Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Mets 2005 Right Field Quandary

Right field is going to be one of the more interesting stories of the spring as the Mets break camp down in Florida. They have an incumbent in Victor Diaz, who had 280 at bats last season, mostly as a replacement for Mike Cameron in April and September... but they also have a new guy.

Early in the offseason, they dealt Cameron to San Diego for a former rising star named Xavier Nady. If you guys remember, Nady was a stud prospect coming up through the Pads system. He's a little old now, but he's been unlucky in his career with regard to timing and PT. I wouldn't be surprised if he put up something like .280/.330/.475 if he gets real at-bats this season.

He's coming into his prime, and check out the minor stats:
.297/.367/.525 and never too old for the level (except 2004 at AAA when he posted a 1020 OPS).

The only problem is, Victor Diaz is a legit player too, with not one, but two minor league batting titles. He won the Single A title at the tender age of 20, batting .350, and he won the AA title at the age of 21, batting .354 before coming over to the Mets.

His MLB career at the ages of 22 and 23 consist of an 805 OPSand 38 extra base hits in only 331 at bats. He hits for power. He's quick despite his size. He's got a great baseball personality. The only time he struggled to hit was when he was receiving hardly any playing time in midseason... if you recall, he crushed the ball early on when he had a real chance to play.

.292/.432/.538 in April, and then OPS of 965 and 616 in August and September, when he actually slumped (but so did all the Mets). I fail to see why he gets so little love. He'll be 24! Not every prospect is David Wright. Look for Victor to go something like .265/.330/.490.

It will be interesting to see what the Mets do, if only because both players are very serviceable. It seems as if Nady is too old to grow into the player that San Diego thought he would be when they drafted him in the second round of the 2000 draft. Diaz, on the other hand, is three years younger, but has shown some weaknesses in terms of making contact and playing defense. Probably the worst part of this is that neither player holds much value right now, but given full playing time, would probably establish themselves as a good player. Each probably would hit 25 home runs and drive in 90 in a full season... but as of now, neither has had 600 at bats to PROVE IT. Hence, the quandary.

If I was the Mets, I would start Diaz in right field and have Nady be the super sub. Although he's not a super gloveman, he can play first base, right field, and left field. Between Diaz' and Delgado's defensive faults, and Floyd's frailty, Nady could probably get 350 at bats without starting every day. Diaz is the player with the bigger upside, though, and warrants a look in right field to begin this season.

Of course, things change all the time, and a hot March and April can change anything. I can only hope, for the Mets sake, that the lack of playing time won't hurt the development of the players, and as a result, the display of their value. They could both be starters on most teams, so the Mets should use this surplus to their advantage, especially before super-prospect Lastings Milledge is knocking on the door at Shea.

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