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Thank Heavens for Evans?

Posted By Eno Sarris On July 1, 2009 @ 6:01 pm In First Base,Prospects | 1 Comment

Nick Evans is now a major league baseball player, and he’s getting some at-bats in left field and in a first-base platoon with Daniel Murphy. The flailing Mets seem to be looking to catch lightning in a bottle with Evans, but the fan base is clamoring for a more impressive solution.

Could they possibly ’solve’ their temporary 1B problems with a Murphy/Evans platoon? Murphy’s career minor league split OPS against lefties is not great at .725. Well, at least Nick Evans can handle lefties, as his his .914 OPS against lefties in 421 minor league at-bats can attest. Put together the two half-players and you could actually have a decent stop-gap first baseman for the time being.

But should that keep the team from trading Evans should a better solution come along? His minor league progression has been a halting one. He started poorly and didn’t crack an .800 OPS in his first 500 plate appearances.

In fact, he didn’t have a strong full year until he hit St. Lucie in his fourth pro year. In 2007, he hit .286/.374/.476 and burst onto the Mets prospect scene. It does matter, though, that the park factor for St. Lucie that year was a 1.15 for home runs, and that the park has played as a hitter’s haven. Plus, he still had those three full years of poor play behind him.

When he hit AA Binghamton in 2008 and followed up with a .311/.365/.561 line, though, the Mets might have gotten a little giddy. They might have been forgiven for thinking they had Carlos Delgado’s future replacement in their hands. They probably felt that he would play his way into some major league playing time after a little seasoning in AAA.

Ooops. The old, that is to say young, Evans showed up in Buffalo, and his .093/.218/.227 start was too nasty for the brass. The team demoted him back to the friendly confines of Binghamton, where he put up a mediocre .276/.350/.467 slash line in 117 at-bats. Then, all of a sudden, it didn’t matter what he was actually doing, since the major league team needed a warm body. As of now he’s playing well in the major leagues… in very few at-bats.

There will be some that will say that he’s a keeper. Murphy is done, they’ll say, and thank heavens for Evans! That’s a bit short-sighted. There’s not actually that much to like about Evans: as he’s advanced in the minor league system, his strikeout rate has gotten worse, and his walk rate (mediocre at around 8%) has stayed the same. His .462 slugging percentage in the minors is nothing to write home about, and both of his career years in the minors came in parks that played as hitters parks. Neither was his .768 minor league OPS versus righties.

This is not to rain on the parade. He might be a really good fourth outfielder and backup first baseman. If he can improve his split against righties, he may even rise to about an average level as a first baseman. In a platoon situation, he can rake against lefties and can help in the short-term, so he has value on the bench.

He’s no savior, and the odds are still against him being a regular. If Omar Minaya can improve the team by shipping Evans out, he should do it.


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