New manager Terry Collins made it clear yesterday that Carlos Beltran enter camps as the Mets’ starting center fielder, saying: “When he walks in the first day, he’s the center fielder.”
However, that comes with a significant caveat, as the plan is to evaluate Beltran’s range and surgically repaired knee before determining whether he’s a better center field option than Angel Pagan. One of them will be starting in center field and the other will be manning right field, so it’s not as much a competition as an evaluation of who offers the most range in the middle of the outfield.
Here’s more from Collins:
We’re going to sit down and feel out Carlos and make sure we come up with a game plan. But when he comes in here, if he says, “Look, I think I’m healthy enough to play center field,” then we’re going to put him out there and make an adjustment as we go.
Even without factoring in knee surgery and the time he’s missed Beltran is 33 years old and plenty of previously outstanding defensive center fielders cease being assets there at that age. Pagan is 29 and proved last season that he’s a very strong defender in center field while filling in for Beltran, with Ultimate Zone Rating pegging him as 11.8 runs above average in 792 innings.
If the Mets are looking to put their best defense on the field that likely won’t involve Beltran in center and that may also be best for his chances of staying healthy.