Jay Payton may not go down as a notable player in the history of baseball or even in New York Mets franchise history. He was, however, the most significant contributor of the outfield on the last Mets team to appear in the Fall Classic 13 years ago.
Payton was an unproven commodity entering the season, having amassed only nine career hits in his first two stints in the big leagues.
In a way, the 2013 Mets club actually has an advantage over that club in terms of outfielders. And that is hard to believe, considering this club more closely resembles the Bad News Bears led by Walter Matthau.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis enters his sophomore season as somewhat of an enigma, having gone from Rookie of the Year conversations to Triple-A in a very short time. First of all, Nieuwenhuis must improve on his paltry 98:25 K/BB ratio at the plate if he is to have a surprise year in the way that Payton did in 2000.
He does possess a smooth swing and has been lauded for his intangibles, which could lead to a much improved season.
The other outfielders must step up as well, notably Lucas Duda. The massive 27-year-old possesses the raw power to be a mainstay in the middle of the order as he was in the first half of 2012.
He fell apart after the All-Star break, unfortunately, and showed enough glaring weaknesses that makes it a legitimate question as to whether he will ever consistently display the ability he did in 2011.
I believe he will follow in the footsteps of plenty of other ball players have in terms of a breakout year at age 27. For some reason, hitters such as Jacoby Ellsbury and Jose Bautista failed to reach their position until that age.
Duda's star has begun to dim in the eyes of the front office, but a tremendous month of April would alter that perception.
In 2000, the Mets had Benny Agbayani hit 17 home runs as their left fielder.
Duda provides much more potential than that, possibly in the 25-30 range which would benefit this team drastically.
Then there's right field.
At the moment, it's hard to envision Mike Baxter, Andrew Brown or Marlon Byrd providing sufficient pop for a corner outfielder. Baxter did a great job off the bench, and his .365 OBP is surprisingly good. With that being said, he has proven that he can handle a starting job.
Newly-acquired Andrew Brown is entering his age-28 season, but he hit only five home runs while playing for Colorado last season.
That position will be troublesome, but it was also occupied by Derek Bell in 2000, who only compiled a .348 OBP and a .773 OPS.
The bottom line is that the 2000 Mets made it to the World Series despite having one of the weakest outfields in history.
Thanks to a tremendous pitching staff and MVP-caliber production from Mike Piazza, the team defied the odds to make a deep postseason run.
If David Wright and Ike Davis can carry the offense the way Piazza and Robin Ventura did, then this team could certainly surprise.
I'm not counting on it, but stranger things have happened.
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