Even though Rising Apple more-or-less equated Adam Loewen to the Mets’ Jeremy Lin, that doesn’t mean he’s a lock to make the team. His hurdle? Queens-born Mike Baxter. Both Loewen and Baxter are the Mets sole left-handed hitting backup outfield options (outside of Kirk Nieuwenhuis), and considering Mike Nickeas, Ronny Cedeno, Justin Turner, and Scott Hairston probably own the other bench spots, Spring Training will serve as a fight to the death for the two south-pawed hitters.
Both players are currently 27 years-old (though Loewen will turn 28 on April 9), and have minimal PA’s to their name in the Major Leagues (Loewen has 37 and Baxter has 49). Even though Loewen is known for his pop (17 HR/.508 SLG in 585 PA’s for Triple-A in 2011), Baxter ain’t no slouch either (18 HR/.517 SLG in 552 PA’s for Triple-A in 2010). Not that it should make-or-break, but Baxter did enjoy a better stint in the bigs last season–posting a solid .235/.250/.441 line in 40 PA’s, while Loewen fizzled to the tune of a .188/.297/.313 line in 37 PA’s. Again, both very small samples.
In terms of fielding, Baxter has the edge. As most people know, Loewen was a former starting pitcher–and first round pick by the Baltimore Orioles–and only recently (2009) decided to switch careers. The ex-hurler probably has the better outfield arm (26 assists in 296 Minor League games versus Baxter’s 37 assists in 508 games), but Baxter definitely wins on experience (almost 42% more Minor League games in the outfield than Loewen). Also, in a sample MLB sample size, Baxter gloved a health 25.0 UZR/150 between left and right field, where as Loewen posted a measly -6.1 UZR/150. Neither outfielder has much experience in center, so it looks as though Hairston (981 career CF innings) will net any innings up the middle.
Since both players are essentially a wash offensively (though Loewen might have a slightly higher power ceiling), initially, it seems as though Baxter will win out in the battle of the lefties. If the Mets truly use a left-handed batter to platoon with Jason Bay, said platoon partner will need to hold down his position defensively too. And without a doubt, Baxter is simply more experienced than Loewen in that department.