You know the story about the Mets and their inability to add much, if any, payroll. What once was supposed to be about $120 million dollar budget has slide all the way down to around $90 million. Thatâs why it came as no surprise that one of their rumored targets-Â Rick Ankiel- signed as minor league deal to remain in Washington. This despite the fact the team was looking for a left handed bat off the bench.Â Joel Sherman of the NY Post also reported the Mets are all but done pursuing remaining free agents such asÂ Kosuke Fukudome,Â Johnny DamonÂ andÂ Raul Ibanez.
Where does that leave them? Waiting to see who become available during spring training. Itâs rare that you find anything useful on the waiver wire down in Florida, so itâs more than likely that spot will be a battle betweenÂ Mike BaxterÂ andÂ Adam Loewen.
In case you did a double-take, Loewen is the former first round pick of the (4th overall) of the Orioles back in 2002. Baseball America ranked Loewen as the Oâs third best prospect in 2004; pointing out his curveball was the best in the organization.Â Â He earned a great deal of international attention when playing in the World Baseball Classic for Canada in the 2006 games. He started and pitched 3.2 in its memorable 8-6 win over the U.S.
Loewen made his big league debut later that season. He struggled (6-6, 5.37), as most 22-year old pitcher do their rookie season. He did display a promising strikeout rate (7.9/per 9), and won 5 of those games the last two months of the season. He was off to a decent start in 2007 (2-0, 3.56), butÂ suffered a stress fracture to his pitching elbow that ended his season in May. Post-surgery, heÂ began to develop control problems and would retire from pitching after 2008.
In 2009, he signed with the Blue Jays as an OF-1b. Â Remember, former pitching prospect Rick Ankiel had just made it back to the big leagues as a hitter with the Cardinals the prior year. LoewenÂ started at High-A in â09, and moved up to Triple-A Las Vegas last year. Loewen showed some power, speed, and the ability to play all three outfield positions. He was a September call-up for Toronto and produced some heroics. He tied a game against his former team with a late home run; later in the month, he beatÂ Daniel BardÂ and the Red Sox with a 2-run single in a 5-4 victory.
It wasnât all good news as in 37 plate appearances with the Jays, Loewen posted a line of .188/.297/.313/.610. Many believe, however, he could be a decent fourth outfielder in the big leagues.
The Mets might be the perfect spot for Loewen to land. The outfield is set withÂ Jason Bay,Â Andres Torres, andÂ Lucas DudaÂ all securing starting spots, but depth is certainly a question mark. Despite the presence of Scott Hairston, they need a left-handed complement off the bench. Right now, prospectsÂ Kirk Nieuwenhuis,Â Juan Lagares, andÂ Cesar PuelloÂ round out the 40-man roster.Â Matt Den DekkerÂ is in camp as a non-roster invitee, but a season of Triple-A would do him some good. None appear to be a serious threat for that backup role, as it would behoove the organization to have them start at various minor league levels. Â More importantly,only Den Dekker bats left handed. Thatâs why the only competition for Loewen appears to be Whitestone native Mike Baxter.
Loewen hit 17 HRs, drove in 85 runs and had a slash line ofÂ .306/ .377/ .508/.884 in 2011 for Triple-A Las Vegas. You have to take those numbers with a grain of salt considering it was the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. A more realistic scenario is Loewen coming off the bench to pop 7-10 HRs, hit about .250 and play all three outfield positions, when necessary. He strikes out a ton, so I wonder how well his game will translate to the highest level. Baxter didnât hit much during his brief stint, but he does have the ability to get on base (.350 OBP).
If you look at Ankielâs performance the last few years, Loewen does appear to profile in a very similar way. The big difference is Ankiel is an outstanding defensive player with a cannon for an arm. I am not sure if Loewen stands out in any one area. Again, this is just for a bench role.
Regardless of what happens, there is no doubt Adam Loewen will be one of the more interesting stories come spring training.