norms more than anybody else. How much did his injured legs play a role? Or the midseason position change? McNeil has a reputation for being hard on himself, and that never appeared to be truer than late in the season when he often looked defeated and miserable.

SS Francisco Lindor: C-. This is not what Steve Cohen thought he was getting when he gave Lindor a 10-year, $341 million contract extension, which doesn’t begin until next season. A strong September saved Lindor’s first year from being a total mess, but the rat/raccoon night with McNeil and being a ringleader on the thumbs-down saga — two of the most ridiculous stories that enveloped the Mets — make you wonder how much he likes New York.

3B Jonathan Villar: B+. The Mets signed Villar to be a utility infielder off the bench. They got much more. His hot hitting demanded the starting third-base job for part of the second half, and his 18 homers were third on the team. If he is open to another one-year deal (maybe a one-year deal with an option), he is worth bringing back.

LF Dominic Smith: C. Like McNeil and others, you wonder how much physical issues, particularly a troublesome right wrist, affected his ability to hit for power. Smith has been an awkward fit on the Mets’ roster ever since Alonso entrenched himself at first base, but maybe the addition of the DH in the NL (or a trade) would solve that.

CF Brandon Nimmo: A. As Nimmo went, so went the Mets. They looked like a different team when he was at or near the top of the lineup, and he improved in centerfield enough that the Mets should be comfortable rolling with him there in 2022. Looking ahead to the team’s free-agent class next offseason, Nimmo is the headliner.

RF Michael Conforto: C. This was terrible timing for a mediocre season as Conforto heads into free agency. He showed flashes of his true ability but never put together a sustained hot streak. His track record — including a well-above-average .864 OPS from 2017-20 — is strong enough that he’ll have suitors in free agency. Conforto accepting a one-year, $20 million (or so) qualifying offer would be a good outcome for the Mets.

2B/SS Javier Baez: B+. He gets docked for the thumbs-down nonsense. The Mets portion of his season was oftentimes electrifying, but they should be careful when considering how long and how large of a contract they want to give to a guy who registers as a slightly above average hitter in his career.

OF Kevin Pillar: C+. His handling of getting hit in the face by a fastball — and his quick return from the resulting facial fractures — was admirable (and wildly impressive). His season overall was just OK, and in fact in line with his career standards from an offensive standpoint. A fine fourth outfielder.

3B J.D. Davis: B. He had the weirdest year of any Mets hitter, largely because of a damaged ligament in his left hand. In the first month: 1.109 OPS. After returning for the second half, when the hand still bothered him: .731 OPS. He has been a highly productive hitter in three years with the team and would be a natural fit as the everyday DH, if that rule indeed is added to the NL for 2022.

C Tomas Nido: B. Although his bat hasn’t developed, Nido ranks among the best defensive catchers in baseball by some measures, a skill set that makes him a perfectly good backup or even a co-starter, if McCann’s bat doesn’t rebound next year. A timeshare might make most sense for all parties, as McCann seems to hit better when his workload is lessened.

IF Luis Guillorme: B. The Mets repeatedly have buried Guillorme, a light-hitting but flashy infielder, so his limited chances hint at what they think of him. Despite never really getting regular at-bats, he has a .390 OBP the past two seasons.

IF Jose Peraza: C+. He had several incredible, random, huge moments. But overall he didn’t hit much. That’s why he was available on a minor-league contract last offseason.

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