First off, let me state up front that I absolutely love what Jerry Manuel is doing early in Spring Training.
He is motivating guys, not letting anyone get too comfortable, and creating some healthy tension in spots where there should be competition.
As it stands now there are four players competing for starting time in the outfield--this is a good thing.
Let's look at 2008, and see how many at-bats the Mets outfielders had.
- Carlos Beltran: 606
- Ryan Church: 319
- Fernando Tatis: 273 (handful came at 1B and 3B)
- Endy Chavez: 270
- Daniel Murphy: 131
- Nervous Nick Evans: 109 (a few came at 1B)
- Angel Pagan: 91
- Moises Alou: 49
- Trot Nixon: 35
- Chris Aguila: 12
- Brady Clark: 8
So all told there were approximately 1,900 outfield at-bats in 2008, and Endy Chavez accounted for 270 of those, or just over 14%.
If we total up all the at-bats from guys no longer with the team, the number climbs to about 375, or about 20% of all 2008 outfield at-bats.
The point is that the 2008 Mets had something of a wild rotation in the corners in 2008, and on any given day there were 4-5 guys that could be out there.
It was a sub-optimal situation.
Cut to 2009 and we have three guys clearly in the lead to man their positions for the bulk of the time: Murphy, Beltran and Church.
You then have Tatis as option #1 to start in LF or RF depending on the pitcher, who needs a rest, who is slumping or hitting, etc.
A great situation would be for Beltran to have a 550-600 at-bat season, Murphy and Church to come in somewhere around 450-500 range, and Tatis around 250 OF at-bats (he will get a few elsewhere). This still leaves about 100 at-bats for the "5th outfielder", thus avoiding a situation like last year in which the weak hitting Endy Chavez got 14% of all outfield at-bats with his .308 OBP and .330 Slg %
Of course at this point it's all speculation, but I will state again, as I have before, that our younger, more athletic outfield of 2009 looks much more potent than Angel Pagan, Grandpa Alou and a bunch of guys who were either past their primes or never had a prime.
It's a good outfield....potentially a great one.