Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Posts Tagged ‘Nick Evans’

Taking Shape

Posted by JD on March 23, 2011

The 2011 Mets’ roster is rounding into shape.  The first round of cuts, comprised mostly of prospects who had little chance of making the roster, took place on March 11.  The second round (which took place on March 19th) can be categorized as a group of AAAA players who had an outside shot (at best) at winning jobs, Dillon Gee, and Luis Castillo. Monday, Oliver Perez finally (mercifully) got the ax and today Justin Turner was optioned to Buffalo.

This is the exciting part of Spring Training for me: the final week or so, where the last few spots on the roster are sorted out. I tend to like the longshots and underdogs: that’s why I’m rooting for Nick Evans to find a spot on the bench. I guess Willie Harris is technically also an underdog, but I can’t help but feel that Evans’ upside outweighs Harris’ by a long shot (and Carlos Beltran’s knee may give both players an extended tryout). The second base competition is a slam dunk for me: I’m rooting for Brad Emaus to win. It’s not that I don’t like Luis Hernandez: the broken-foot home run that ended his season was awesome, but he’s a total non-factor offensively. I mean, Baseball Reference shows that his nickname (or middle name, I can’t figure it out) is “Mendoza”. If any team actually offers an asset for Hernandez, Sandy Alderson & Co. should jump on it immediately. So, two of the competitions are easy for me to diagnose.

The open bullpen spots are a different story. With the exception of Mike O’Conner, all of the remaining candidates have something to offer: Manny Acosta was solid last season after being picked up on waivers from the Braves; Pat Misch has performed above his limited stuff and has gotten results despite being less than overpowering: Pedro Beato is young, throws hard, and probably has the most upside of the bunch (and, as a Rule 5 pick, has to be offered back to the Orioles if he doesn’t make the major league roster); Jason Isringhausen has been a revelation as a reclamation project this spring, and Blaine Boyer has impressed members of the front office with his performance this spring. I’m all for carrying Beato. Beyond that, I can’t make up my mind, and I couldn’t be happier. Each of the candidates are viable major leaguers who probably won’t get through waivers. It’s a breath of fresh air: the Mets have a surplus of viable candidates for the last pitcher in their bullpen.

Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I’m happy with the way they’ve managed their roster this season. I’m content to sit back and watch the players battle it out over the next week or so, reasonably content that Alderson & Co. will make a good decision. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt that way, and that’s the best part of spring training so far.

Posted in Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo, Mets, Oliver Perez, Spring Training | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Nick Evans, And The Battle for Bench Spots

Posted by JD on February 27, 2011

Jack DiLaurio had a decent debut season with the 1969 Mets, a less-successful second season with the Astros, and was out of the majors (never to return) before his third season started. Reading his SABR Bio Project entry I was struck by his approach to his situation. I don’t know if “fatalistic” is accurate, but DiLaurio knew that his path to the majors was blocked in the Detroit organization by better pitchers. He realized that, at age 26, he was running out of time to realize his dream of making the majors and consigned himself to retiring if he didn’t make the team in 1969. Fate intervened (in the form of then farm director Whitey Herzog pushing to first trade for, then promote, him) and DiLaurio made some useful contributions to the Miracle Mets, but his struggle to make the majors really stuck with me.

In terms of the current roster, I can’t help wondering if Nick Evans feels that same desperation (again, not sure if that’s exactly the right word, but it feels close) DiLaurio felt. The Mets’ treatment of Evans has been puzzling at best. Originally an injury replacement for the concussed Ryan Church, Evans made the jump from AA on May 28, 2008 and it was impressive: 3 for 4 with 3 doubles, 2 RBI and a run scored. He was sent down on June 4th after hitting just .174/.208/.304 in nine games, but came back on July 10th and steadily improved. His final line: .257/.303/.404 in 119 plate appearances. Not great, but not bad either (he was only 22 at the time).

Evans didn’t make the club out of spring training (Gary Sheffield took his spot at the last second) and split the season between AA Binghamton, AAA Buffalo, and the Mets. 2010 wasn’t much different: he opened the season in Binghamton, was promoted to Buffalo, and spent September with the Mets. What’s more, he spent most of his time in the minors even though it was apparent that Ike Davis was solidifying his claim as the first baseman of the future.

To this fan, it appeared as if the organization was neglecting his development. Yet, there was reason for him to be optimistic about his chances: not only did a new management team take over with a mandate to limit off-season spending, but Fernando Tatis was allowed to depart as a free agent. Tatis filled the role most suited for Evans: right handed hitter off the bench who had some power and could fill in adequately as a corner infielder and outfielder. With Terry Collins elevated from farm coordinator to major league manager, it seemed as if Evans had a clear path to the majors.

And then the Mets signed Scott Hairston. A second baseman who can play all three outfield positions capably, Hairston is a right-handed hitter who has good power, especially to pull. He doesn’t play first or third, but when you consider that both Brad Emaus and Daniel Murphy play third and Murphy was an above-average first baseman for the Mets in 2009, Hairston’s versatility in the outfield suddenly loomed as a major road block for Evans.

I see the bench competition unfolding like this: Ronny Paulino (Mike Nickeas until Paulino’s PED suspension runs out) as back-up catcher, Chin-lung Hu as back-up middle infielder, the loser of the Emaus/Murphy second base competition, Willie Harris as back-up outfielder/lefty pinch hitter/pinch runner, and Evans or Hairston.

In my eyes, Harris’ presence negates the advantage that Evans has over Hairston, and vice versa. Evans advantage? Corner infield. Willie Harris has played 28 games at third. Hairston’s advantage? Center field. Harris has played 230 games in center. Evans is out of options, but Hairston was signed to a major league deal.

It will come down to who performs better in Spring Training, which is how it should be. The competition should bring the best out of both players and will strengthen the Mets’ bench. I just can’t help but wonder what Evans’ frame of mind is. He’s 25, which is young in real-life terms but dangerously middle aged for a baseball player who hasn’t established himself as a major leaguer. Does he doubt himself at all? Is he hoping to be traded or released or claimed on waivers, to get a fresh start somewhere else? Is he feeling emotions similar to what DiLaurio felt? It’s not the biggest story in camp this year, not by a long shot. But it’s intriguing enough to merit watching.

I don’t know (can’t know, really) who will help the Mets more this season. Hairston has a longer track record and is more athletic, so it seems to me that he has to be the favorite. But I feel for Nick Evans, and hope he has an excellent spring training. And, I hope that he’ll be given a fair shot to win a job on the bench. If he gets a shot and fails, so be it. But given his performance and how well he’s handled being bounced around over the past two years, he’s earned a fair chance to win a spot.

Posted in Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis, Mets, Offseason Moves, Spring Training, Terry Collins | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.