Back when I was “trying out,” I took a look at some potential “finds” for the 2011 starting rotation and bullpen. Today, I want to take a look at the outfield. Unlike the rotation, however, it’s currently not clear what the 2011 outfield configuration will be, and whether any holes will exist.
One possibility for 2011 is the following outfield, which requires no player moves whatsoever:
|Player||Position||2010 TAv||2010 triple slash|
|Lucas Duda||OF-PH||.246||(.304/.398/.569) at AA/AAA|
|Nick Evans||OF-PH||.285||(.300/.371/.536) at AA/AAA|
Quite possibly, this outfield could be very productive (albeit somewhat defensively challenged). When Beltran needs a day off, Pagan could slide over to center and Duda or Evans could play right depending on that day’s starting pitcher.
Of course, embedded in this lineup are several assumptions. Assumption 1: Carlos Beltran can be something resembling an everyday Center Fielder again. Assumption 2: Angel Pagan is a good enough hitter to be an everyday outfielder. Assumption 3: Bay recovers from his concussion. Assumption 4: Duda and Evans both are capable of hitting enough in part-time roles to both compensate for their defensive deficiencies and to justify roster spots.
Believe it or not, I do think Carlos Beltran has something left (at least with the bat). First, in July and August he was really the victim of bad luck, posting BABIP’s of .213 and .271 respectively. In September, he was somewhat lucky with a .328 BABIP (above his career .300 average, which is exactly average) but did post an awesome (.321/.365/.603) line for the month. And overall, his TAv was essentially the same as Pagan’s—as you could infer from the similarity of their triple-slash lines.
It’s assumption 2 that I don’t think holds up. Pagan had a pretty good 2010. But here is his BABIP and overall slash line by month in 2010:
What’s particularly concerning about Pagan’s numbers is that his success is fueled by months of unsustainable BABIP (remember .300 is about average). When he produces a league-average BABIP, like he did in September, his numbers are simply not worthy of being a starting outfielder in the bigs.
But Pagan does do three things well that make him an extremely valuable 4th outfielder. First, he’s excellent in the field at all 3 outfield positions. Second, he’s a great base-stealer (if not a great base-runner). Third, he is excellent against RH-pitching (.300/.351/.436) in 2010 and remarkably, almost exactly the same for his career (.300/.351/.444).
So, before we even get to the final assumptions, the Mets need to do something. Yes, Evans and Pagan platooning could work, but I have another thought: Wladimir Balentien (pronounced Ba-Luhn-Teen). Once the top prospect in the Mariners organization, Balentien has bounced around a little bit, but is still only 26 and is a minor league free agent. Last year, he hit 25 homers and had a (.282/.337/.536) line with Triple-A Louisville. But those numbers only tell part of the story. Against lefties last year his line was (.360/.424/.640) and he also seemed to finally put everything together in the second half, posting a (.368/.418/.730) line. He also developed a running game this year, stealing 12 bases while only being caught once. Balentien has gotten looks at the big league level before and disappointed, but he’s never been given a full shot. He actually reminds me some of Nelson Cruz, a right-handed power hitter who never got a real shot in the bigs until his age-27 season. The biggest difference between the two is that Cruz had always demonstrated a keen batting eye, which has been Balentien’s biggest weakness. However, that may be mitigated some by limiting Balentien to playing against lefties.
Perhaps Balentien won’t work out, but the upside there is definitely worth the gamble. Now, for assumption 3, I think the jury is still out. Now, you’re probably saying, “but Bay stunk before the concussion.” And, that’s partially true, he wasn’t really worth what the Mets were paying. But, he did have some value. There’s also some reason to believe that, like David Wright, he will adjust his game more to Citi Field and see some of his power return. I plan to write more about the “Citi-Field effect” in a future posting.
Finally, I do have some faith that Duda and Evans can be productive hitters, Duda in particular. He got off to a very slow start in Flushing but came on late, and frankly his numbers in the minors last year strongly suggest he can be a contributor at the major league level. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if it is he and not Pagan who ends up platooning in Right with Balentien (should he get signed), and Pagan serves as either a late-inning defensive replacement in one spot (or maybe starts in center should Beltran be injured).
Notably, I have not, until now, mentioned Fernando Martinez or Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Suffice it to say, I think both need more time in the Minors. Captain Kirk showed improved patience as the season progressed, but still had only a .327 OBP last year—just not good enough. He hasn’t yet shown he’s a big-leaguer. Similarly, Martinez was only at .317—definitely not good enough. But, with Martinez, remember that he’s only 21. I would send him to Double-A to start 2011 and let him learn to dominate (and stretch) and maybe by 2012 he’ll be ready to contribute.
To sum up, I think the Mets have options for the outfield in 2012, even if they stand pat. But, the possibility of bringing in Balentien is a low-risk, high-upside move that the Mets definitely should make.