A Yankees vs. Mets Position-by-Position Breakdown
By Chris O’Connor
February 9, 2021
Despite missing out on Trevor Bauer, the Mets are looking vastly improved from the sub-.500 team that they were last year. With new owner Steve Cohen in town, the Yankees all of a sudden may be threatened as the undisputed top team in New York for the foreseeable future. Did that future begin already?
As we head toward 2021, I wanted to take a look at a position-by-position breakdown of the Yankees and Mets rosters to see which team really has the edge.
Catcher: Gary Sanchez vs. James McCann
The case for Sanchez is simple: he has shown in the past that at his best, he is a Top-3 catcher in the league and one of the most dangerous home-run threats across any position. However, his maddening inconsistency and mental lapses (not to mention a sub .200 batting average in two of the past three years) make it tough to rely on him to be even an average regular moving forward. James McCann, meanwhile, struggled for years with the Tigers before breaking out over the past two seasons with the White Sox. He has hit 25 homers with an .808 OPS in 149 games with the White Sox and just inked a 4 year, $40 million contract with the Mets. Edge: Mets
1st Base: Luke Voit vs. Pete Alonso
This is a close call and one that I have seen spark up heated debates among members of the MLB community. Alonso was unbelievable as a rookie in 2019 with 53 homers and a .143 WRC+, but Voit built off of his Ruthian end to 2018 with a 140 WRC+ prior to the abdominal injury he suffered in 2019. Voit then easily outperformed Alonso in 2020 with more hits, homers, RBI’s, runs, and a higher batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. A close call, but I am giving the edge to Voit for 2021. Edge: Yankees
2nd Base: D.J. LeMahieu vs. Jeff McNeill
I am a huge fan of Jeff McNeill. Since his debut in 2018, he has shown he is a consistent .300 hitter while drawing enough walks for a .380 OBP and striking out far less than league averages. His defensive versatility is also incredibly valuable. LeMahieu, however, was an easy call in this battle. In two years with the Yankees, LeMahieu has finished fourth and third in the AL MVP voting. He has hit .336 across those two years with surprising power and shown a supernatural ability to hit with runners in scoring position. I think their games are somewhat similar, but LeMahieu just does everything a little bit better, and that adds up. Edge: Yankees.
Shortstop: Gleyber Torres vs. Francisco Lindor
I think Gleyber Torres’ offensive struggles throughout 2020 are something to just wipe away and forget about. In a (hopefully) slightly more normal year, I expect him to come to camp in shape with a renewed focus and I expect him to bounce back in a big way in 2021. Lindor, however, is one of the best shortstops in baseball. He provides outstanding defense in addition to 30-plus home run power. He generally hits in the upper .270’s and .280’s with an OBP consistently in the .340-.350 range. He is also regarded as a fantastic clubhouse leader. If Torres bounces back in 2021, he can shrink the big gap, but Lindor is an easy winner here. Edge: Mets.
3rd Base: Gio Urshela vs. J.D. Davis
J.D. Davis broke out with the Mets in 2019, slashing .307/.369/.527 with 22 homers in 140 games. While his OBP rose to .371 in 2020, the rest of his game cratered. He hit just 6 homers in 56 games and batted only .247. With what is generally regarded as weak defense at third base and left field, his bat has to bounce back in 2021. While I am confident it will, Gio Urshela has proven to be a better player. Like Davis, he broke out in 2019, but he kept up his play in 2020 by slashing .298/.368/.490 with 6 homers in 43 games. With his superior defense, Urshela gets the nod here among two players who have really turned their careers around in recent years. Edge: Yankees.
Left Field: Clint Frazier vs. Dominic Smith
An interesting comparison between former top prospects who have only recently been given the chance to show their talent at the big league level. Smith is someone who would really be helped by a universal DH as he is a very poor defender. He broke out in 2019 with a .889 OPS and 11 homers in just 197 at bats. He followed that up with an even better offensive performance in 2020, hitting 10 homers with an outstanding .993 OPS and finally playing a “full” season with 50 games. While Frazier’s defense was the only obstacle in his becoming a full-time regular for years, he broke out in 2020 in that aspect by finishing as a Gold Glove finalist in left. Like Smith, he expanded on his breakout 2019 with an even better 2020 as a regular: 8 homers with a .267/.394/.511 slash line and a .905 OPS. While both project for similar offensive seasons, I think Frazier gets the edge due to superior defense. Edge: Yankees.
