The Mets are glad to see their catcher Travis d’Arnaud healthy heading into the postseason. He missed significant time twice this season with a broken finger and a left elbow sprain. The young catcher still slashed .268/.340/.485 with 12 home runs and 41 RBIs in 67 games. Behind the plate, he manager to throw out 33 percent of runners, setting a career-high and also allowed just one passed ball. He gives the Mets a solid defender and bat at a premium position.
Catcher can go two ways for the Dodgers, depending on matchups or even experience. Yasmani Grandal was the primary catcher most of the year, getting days off against left-handers usually, but he’s mired in a slump that saw his batting average go from .295 on August 6 to .234 to end the year. He’s dealt with a shoulder issue that has limited his prowess at the plate, although he did manager to set a career-high for home runs (16) this season. On the other side is A.J. Ellis, who struggled mightily to start the year and ended up being very productive as the year went on. Ellis is a career .386 hitter in the postseason and has a known rapport with Clayton Kershaw.
While Grandal does provide more power and better pitch-framing skills in addition the the Mets having three right-handers to start the series, there’s a sense that Ellis could get the nod, at least for Game 1, for the Dodgers.
Advantage: Dodgers (While d’Arnaud is a solid guy behind the plate and at the plate, the Dodgers have two catchers that are just slightly better at this point in time. Grandal could be a liability at the plate, but his pitch-framing skills give him the benefit of the doubt.)
Left field would have been rookie Michael Conforto if not for the Dodgers starting left-handers in three of five potential games. Veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer will likely get the bulk of the starts in left field. Cuddyer hit .259 with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs in 117 games this season; however, he hit .273 against left-handers. The 36-year-old doesn’t bring as strong a glove as Conforto, but his experience should help him in the postseason.
It will either be Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier in left field, depending on what the Dodgers decide to do in right field. Crawford would provide speed, clutch hitting in the postseason and an ability to catch fire, but struggles on defense. Meanwhile, Ethier enjoyed a renaissance year in 2015, hitting .294 with 14 home runs and 53 RBIs. He played almost exclusively against right-handed pitchers and the Mets have three slated to start. He’s a solid defender, but has struggled in the postseason.
Advantage:Dodgers (Cuddyer and Conforto combine for a potentially formidable duo, but Crawford’s postseason history and Ethier’s strong season give them a slight edge.)
The turning point of the Mets season came when a trade for Carlos Gomez broke down and they ended up making a deal for Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers. Cespedes came in and immediately transformed the Mets offense. In the 57 games since joining the Mets, the Cuban outfielder slashed .287/.337/.604 with 17 home runs and 44 RBIs. His arm in center field is a huge weapon and will slow down the Dodgers run game. He’s not a natural center fielder and is a bit rough around the edges, although his speed helps him in many cases.
If asked in May who would be the Dodgers center fielder in Game 1 of the NLDS, Joc Pederson would have been the only answer. A huge second half slump by the Home Run Derby runner-up and a hot streak by Kiké Hernandez have flipped that script heading into Friday’s game. Hernandez is more than likely getting the nod and deservedly so. Pederson had the power and the patience, but even that couldn’t aid his second half swoon. Hernandez hit .307 with 12 doubles and seven home runs in 76 games. He’s a half step behind Pederson in terms of defense, but he’s solid by defensive metrics and failed to make an error.
Advantage:Mets (While Hernandez is a spark in the Dodgers lineup, Cespedes was essentially the Mets MVP in just half a season.)
Curtis Granderson will get the start in right field for the Mets. The veteran outfielder did well this season, slugging 33 doubles and 26 home runs mostly out of the leadoff spot. He struggles against left-handers (.183), which doesn’t bode well against the Dodgers’ starters not named Zack Greinke. Granderson was worth 12 runs on defense in right field, but his arm isn’t anything to stop the Dodgers from running. Assuming his splits hold up, Granderson may become more of a threat in the later innings against the bullpen.
If healthy, Yasiel Puig should return to his spot in right field for the Dodgers. If not, it’ll be Ethier. Puig struggled in an injury-riddle season, but managed to hit 11 home runs and finish with a respectable .758 OPS in 79 games. He only played in two games after returning from a hamstring strain and his recovery was still a shock to some, leading some questions to if he’s truly healthy or just fighting through the pain. Defensively, Puig changes the game with his speed, willingness to risk his body for the big play and rocket arm.
Advantage:Push (A healthy Puig would give the Dodgers an advantage, but that remains to be seen and even if Ethier starts there, he’s similar to Granderson.)