Monday, January 11, 2010

TEAM #16 – New York Mets

Will 2010 be the year that Mejia puts it all together?

Coming in at #16 is the New York Mets. The Mets are a system that doesn’t get the credit that it likely deserves, as a philosophy of aggressively promoting their Latin American talent has often led to deceiving results. We actually like the top of the Mets system far better than most people do. Additionally, their second tier talent is also deeper than most realize. That being said, it is still a system dotted with low ceiling college players that put up deceiving results in the opposite direction. Perhaps no system in baseball is more puzzling in their seemingly contradictory approach to talent development. That being said, we are a huge fan of their Latin American program, and find the type of high ceiling players that one would desire.

Grade A

1) Jenry Mejia ,RHP (2009 Performance Scores – Dominance 64; Stamina 67; HRrate 50; Control 41)

Mejia opened up 2009 by thoroughly dominating FSL hitters—as a 19yo. This earned him a promotion to Binghamton, where he got caught up in overthrowing, and, while still flashing his ‘filthy’ mid-90s fastball, he walked nearly five batters per 9IP. The problem became even worse in the AZFL. Mejia will play the entire 2010 season as a 20yo. He has one of the best pure fastballs in the Minors, and a Change that has the potential to be a plus pitch. The downside is that he is extremely raw, and certainly is more thrower than pitcher at this point. Mejia does not currently have a Major League quality 3rd pitch, and his control can completely get away from him at times. Expect him to open up the season by returning to AA, where the Mets will have to demonstrate extreme patience with him as he has a tremendous upside. If he can harness his control and develop a third offering, his ceiling is that of a front of the rotation stud. Without a third pitch he still could become a lights out closer.

2) Fernando Martinez, RF (2009 – Power 77; First Base Rate 26; Discipline 54; Speed 40)

Coming off, what was considered by many to be, a down 2008, Martinez faced a series of nagging injuries in 2009, and eventually knee-surgery, that limited his playing time. Add to that a Big League debut that has to be classified as disappointing, and an even more disappointing Winter League stint, and you have a prospect in free fall. Let me toss Martinez a parachute, as played the entire season as a 20yo in AAA—posting the International League’s (INT) #4 Performance score. A victim of the Mets aggressiveness, more than opposing pitchers, Martinez continues to have a tremendous upside, with the ceiling of a power hitting everyday Major League RF. While the Mets may give him a chance to win a roster spot this spring, Martinez still has a Major area of improvement that would benefit from a return trip to AAA—namely he needs to learn become a more patient hitter, taking more walks. The other negative is that the speed that once allowed visions of him roaming CF has continued to diminish as he has matured, and, after knee surgery, he is on the verge of turning into a base clogger. We still like Martinez’s potential, but hope, much like Mejia, the Mets can be patient with him.

Grade A -

3) Wilmer Flores, SS/3B (2009 – Power 35; First Base Rate 52; Discipline 74; Speed 35)

The third straight Latin American prospect, and the third straight prospect with tremendous upside that is being pushed too fast, Flores had a disappointing 2009 season, posting a .637 OPS in the SAL—as a 17yo. With a 6’3”, 175lb, frame, Flores has significant projection left in him, as we expect him to hit for more power as he fills out, and likely move off of SS, probably to third base. Still he makes solid contact, sprays the ball with authority, and possesses good strike zone management skills. Like many Latin American players, he can be overly aggressive at the plate and will need to learn to take more walks. He will never be consider a base stealing threat, but, other than pure rawness, there are few weaknesses here. Our hope is that regime changes in the Mets organization will allow for Flores to return to the SAL for at least the first half of 2010, as if he does there is potential for a breakout campaign.

Grade B+

4) Ike Davis, 1B (2009 – Power 79; First Base Rate 59; Discipline 32; Speed 31)

After being drafted in the first round of 2008, Davis posted one of that summer’s most disappointing debuts. 2009, however, was a different story entirely, as Davis was solid in the FSL, before destroying ESL pitching to the tune of a .951 OPS, posting the #12 Performance score in the League. He continued his torrid pace this Fall in the AZFL. His quick wrists provide him with plus power, and at least average contact skills. Defensively he is sound at first base. The downside is that Davis can get into grooves where he pulls everything—making him vulnerable to tough breaking ball pitchers. With no real threat in front of him in the organization for the first base job, the certainty factor is relatively high. We see his ceiling to be that of a Major League average, everyday, firstbaseman. Look for Davis to begin 2010 in AAA, with a strong chance of seeing New York before the season ends.