Center Field: Aaron Hicks vs. Brandon Nimmo
Another close call. Both are low-average, high OBP guys who draw walks. Hicks has more power and provides superior defense but does have a significant injury history. Statistically, they are actually very similar. I would give the edge to Hicks for his defense, but I don’t know if he is going to stay healthy enough to play 100+ games. With no injury concerns, I would go Hicks, but since that concern is real, if I had to choose a player for 2021 (without considering the rest of the rosters), I would go with Nimmo. Edge: Mets.
Right Field: Aaron Judge vs. Michael Conforto
Conforto really seemed to put it all together in 2020. In 54 games, he slashed .322/.412/.515 with 9 home runs, a 27-homer pace over 162 games. Conforto has long been talented and put up some really good seasons in the past, but 2020 was easily his best. Having said that, the edge here definitely goes to Judge. Everyone knows about the injuries, but I think he is a Top-5 position player when healthy. With prodigious power, Gold-Glove caliber defense, and a consistent ability to get on base, Judge is the total package. If he can stay healthy, an MVP or two is certainly within reach (he should have won in 2017). Edge: Yankees.
DH: Giancarlo Stanton vs. Jose Martinez
Like Judge, Stanton is one of the best hitters in baseball who just needs to stay healthy. I have recently read about how both he and Judge have eased up on weight-training and primarily focused on yoga and flexibility this offseason with the goal of staying healthy in mind, and I think that can make a huge difference. Martinez is a decent player with massive platoon splits – he hammers lefties but really struggles with righties. Even a limited Stanton is an upgrade. Edge: Yankees.
Bench: Mike Tauchman, Mike Ford, Tyler Wade, Miguel Andujar, Kyle Higashioka vs. Luis Guillorme, Tomas Nido, Guillermo Heredia
This is where the Yankees have a massive advantage and in my opinion is the key separator between the two teams. The Yankees depth consists of guys who have proven they can thrive with extended playing time, and the Yankees have proven to be apt at finding undervalued gems across baseball. The Mets, meanwhile, have a significant drop-off after their starting nine. If injuries hit both clubs, the Yankees have proven they can withstand the storm. The Mets would look to be in real trouble here. Massive edge: Yankees.
Rotation: Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Corey Kluber, Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery/Domingo German/Garcia vs. Jacob DeGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergard, David Peterson/Robert Gsellman
The two teams actually have some similarities here. Both have a top-tier ace in Cole and DeGrom and both have former aces coming back from Tommy John surgery in Severino and Syndergard. If those two for each team are a wash, then the other three is where the difference lies. The Yankees make this difficult to project because Taillon and Kluber are both very high-risk, high-reward. They combined to throw less than 20 pitches in 2020, but the Yankees are really banking on a return to form for them both after not re-signing Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ. While I like the back-end depth more, I think Carrasco and Stroman are both underrated and great two and three pieces for the Mets. Kluber and Taillon might have higher upside, and it is certainly possible that they will really bounce back, but Carrasco and Stroman provide more of a certainty. Because of this, I like the Mets. Edge: Mets.
Bullpen: Luis Cessa, Darren O’Day, Chad Green, Zack Britton, Aroldis Chapman vs. Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, Trevor May, Edwin Diaz
I wanted to limit this to the top five of each team because these are the guys expected to see the bulk of the innings in the playoffs, should both teams get there. Writing this, I was a little surprised at the lack of depth of the Yankees bullpen after the top three of Green, Britton, and Chapman. O’Day is a solid four, but the fifth option could be any of Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga, or any of Deivi Garcia/Clarke Schimdt/Domingo German/Jordan Montgomery. Despite the talent of some of those guys, the losses of Tommy Kanhle and Adam Ottavino leave a lack of a proven option behind the Big 3 for the Yanks. The Mets have taken a high-risk high-reward path with their bullpen, similar to how the Yankees have approached their starting rotation. Diaz and Betances have some of the best pure stuff in the big leagues, but both are prone to bouts of inconsistency. May and Lugo are solid and dependable options. This was a very close call, but I think the Yankees Big 3 gives them the edge over the Mets depth. Edge: Yankees.