Conventional Mets wisdom says that Jeff Francoeur will be the starting right fielder on Opening Day 2010 and for the remainder of the season, barring injury or catastrophic performance. The hope is that his .836 OPS with the Mets in 2009 is sustainable and his positive aura will rub off on teammates.
Note: Replace Francoeur's name with Daniel Murphy and essentially the same thing could have been written last offseason.
The big lug has earned the right to fail I suppose. It's been beaten to death already but his success hinges on whether he can sustain a BABIP in the .340 range. He's just not going to take any walks and if his BABIP is closer to his career mark of .307 he will be a detriment to the team. How can this risk be hedged? A look at Frenchy's splits vs. RHP and LHP provides an idea:
Career: .260/.300/.410 (.710 OPS)
2009: .255/.291/.385 (.676 OPS)
Career: .298/.340/.487 (.827 OPS)
2009:.344/.356/.521 (.877 OPS)
Already dramatic splits were more pronounced in 2009. Small sample size and all that, yes, but the fact remains his performance vs. RHP isn't adequate for a corner OF. The smart course of action here might be to start Francoeur only vs. LHP. Luckily, there is an outfielder on the Mets roster who has platoon splits to match up perfectly with Francoeur: Angel "4th Outfielder" Pagan:
Career: .299/.350/.452 (.802 OPS)
2009: .316/.356/.488 (.844 OPS)
Career: .245/.291/.425 (.716 OPS)
2009: .280/.323/.484 (.807 OPS)
Pagan has just 1.5 seasons worth of MLB plate appearances and his minor league splits aren't drastic. Regardless, he projects better vs. RHP in 2010 than Francoeur. Given his injury history, Pagan likely isn't suited for everyday duty anyway (not that a starting role is even under consideration). He'll probably spell Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay from time-to-time, so it's not as if Francoeur would never start vs. RHP.
Using some rudimentary calculations, the Pagan/Francoeur platoon projects to produce something like this: .295/.345/.470, with upside based on each players' age and recent performance. Not spectacular but not the weak .752 OPS and .768 OPS that CHONE projects for Francoeur and Pagan, respectively. This would almost certainly give the Mets above average offensive production from the right field position -- something they've lacked since 2006. Defensive projections for the two players are similar, but most systems loved Pagan in 2009 (+5.8 UZR, +16 Plus/Minus, +9 TotalZone) so it would be nice to see if his alleged defensive prowess is for real. The biggest fear is that Pagan is relegated to Jeremy Reed duty while Francoeur grits his way to a .730 OPS.
Would Francouer, or his loyal fans, quietly accept this platoon disrespect? Probably not. However, the appropriate response to such disagreement can be summed up by this video.