Sophomore Mets

The New York Mets organization received key offensive contributions from two rookies in 2008, which helped the club finish second in the National League East division. Neither Daniel Murphy nor Nick Evans was considered amongst the club’s top prospects. Murphy checked in on Baseball America’s Top 30 Mets prospect list at No. 15 and Evans sat at No. 20 (This list was compiled prior to the Johan Santana trade, which cost the organization four of its top seven prospects).

Last season, Murphy appeared in 45 games for the Mets and hit .313/.397/.473 with an ISO of .160 in 131 at-bats. The 23-year-old left-handed batter posted a reasonable walk rate of 12.1 BB% and a strikeout rate that was on the high side for his skill set at 21.4 K%. Murphy, a Florida native, was originally selected out of Jacksonville University in the 13th round of the 2006 draft and played mostly at the hot corner in the minor leagues. His power, though, is below average for the position. Murphy spent his MLB debut in left field for the Mets.

Despite his solid build (6’3” 210 lbs), his bat does not profile well in a corner outfield spot, either, with a career minor league line of .290/.352/.444. The Mets organization realized this and sent Murphy to the Arizona Fall League (AFL), after the 2008 season, to learn second base. Defensively, he had some hiccups (four errors in 15 games) but Murphy also showed enough promise to give incumbent second baseman Luis Castillo reason to be worried about playing time in 2009. Offensively in the AFL, Murphy hit .397/.487/.619 in 63 at-bats.

Evans also has a chance to play regularly in 2009, despite modest debut numbers last season. Only Carlos Beltran and, perhaps, Ryan Church are assured of 500-plus plate appearances in 2009, if healthy. Evans, a right-handed hitter, was a surprised call-up in 2008 and hit .257/.303/.404 with an ISO of .147 in 109 at-bats (50 games). The 22-year-old Arizona native was originally drafted in the fifth round out of high school in 2004 and spent the first half of 2008 in Double-A.

Evans has raw power, but he is still learning how to tap into it. He also does not walk much (8.1 BB% in Double-A, 6.0 BB% in the Majors). The big problem with Evans, offensively, is that fact that he hit just .135/.150/.189 against right-handed pitching, which is downright awful. He killed southpaws, though, with a line of .319/.380/.514. Evans is going to have a hard time playing everyday if he cannot improve that – and it’s something that haunted him in the minors too, although not as dramatically.

Defensively, Evans spent the majority of his time in the minors at first base (284 games out of 313). However, all but three of his appearances in the Majors came in left field. Despite his inexperience, he displayed average range and did not make an error. Evans has a higher upside than fellow sophomore Murphy, but the latter is more Major-League ready.

Murphy certainly appears ready to play everyday at second base for the Mets, and could be one of the biggest surprises of 2009. Evans, though, could use some more time in the minors to work on his approach at the plate (as well as against right-handed pitching) and log some more innings in the outfield. He may be pressed into regular duty, though, if players like Cory Sullivan, Jeremy Reed, and Bobby Kielty underwhelm in spring training.




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

16 Responses to “Sophomore Mets”

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  1. GRAVY TRAIN says:

    Uhh the 2b experiement is over with Murphy. He is schuelded to platoon with Tatis in LF.

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  2. David Foy says:

    Unfortunately, Gravy Train is correct. The 2B experiment with Murphy has been scraped by the Mets organization. Another stupid move by management that will leave us stuck watching Luis make a fool of himself.

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  3. Matt F says:

    We haven’t even hit spring training, you can’t make those assumptions. D-Murph will play a variety of infield and outfield positions in 2009.

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    • DJ Butler says:

      I agree with Matt, I suspect the organization leaked that Murphy won’t be at 2B to not create any playing time controversy re Castillo. Moreover, they didn’t send him to AFL to play 2B for nothing and it is way too soon to know for certain how he will be used. One thing for certain, if he keeps hitting for average and getting on base and maintaining rallies like he did last year, Manuel will find a place for him on the field and in the batting order.

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  4. LongTimeFan says:

    To Fangraphs,

    It’s way too premature to do analysis on either Murphy and Evans and certainly not when you appear to not understand their playing situation with the Mets last year or this.

    Evans is heading for AAA this season, and Murphy was not sent to the AFL to learn second base with the intent of playing it for the Mets this season. GM Minaya has said Murphy was pre scheduled to play second in the AFL for some time and that the infield he could see in 2009 would be some first base with the thinking being that Murphy will be the Mets first baseman of the future. Neither he nor Evans look comfortable in left, but Murphy was far more aggressive and has natural instincts for game situations vs. Evans who looked very tentative especially on plays requiring throws, complicated by weak, unaggressive throwing. Murohy also set up in the outfield as if he was infielder on guarding the hot corner and needs to be taught a total otherwise.

    Regarding Murphy’s bat, he has the type of plate discipline and hunger for knowledge that I believe bodes well for high BA and OBP in the years ahead. In fact, management and even Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling in the Mets TV booth, all agree and rave re: Murphy’s plate approach as being that of a well schooled 10-year vet. He looks the ball into the catcher’s mitt like Pete Rose. and seems to me to be a composite of Rose and Mattigly. He has unbriddled passion for hitting – he has even said so, eats sleeps it 24/7 – and both he and Evans together, dissected every AB for learning, after each game. Murphy has an unusual running style that needs upgrade, and if properly taught, will only upgrade his offensive capability. He is a clear cut, humble, hard playing, blue collar type with excellant baseball instincts that can’t be taught. The road for him is up.

    Additionally, he recently said though he’s a middle to opposite field hitter, he will begin expanding his game to pull. His two homers were opposite field, and with his size, if he wants to yank them out the park via different approach than he now takes, I can see him doing so.