5) Brad Holt, RHP (2009 – Dominance 69; Stamina 67; HRrate 46; Control 54)

We still are mixed, in our feelings about Holt. On the plus side, from the period of time that followed his first start of the 2009 season until he hurt his ankle, Holt was lights out in the FSL, earning the League’s #12 Performance score—and pitching even better than that. On the downside, Holt struggled after his return from the injury, and we aren’t sure whether it has to do with the mechanics caused by the injury time-off, or the challenge of facing more advanced hitters in AA. In either case, Holt possesses a low-90s fastball , complimenting it with a Curve that shows plus potential. His Change remains raw, and is likely the limiting factor to his development. His ceiling is that of a solid mid-rotation starter, but without a more effective change he may be looking at a late inning bullpen role. We hope that the Mets return him to AA to begin the season, and don’t expect to see him in New York before September.

Grade B

6) Ruben Tejada, SS (2009 – Power 35; First Base Rate 59; Discipline 75; Speed 80)

We like Tejada better than most, primarily because we think that he is a virtual shoo-in to be no worse than a solid middle infield reserve. Tejada’s glove is solid enough to play SS everyday. His speed is significant enough to allow him to steal 20+ bases per year. His plate discipline skills are remarkably advanced for a 19yo, and he has shown the potential for plus contact/on-base skills. Playing in the ESL last season, only Jesus Montero posted a better Performance Score. The only weakness is that he is unlikely to ever develop double digit home run power. At only 20yo for the 2010 season, Tejada will likely open up in AAA and see New York at some point during the season. While we believe that he has the upside of a Major League average everyday SS, it is far more likely that he has an Omar Infate-ish type of career.

7) Jon Niese, LHP (2009 – Dominance 60; Stamina 71; HRrate 48; Control 62)

With the ceiling of a mid- to late- rotation starter, the biggest question surrounding Niese is how he will respond to a horrific rupture of his hamstring in August. With a fastball that typically only sits in the high 80s, Niese’s bread and butter is his plus Curve and plus command. His Change is merely adequate. Niese uses his legs more than many pitchers, so the hamstring surgery is not a minor deal. If he proves healthy in the Spring, he could be in line to open the season in the Mets rotation. If not, look for him to spend time in AAA, until he proves ready. In either case, only the injury stands in the way of a spot for him in New York.

8) Josh Thole, C (2009 – Power 35; First Base Rate 75; Discipline 78; Speed 59)

In examining the Met organization, there appears to be predominantly two types of players: 1) High ceiling, aggressively pushed, Latin American players or low-ceiling American players. Thole is the first on the latter list. Thole has one of the best contact approaches in the system, and possesses excellent plate discipline skills. However, his contact-first approach generates little in the way of power, his speed is only adequate at best, and his catching defense is only adequate on good days. While there is a role for these type of players in the Majors, it is almost always in a reserve capacity. While he will be given a chance to earn the back-up spot in New York this Spring, expect Thole to open the season in AAA. He will have to make his way at Catcher, as he doesn’t have enough offense to profile at any other place that he can defensively play.

9) Jefry Marte, 3B (2009 – Power 45; First Base Rate 32; Discipline 47; Speed 38)

We are allowing Marte somewhat of a mulligan for 2009, as there is no way that the barely 18yo should have opened the season in the SAL, and he was coming off of the Top Offensive Performance in the GCL the previous year. The good news is that he posted a nearly 100 point OPS gain in the second half of the 2009 season, and finished the year with a Top 25 Performance score in the SAL. Marte has tremendous upside, as there is significant projectability left in him, projectable, at least, average Big League power, and, while still tremendously raw, a defensive skill set that could allow him to stay at thirdbase. While he did strike out in more than 22% of his plate appearances in 2009, we feel this was more from pressing than strike zone recognition, as this hadn’t been a problem in the GCL. One of his greatest strengths is an extremely advanced (maturity) approach to the game. The downside is that none of this translated into positive production in 2009. Look for the Mets to return Marte to the SAL to start the season, where he will play the first half as still an 18yo. We wouldn’t be surprised to see all the skills click this season, and see a big bounceback year.

10) Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF (2009 – Power 76; First Base Rate 45; Discipline 41; Speed 73)

While Nieuwenhuis still has his detractors, and doesn’t have a tremendously high-ceiling, he did make some believers with his 2009 performance, earning the #14 Performance score in the FSL. Showing the potential for plus power and above average speed, Niewenhuis played a solid CF for St. Lucie, and likely profiles as an above average defender in RF. His negatives include merely adequate contact skills, and below average strike zone management skills. There is enough here to believe that he could potentially become an average Big League outfielder, though the likelihood is that he is best suited as 4th OF type with value, capable of plus defense at all three positions. Nieuwenhuis will open 2010 in AA, with a likely shot at a roster spot in New York in 2011.

11) Jeurys Familia, RHP (2009 – Dominance 43; Stamina 73; HRrate 49; Control 48)

Only 19yo, Familia played the entire 2009 season in the SAL, where he posted the #13 Performance Score in the League. The most impressive part of his 2009 season was the in-season evolution, as he fanned 6.5 batters per 9IP and posted a 3.08 in the first-half, while fanning 8.4 batters per 9IP and posting a 2.17 ERA over the second half, mainly due to improvements in his secondary offerings. The downside is that Familia is still extremely raw, with currently only two Major League caliber offerings. Additionally, he fights occasional bouts of poor command. Familia has significant upside. He will start the 2010 season at Hi-A as a 20yo. It will be the development of his Change that dictates whether he can stay in the rotation, or becomes a late-inning bullpen guy.

12) Juan Urbina, LHP -

Widely regarded as the best International pitcher available, except some guy named Chapman, the Mets signed the 16yo to a $1.2MM bonus. Urbina already throws a 90MPH fastball, and a change that projects to be at least Major League average. He commands both pitches well, and has an extremely advanced feel for pitching, for a player so young. The downside is that he still struggles with his secondary offerings, and will need an improved Slider to experience significant success. The success rate for high profile 16yo Latin American pitchers isn’t great, but Urbina has all the makings of a good one. Expect for the Mets to have him make his U.S. debut in the GCL later this summer.

Grade B-

13) Reese Havens, 2B (2009 – Power 75; First Base Rate 58; Discipline 55; Speed 39)

Admittedly, we have not been as high on Havens, as have others, ever since the Mets took him in the first round of the 2008 draft. It’s not that he is without skills, just that we never saw him as a capable SS, and that makes his upside rather limited as a secondbasemen. We would have liked him as a solid pick if the Mets had gotten him a round later. A string of nagging injuries have limited him to 440 At Bats over his first two seasons, so there are plenty of unanswered questions, but for now, we know that as a 22yo in Hi-A he was only able to manage a .247/.361/.422 and he fanned in 18% of his PAs, without showing any real speed, or defensive prowess. The most encouraging aspect to his game is that he has a patient batting approach that should allow him to consistently reach base. In fact, we are somewhat surprised that he hasn’t batted more than .247 over his first two seasons. While he has good power for 2B, if he proves unable to stick there defensively, his bat becomes average, at best, as a corner OF. Look for him to open 2010 at AA, with a potential September call-up, if things go well.

14) Stephen Matz, LHP -

The Mets were able to draft Matz, in the second round this past June, right where we expected him to go. Matz possesses a low-90s fastball, with an average Change. While both his Curve and Slider are currently below average pitches, they show some promise. At 6’3”, 185lbs, there is still significant projection here. Relatively raw, Matz does have some mechanics issues with his delivery. Expect the Mets to keep him back in extended Spring Training to start the season, before deciding on his initial assignment—likley in a short-season league.

15) Ryota Igarashi, RP –

There is not a lot of upside in a 30yo right-handed reliever, who wasn’t even a closer in Japan, but the Mets signed him to a two year, $3 MM, contract in an effort to bolster their bullpen. With a fastball that can get into the mid-90s, and a quality splitter, the Mets expect Igarashi to make significant contributions, beginning this year. So, while the ceiling isn’t very high, the certainty factor is extremely high. This appears to be the appropriate place for a couple of years of solid Major League middle relief/set-up value.

16) Cesar Puello, OF (2009 – Power 55; First Base Rate 51; Discipline 42; Speed 75)

Without any single skill that grades as exceptional, it is easy to overlook Puello. However, he has at least average skills across the board, with Speed being his best skill. Only 18yo in 2009, Puello posted the #8 score in the APY. While Puello is capable of playing all three defensive OF positions, he is likely most valuable in RF. His greatest weakness is strike zone management, as he fanned in over 24% of his PAs. Puello doesn’t possess the upside of some of the other Latin American talent that has appeared on this list, but his floor could very well be that of a 4th OF type. Look for Puello to get his first taste of full-season ball in 2010, where he will take on the SAL as barely a 19yo.

