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Andres Torres vs. Angel Pagan

Aside from age, Andres Torres and Angel Pagan have much in common. Both are swift switch-hitters who impressed in brief big league playing time in 2009 and broke out while holding full-time gigs in 2010. Entering the 2011 season, the two are side-by-side in terms of outfielder ADP: according to MockDraftCentral, Torres is 56th among fly catchers, while Pagan is 57th. So, who’s the better bet on draft day?

Torres, 33, toiled in the minors for the better part of a decade before getting meaningful at-bats in the show. Originally selected out of Puerto Rico by the Tigers in the fourth round of the 1998 draft, the sprinter-turned-ball player passed through the Detroit, Chicago (South Side), Texas, Minnesota, Detroit (again) and Chicago (North Side this time) organizations before San Francisco signed him as a minor league free agent during the winter of 2009.

In 740 MLB plate appearances with the Giants, Torres has a .269/.343/.492 line. He was placed on the DL twice with hamstring problems in 2009, and an appendectomy as well as groin and hip soreness limited him in 2010, but Torres has shown excellent secondary skills and speed when on the field. Walking in nearly 10 percent of his PA and making good use of Triples Alley, Torres had a .223 Isolated Power over 2009-2010. On the bases, he nabbed 32 SB in 40 attempts, an 80 percent success rate.

Possessing those upper-echelon wheels (7.9 Speed Score) Torres has posted a .334 BABIP with the Giants. His expected BABIP (xBABIP) over that time frame, based on his number of homers, whiffs, stolen bases, line drives, fly balls, pop ups and grounders, was .324. Speed players generally post a higher BABIP, and Torres certainly fits the bill. But given that we’re dealing with around a season and a quarter’s worth of data here, it’s fair to assume Torres won’t post a .330+ BABIP next year.

So, what do the projection systems say about Torres for 2011?

ZiPS: 444 PA, .252/.319/.428, 17 SB
Oliver: 589 PA, .253/.319/.422, 17 SB
PECOTA: 500 PA, .251/.321/.412, 20 SB

The three forecasts are pretty similar: a dip in batting average from the .270 range closer to .250, with above-average, but not elite power (.161 to .176 ISO) and what seem like conservative SB totals.

Pagan, meanwhile, had his career defined more by injuries than on-field accomplishments until recently. Like Torres, Pagan was a fourth-rounder selected out of Puerto Rico, though Angel went a year later in 1999. Pagan was a Mets draft pick and remained in the organization until 2005, but New York traded him to the Cubs in January of ’06 for cash considerations. He scarcely got on the field for Chicago. Angel was bedeviled by a hamstring injury in ’06, and suffered from colitis in 2007. The Mets re-acquired him prior to 2008, but the injuries kept coming: a torn labrum in 2008, and bone spurs as well as a pulled groin in 2009.

Pagan was superb when he was in the lineup in ’09, and he followed up with a healthy, near five WAR season in 2010. In slightly more than a thousand PA over the past two years, Pagan holds a .296/.344/.448 triple-slash, with 51 steals in 67 tries (76.1 percent success rate).

El Caballo Loco” hasn’t shown Torres’ patience (6.8 percent walk rate) or power (.152 ISO). But he has punched out considerably less — Pagan’s K rate over ’09-10 was 16.6%, compared to Torres’ 26.3%. Pagan has put the ball in play more, while also holding a high BABIP (.338), helping to explain his higher batting average. As is the case with Torres, Pagan is a burner (7.5 Speed Score) who should post a higher-than-average BABIP. His .326 xBABIP does suggest that a batting average closer to .280 is more realistic, though.

Here are Pagan’s 2011 projections:

ZiPS: 448 PA, .278/.326/.424, 21 SB
Oliver: 692 PA, .281/.329/.415, 28 SB
PECOTA: 435 PA, .271/.324/.390, 29 SB

All three suggest a .270-.280 average, with ZiPS (.146 projected ISO) expecting more power than Oliver (.134) or PECOTA (.121).

Torres and Pagan do project as similarly valuable hitters, though they get there in different ways: Torres with more walks and pop, and Pagan with better contact skills. Both figure to be good for 20-plus steals. And, with Aaron Rowand becoming a scrappy $12 million Gatorade drinker and sunflower flicker, Carlos Beltran‘s knees necessitating a move to an outfield corner and Fernando Martinez’s stock dropping, both Torres and Pagan are entrenched as full-time players.

It truly is hard to separate the two. If I had to pick one, though, I’d lean toward Torres. He is older and isn’t a picture of perfect health himself (he’s currently dealing with a strained oblique), but Torres works the count better, raps more extra-base hits, and doesn’t have Pagan’s Tolstoy-esque DL history.

Which speedy center fielder do you prefer? Enter projections for Torres and Pagan.