    Bottom line, I don’t think your predictions on Murphy are very good – you need to understand the player – and you don’t.

    I think you’re much more accurate on Evans. But I believe Evans’s limitations have more to do with less than average dynamic athleticism and agressive play, especially in the outfield. He’ll do better at first base – his natural position although he had so little playing there as a Met, it’s hard to comment. He did however make an incredible late game saving play, maximally stretching/diving and scooping a critical, late season, DP throw while somehow keeping his foot on the bag – highlight reel material and one the best plays you’ll ever see for what was demanded for the situation.

    I think he’ll probably develop into 20 homers, .280 type, and I can see him becoming a starting player on some teams – best suited for first base unless he makes a lot of changes int the outfield.

    It’s Murphy who has the ceiling with potential to compete for batting titles esepcially if he hits off a stiff front leg – something he now doesn’t.

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  5. LongTimeFan says:

    By the way, as written by a previous responder, GravyTrain, I too back up what he or she has written – that Murphy is mainly pegged to platoon in LF with Tatis. I prefer he play second – righty-lefty platoon with the switching Castillo who has horrid swing from the left side.,

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  6. MetsFan says:

    LongTimeFan
    Do you read this site? Your eyeball evaluations of “aggressiveness” in the outfield and so forth are worthless. In a limited sample these guys have not been butchers in the field, which is nice and given lack of experience, speaks to possibly being above average outfielders. A team doesn’t slot someone at 1st b/c the player is comfortable there. Neither of these guys will likely ever have the power to overcome the positional adjustment. If Murphy proves to be a decent hitter and can serviceably play 2nd base, he’ll have more value to the organization. Castillo has a few months to prove that he can still play or else his contract is simply a sunk cost.
    Finally, in constructing an argument, you never want to use Ron Darling or Keith Hernandez as support. If anything, the opposite.
    MetsFan

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    • Jim says:

      If eyeball evaluations are so worthless compared to stats, then why do ballclubs even have scouts?

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      • MetsFan says:

        Jim –
        Your response is dumb enough that it barely dignifies a response. Though I’m bored, so I’ll go ahead.

        I never said eyeball evaluations are worthless compared to stats. This statement wouldn’t even make sense since being worthless is absolute , not relative, independent of making a comparison of value to something else. Something could be worth less than something else, but I would never say worthless compared to. So cheers to your misquote.

        What I did say: Some couch jockey’s eyeball evaluations are worthless.

        Save the scouting vs. stats argument for a context where it actually applies.

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      • Jim says:

        I love how you assume that someone you know absolutely nothing about is “some couch jockey” who has no idea what they are talking about.

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  7. Marc says:

    At this point, Murphy certainly does appear to be the best option at second base for the Mets. Don’t count him out at second base, regardless of the line from the org yet.

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  8. uncutsports says:

    I agree with matt,

    The bellow link will give you uncut sports vidoe’s,

    http://www.theuncutsportsshow.com/promocontest/

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  9. SNYWatcherInMA says:

    MetsFan:

    Dude, have you EVER listened to Ron Darling call a game? The guy has an INCREDIBLE eye for the nuance of the game, particularly weaknesses in a player’s form and adjustments that need to be made to improve a player’s game. Furthermore, I suspect that Keith Hernandez, whose numbers at the plate speak for themselves, knows a little something about how a player will develop, as well as the highlights in their swing that show them to be a well-seasoned hitter. Their predictions for Murphy to distinguish himself at the plate in his first season came in the first few days of his playing time, and they were right. I’d say their endorsement in an argument counts for more than you give it credit for.

    Respect the pros, folks. Can’t leave out Gary Cohen, either – the guy keeps winning those awards for his announcing for a reason.

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    • MetsFan says:

      SNY…
      I have actually listened to Ron Darling call a game. Probably about 40 before I started tuning him out. He is certainly not the worst in the business. My issue with the crew is the same as pretty much every other crew. They regurgitate the common old school baseball wisdom. Productive outs, hit and run, good bunters, clutch hitting, etc. Maybe it’s asking too much for the announcers to read a little literature and sprinkle the broadcast with knowledge based on stats and their (more astute than my) eyes. I agree they had a good early call on Murphy. But they failed to point out that what was happening might be an aberration since he didn’t post high walk rates in the minors. Like most other announcers, nothing is a product of chance. Everything that happens has an explanation.

      “Keith Hernandez, whose numbers at the plate speak for themselves”
      This is silly. Numbers don’t speak. If these numbers chose to speak they would probably say “Keith Hernandez was a good hitter.” Not “Keith Hernandez’s career 128 OPS+ predetermines that he is a fine announcer.” Skill in a sport and skill in analysis a/o coaching are not the same thing. This has been proven many times.

      MetsFan

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  10. caseyB says:

    I agree with LTF in the sense that Murphy was not sent to the AZ league to learn 2nd so that he can play it this year. Omar has stated that he was slotted to play 2nd in the AZ for a long time and, in addition, their ability to slot players in at positions is limited to what’s available. So if the AZ team only had a 2nd base slot open at the time, then maybe that is why they put Murphy there.

    At any rate, I believe he will play LF for most of the year. If he has a good year, I think it’s first base or LF for him in 2010.

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  11. caseyB says:

    As for Keith and Ron, I highly respect their analysis of the technical aspects of the game — hitting and pitching — but I disagree with them often when it comes to analysis of the team or the more psychological aspects of the game , especially when pertaining to Mets players. Gary? He’s a top notch broadcaster and one of the very best in the business. But I don’t necessarily think he has great insight into the game the way Keith and Ron do.

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