F-Mart in Center For Opening Day?

Mets ParadiseCorrespondent IMarch 14, 2010

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Outfielder Fernando Martinez #26 of the New York Mets poses during photo day at Tradition Field on February 27, 2010 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

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Jon Harper from the Daily News writes an article about why Mets prospect Fernando Martinez should be the starting center fielder until Carlos Beltran comes back.

He points out that Angel Pagan’s baseball IQ is lacking. He doesn’t read the ball well in the outfield, doesn’t put himself in a good position to throw the ball, and he isn’t very good at running the bases.

Although Martinez struggled in his short stint with the team last year, he seems to be a different player now. He won the Caribbean Series MVP award in the winter and now in Spring Training he is hitting .579 with two HR, two 3B, and five RBI. People need to remember that while it has felt like Martinez has been around forever, he’s still only 21. Coming up at the age of 20 and asking him to perform well was a lot to ask for.

Nelson Figueroa knows that Martinez is a special player because he can hear it. “There’s no doubt the talent is there,” he said. “If you’re around the cage when he’s hitting, the ball has a different sound when it comes off his bat than it does for most people.

The main problem with Martinez is just staying healthy (of course, he’s on the Mets!).  Injuries have kept him from playing full seasons in the minors and kept him from continuing his service at the big league level last season.

Martinez is playing with a whole new confidence and a knowledge of the plate now.  He is recognizing pitching patterns and is hitting the ball hard all over the field. He has a hot bat right now and maybe that’s just what the Mets need to spark their offense.

“At worst, if the Mets keep Martinez and he struggles early, then they send him to Buffalo anyway,” Harper says. “At best he significantly softens the blow of losing Beltran and Reyes, which is something that could prove critical to the 2010 season.”

I tend to agree with this as long as sending him back down doesn’t kill his confidence. They need to tell him that he is only going to be up for a month, until Beltran comes back. It’s equally important that they know how important he is to their future.

I really like the idea of having Martinez be the Opening Day center fielder but I don’t think its likely, mainly because of Gary Matthews Jr. and Angel Pagan. They would have to trade or release one of them because it looks like Mike Jacobs or Frank Catalanotto will get the final spot on the bench and the roster would be too full to add Martinez. Also, I’m not too sure how Martinez would handle being the lead-off hitter. We know Pagan can do it because of the success he had last season there, so he might be a better option.

My feeling on the subject is that Martinez will be sent down to minors for the season to get more work in and try to stay healthy. Depending on how he does for the season, the Mets may want to consider trading Beltran in the offseason and give the full time job to Martinez in 2011. By trading Beltran, they could get a good starting pitcher and some top prospects, while saving the $18.5M they owe him in the final year of his contract. With that saved money, they could go out and sign one of the big name free agents available in the offseason of 2011.

But for now, Martinez should be sent down to the minors and Pagan should be given the center field spot .