With the 2011 season over, the old saying, “There’s always next season,” instantly becomes all Mets fan’s credo. But before we can think about riding the 7-train out to Flushing again, there is a whole off-season to project and pontificate about. Considering the amount of holes the Mets will have, this coming off-season holds a lot of importance.
There’s either too little or too much to say about a guy who hasn’t seen a real “cup of coffee” until age 27. In the case of Craig Gentry, there’s certainly more than meets the eye.
Originally drafted by the Rangers in the tenth round of the 2006 draft, Gentry always seemed to be an afterthought. Without much pop (highest slugging was .418), the Arkansas native relied on his solid on-base skills (career .354 in the Minor Leagues), good speed (as many as 49 stolen bases in a single-season), and great defense.
Gentry “did his thing” starting in 2006 in the Minor Leagues. Fresh out of the draft, the right-handed hitter posted a Gentry-esq .281/.350/.385 line with 0 homeruns, 13 RBI, 27 runs, and 20 stolen bases in 246 plate appearances. In 2007, between three levels, continued his solid play, owning a .273/.331/.374 line with 4 homeruns, 31 RBI, 75 runs, and 42 stolen bases combined. It wasn’t until 2009 did the outfielder start getting some respect within the organization.
In his first full-season at Double-A, Gentry posted a pretty elite .303/.378/.418 line with 8 homeruns, 53 RBI, 100 runs, and 49 stolen bases. He also collected 155 hits, including 21 doubles and 7 triples. A bump up to Triple-A the following season didn’t seem to disrupt Gentry’s progression, as he posted his best line (.309/.393/.413). Even though the outfielder saw a few short-lived stints in the Major Leagues in both 2009 (19 plate appearances) and 2010 (35 plate appearances), Gentry finally seized a roster spot on the Rangers in 2011.
Due to the injury of Nelson Cruz, the Rangers needed another outfielder on the roster. So on May 7, the Rangers recalled Craig Gentry from the Minors, where he had been hitting to the tune of an uncharacteristically mediocre .245/.325/.336 line. Despite the down Minor League season, Gentry soared in the bigs. In the month of June, Gentry owned a .333/.394/.467 line with 4 RBI, 6 runs, and 5 stolen bases in 34 plate appearances.
On the season, Gentry posted a very respectable .271/.347/.346 line with 1 homerun, 13 RBI, 26 runs, and 18 stolen bases (and zero times caught stealing) in 153 plate appearances. In addition, even thought it might be small sample size, the outfielder boasted a 34.9 UZR/150 in 313.6 innings at centerfield.
There is no doubt Craig Gentry will never be a slugging-type, but the guy has potential as either a lead-off type or a bottom-of-the-order table setter. It’s hard to ignore his electric speed (18 stolen bases in just 153 plate appearances), and his good eye (27.4% non-strike swing rate). If given the chance to start full-time, he could become a similar player to speedster/super glove Cameron Maybin. Considering how weak the centerfield free agent market looks, acquiring a guy like Gentry could give the Mets a solid safety net in the event they decide against re-signing Angel Pagan and deem the likes of Coco Crisp or David DeJesus unappealing. Given Gentry’s age, the Rangers’ outfield depth, and his lack of Major League experience, there’s a good chance the Mets could get the centerfielder without sacrificing anything memorable.
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