Monday, March 15, 2010

Is Fernando Martinez An Option In Center Field?

Well, if John Harper of the Daily News has his way, perhaps. Harper suggested in an article yesterday that the Mets would be better off starting Fernando and pushing Angel Pagan to the bench. This idea could not be dumber.

Harper prefaces his suggestion by pointing out to us that Angel Pagan made a mistake in Thursday's exhibition against the Red Sox. He continues:
When I later asked another Mets player about it, he tapped a finger against his head and walked away. Enough said.

For that matter, we saw enough of Pagan's baserunning adventures last season to know that no amount of coaching is going to keep him from making costly mistakes at times.

The point is, now that Jose Reyes is apparently going to join Beltran on the disabled list to start the season, the Mets need to rethink their options. Specifically they need to think about a way to make their lineup more dynamic, as well as less prone to the mistakes that were killing them last season even before all the injuries.
Yes, Pagan caught the ball in a bad position to throw. But let's not lose our heads here - it was one play in a spring training game. Who knows why it happened?

Most important is the development of Fernando Martinez. Now, you are not likely to find many people who like Fernando more than I do. I am a huge fan, and I think he's got a chance to be very special. However, we wouldn't be doing him any favors by throwing him into center field at this stage in his career and demanding that he swim.

He crushed Triple-A last year, but his plate discipline needed work. He did well in the Dominican Series (as Harper points out, winning MVP honors), but struggled in the regular season. He's been excellent thus far in spring training, but it's only been a handful of at-bats. He's a rare talent in that he made it to the major leagues last year, but in his time here he only hit .176.

He needs more time to refine his game - most importantly, his plate discipline. We know he's strong, and he can hit, and if healthy he will probably be good for 40+ doubles a year. But the fact of the matter here is that he's only 21 years old, he's played only 69 games above Double-A, and he's never posted an ob-base percentage above .340 at ANY full season minor league stop.

Angel Pagan is the best player to start for the Mets in center field while Beltran is out. This is especially true in light of the fact that Fernando Martinez could probably use more time in Triple-A to take the next step.

Sure, Angel has some flaws. He'll make some mistakes. But let's please not listen to the Harper's of the world and throw the baby out with the bathwater[1]. Angel Pagan is a fine hitter and a great defender - and for every mental mistake he makes, he'll make five GOOD plays that another player would fail to. Let's deal with Angel for now. And who knows? Perhaps he plays his way into a starting role, or he becomes a valuable trade commodity later in the season.

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[1] An unscientific poll of the commenters over at the Daily News show that people love the idea of promoting Fernando Martinez immediately. That is not good.

[2] For some reason, the URL of the Harper article does not match up with the title it was given on the website. The URL, hilariously, is actually this:


A marvelous idea!


Anonymous said...

I think you overvalue Pagan. Yes, he is an offensive presence with the bat, but his baserunning and defense have many holes, as you alludded to. One mistake in six chances is not a good average by my standards, for a pennant contending starting center fielder. He is a liability when he plays everyday and is most valuable as a fourth outfielder. I have been very impressed with GMJ, although it is a small sample, and it is spring training he looks like a real pro so far. He is hitting, hitting for power, running the bases extremely well, and playing very good defense in CF. So far this spring, if you ask me, GMJ has beaten out Pagan for the job in every facet of the game.

Anonymous said...

Agree totally with above. In fact I think Pagan is a distant 4th to get the CF job on merit this spring.

The Mets need a starter MORE than anything. They have pieces to make a trade...Pagan is a decent piece. meanwhile I think F-mart is well on his way to pushing C-beltran. BUT he needs ML at bats, Sarge Jr can provide enuff insurance for F-mart who can easily slide into a strict platoon-rotation in the OF.

Further I think Pirdie and Kirk nieu... deserve consideration also..So we are hardly barren if Pagan is traded.

Brian said...

Early in the offseason, we looked at Pagan and asked "is he good enough to start every day"? The answer was yes.

The majority of people over at fangraphs agree with me. The fans have projected Pagan to hit only .286/.341/.455, a steep drop from last year, but still a far above average number for a centerfielder.

In addition, he posted a -1 UZR/150 last year in center field, making him a great defender.

Overall, the fans have him projected for 2.4 Wins Above Replacement - a player worth almost $10 million dollars. I think that's a fair assessment.

If he can play a good center field and hit a little bit, he's going to be a huge asset for us.

Onan Coca said...

I completely agree with you. The strongest argument (for me) is what to do when Beltran returns. Do you send F-Mart back to AAA? If there is another OF injury, I assume he returns to the Show? This is the worst way possible to develop a prospect, the yo-you method never works. In fact the only thing it ever accomplishes is to retard the growth of the ballplayer. F-Mart needs time to continue to develop his patience at the plate and to develop his pitch recognition... give him a full season of AAA and then call him up when the rosters expand. The same goes for Josh Thole, Ike Davis, and Jenrry Mejia.

Brian said...

Onan -

Great point. With Bay, Beltran, and Francoeur firmly entrenched in their respective spots at this point (at least according to Mets brass) it would seem that Fernando doesn't have a spot when everyone is healthy.

As you point out, this is more reason to start him in Triple-A.

Barring an injury where Fernando would play every day, I think the best thing to do would be to leave him in Triple-A until at least the All-Star Break. Perhaps by then, he will be performing so well that he can push for a starting job in right field over Frenchy.

Anonymous said...

Pagan responded in a very timely fashion today, eh? Nicely done...