Without Carlos Beltran, Who Will Play Right Field?

Sometime before the Mets return to Citi Field, Carlos Beltran will be traded. It doesn’t matter where the Mets will be in the standings since the return will seemingly be just too great. So whether the Mets have fully dropped out of contention or somehow vaulted themselves back into the playoff hunt come July 31st, there will be a hole in the lineup that someone will have to fill. The question is: who?

It’s very possible Sandy Alderson might be able to obtain a Major League ready player who could immediately slide into right field and play every day (Domonic Brown comes to mind if that happens). However, it’s also possible that whoever Alderson acquires won’t be ready for the bigs yet, or that there won’t be an outfielder in the deal at all. That means the Mets would have to replace Beltran internally.

Unfortunately, the two minor leaguers who would make the most sense to start every day for the Mets are both on the shelf. “Captain” Kirk Nieuwenhuis was off to a rollicking start at Buffalo this season, posting a .298/.403/.505 slash line with six home runs and a walk rate of 14.5% in 221 plate appearances. Although he’s spent the bulk of his time in center, the Captain has played right field before and was certainly on pace to be called up, despite not being on the 40-man roster. However, the twenty-four year old recently underwent labrum surgery and will miss the rest of the season after making this ridiculous catch. Though he hopes to be ready for spring training, Nieuwenhuis won’t be able to audition for a job in 2012.

The other player is the oft-injured Fernando Martinez, who is now on the disabled list with a hip problem. Because of all his injuries, F-Mart has rarely had a chance to show what he can do and play on a consistent basis. Over his 145 Major League plate appearances, Martinez has struggled, hitting just .183/.250/.290 with a couple of homers. His only consistent play with the Mets came in ’09, when he was just 20. In 2010 and 2011, his stints were short and he was used often as a pinch hitter, a tough role for a youngster (remember, he won’t be 23 until after the season ends). In his minor league career, F-Mart owns a .274/.333/.442 batting line.

Likely is the possibility that the Mets will look towards one of their current players to fill Beltran’s void. Lucas Duda has played 33 innings in right this season and while he lacks range, his bat has begun to heat up (he’s now hitting .265/.336/.407, although he still hasn’t homered this season). Nick Evans, who has just four hits in twenty at bats this season, is also a possibility, although Duda seems to have more upside. Jason Pridie, who filled in admirably for Angel Pagan earlier this year but has since seen his offensive production fall off (batting just .227/.296/.352 this year) is also a candidate. Veterans Scott Hairston, who’s been swinging a hot bat off the bench, and Willie Harris could also see time, although it makes more sense to go with a younger player.

Out of all the options, it makes the most sense to start Martinez in right, assuming he’s healthy. For one, it would allow the Mets to better evaluate him at the Major League level, seeing as he could get a solid two months worth of playing time (if Jason Bay is allowed to work out his struggles, F-Mart should be afforded the same opportunity). Second, it would give the team a chance to simply see if F-Mart’s body can hold up to every day play, a legitimate concern. I haven’t yet given up on the once highly-touted prospect, but believe he needs to play every day for a couple of months. Since it seems Martinez might still be injured, I’d give the first opportunity to Duda. Either way, using the vacancy in right field is an opportunity for the Mets to further evaluate their younger talent, one which should not be passed up

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Tags: Amazins Angel Pagan Beltran Trade Rumors Beltran Traded Carlos Beltran Carlos Beltran Trade Rumors Carlos Beltran Traded F-Mart Fernando Martinez Jason Bay Kirk Niuewenhuis Lucas Duda Martinez Martinez Injured Matt Kaufman Mets New York New York Mets Nick Evans Rising Apple Sandy Alderson Scott Hairston Terry Collins Willie Harris

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