Everyone says Spring Training stats don’t matter.  Don’t tell that to Nick Evans, who is one of the Mets’ top hitters as he tries to make the Opening Day roster.

Prior to the 2008 season, not many Mets fans had heard of Nick Evans.  He did not make Baseball America’s Top 10 list for the club and prospect maven John Sickels gave him a grade of C+, although Sickels did say, “[I]f he can maintain his plate discipline he has breakout potential.”

Evans started 2008 in Double-A Binghamton and proceeded to hit the cover off the ball.  He posted a .311/.365/.561 stat line in 296 at-bats before getting a promotion to the majors.  Primarily a first baseman, Evans also saw time at third base and left field in Binghamton.  In the majors, he saw most of his action in the outfield, although he did log three games at first base.

But the main thing Evans showed at Shea was the ability to hit.  Or more precisely, Evans showed the ability to hit LHP.  Manager Jerry Manuel eventually settled on a platoon role for Evans, in which he played left field versus southpaws.  And it is hard to argue with the results.  Here are his platoon splits in the majors last year:

vs RHP – .135/.150/.189 with one walk and nine strikeouts in 37 at-bats

vs LHP – .319/.380/.514 with six walks and 15 strikeouts in 72 at-bats

After a rough Winter Ball season in Puerto Rico, where he started 0-14 with seven strikeouts and hit just .094 before having his season cut short with a quadriceps injury, conventional wisdom had Evans opening the year in Triple-A, where he could play everyday and hopefully learn to hit righties better.  But Evans has tried his best this spring to win a spot on the Opening Day roster.

He leads the team with 52 at-bats and has been one of the club’s most productive hitters.  Evans has a .308/.379/.615 line and he leads the Mets with three home runs and 12 RBIs.  Manuel has even begun playing Evans in right field in order to get him more playing time.

But the main problem is that there is no role for Evans on the club.  Daniel Murphy and Ryan Church are the starting outfielders and there is virtually no chance he could supplant either one at this point.  The same goes for Carlos Delgado at first base.  Furthermore, Fernando Tatis gives the club the same versatility as Evans, and he also bats right-handed.

If you go just by production, Evans should probably be on the team as a backup outfielder.  But is it really the best thing for the 23-year old to be sitting on the bench in the majors, when he could be getting at-bats in Triple-A?  My position is that it would be a waste to have Evans sit on the bench and get less than five at-bats per week.  He needs regular playing time.

The fact that Evans has never played in Triple-A and has fewer than 300 at-bats in Double-A makes the choice easier.  Whatever the Mets decide to do with Evans, it is a nice dilemma to have.

This time last year many were fretting that the club had traded away all of its top minor league talent in the Johan Santana deal.  Now the Mets have Murphy holding down left field and Evans doing his best to join his Double-A roommate in the majors.

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