Monthly Archives: March 2011 - Page 3

The Nick Evans Dilemma

Who are you?

Who are you? I really wanna know.

The folks at Amazin’ Avenue, a premiere Mets blog (and a part of the inimitable SB Nation), have generated plenty of gems throughout their reign as purveyors of everything Metsian. None may be better than the “meme” that Nick Evans, the oft-forgotten #6 on the Mets’ roster, has befallen a worse fate than dropping off the front office’s radar. He is known at Amazin’ Avenue by the moniker “Who?”–a testament to the Mets’ propensity to treat him like the invisible man. It’s only fitting, then, that he is immortalized as the English supergroup of the same name by the photoshop skills of AA commenter Spike Davis.

He has fallen into the Mets’ equivalent of the Springfield Mystery Spot, lost in a vortex where he has been passed over by the likes of Mike Hessman and Jesus Feliciano. (I have an eternal soft-spot for the Hessman and Feliciano types: minor league mashers who have never gotten much of a chance in the bigs). Although Evans will likely never reach the same stardom as Ozzie Smith (lest we forget the unfortunate victim of Springfield’s cruelest attraction) and, barring some hidden musical talent, will never rival Daltrey, Townsend, Moon and Entwistle, he should be remembered as something more than who?

Ozzie's Foray into the "Mystery Spot"

Nick Evans vis-à-vis Ozzie Smith

The 25-year-old lefty masher taken in the 5th round of the 2004 draft has been on the periphery of the Mets’ plans since 2008. Evans was once synonymous with his buddy–and fellow ’08 callup Daniel Murphy. Evans was the right handed Murphy, Murph the lefty Evans. Let’s take a look:

Murphy 2008 (AA): .308/.374/.496  in 95 games

Evans 2008 (AA): .311/.365/.561 in 75 games

[avg/obp/slg]

Both arrived in New York with similar fanfare, billed as products of Minaya’s well-scouted farm system that could potentially fill the void in left field left by the hoary Moises Alou. Evans was given 119 plate appearances [PA] in 50 games, while Murphy notched 151 PA in 49 games. Memory seems to fail us here. Recalling the end of the 2008 season, we remember a few things: Luis Ayala as the new (and rather shaky) closer, the vast improvement in “morale” instilled by skipper Jerry Manuel’s (cough), and Daniel Murphy’s emergence.

Murphy was the second coming of John Milner or even the 1975 incarnation of Mike Vail, who hit his way into Mets’ fans hearts as the “player of the future” with a line of .302/.339/.420 in only 38 games. Vail, of course, sputtered in his remaining seasons with the Mets. In 2008, Greg Prince, who along with Jason Fry, writes Faith and Fear in Flushing, another preeminent Mets’ blog that should be in your Google Reader, wondered:

Is Daniel Murphy the next Edgardo Alfonzo, the next Mike Vail, or a player who will make such an impression that eventually someone will be the next Daniel Murphy?

But where was Nick Evans in this conversation? His fate may have been sealed by a small sample size. Just as Murphy became the de facto left fielder in 2009 because of his impressive 2008 big-league line of  .313/.397/.473

Evans was shuffled off to Buffalo after Spring Training of 2009 after posting a .231/.275/.385 with the big league club in ’08. Murphy’s sweeping left-handed swing, high on base percentage and impressive slugging percentage guaranteed him a job. Evans’ statistics ticketed him for Buffalo.

He struggled mightily at AAA at the beginning of 2009, and as Murphy had assumed the role of the Mets’ starting first baseman in place of Carlos Delgado, Evans found himself in Binghamton, the Mets’ AA affiliate. He didn’t see major league action again until August 25th, and only in a limited role. 2010 saw more of the same. This time, (albeit in another small sample size) he posted a respectable wOBA (for more information on weighted on base average, click here) of .346. Evans’, according to Bill James’ projections for 2011, will notch a wOBA of .339, which would rank around the 60th percentile of all major leaguers. Not bad for a player who has fallen into a bottomless pit.

Evans’ disappearance from the Mets’ plans is most certainly a testament to the former regime’s often frustrating tendency to favor veterans over internal minor league options. Think Abraham Nuñez in 2008, Marlon Anderson’s $2.2 million deal, Alex Cora’s vesting option (that thankfully, did not vest). Or the Minaya/Manuel hierarchy’s refusal to give Nelson Figueroa starts. Or the Darren O’Day fiasco, where the Rule 5 pick (who has since blossomed for the AL champion Texas Rangers) was demoted in favor of the forgettable Casey Fossum, who is back in a Mets’ uniform this spring. Following suit, Evans was lost in the often confusing decision-making of 2009 and 2010.

