New York Mets: Who Can Play Center Field?

Jeff WalsteinContributor IJanuary 17, 2010

In a rare sequence of events, Carlos Beltran has landed himself on the disabled list before the season has even started.  Beltran underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Wednesday and is not expected to begin baseball activities for at least 8-12 weeks, all but ensuring he'll spend the entire month of April on the DL for the New York Mets.  

The news is certainly unsettling to all Mets fans, and many fingers have been pointed trying to figure out who's to blame. But what's done is done, and now the Mets and GM Omar Minaya will have to figure out who's going to fill the hole in center field until Beltran is ready to return. 

The first logical choice is Angel Pagan, who filled in for Carlos Beltran quite nicely last season.  In 88 games, Pagan batted .306 with 39 extra base hits and 32 RBI.  Pagan played a lot of center field and batted leadoff in the absence of Jose Reyes.  His extra base power created a big threat at the top of the lineup for the Mets last season.  He runs well and usually catches the ball without any drama. 

Many scouts criticize Pagan's baseball instincts, but this is one aspect of his game I think could be fixed with good coaching.  Although Pagan is a great fourth outfielder, he is not the future, and I'd like to see the future get a chance.  That future I'm referring to is Fernando Martinez.

Martinez has been hyped up by the Mets for almost four years now.  The highly regarded and oft-injured prospect got only 91 ABs, and he earned an unimpressive .176.  Martinez has been prone to injury, and the Mets have seen his stock fall in the last couple of seasons.  This April would be a great time for the Mets to audition F-Mart and evaluate what they have.  If he produces, his value will go up and the Mets could trade him or drop him back down to AAA once Beltran returns.  If he fails to produce, the team should start accepting the fact that they've got another Alex Escobar on their hands and move on. 

As of now, though, nobody really knows what Martinez is capable of.  He's not doing anybody any good in AAA or on the disabled list.  The injury to Beltran creates a great opportunity to showcase Martinez and evaluate what he can really do.  A decision needs to be made on this kid, and it has to be made this April.