A preview of the 2008 Mets, presented in the expected batting order, followed by pitching rotation, followed by impact bullpen/bench players. Today we focus on centerfielder Carlos Beltran.
2007: .276 avg, 33 HR, 112 RBI, 93 runs, 23 SB, .353 OBP
The only problem with Carlos Beltran is that he's making so much freakin' money. If he wasn't making $17 million a year, he'd probably be appreciated more. He's a good ballplayer. The problem is that he played out of his mind directly before becoming a free agent, and cashed in in a ridiculous way. And then he had a season where he hit .268 with just 16 home runs (2005). In 2006, Beltran was a big reason the Mets ran away with the division, hitting 41 homers, but tempering fans' enthusiasm by watching an Adam Wainwright hook fall into the strike zone for the final strike of the Mets' season. Last year, Beltran wasn't bad. He had a hot April, cooled May through July, but was not to blame for the collapse, with a good August and September. The fact remains, though, that every time Beltran does something wrong, it will come back to his salary. $17 million for that?!
Mets fans are "stuck" with him, though - and "stuck" is in quotes because that's not a bad thing. As far as I know, Beltran is a positive (though quiet) clubhouse influence, and though there have been some rocky defensive situations in his Mets career, Beltran is an excellent defender. That's a big deal, especially now with Johan Santana, too. The Mets are solid defensively, and having Beltran in center field is a big reason why. Unfortunately, Beltran's eagerness to get to tough balls might contribute to more injuries than he needs (he's fragile enough as it is - he doesn't need to go crashing into walls in Houston), but you can't say he doesn't hustle out in the field.
Beltran is a good baserunner, and the past couple of years indicate he has rediscovered his power stroke. The problem? He doesn't really have a power stroke historically. In his 7 years in Kansas City, Beltran didn't hit more than 29 homers. He got traded to Houston, and hit 23 there in a little more than half a year. Then he goes and hits 41 and 33 with the Mets. And his batting average, which was better than .300 twice in Kansas City, hasn't come near that with the Mets. Perhaps he'd hit for a better average if he wasn't swinging for the fences. But it looks like there are two choices: no power and good average, or decent power, and see the average suffer. If the Mets are going to hit Beltran third or fourth (and with the presence of Luis Castillo, my hopes that he will hit second are long gone), I'll take the power. And good news on that front: With Pedro Martinez* pitching a full year (hopefully), Beltran should have about 25 homers in Pedro* starts alone (remember a couple of years ago when he homered in about the first 10 starts or so by Pedro*?).
I just wouldn't mind seeing Beltran be able to hit the curve once in a while. For $17 million a year.......