With the roster largely set, the Mets have begun looking at lineup construction to maximize the offense from a team that underperformed for much of last season. As usual for this team, one of the spots still pending a long-term answer is leadoff.
When Jose Reyes is starting, it's largely a given that he will bat leadoff, assuming his bounceback 2016 numbers continue to hold steady. With major question marks surrounding David Wright's health, this may very well resolve the leadoff issue for the bulk of the season.
The vast majority of Reyes's career plate appearances have come out of the leadoff spot and despite no longer displaying the stolen base prowess that secured him that spot in his youth (nor the on base percentage that tends to define the classic leadoff hitter nowadays), his reputation and general offensive competence will certainly place him there for the foreseeable future.
When Reyes is out of the lineup, Mets manager Terry Collins has floated a handful of other names to fill the leadoff spot -- Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker, and Curtis Granderson.
It's hard to see either Cabrera or Walker getting serious consideration for the role unless injury demands it. Cabrera's .336 OBP ranked third among Mets regulars in 2016, but it was above his career average and just a point ahead of Granderson's .335 mark. Projections expect a regression for him there and the team may benefit more from his power further down in the lineup.
Walker put up a .347 OBP last season, his best since 2010, and has consistently shown the ability to draw walks, but has only a handful of career plate appearances at leadoff and lacks speed. He too could be a more valuable contributor in a spot where his power shines. That said, if he can sustain the on base skills and more conventional options turn up injured or ineffective, it may be worth giving him the chance.
That leaves Granderson, who finished 2016 with respectable offensive numbers despite a deep mid-season slump. In fact, since 2015, he has been one of the more effective leadoff hitters in the game, as well as one of the most durable.
Detractors will point to disappointing numbers last year with runners in scoring position, but if that's a legitimate flaw (which his 2015 performance in similar spots would suggest it is not), then he's better suited for leadoff than any other spot, as he will most frequently bat with the bases empty. As it is, a repeat of last year's production would be a solid, if not exceptional, leadoff option for most teams. And if he matches his fantastic 2015 numbers, he could be a run-scoring machine.
At the end of the day, Collins tends to default to the most familiar names in these spots, so expect Granderson to see a lot of time at leadoff regardless of how Cabrera and Walker look. However, poor performance or injury issues could open the door to some interesting options as the season wears on.