Evans On Course for Big Year

Evans On Course for Big Year

All too often, midseason injuries derail the promising years of many young players. Stints on the disabled list are like poison for farmhands who constantly aim to improve on the day, month and year that came before. For the St. Lucie first baseman, he avoided all such troubles by stepping back into the lineup and not missing a beat.

Nick Evans got off to a torrid start in 2007 with a .292 April average, with two home runs, reaching base 29 times in 65 at bats. However, when his ankle ligament injury took him out of the batters' box, there was hesitation that the injury could slow the terrific, early progress he made.

After a very sharp year in Hagerstown last season, excitement swirled around Evans after he was pegged the St. Lucie first baseman out of camp. Now back and fully healed, Evans has a chance to make good on that promise as he has continued his hot start into and through the summer. His consistent production has made him a lethal hitter and a stalwart in the Mets' lineup.

In 55 games since his return, he has hit at a .315 clip with nine home runs, 34 RBI with 65 hits. His numbers this summer represent the growth observers have expected out of Evans this year. Yet, even with all the positives and accolades he attained in the past months, he has kept a level head about his game.

"I'm trying to do the same things I've always done, stay as consistent and even as possible," said Evans. "I'm looking for pitch and drive every pitch I can. So far that's all been working out for me. I feel real good about how I've been playing lately and I think the results of my work back it up. I'm just trying to get as many at-bats as possible, work with my coaches and keep developing. I'm always looking to get more consistent. "

It certainly is safe to say Evans has found comfort. Year-to-year, his percentages are up across the board. At this writing, his batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage are all at least 64 points higher than his final 2006 stats. Perhaps the most telling sign of his improvement is his strikeout total. With less than one month to go in the season, Evans will go from about one strikeout in every five at-bats, to one-in-seven. That change as allowed the rest of his game to explode.

"I wouldn't say anything has changed mechanically, I just think I'm chasing less pitches, swinging at better pitches and keeping my swing under control," he said. "That's really the main difference. My swing is the same; I'm just more in control at the plate.

"I think my pitch recognition is better. Last year, I would chase bad pitches in two-strike counts. We worked heavily on that going into the year, and I've definitely cut down on it which is why strikeouts are way down," he followed.

He attributed his tremendous output the last two months to the injury itself. It did not force him to alter any part of his game, but he admitted that the sheer rest is what has allowed him to maintain this pace—a pace at which he has hit over .400 for the last 15 games.

"This time last year, I was getting tired and I feel the season wearing down on me. But this year, I've basically had a month off, which for me, it feels like the beginning of July," said Evans. "It has helped my body feel good. I've got plenty of energy for the last stretch. I missed a lot of at-bats and I'm trying to make the most of what I have left,"

Thanks to steady hands and a quick swing, he possesses the ability to drive the ball to all fields and extend at-bats better than ever before. He has done just about everything asked of him from his four-hole in the order, but there is one area that still plagues Evans, his inconsistency in run-scoring scenarios.

He currently holds just a .174 average with runners in scoring position, and his average dips as more men get on base. Once he can turn this area around, Evans stands to be one of the most well-groomed and dangerous hitters in the system. Yet, even with struggles, he is still fourth on the team with 43 RBI, behind two other scorching Mets in Dan Murphy and Sean Henry. Irrespective of that, he knows that to keep the success he has accumulated as of late, he can not stress or press to improve that statistic.

"It's definitely an area where I need to get better. It's going to take work on my part. I could say it comes with experience. I could probably swing at better pitches, but in the end, it's about execution. I need to execute when I'm there with guys on base," he said.

Evans has made significant moves this year that should have a lasting effect on what happens to him and where he ends up next season. At just 21-years-old and quickly gaining steam as an important blue chip in the organization, more opportunities are bound to appear in front of him. Despite all that he has gained this year, he still holds that low-key mentality which will pay off as he moves up the ladder.

"I missed a good amount of time this year, while all these guys were out busting their butts. I need to finish out this year strong, hit the ball hard, and have good at-bats. I can only effect what I can control and I need to let the club figure the rest out."

InsidePitchMagazine.com Recommended Stories