Update 5:00 pm
Fernando Martinez will start the season in the minors according to Omar Minaya a guest on SNY.
Well, I’m glad we got that settled…
Original Post 7:00 am
Jon Harper of the Daily News penned an interesting piece in which he he concludes that Mets prospect Fernando Martinez should be the starting center fielder until Carlos Beltran comes back.
He does admit that Martinez looked overmatched and showed little evidence that he was major league ready last season, when injuries forced him into regular duty with the Mets and he batted just .176 in 100 plate appearances, but counters,
Yet the reality is Martnez is still only 21 years old, and he is hitting rockets all over the ballpark this spring, most impressively with that 4-for-4 day against the Nationals last week that included two home runs. Combine that with the MVP honors Martinez earned in early February in the Caribbean Series, where he hit .348 with two home runs and four RBI in six games, and he might just be blossoming quickly.
He points out that Angel Pagan is still suffering from mental lapses in the field as evidenced by his shoddy play against the Red Sox last week that caused a runner to score from third on a very shallow pop fly. he writes,
Pedroia is a heady player, and when he saw Pagan catch the ball flat-footed, unprepared to make a strong throw, he broke hard off the bag, still watching, then kept coming when he saw the throw was off-line, scoring easily. When I later asked another Mets player about it, he tapped a finger against his head and walked away. Enough said.
He points out that Angel Pagan’s baseball IQ is lacking. He doesn’t read the ball well in the outfield, doesn’t put himself in a good position to throw the ball, and he isn’t very good at running the bases.
I missed that particular game, and hadn’t heard or read about Pagan’s misadventure in centerfield. I was hoping that Pagan would return in 2010 with better instincts and heads up play. It doesn’t seem like much has changed, although it’s just one bad play and we should afford him the opportunity of a full spring training before rushing to judgment.
Harper dismisses Gary Matthews as an option, simply referring to him as “just a backup outfielder”. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Matthews simply because of all the options the Mets have, only Matthews is the proven quality major leaguer. Plus, he’s having a solid spring.
I’m glad to see Martinez playing so well and exhibiting a better understanding of the strike zone and pitch recognition. He is having a great spring, as he usually does, and I have no doubt he’s a better player than what we saw last season.
That said, it still may not be evidence enough that he can handle the task at hand. The enormous pressure and expectations that would be immediately placed on him could make him unravel, especially under the watchful eyes of the New York media.
With the prospect of an already weakened offense with Alex Cora or Ruben Tejada starting at shortstop, is now really the time to bench Pagan or Matthews and gamble that Martinez will improve on his .176 batting average or his own mental gaffes in center field?