When Terry Collins revealed his lineup this afternoon, many Mets fans were elated to see a major change in the middle of it. Jordany Valdespin, who went 3-23 in six games at second base last week, had been removed so Daniel Murphy could return to his native position. The then-vacant first base position (that’s 3 on your scorecard) is now being occupied by first baseman – turned right fielder – turned first baseman – turned left fielder – turned first baseman Lucas Duda. Duda, who has played nearly every game in left field is now taking over at first base, leaving an open vacancy in the outfield (tonight’s occupant: Kirk “Walk me off, Scotty” Nieuwenhuis).
With the 2013 season in disarray, now seems like the ideal time to try out young, unproven players in case they find someone who can be successful every day. Which brings me to an article that Ted Berg wrote back in December about one of these potential guys. What if I told you that the Mets have a guy who:
> Is second in wRC+ among AAA hitters (173)
> Is still south of 30 (and wouldn’t reach arbitration eligibility until 2016)
> Has shown the ability to hit for both average and power against both left-handed (.286/.386/.571) and right-handed (.309/.359/.585) pitching (majors and minors combined, since the start of 2012)
> And looks a bit like Jeff Francoeur?
Seriously. I can’t be the only one who sees this.
But I digress. Andrew Brown, in 179 AAA plate appearances for Las Vegas has put up a .342/.445/.664 slashline with 15 doubles, 6 triples, and 7 home runs. Some of his success has been the result of an abnormally high (.386) BaBIP. Unfortunately, we don’t know enough about his batted ball profile (LD%, GB/FB, etc.) to accurately know how lucky he has been, but it’s irrefutable that he’s swinging the bat well.
And I know, you can say “Well Dan, don’t you remember Andrew Brown’s terrible spring training?” I do. And it was bad. Especially considering his competition at outfield was a 35-year-old who put up a sub-.500 OPS in a season in which he tested positive for PEDs (in Marlon Byrd‘s defense, he’s been a revelation these past ~7 weeks, with a .928 OPS since May 1st). And you can say “Well, he was here for a week and didn’t impress.” And that’s largely true; he played in six games and posted a .200/.294/.400 slashline. While it’s unfair to pick arbitrary endpoints (and even moreso with such a small sample), it’s worth pointing out that after the 0-3 he took in his first start, his line was .250/.357/.500.
Thanks to the Minor League Equivalency Calculator, we can give ourselves a rough estimate of how a player’s numbers would look at different levels (say, going from the Pacific Coast League to the National League East). Plugging in Brown’s stats, we get an approximate .268/.347/.495, which for kicks-and-giggles-purposes looks pretty similar to what we saw above. And, for what it’s worth, having an outfielder with an OPS in the .850 range would be an absolute gift (only 19 major league outfielders with more than 150 plate appearances have an OPS greater than Brown’s theoretical .842).
There’s a very real chance that Andrew Brown ends up nothing more than what he’s generally considered: a quad-A masher who’s a bit too old to be a prospect. But there’s a nontrivial chance that he’s pretty good, too. As Berg points out in his article, Ryan Ludwick fit the same profile and never got a real opportunity until cracking the St. Louis lineup regularly at age 28. He’s hit .266/.338/.472 since then. If the Mets could get that from one of their outfield positions next season, and get it at the major league minimum, it would go a long way toward reshaping the team’s future.
For all the work they’ve done toward seeing who can be a part of the solution, and a part of the core, it would be a mistake not to see exactly what they have on their hands.
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