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Jed Lowrie Signing Pushes Mets Prospects Aside (For Now)


The New York Mets recently added Jed Lowrie to their already-packed infield. In his age 33 and 34 seasons, he impressed with slash lines of .277/.360/.448 and .267/.353/.448, respectively. He also added a career-high 23 home runs in 2018, his first career All-Star season. Lowrie did show some regression in the second half of 2018 with a .239 average post-All-Star break compared to a shiny .285 average in the first half.

Looking back to 2017, this doesn’t appear to be a trend, as he hit .279 pre-All-Star break and .275 post. He’ll turn 35 at the beginning of the 2019 season and his second-half woes could be the first signs of an aging hitter or the effects of an additional 10 games played in the first half (84 pre-ASG in 2017 and 94 pre-ASG in 2018).

In all, it was a successful season for the middle infielder and a solid value for the Mets as they bolster their roster in an effort to be competitive in the NL East. The fantasy implications are far-reaching though and may cause a domino effect on some promising young talent that seemed ready to shine.

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Lowrie > McNeil/Alonso?

In addition to his recent productivity, Lowrie grants the Mets versatility with the ability to play most infield positions, which is becoming increasingly valuable to Major League teams. In the past three seasons, Lowrie has almost exclusively played second base but has spent 18 games at shortstop and third base combined. The signing suggests that the Mets just may not be ready to thrust Peter Alonso and Jeff McNeil into full-time roles.

The Lowrie signing means that prospects Jeff McNeil and Peter Alonso would appear to be squeezed out of the lineup, barring another trade. McNeil was likely already looking at limited time considering the acquisition of Robinson Cano. There has been speculation that he will get some time in the outfield, but that remains just speculation as McNeil played all of his games at either second or third base in 2018. To further confuse the situation, the Mets also recently acquired outfielder Keon Broxton from the Brewers, who’s known for his defensive prowess.

In 225 at-bats last season, Jeff McNeil slashed an impressive .329/.381/.471 with three home runs and seven stolen bases. He also added 19 HR, 6 SB, and posted a .342 BA in 339 ABs between Double- and Triple-A. The former 12th-round pick will turn 27 in the 2019 season and may end up in a bench role despite his impressive first look at major league pitching. His stats were aided by a .359 BABIP, but his ability to keep his strikeout rate at a solid 9.7% was a key to his success in the small sample size.

Peter Alonso has yet to get the call up to the bigs but has shown serious power in his minor league career. In 2018, Alonso smashed his way through Double- and Triple-A with 36 HR and an insane 119 RBI in 132 games (574 plate appearances). Ranking 21st in the league in homers last season, the Mets could have used some of that pop at the big-league level.

Without delving too deep into their minor league peripherals and a small MLB sample size (McNeil), the question remains: what value will Alonso and McNeil provide fantasy owners in 2019? We’ve seen their cross-town rival Yankees excel with rookies manning both second and third. Fantasy owners were handsomely rewarded by putting their trust into the deserving Rookie of the Year candidates Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. But will McNeil and Alonso be this year’s Torres and Andujar? With so many versatile options, it’s not looking good.

 

Projected Lineup

The Mets could have many possible combinations but currently, Roster Resource projects the Mets' Opening Day lineup as follows:

  1. Brandon Nimmo RF
  2. Jed Lowrie 3B
  3. Robinson Cano 2B
  4. Wilson Ramos C
  5. Michael Conforto LF
  6. Todd Frazier 1B
  7. Amed Rosario SS
  8. Juan Lagares CF
  9. Pitcher

This lineup puts Lowrie near the top of the order in a good run-scoring spot, ahead of Cano. Ramos is slated for cleanup duties in order to break up the left-handed bats, while power will be scarce at the bottom with Rosario and Lagares. If Frazier struggles again, Alonso could inject a much-needed power infusion. Lagares and Broxton may wind up in a platoon but will stay at the bottom of the order, as both are around for their defense.

 

Depth Chart

We can look at these players by the possible positions they could play at throughout the year starting and focusing on the infield.

1B: Frazier, Cano, Dominic Smith, Alonso, J.D. Davis
2B: Cano, Lowrie, McNeil
3B: Lowrie, Frazier, Cano, McNeil
SS: Rosario, Lowrie
OF: Conforto, Nimmo, Lagares, Broxton, McNeil, J.D. Davis

We see just how many different combinations the Mets may deploy these players at. Rosario, Alonso, and Smith are the only players who haven’t spent time away from their main position (minors and majors included). Depth is great for teams especially when it doesn’t come with a large cost but takes away fantasy value from some very intriguing prospects.

If one prospect was more likely to receive more playing time, McNeil would be the better choice given his production last year, especially in the case of an injury. As a fantasy owner, you want to protect yourself from being devastated by an injury to a starter, but you shouldn’t rely on an injury to get one of your players regular at-bats. Drafting either promising Met would be a risky endeavor, these players are better left to being closely monitored on the waiver wire in redraft leagues.

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