Monday, February 18, 2008


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 right fielder Ryan Church.

2007: .272 avg, 15 HR, 70 RBI, 57 runs, 3 SB, .349 OBP

I am not ashamed to say that I know next-to-nothing about Ryan Church. So let's learn about him together.

Church is a lefty-throwing, lefty-batting, 6-1, 200-pound outfielder. He'll be thirty when the season ends (October 14), and has been in the majors for four years now, all with Montreal/Washington. Last year he played in the most games of his career - 144, putting up the numbers you see above. The numbers aren't bad, but one that's a little alarming, which you don't see, is the 107 strikeouts. He seems to strike out a lot, although at least last year his strikeout rate dipped (in 2006 he struck out 60 times in 71 games!). I would have thought he was speedier than his numbers indicate - but he doesn't steal many bases at all, so I guess not.

Church will see plenty of playing time this year. He will be the Mets' starting right fielder, and won't really see platoons, because the next option is Endy Chavez, who also hits lefty. But what will happen is there will be many times when both Church and Chavez will be in the lineup because of either an injury to or rest for Moises Alou. The key to the Mets' outfield situation this year will be the health of Chavez and Church, because they are the ones who will need to go the distance in order for the likes of Alou, and to a lesser degree Beltran, to be rested and most effective (with Beltran, there's a chance he'll miss about 20 games because of an injury, not so much that he needs the rest).

And I think I'm OK with Church playing that role. Church has a little bit of pop - he hit a career-high 15 homers last year, and ten the year before in half as many games. Maybe the Mets see something in their scouting that indicates Church is poised to break through. I don't know. They seemed content to get him along with Brian Schneider in exchange for Lastings Milledge, leading you to believe they would rather have Church in right than Milledge.

Here's what I'm going to believe about Ryan Church - he's Eric Valent if he had the chance to play every day. I've always liked Valent, and he made some contributions to some pretty poor Mets teams earlier this decade as a pinch-hitter. I'll start out the season believing that comparison is accurate. And maybe Church will prove me right, and I'll become a Ryan Church fan. If he turns out better than Valent, all the better for the Mets. Let's just hope he's not worse - because the Mets will be facing Milledge a bunch this year, and I'm sure he'll remind them with his hitting of what they traded to get Church.

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