Mets Spring Training Question 16: Centerfield

With 16 days before pitchers and Molinas report, let’s consider Mets question #16 for the spring: who will handle centerfield?

Last year’s regular centerfielder Angel Pagan was dealt to San Francisco for a package of players that included another centerfielder in Andres Torres. However, I don’t see Torres as an everyday player – rather, as a fourth (some say fifth) outfielder who could see time in a platoon situation. Of course, what I see is not necessarily what the Mets brass and Terry Collins see – maybe they are confident Torres can be “the guy” patrolling the middle of the Mets outfield.

But if Torres is not the full-time answer in center, then what is? Is it a platoon between Torres and, say, Scott Hairston? Like Pagan, Torres is a switch-hitter who tends to hit better from the left side. If not Hairston, would prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis have a chance to make the club if he has a hot spring? Alternatively, will we see Jason Bay get reps in center during ST games, with the idea that he’ll be used there in the regular season? It’s not completely crazy, since Bay played the position frequently while in Pittsburgh. And of course, there is still time for the Mets to add a free-agent centerfielder – names such as Rick Ankiel and Kosuke Fukudome are still on the market (has Gary Matthews, Jr., officially retired yet?).

What do you think? Is center field up for audition in the spring? Or is it Andres Torres’ job to lose? Who do you see challenging for the position? How do you think it will shake out? Answer in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Neil Peart February 4, 2012 at 10:39 pm
    Defense should be the priority in center field for this team…I mean we have a suspect pitching staff that isn’t gonna strike out a ton of guys, and below average fielders at right, second, third, and catcher. Having a guy like Torres out there in center who can take charge and really get after it defensively would be a lift for this team. That is why I think he will be an everyday player, despite not having much of a bat.
  2. Reese February 4, 2012 at 11:07 pm
    If he struggles to stay over his career norm of .244 as he has in all but two seasons of his less-than-illustrious career, then I could see the Mets force-feeding Captain Kirk as a way of generating some fan interest. Everything you read about Torres is positive in terms of his clubhouse presence and his ability to defend the position. However, a good glove alone doesn’t make for a long term future on most clubs at any position other than catcher or shortstop. How many clubs have .221 hitting outfielders in their everyday lineup? Hell, they could have kept Jason Pridie if they were content with that kind of offensive production. If fact, his 4 HRs and 20 RBIs came in just over half as many ABs as did Torres 4/19. I’m by no means saying the Mets erred in letting the forgettable Pridie walk away, but I think the deal was all about Ramirez in the pen with Torres as a throw-in. Unfortunately this bound-for-the-cellar team wound up keeping the $2 million+ Torres instead of the minimum wage Pridie — almost as big a waste of money as Ronny Paulino was. Couldn’t Quintanilla or Wimberly done the late-inning defensive replacement bit for minimum wage? There’s an extra $2.5 million+ right there that could have gone to improving the club’s starting pitching. Then again, what do I know? I’m not a baseball executive profiled in an academy award nominated movie 🙂
    • Reese February 5, 2012 at 12:52 am
      Typing faster than I was thinking — Ronny Cedeño
    • jerseymet February 5, 2012 at 11:14 am
      Letting Pridie go was a waste, as was letting Evens go. Both has upside and were cheap. Torres and Hairston you’ve got to be kidding me.
      • Joe February 5, 2012 at 12:59 pm
        Evans had such an upside that no team wanted him when he was repeatedly put on waivers and the best he could do was the Pirates and not even guaranteed as a MLB-er.

        Hairston is cheap and has a bit of power. You need someone on the roster with that. If you wanted to keep Pridie, you would need to find space for him. Who do you want out? Torres provides defense, some speed and team presence. And, isn’t expensive.

        As to the “fifth outfielder’ bit … he played over 100 games last year. Strange stat for one. I’m with Neil, at least for the first half of the season, on him. He might be a 4th on some good team, but on the Mets, for the time being, he’s the best option. They might sign a bat and if you platoon him with that guy or give Hairston some time too, fine. Torres is going to be there most of the time.

        • Glenn February 5, 2012 at 3:43 pm
          Evans had numerous opportunities to show he should be retained. He had been up and down since 2007. Torres has had seasons where he has been serviceable with the bat, Pridie has never been anything but horrid at the plate. Torres is a veteran who guarantees great OF defense which is needed with a flyball pitching staff in a spacious park and might be an upgrade at the dish. Furthermore he is only a one yr commitment. If Capt. Kirk forces his way into the picture, so be it, but there’s no need to rush him. Let him ripen on the farm.
    • Joe Janish February 5, 2012 at 5:17 pm
      I have to agree with you re: Pridie. Torres had one pretty good year in 2010 but in his professional career has been a very similar player to Pridie – with somewhat better on-base skills, but less power. In other words, it’s reasonable to believe that if given 550-600 plate appearances, Pridie would put up comparable all-around performance for significantly less salary. And to boot, Pridie is 5 years younger, just getting into the “prime” of his career.
  3. mic February 5, 2012 at 8:28 am
    So the question presented is who plays CF. The answer is ; Hairston, Torres, kirk, Lagares and jBay. In close to that order. I HOPE, its Kirk/Torres.

    -Who leads off is a HUGE quandry. Torress when he plays. But when he sits?

