Besides the improvement in pitching and defense that has taken place during the Mets current hot streak, another item has been very noticeable as of late…the inspired play of Angel Pagan.
The string of fine play for Pagan culminated last night with an 8th inning grand slam which broke a 5-5 tie with Arizona and helped the Mets claim their sixth victory in their last eight games. It was Pagan’s first home run since July 15, 2007, when he was a member of Lou Piniella’s Chicago Cubs.
With Carlos Beltran on the shelf, Pagan has been a fixture in center field for the Mets since returning from a balky groin on July 10. His numbers don’t jump out as earth shattering (.295, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 7 SB in 33 games), but for those who watch the team on a consistent basis can attest to, they only tell part of the story.
This guy is seriously athletic and he has showcased that athleticism both in the outfield and on the basepaths. Let’s get this straight, Carlos Beltran’s defensive prowess would be missed by every team in baseball. I consider him the best defensive CF in the game today. But, Pagan has done more than an admirable job filling in for Beltran, navigating the cavernous dimensions of Citi Field with great speed and range. He has also showcased an above average throwing arm, collecting four outfield assists. The most memorable peg by Pagan was when he nailed the Astros Geoff Blum at the dish to stop the bleeding in the Mets come-from-behind 8-3 victory on July 26th in Houston.
You’d like to see more than one HR etched in on Pagan’s stat sheet, but his penchant for collecting extra base hits is worth noting. Pagan has seven doubles and an amazing five triples out of his 36 hits. His triples have become things of beauty to watch as he looks effortless speeding around second base. It almost makes you forget that the Mets are missing that leadoff guy who has one or two triples to his name over the past five years.
It is not only me that raves about Pagan’s physical gifts. The coaches and the players would tell you that he is without a doubt the most athletic guy on the 25-man roster. In fact, when I was down in spring training this past February in St. Lucie, Jerry Manuel said that Pagan had was by far the highest scorer in the team’s rigorous agility tests and he was looking for big things from the 28-year old Puerto Rican native.
Unfortunately, injuries have derailed Pagan’s ascent up the charts the past few seasons so it is a question whether he can be an everyday player in the big leagues. I am proposing that he can indeed be and that I would not be surprised if it is in CF for the Mets next season. In no way am I advocating for the Mets to part ways with the uber-valuable Beltran. In fact, as I have said before in this space, I consider Beltran the most valuable player the Mets have. It is just that I would not be shocked if Beltran, entering the sixth year of his seven-year, $119 million deal, asked the Mets to explore dealing him in the off-season.
I say this obviously with no knowledge of the Mets thinking, but with knowledge that Beltran is reportedly furious with Mets brass for the handling of his mysterious knee injury this season. It is not out of the question that Beltran may need to undergo a serious procedure on the knee and miss significant time next season so maybe Pagan gets the job in 2010 through this means. But if it heals and he is ready to go in the spring, maybe Beltran says he’s had enough of the fickle New York Mets fans and the franchise’s seemingly inept front office and training staff.
In any case, I envision a scenario where Pagan is a big part of the Mets plans next year, be it in left field or in center. Whatever the case may be, the Mets are blessed to have this Angel in the outfield.