With all the emphasis these days put on tools, high ceilings, and top prospect lists, occasionally talented minor leaguers get lost in the shuffle and overlooked. One such player in the Mets organization has been Nick Evans, who has been a forgotten man over the past two years, and unjustly denied opportunities that he has earned.
It’s easy to remember Evans’ major league debut when he hit three doubles against the Colorado Rockies. Evans went on to play 50 games with a total of 12 extra-base hits in 2008, and during the Mets failed playoff push that year he was one half of the left field platoon with Daniel Murphy. Evans followed up that season with a great spring in 2009. I was privileged enough to see Evans play in multiple spring training games that year, and he was impressive every time at the plate, hitting the ball hard in each of his at bats. With his play he rightfully earned a spot on the opening day roster. However, just before the season started the team signed Gary Sheffield, forcing Evans to be optioned to triple-A a few games into the season when the team needed a fifth starter. With his confidence shattered after the demotion, Evans struggled mightily in the minors to the point where he was sent back to extended spring training to regain his form and his confidence. After fighting through his struggles Evans ended up getting back to the upper levels of the minor leagues where he ended up hitting 13 homeruns and 21 doubles, which was enough for a late-season call up. However, even with the team out of contention, the young Evans ended up with only 65 major-league at bats in 2009, despite earning more playing time with his performance and perseverance.
In 2010, Evans was dealt a blow even before the season started when the team brought back Fernando Tatis, eliminating just about any chance Evans had of earning a job in spring training. But this time Evans responded positively, hitting .300 with 23 homeruns and 44 doubles in 125 minor league games. Despite the great year and the Mets once again out of contention, he was only rewarded with 36 at bats across 20 games for the Mets in 2010, before a late-season injury cost him a chance at a few more. Once again, Evans was denied an opportunity that he had rightfully earned, even though the Mets had nothing to lose by playing young guys like him.
Still, there’s a chance that 2011 can be different for Nick Evans. After the season he had last year swinging the bat, there is nothing left that Evans has to prove in the minor leagues. He’s a two-time minor league all-star who has hit double digit homeruns in every year of his career, giving him enough power to be an asset on a major league team. Defensively he isn’t great, but he’s capable of playing any of the four corners, even playing some third base this past season in order to become more versatile. He would be great as a right-handed bat off the bench with some pop. He can start at first base or in either corner outfield against lefty starters, against whom he hits better. There is no doubt that Evans has earned an opportunity to be on a major league roster, and should be a part of the Mets in 2011. However, he will be plenty of competition for those final bench spots. Evans is also out of options, so if he’s not in Miami on opening day he will be exposed to waivers, which means that time may be unfairly running out on his Mets career.