The way he’s been hitting this spring, it’s pretty clear that, barring a remarkable turn of events over the next two weeks, Xavier Nady has won the right field job for the Mets. Which is fine, because that’s what Omar and Willie want, and Victor Diaz might be better off spending a few more months in AAA working on his defense and fundamentals.
Personally, I’m a Victor Diaz fan, and didn’t feel he was going to get a fair shot this spring anyway. So in a sick kind of way it’s a relief that the X man has hit so well and actually earned his spot — unlike what is happening at the second base position, where AHern and Keppinger have no realistic opportunity whatsoever.
Hopefully, Nady will stay hot as the season begins and come up with some big hits in April and May. After watching his swing, however, I’m convinced that he is not the long-term answer for the Mets in RF. To me he looks like he’ll always be a very streaky hitter: either red-hot or ice cold. Rather than using a controlled stride toward the pitcher, he dives over the plate and commits his weight and hands at the same time, leaving very little room for error. Seeing his swing, I fully understand why he has so much trouble with righthanders: all they need to do is throw breaking balls away and then jam him up inside.
In fact, his swing reminds me a LOT of a former Met’s: Joe McEwing (although McEwing never hit with the power of X man). Laugh all you want, but Super Joe took that same diving approach, and had two productive years with it: 1999 and 2001, the two years he had the most playing time. Playing regularly, a streak hitter can work his way out of the cold streaks and eventually hit another hot streak. Unfortunately, Super Joe became a super sub and could never get enough consecutive games and at-bats to get the hot streaks going. There are a lot of Major Leaguers who use this diving approach, and they are all streaky.
That’s not to say Nady won’t survive, but I think he will have trouble down the road, especially with Diaz waiting in the wings. It’s possible that he’ll start the season hot, cool off in Mid-May, then have Willie put in Diaz. The problem for Nady, then, will be finding a way to get hot again, which is next to impossible from the bench. If Diaz is given an opportunity and hits, Randolph will likely use Nady as a pinch-hitter and late-inning replacement, which in my estimation is the worst possible scenario for him. Nady will not succeed as a part-time player; he needs to play every day, and his manager needs to wait out the cold streaks. A lot like Jeromy Burnitz or Geoff Jenkins.
Remember, you heard it here first: if Nady plays every day, starting 145-150 games, he’ll have a solid year (.275 – 25 HR – 85 RBI). If Randolph jerks him in and out of the lineup, he’ll be a sub-.250 disaster.
As much as I like Diaz, I think it is in everyone’s best interests if Nady gets the opportunity to play everyday. Diaz is the type of hitter who can develop with part-time play, and eventually work himself into a starting role (LF in 2007?).