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mets countdown

Mets Countdown: No. 16, Angel Pagan

The start of the baseball season is less than a month away. Every weekday until opening day, we'll be counting down, from No. 20 to No. 1, the most important Mets players for the upcoming 2010 slate. Today, No. 16, center fielder Angel Pagan.

For the second time in three years, the terrifyingly named Angel Pagan will be the Mets' starting center fielder, thanks to Carlos Beltran's injury, an injury that's now the second most important injury on the team. As far as backup center fielders go, you could do much worse: He hit six homers last year — all in August — and eleven triples. The man has range in the field, hit. 306, and can steal bases, too. He was a handy little guy to have around last year.

You are forgiven if you don't realize that, though, because for the scrapster that he is, Pagan sure does do a lot of stupid things on a baseball diamond: running into outs on the base paths, forgetting to tag up on a fly ball, missing the cutoff man, taking circuitous routs to the ball. Pagan is one of those guys who isn't talented enough to be as occasionally boneheaded as he is.

He's also probably not as good as he was last year: His slugging percentage was more than 100 points higher than it was in 2008, and he's due for another injury. (He only batted 105 times in 2008 and was on the DL twice in 2009.) Part of that is just part of being a Met, of course: being the chronically injured fellow who fills in for the other chronically injured fellows. Still, backup outfielders who can hit like this, even if his numbers drop a bit, are awfully handy to have around. The problem is that until Beltran's back, he's the starter.

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Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images