Nick at the bat

Evans, after posting 37 PA for the Mets in 2010, remains in limbo in the spring of 2011. He is challenged by Scott Hairston, who is guaranteed a bench spot after signing a major league deal, Willie Harris, the notorious Met-killer (via defense), and light-hitting Chin-Lung Hu. Evans’ downfall in the Mets’ plans may be his defense. He cannot play centerfield, which Harris can. He can’t back up the middle infield positions, like Hu. He doesn’t have the caché of Murphy or even of rule 5 pick Brad Emaus. Most importantly, he is out of options, leaving him exposed to waivers if the Mets decide to keep him off the 25-man roster this spring. He has, to new manager Terry Collins’ credit, been receiving much needed playing time in the early part of the exhibition schedule. Aside from 1st, Evans has been taking reps at 3rd, a position largely unfamiliar to him. (Remember, for the sake of argument, that Daniel Murphy was originally a 3rd baseman). He still can play left adequately, if not unspectacularly. His biggest asset remains his bat, especially against lefties. His defense, in all likelihood, will not win any games for the Mets. Yet, it should not lose any for them either, especially if Evans sees a majority of his plate appearances as a pinch hitter.

But, assuming that Willie Harris makes the team for his superb defense (and despite his weak bat), while either Hu or Emaus fill another bench spot and Murphy starts the year with the Mets at 2nd, it would appear that Evans will be out of Flushing. It isn’t likely that another big league team will pass on a still-young player who can, at worst, perform as an average major leaguer. His upside could be more. And although jettisoning a talented young hitter may be a sign that the Mets’ bench will be strong, there is another distinct, and depressing possibility that lingers: that Evans will forever be the “26th man” as long as he is a Met; he will never be able change his nameplate above the number 6 from “WHO” to “EVANS.” It may take another team to know who he is.

Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

People Picking Anthony Castonzo for the Giants

Via Big Blue View

The more I study the 2011 NFL Draft, and the more I scour the constantly-updated mock drafts, the more often I see Boston College offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo connected with the New York Giants when it comes to the 19th selection of the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. It happened again today, as SB Nation chose Castonzo for the Giants in their latest mock draft.

It appears that USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith is more and more the consensus choice as the first offensive tackle likely to be taken this April, and having answered concerns about his size at the NFL Scouting Combine that makes sense. By all accounts he is the most natural athlete of any of the tackles and seems to have the most upside. Castonzo is in the group right behind Smith, and makes sense for the Giants. The fact that scouts believe he has left tackle ability, plus the Boston College connection, make him a natural for New York.

What do people think? Would you be happy with this pick?

For the past several seasons I have wanted the Giants to address their offensive lines. As several teams have proven throughout the years, you win games in the trenches. The Giants had a great offensive line, but injuries and age have caught up with them.

Shaun O’hara is not the center he once was. Perhaps it had more to do with his injury than his age, but this season he was awful. I would spend my week praying he was too injured to go out so Adam Koets or Rich Seubert could play at center instead. David Deihl has been a good player for us, but is probably better positioned for guard than he is for left tackle. And Kareem Mckenzie is slowing down and has been injury prone.

We have some youth when you consider Will Beatty and Koets, but neither has stepped up to the point that you would be comfortable with them as our starters. Shawn Andrews played great for us, but he showed last season that he is injury prone as well.

By adding a top talent at left tackle we could vastly improve our offensive line, which in turn would improve our running game, allowing us to go back to a smash mouth style of football.

In short, I think I would be happy with this selection, though for arguments sake I can see the Giants going in other directions as well.

Two players I have my eyes on are OLB Akeem Ayers and DT Corey Liuget. Both players are guys I feel confident will do well in the NFL and they are both guys that not only fill needs for the Giants, but are good values for the 19th pick.

Ayers is a linebacker from UCLA who excels in every facet of the game. He is stout against the run, great in coverage, and a good blitzer. Analysts believe he is headed for a 3-4 defense, but I think he would fit in great with the Giants aggressive style. He is like a more polished Clint Sintim. Even with the resources the Giants have put into linebacker in the previous seasons, the unit has not gotten a lot better. I think Goff did a great job and should be allowed to continue to develop in the middle, but Boley was unimpressive last season, and Sintim was eventually taken off the field. I understand Sintim was a high draft pick, and I agree he needs time to develop, but if the coaching staff has lost faith in Sintim, Ayers could be a great pick and a real game-changer at linebacker.

