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.