17) Kyle Allen, RHP (2009 – Dominance 48; Stamina 68; HRrate 48; Control 38)

The Mets are higher on Allen, who held his own as a 19yo in the SAL in 2009, than we are. Allen possesses as low-90s fastball that he compliments with an average Slider and average Change. Another plus in his favor is his extremely high ability to pitch down and induce ground balls. We weren’t nearly as enamored with his 8Ks per 9IP, as his K/BFP rate ranked only 49th among SAL starters. More disconcerting was his occasional Command issues, as he walked 3.7 batters per 9IP, which ranked 40th among SAL starters. While Allen has solid skills, his upside isn’t as high as other pitchers in the organization. Expect him to begin 2010 in Hi-A.

18) Richard Lucas, 3B (2009 – Power 79; First Base Rate 76; Discipline 60; Speed 33)

The Mets selected Lucas with their 4th round pick in the 2007 draft. They were high enough on him to start the 2008 season as an 19yo in the SAL, but his stock tumbled after a disappointing 2008 season. In 2009, the Mets hit the ‘reset’ button on his development process, having him begin in the GCL, moving to the APY, before finishing with a brief appearance in the NYP. The results were considerably different this time around as he posted a .948 OPS between the three stops, finishing with the #7 Performance score in the APY. While not a huge ceiling type, Lucas does show above average power potential and contact skills, with average plate discipline. More importantly he is a capable defensive player at third base. Lucas will make a return visit to the SAL in 2010, and we expect completely different results this time around.

19) Robbie Shields, SS (2009 – Power 36; First Base Rate 34; Discipline 55; Speed 43)

We had Shields as a 5th round pick entering the draft, and admit to being a bit surprised when the Mets tabbed him in the 3rd round, after a disappointing junior year. While he played SS at Florida Southern, he profiled as an offensive second baseman in professional ball. More disconcerting for us was his abysmal NYP debut. None of Shields skills grade out as exceptional. While his most optimistic upside is that of a below average Major League secondbaseman, our feeling is that what he ultimately becomes will be far short of this. Look for Shields to open up 2010 in the SAL.

20) Scott Moviel, RP (2009 – Dominance 37; Stamina 68; HRrate 50; Control 48)

One of the taller prospects in the Minors, Moviel saw his 2009 season cut short by a knee injury. While the Mets thought enough of Moviel to make him their second round selection in 2007, it is a pick that has always puzzled us, as he doesn’t have a tremendous ceiling (how many 6’11” players can you say that about), with his fastball barely a low-90s offering, his curveball and change merely adequate pitches and he has occasional bouts with his command. But after spending his first three seasons as a starter, the Mets appear ready to move Moviel to the bullpen, where we have higher hopes for his success. As a reliever, Moviel will have to miss more bats and tighten up his control. Look for that journey to begin in AA in 2010.

Grade C+ Prospects

21) Zach Lutz, 3B; 22) Francisco Pena, C; 23) Robert Carson, LHP; 24) Brant Rustich, RP; 25) Alexander Sanchez, 1B; 26) Aderlin Rodriguez, 3B; 27) Dillon Gee, RHP; 28) Nick Santomauro, OF; 29) Eric Niesen, LHP; 30) Darrell Cecilliani, CF; 31) Stefan Welch, 1B; 32) Zach Dotson, LHP; 33) Jordany Valdespin, 2B; 34) Alonzo Harris, 2B; 35) Gilbert Gomez, OF; 36) Eddie Kunz, RP;

Grade C Prospects –

Eduardo Aldama; Yohan Almonte; Michael Antonini; Eric Beaulac; Sean Bowman; Angel Calero; Nicholas Carr; Yucarybert De La Cruz; Dock Doyle; Lucas Duda; Clint Everts; Darwin Frias; James Fuller; Carlos Guzman; Brahlam Maldonado; Collin McHugh; Roy Merritt; Dylan Owen; Andres Perez; Sean Ratliff; Armando Rodriguez; Javier Rodrigurez; Josh Satin; Josh Stinson; Tobi Stoner; Jhonathan Torres; Zach Von Tersch; Neifi Zapata;

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season. For additional information on our rankings methodology, see our recent Mailbag article here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions.


  1. how many of these players have you seen play in person?

  2. Of the players that we have ranked, we have seen probably less than 10% in person. If you throw in televison, WebTV, and video, probably more than half...maybe two-thirds.