Who can replace Matthews?

Posted on June 1, 2010 by

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The New York Mets farm system has proven to be a boon for the major league club early in the 2010 season, and there’s no reason to believe it can’t help again in centerfield.

Highly-touted first baseman Ike Davis was the first to impact the Mets when he broke onto the scene on April 19 to replace a slumping Mike Jacobs. Davis proceeded to hit a pair of singles against the Chicago Cubs in that game. That 6-1 victory kicked off a 10-1 stretch, and Davis’ bat and defensive prowess has been a positive force in that shaky stretch after the series win over the San Francisco Giants.

Even Chris Carter finally earned a spot on a big league roster. Carter, a batter who moonlights as a first baseman and corner outfielder, was traded from the Boston Red Sox in the deal that gave Billy Wagner a new home in 2009. Carter was expected to see some time with the Mets that year, but a waiver claim by the New York Yankees prevented him from joining the new system until this season. Backup Frank Catalanotto’s .160 average finally earned him a pink slip and Carter was called up on May 24. He hasn’t set the world on fire, but is hitting .312 with 4 RBI in 16 at-bats.

Gary Matthews Jr. has long been the next on the chopping block, even before Catalanotto lost his job. The 35-year-old is hitting just .182 in 55 at-bats and is likely around because he’s the only possible back up to center fielder Angel Pagan. Some claim the Mets front office are too cheap to dump the $2 million he’s owed through 2011, even though the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim paid $21.5 million in the winter deal that sent them reliever Brian Stokes.

Former second round draft pick Jason Pridie was expected to be the in-house favorite to take over the job. Pridie is seeing something of a second chance with the New York Mets system and is the Triple-A Buffalo Bison’s starting center fielder. Capable of having occasional power, a high average and some stolen bases, he was hitting .282 with 9 stolen bases in 39 games through 2010. Pridie, however, ended up on the disabled list on May 18 with a right hamstring strain and remains there today.

The next best in-house solution is Jesus Feliciano. Feliciano will turn 32 in early June, but has made a living as a career minor leaguer. He was picked in the 36th round of the 1997 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, signed in 1998 and showed promises of a high average and stolen bases into 2000 with the Dodger’s High A club. He fell out of favors with the Dodgers’ organization, but showed some promise playing for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Washington Nationals’ farms until a poor showing at Double-A in 2006.
The Mets assigned him to Triple-A in 2007, where his game returned. His average hasn’t sunk below .300 since 2007 and he stole 30 bases between 2007-2009. His .483 average and 8 runs for the week of May 17-23 earned him the International League’s Batter of the Week title. Not manning centerfield fulltime this year, Feliciano is capable of playing all three outfield positions; he boasted a .994 fielding percentage in 126 games in centerfield two years ago.

The Gary Matthews Jr. experiment has been nothing short of a spectacular failure and must come to an end. Any experience Matthews has in center is outweighed by his aging body and the black hole at the plate he has become. Some Met fans have become so anxious to cut bait with this guy that they proposed signing career minor leaguer Darnell McDonald after the Red Sox designated him for assignment on May 24. But even before the Mets could consider offering 31-year-old, defensively-challenged outfielder a deal, Boston GM Theo Epstein recalled him and jettisoned a reliever.

Of course, they could always call up Fernando Martinez again, despite the fact he’s hitting just .244 with 2 home runs after a .290 and 8 home run performance with the Bisons in 2009. That and nobody believes he can be a major league center fielder.

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Posted in: Perspectives