By Mike Steffanos
Along with the debate that is currently going on over whether Lastings Milledge should remain with the Mets when Cliff Floyd returns from the DL, there is an equally interesting discussion about Xavier Nady. When Milledge came up and got off to a hot start, there were quite a few people ready to throw the X-man under the bus and relegate him to a part-time role. Milledge has struggled some recently, which has toned things down a little, but Nady still seems the prime candidate in the "experts" minds to lose playing time if Milledge sticks.
Right off the bat, let me confess that I was not in favor of the trade that brought Nady to the Mets for Mike Cameron. I really liked Cammy, and felt like a part-time player that had bad numbers against right-handers was too little to get back. It took time for Nady to change my mind, and no one will ever mistake his defense for the leather that Cameron packed, but I think this kid is a real deal. It's more than his ability to hit monster home runs that have changed my mind. I like his work ethic, and I think he has an improving approach at the plate.
He went into a slump right before the Appendectomy, and admitted that he hadn't been feeling well for a week or two before the operation. What we had seen from Nady before then was an improving facility for hitting the outside pitch to right field -- a necessity for him if he is to become more than just a guy who hits tape-measure homers once in a while. He struggled a little with runners in scoring position, which a lot of young hitters not named David Wright do, but that will come as he grows more confident in his approach at the plate.
Those heavily into statistical analysis for the most part do not believe Nady will be a productive 500 AB starter in the majors. They look at what he has done over 3 part-time seasons with the Padres and see a right-handed bench guy who can fill in at OF and 1B. In fairness, though, this was a very highly-rated prospect when he signed out of college who has shown flashes of ability. His problem in San Diego was a manager that was not willing to find him regular playing time. On top of that, he was asked to play CF part-time last year, a position for which he was woefully unsuited.
Coming to the Mets, Willie told him that he was the starting every day right fielder. One position to worry about, and the knowledge that going 0-4 wouldn't put him on the bench the next day. He's had a chance to refine his approach at the plate, and although he has been streaky, we have seen steady improvement in that approach. I pointed out in my game post last night that, after missing 3 weeks thanks to that appendix, Nady has contributed 11 homers and 25 RBIs in only 169 ABs. Those are mighty nice numbers to receive from your seven hitter, considering he has only the eighth place hitter to protect him.
Milledge most likely has a higher ceiling than Nady, but I wouldn't discount the player that the 28-year-old Californian could very well become. I think he can be a .275 hitter, hit 20 - 30 home runs, maybe more. If he continues to refine his approach when being pitched outside, he could be a valuable bat in the Mets lineup for a number of years. I don't think it would be a crime at all if Lastings Milledge had to wait until next year to earn full-time status in the Mets outfield.
Mets.com: Willie on Reyes
Chris Girandola quotes manager Willie Randolph on what makes Jose Reyes such an exciting player, and what he's trying to do to help Reyes get better:
The kid wanted to get to the next level so badly, and when he doesn't succeed every time out, he lets it get to him a bit. But the thing I love about [Reyes] is he lets it go and moves on to the next day.
... Jose's like a young buck, like one of those wild stallions that you want to let him run and be free but, at the same time, you want to harness him a little bit, but not too much. I want to be able to give him so much of what I know, but I also know I have to hold back and let him play with his natural ability.
... A lot of young players are into that instant gratification that when things don't happen the way they want it to each and every time, they get disappointed. I'm trying to teach him how to contain his energy so he doesn't rush things too much, but also I'm trying to help him learn how to pick up his energy when and if things don't happen the way he wants them to.
Daily News: Will Milledge Stay?
Sean Brennan quotes the Mets rookie outfielder, who wants to stay in the major leagues when Cliff Floyd returns, but understands that he hasn't done enough to force the team to make room for him:
I'm not producing enough. I'm not doing bad. I'm doing fairly decent. But then again, I'm not producing enough for (Mets brass) to be like, 'Holy, we've got to have this guy here.'
The Journal News: Fixing Aaron
John Delcos reports on how pitching out of the windup is helping Aaron Heilman to overcome the mechanical problems that led to his long slump.
NY Sports Day: "In the zone"
Joe McDonald interviews David Wright on how it feels to be in the midst of a true hot streak at the plate.
The Metropolitans: Taking the media to task
Mike makes a strong point in calling the local media, especially the Post's tiresome and pompous Kevin Kernan, on knee-jerk reactions to short-term trends. I've always found Kernan's stuff excellent for lining the cat litter box -- although, in fairness, if the cats could read they would most definitely hold out for better bathroom literature.
Minor League Baseball: Young Met Pitcher Throws Gem
Chip Haunss reports on Mets pitching prospect Mike Devaney's complete game shutout for Class A St. Lucie. Devaney carried a no-hitter into the eighth, and lowered his ERA to 1.61. Devaney represented the Mets in the Florida State League All-Star Game this past weekend.
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin: Another Solid Start for Mike Pelfrey
Mike Pelfrey went 7 strong innings for the B-Mets last night in their win over the Akron Aeros. He allowed 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 6 and walking 3.
Baseball Prospectus ($): The Mets System
In his latest Future Shock column, Kevin Goldstein looks at all the NL east teams' farm systems, including the Mets. He doesn't find much good to say, although he likes the 2 hot pitching prospects in Binghmaton:
The Mike Pelfrey watch is back in full effect; last year's first-round pick has returned from a tough start following his promotion to Double-A by allowing four earned runs over 25 innings in his last four starts, striking out 30. Mets fans might want to start a Henry Owens watch, as well. Back from the disabled list, Owens has pitched five scoreless innings in June with eight whiffs, running his sick season totals to 41 strikeouts in 19.2 innings while allowing six hits and six walks.
We're already keeping our eyes on Henry Owens, thanks. Goldstein also ways in on St. Lucie pitcher Mike Devaney, who pitched to complete game shutout mentioned earlier. While acknowledging Devaney's fine ERA, Goldstein notes his stuff is "marginal".