Converted pitcher Adam Loewen could make Mets as center fielder

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Scott Hairston’s oblique strain leaves the Mets in need of a backup center fielder behind starter Andres Torres and converted pitcher Adam Loewen has a legitimate chance to claim the gig.

Loewen was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2002 draft and started 29 games in the majors for the Orioles by age 24, but gave up pitching in 2009 following injuries and ineffectiveness.

He spent last season at Triple-A in the Blue Jays’ system, hitting .306 with 17 homers and an .884 OPS in 134 games. Impressive raw numbers, although Las Vegas is an extremely hitter-friendly environment and his 136/61 K/BB ratio wasn’t as encouraging.

Oh, and he’s played just 18 career games in center field, so even if Loewen can hit in the majors the jury is still very much out on whether he can field the position adequately. Of course, his primary competition is Mike Baxter and he’s a career-long infielder with just 43 games in center field.

All of which means the Mets are really counting on Torres to stay healthy after missing 50 games last season.

2017 Preview: The American League Central

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League Central

Do the Indians have a weakness? Do the Tigers and Royals have one more playoff push in them or do they have to start contemplating rebuilds? The White Sox and Twins are rebuilding, but do either of them have a chance to be remotely competitive?

As we sit here in March, the answers are “not really,” “possibly,” and “not a chance.” There are no games that count this March, however, so they’re just guesses. But educated ones! Here are the links to our guesses and our education for all of the clubs of the AL Central:

Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

2017 Preview: The National League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League East

The Washington Nationals crave a playoff run that doesn’t end at the division series. The Mets crave a season in which they don’t have a press conference about an injured pitcher. The Marlins are trying to put the nightmare of the end of the 2016 behind them. The Phillies and Braves are hoping to move on from the “lose tons of games” phase of their rebuilds and move on to the “hey, these kids can play!” phase.

There is a ton of star power in the NL East — Harper, Scherzer, Cespedes, Syndergaard, Stanton, Freeman — some great young talent on ever roster and, in Ichiro and Bartolo, the two oldest players in the game. Maybe the division can’t lay claim to the best team in baseball, but there will certainly be some interesting baseball in the division.

Here’s how each team breaks down:

Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves