|Photo by Michael Baron|
Injury reasons aside the Mets will enter the season with a new lead-off man for the first time in many years.
Terry Collins has already anointed Andres Torres as the lead-off man, we've already scene one center fielder in Angel Pagan buckle under the pressure of trying to fill Reyes' shoes. Maybe Torres being a veteran who wasn't here during the Reyes tenure wont feel the same pressure.
But what Torres might feel is his own pressure to prove that 2009-2010 wasn't a fluke. With only 89 major league games to his credit, the journeyman outfielder suddenly came into his own in 2009 at the age of 31 y/o. That year he played in 74 games hitting .270 with a .343 OBP and before anyone could say it was too small a sample pool, he would produce mirror image numbers ( BA .268/ OBP .343) the very next season as the starting center fielder in 139 games.
Then came 2011 which Torres attributes to nagging injuries that he says he is 100% recovered from, he played in 112 games in which he only hit .221 but more alarmingly for a lead-off hitter only produced a .312 OBP. To compare Reyes last had an OBP below .312 in 2005 when he produced a .300 OBP and Angel Pagan hitting lead-off in 31 games hit .289 with a .322 OBP.
So what if Torres turns out to be a .312 OBP lead-off man and the team decides they need to move him to the bottom of the order who would replace him. The only obvious replacement on the roster, barring the signing of an invitee who makes the team is Ruben Tejada. The young middle infielder in his second season produced solid numbers hitting .284 with a .360 OBP in 96 games but hit lead-off in only 7 games in which he hit .222 with a .250 OBP.
Despite having the range to play SS Tejada doesn't have the traditional speed to hit lead-off and the Mets were reluctant to put top of the order pressure on the youngster. But Tejada also has to prove he can hit as he did last year, in his rookie year he played in 78 games and only hit .213 with a .305 OBP.
The only other option I can see would be to promote Kirk Nieuwenhuis 24 y/o left handed center fielder is believed to be close to ready for the majors. In 2011 he played in 53 at Buffalo in which he hit .298 with a .403 OBP, the year before in Buffalo he played in 30 games hitting .225 with .295 OBP in his first exposure to that level.