Whether it’s injuries or desperation, the best possible lineup for the New York Mets is finally revealing itself.
Just in time, too, as it could save embattled manager Mickey Callaway’s job.
Following a sweep at the hands of the lowly Miami Marlins, the future of the Mets manager was in jeopardy before general manager Brodie Van Wagenen gave him a vote of confidence on Monday.
It seemed to do the trick as the Mets responded by taking the first three games of their four-game tilt against the Washington Nationals, who are struggling even more than Callaway’s side this season.
In the process, the Mets are continuing to get their biggest boost from the younger members of the lineup. It’s further indication that Callaway and Van Wagenen must stop worrying about dollar signs or name recognition when deciding who starts at second base, third base, or left field.
Veteran second baseman Robinson Cano continues to struggle during his first year with the Mets. The 36-year-old is on pace to have one of the worst seasons of his career with a .241 batting average, three home runs, and 13 RBI in 45 games.
His lack of hustle this past week has made plenty of headlines as well, which won’t endear himself to Mets fans any more than his slumping play. When he does hustle, he gets hurt, as seen on Wednesday night when he complained of quad tightness after running out a ground ball.
Callaway might want to let him spend some time on the bench even when he returns from the injured list and hand the starting second-base job to Jeff McNeil once he returns to health.
The lefty is dealing with hamstring tightness and is headed to the IL, but does nothing but hit when he’s in the Mets lineup. McNeil ranks amongst the very top of Major League Baseball with a .333 batting average and .418 on-base percentage.
At third base, Todd Frazier continues to prove that he just wasn’t built for Citi Field. After returning from injury, the 33-year-old is batting just .211. That’s not far off from a .218 average he’s put up since 2016.
The problem is that Frazier’s power that usually redeems his low average is not as prevalent in a pitcher’s ballpark like Citi Field. He’s hit 20 home runs in his first 479 at-bats as a Met after averaging 33 home runs in his previous four seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, and New York Yankees.
His struggles should leave the door wide open for JD Davis, who continues to show that he can hang around in the pros after being unable to break through with the loaded Houston Astros.
Davis is batting .282 with five home runs in 110 at-bats this season, including a pinch-hit three-run home run on Tuesday night to spark a Mets comeback.
While Callaway admitted that Davis will be getting reps in left field to get his bat into the lineup more, a clean swap for Frazier at third would allow the Mets to get another promising bat in the lineup.
After a difficult start to his pro career, Dominic Smith looks to be putting it all together. The 23-year-old is batting .300 on the season, mainly as a pinch-hitting extraordinaire reminiscent of Lenny Harris 20 years ago.
Smith has responded brilliantly after losing the starting first-base job to Alonso, though he’s been doing all the right things since spring training.
The lefty rejoined the team in much better shape and has worked on his defense in the outfield to provide some much-needed depth at the position.
He should be seeing much more playing time as Michael Conforto works to return from a concussion while Brandon Nimmo hit the 10-day injured list this week with a neck issue. Yet Smith hadn’t started a game since May 16 and had just five starts on the year entering Thursday’s matinee against Washington.
Giving him starts in left for the time being would allow Callaway to get an extended look at what a younger, almost no-name offense could do.
It couldn’t be any worse than what we saw through the first 45 games of the season.