Liuget is a gap-shooting defensive tackle from Illinois with a high motor. He would be the pass rusher we thought we were going to get with Jay Alford only better. With Cofield set to be a free agent, and Rocky Bernard failing to make an impact he could be a big help. As we saw last season, the Giants love to stockpile pass rushers, and Liuget would be a good addition. We just drafted Linval Joseph, and have a lot of money invest in Chris Canty, so I can see the Giants going in another direction, but I don’t think they would go wrong with this pick. I see Lieguet being that long lost presence in the middle to make life easier for our talented group of defensive ends. He would be our first dominant player in the middle since Washington signed away Cornelius Griffin.

The Giants have tons of talent on both sides of the ball, and little holes to speak of. With that comes the luxury of being able to take the top talent. Like I have mentioned we have options at all these positions, but these players would still be upgrades and make the Giants stronger.

Again these are just my thoughts on the upcoming draft. What do you guys think? Any players I didn’t mention that you think would be a good fit for the Giants? Do you disagree with any of the players I picked?

Playoff Push

For the second season in a row it looks like the Rangers will be making a push for the playoffs. Luckily for the Blueshirts they are in a better position than they were last year. In seventh place and within shouting distance of sixth the Rangers should make the playoffs, especially if they continue their strong play.

The past two games were blowouts in favor of New York, with their most recent win a 7-0 thrashing of the first-place Flyers. A very satisfying win as it was the first one of the season against their heated rivals, and the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season.

More importantly for the Blueshirts was the return of Gaborik, making the Rangers the healthiest they have been all season. While he was not a big contributor, the focus the defense put on him definitely opened things up for his teammates.

Another note to make was the game Callahan had. He has been great all season and looks like the Rangers captain of the future. In a game they had to win, Callahan put up four goals making it an easy win.

Of course Lundqvist had a great game, shutting out one of the best offenses in the NHL. If Lundqvist can get hot he can lead this team to a long playoff run. With the slow start the Rangers had to the second half of the season, these last two games have been nice to watch. Hopefully they continue to play well and give us an exciting spring.

Knicks Playoffs

I know there is a long way to go and there is no guarantee the Knicks make the playoffs, but let’s have a little fun. If the season ended today the Knicks would be awarded the sixth seed with Miami taking the third seed. That means the Knicks would have a match-up with the Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

What do people think about this? Who would be the ideal match-up for the Knicks? Chicago? Orlando? Boston?

Personally I think a series with Miami would be fun. Based on their season record maybe they match-up well with Chicago, but I don’t know if I’d want to face Derrick Rose in the playoffs this year.

In Miami you have a team that does not have a dominate big man, or a top clutch player. Lebron is not a player that improves his game come playoff time and neither is Bosh. Not only do I think the Knicks have a chance to win this game, but I think it would be a fun series to watch. Knicks fans hate Miami and Lebron. Amare and Carmelo joined forces to combat Miami, and wouldn’t it be fun to knock the big three out in the first round?

Like I said, no guarantees the Knicks win this series, but it would be tons of fun to watch and great for the NBA.

What are your thoughts?

Right Fielder Carlos Beltran

Via ESPN

“It was good,” Beltran said. “Normally you don’t see lefties in spring training. … From the left side I felt like I was a little bit more patient. From the right side I was jumping a little bit. Now I have an idea what I need to work on from the right side.”

Manager Terry Collins plans for Beltran to again serve as DH on Monday and get three at-bats, although Beltran cautioned: “Maybe playing tomorrow. Let’s see how everything feels tomorrow. You can do all the training you have to, but once you play games, the intensity is a little bit more. Hopefully tomorrow I feel good and I’m ready to go again.”

Beltran looked good today. Not totally healthy, but progressing. His play is probably one of the more interesting story-lines of spring training. When healthy Beltran is a game-changer and an integral part of the Mets offense.

His play is not just an important piece to the offense, but to our defense as well. In a selfless move, Beltran has agreed to play right field, allowing Pagan to roam center. Taking the demotion in stride avoids possibly problems in the clubhouse, and its not like having two great fielders is a bad thing. If Beltran is happy playing right field then we have a great defensive outfield as well. Something that is important when you consider the ballpark the Mets play in and the pitchers on their staff.

If the Mets have any chance of competing for a playoff spot they are going to need a healthy Beltran. A healthy Beltran teamed up with Angel Pagan and Jason Bay will give the Mets one of the top outfields in baseball. The pitching wasn’t the big problem last season, it was the offense. Let’s see if a full season of production from Beltran can change that.