    • Joe Janish February 5, 2012 at 5:19 pm
      Why in the world would Torres bat leadoff? He hit .220 last year with a .312 OBP. In his MLB career he has a .318 OBP.
  4. newmilford February 5, 2012 at 10:44 am
    Ankiel should be our guy…
    if not, give Kirk a chance with a hot spring
    Torres is a #4
  5. jerseymet February 5, 2012 at 11:10 am
    2012 is a lost year. Keep Buffalo stocked with quality prospects. Let them learn to play and win togeather.
  6. argonbunnies February 5, 2012 at 4:03 pm
    Fukudome knows how to work a pitcher and draw walks. He should be plan B in CF and at leadoff if the best defender (Torres) falters.

    Torres was a well-above-average MLB hitter in 740 PAs from 2009-2010, so he deserves a serious shot.

    • Joe Janish February 5, 2012 at 5:28 pm
      Memories of Eric Valent won’t let me buy into 2009-2010 as proof that Torres can be a good offensive player in 2012. The league found his holes and adjusted to him in 2011, but he didn’t adjust back. Maybe he’ll adjust in 2012, but if he doesn’t, you’re looking at another .220 season — which is well below MLB average.
      • argonbunnies February 5, 2012 at 5:50 pm
        Valent was good for 300 PAs. Big difference between that and 740. If it’s simply a matter of pitchers adjusting to Torres, do you really think it’d take them that long to do it?

        My impression is that between injury and over-extending, Torres simply got himself out last year, and he’s proven he’s capable of not doing that.

        Not that the same couldn’t be said for Pagan. I’m not saying Torres is a safe bet. I’m just saying that, as gambles go, he’s not a particularly bad one.

        • Joe Janish February 5, 2012 at 6:55 pm
          Is it really that big a difference between Valent’s 300 PAs and Torres’ 740 — when you consider that both sample sizes represent a part-time player?

          Yes, I do believe it could have taken that long for the league to adjust to Torres, because he wasn’t playing every day in 2009 and was barely an everyday player in 2010 and it can take a while for scouting reports to catch up to someone when the scouts don’t have a chance to see the player in various situations.

          More toward the point: maybe Torres hit as well as he did in 2009 and 2010 because Bruce Bochy put him into situations to succeed, and limited his exposure. Valent played well in 2004 because he wasn’t exposed; after that year, he never had a similar opportunity at the MLB level in terms of PAs, so we’ll never know if he would have continued that pace through 700+ PAs.

          I’m not arguing whether Torres is a good or bad gamble for a team that has money. The Mets, however, have none, and considering their situation I don’t believe the little upside they might get out of Torres is worth the difference between $2.7M and $500K. With or without Torres the Mets are finishing last, so why not save $2.2M and maybe find out that the 28-year-old Pridie has some value?

          Eh, doesn’t matter. The Mets have Torres and that’s that.

        • argonbunnies February 5, 2012 at 8:14 pm
          In 2010, Torres played in only 5 of the Giants’ first 10 games, but then played every single day (almost; he missed 7) until a September injury. From May through August, he was one of the top bats in the Giants’ lineup. I can’t imagine that he was short-changed in the scouting reports or pitchers’ meetings.

          I don’t buy the “over-exposed” logic. If a guy can’t hit lefties or curveballs, then that is what it is, but in general, playing more regularly makes it easier to hit, not harder. As for Torres, his LH/RH splits are pretty even (and I have no idea about his curveball hitting).

          That said, I’m with you on shooting for someone with higher upside. I don’t think Pridie is it, though — in 1150 AAA PAs, .300 OBP. I guess it depends; what would you spend the $2.2M savings on?

        • argonbunnies February 5, 2012 at 8:20 pm
          Speaking of saving money, did you see that Todd Coffey signed for $1M? I’d rather have him than Rauch any day. So there’s $2.5M for ya.

          Given how the closer market panned out, Francisco looks like an overpay too.

        • DaveSchneck February 6, 2012 at 9:42 am
          Torres and Ramirez cost close to what Pagan did, and Pagan may prove to be a 4th OF anyway. Torres will get a chance to prove if he can playa t 2010 levels , but plan B (Captain Krik) will happen fast if Kirk returns to form in Buffalo. And, the Mets aren’t destined for last place, the could come in 4th if everything breaks right. Maybe even 3rd if someone else loses 3 or 4 key players.
        • Joe February 6, 2012 at 12:33 pm
          Sure enough. The dark comments move past reality to looking at the dark side of everything.

          For instance, Todd Coffey / closer. Who knows if a better closer would WANT to come to the Mets (doubt it) and the Mets unsurprisingly wanted to do something after Reyes left, not wait and wait to see if a somewhat better reliever would come along.

          And, Torres. Who knows if he won’t fall somewhere between 2010 and 2011 PLUS provide defense PLUS provide some team presence, which the team really needs these days. But, no, he’s just a 5th outfielder & Pridie, who is at best a crapshoot very well might be a better option.

          The NYG was convincingly said to be a 8-8 team back last summer. Not saying the Mets will go to the playoffs. The starting pitching is mediocre. And, yeah the ownership stinks. You need to say that to defend yourself against being a suck-up. But, it is not just some dark hole and it is not like things were so much better when spent fifty mil. more to win 70 games.

        • DaveSchneck February 6, 2012 at 11:23 pm
          On paper the Mets look to be the worst team in the NL East. Given that, every win this year is important. 78 wins will be much better than 65. Coming in 3rd with 81 wins could be a big accomplishment and will set the table far better for the future than 5th with 98 losses. I hope Collins and Alderson feel the same way. Mediocore or not I want to see this team battle each and every day and finish as high as possible, wherever that may be in the standings.
  7. Glenn February 5, 2012 at 6:31 pm
    We have been reduced to arguing about Pridie vs Torres. Doesn’t that tell you all something? Wake me when Harvey, Wheeler, et al arrive.