First base: Pete Alonso. Despite his struggles at the plate in 2020 — the sophomore jinx steamrolled him — his performance in his rookie season locks him into this slot for 2021. His primary backup should be Dominic Smith, who had a breakout season in 2020 with an .852 OPS.
Second base: Robinson Cano exceeded my expectations. At age 37, while not justifying the trading of Jarrod Kelenic to get him, Cano hit .316 with an OPS of .896. His WAR, however, was just 0.9. Another negative is that Cano is slow. In the latest Statcast Sprint-Speed Leaderboard, for second basemen, Cano is rated the slowest at 24.8 ft/sec.
Shortstop: Andrés Giménez. Though he got only one vote in the 2020 Rookie of the Year voting, his star started to shine in 2020. In 2021, baseball-reference.com projects his OPS to be .769; whereas, they project Amed Rosasio’s to be .723. stolen bases OBP. Further, though the two are the Mets fastest runners, last season Giménez had eight stolen bases while Rosario had none.
Third base: Jeff McNeil. Since David Wright, the Mets have had problems stabilizing the hot corner. A potential contender at that position is free agent DJ LeMahieu, whom David Adler views as the best available free agent. LeMahieu can play first, second, and third so, like McNeil, he is a multi-position athlete.
Left field: Dominic Smith earned that position last season, so should start in left unless the universal DH returns to the National League. Then, Smith should start at first with Alonso becoming the DH because of Smith’s glove skills. Smith could have competition from Brandon Nimmo if the Mets sign George Springer to play center field.
Center field: George Springer. In 2020, Brandon Nimmo played the most games at this position (27), and even though his slash line was .280/.404/.484. In an sny.tv article, Danny Abriano wrote, “the Nimmo experiment in center field needs to end,” suggesting that he be relocated to left field. To support his claim, Abriano said, “of the 39 qualified center fielders in 2020, Nimmo was second-to-last when it came to OAA (Outs Above Average).” Abriano suggests as a replacement either Jackie Bradley Jr. or George Springer. Either would be an upgrade.
Right field: Michael Conforto. In 2020 he had the second-highest OPS on the Mets: .927. (Smith’s was .993, seventh-best in MLB.) Conforto’s fans include Mike Vaccaro, a writer for the New York Post, who said, “He has, at various times in his five years with the Mets, been projected a batting champion in waiting, an MVP in waiting, a top-10 MLB player in waiting.” Though we are still waiting, he is getting closer. Last season was the first time he hit above .300, his .322 average 69 points higher than his career average from 2015-2019 of .253.
Catcher: J.T. Realmuto. How good is he? Jim Salisbury wrote on nbcsports.com that the “two-time All-Star [is] widely considered the best catcher in the game for his work both behind and at the plate.” To sum up his skills: He can hit. He can catch. He can throw. And he runs faster than Christian Yelich, Kevin Pillar, and Jackie Bradley Jr.