September 25, 2011; Detroit, MI, USA; Baltimore Orioles left fielder Matt Angle (38) at bat during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

The Mets Need a Cheap Centerfielder; They Need Matt Angle

It’s just the second week of Spring Training, but there’s already a reoccurring theme in Mets camp. Injuries. Not to take anything away from Tim Byrdak‘s knee injury, the two most pressing ones are David Wright‘s rib cage and Ike Davis‘ bout with Valley Fever. Needless to say, if either Wright or Davis miss significant time, the Mets will become a favorite to clinch fifth place in the division. However, in terms of sheer volume, injuries are truly decimating the Mets outfield–and their centerfield depth to be more specific.

The first injury occurred when Scott Hairston re-injured the oblique that caused trouble for him in 2011. Hairston, who was supposed to back-up Andres Torres in centerfield, is now out indefinitely.  In some ways, Mets fans were “happy” to see Hairston injured, as it gave prospect centerfield Kirk Nieuwenhuis a chance to push himself onto the Opening Day roster. But, of course, then Nieuwenhuis eventually caught the injury bug–falling prey, too, to an oblique injury.

The injuries to Hairston and Nieuwenhuis would be fine–in the grand scheme of things–if Torres himself was one hundred percent healthy. However, that is not the case. Torres felt a tightness in his hip midway through the first week of Spring Training, and missed three games as a result. Granted, the outfielder has been playing since, but at age 34, injury flair-ups are expected to impact how often Torres stays on the field. And without a solid back-up in place, that will be a big problem.

Some folks have suggested starting the season with prospect Matt Den Dekker as Torres’ understudy, but considering the 23 year-old only posted a .235/.312/.426 line in 314 PA’s at Double-A last season, it’s obvious the kid is not ready for any Major League exposure. Barring using Adam Loewen in centerfield, which did not prove well this weekend, it’s pretty obvious the Mets need to make an outside-the-organization move.

Before anyone starts throwing out crazy ideas for last-minute replacements (like using left-handed specialist hopeful, C.J. Nitkowitski), consider that whoever the Mets bring in might also have to led-off. As a reminder, the Mets planned to use Torres as their one-slotter. So this begs the question–is there any available centerfielder who can actually play center field, has some speed, gets on-base, and would come at a cheap cost? The answer: Matt Angle.

Angle was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 7th round of the 2007 draft. In his first season at Rookie Ball, the Ohio-native immediately illustrated the type of player he could be–posting a .301/.421/.352 line with 0 HR, 14 RBI, 60 R, and 34 SB in 287 PA’s. Angle continued rising through the Orioles system with his combination of on-base skills, speed, and glove. Fast-forward to 2011. With career Minor League totals like a 285/.372/.351 line, 169 SB (in 5 seasons), and a .993 Fld% (including 43 assists), the Orioles finally gave the guy a shot in the Majors.

As with most debuts, there were positive and negative notes. Even though Angle posted a seemingly terrible .177/.293/.266 line in 95 PA’s, he was plagued by a .200 BABIP. He also enjoyed a healthy 12.6% BB%, and swiped a whopping 11 SB. Despite the display of peripheral talent, the Orioles placed Angle on waivers in February, and the Los Angeles Dodgers happily plucked him.

Considering how much outfield depth the Dodgers have (Juan Rivera, Jerry Sands, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Tony Gwynn Jr.), it’s very possible the team would be willing to part with Angle. Angle’s experience in centerfield, in addition to his on-base and speed skills, make him an ideal piece for the Mets. Adding Angle at this juncture would immediately ease one of the Mets ever-expanding voids, and maybe even give an opportunity to a guy who would surpass expectations.

Tags: Andres Torres Angle Ben Berkon Centerfield David Wright Ike Davis Injuries Kirk Nieuwenhuis Matt Angle Matt Den Dekker Mets Mets Matt Angle New York New York Mets Oblique Oblique Mets Rising Apple Scott Hairston Tim Byrdak Trade For Matt Angle

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