As a baseball fan and analyst, I consider my knowledge of the minor leagues to be important. However, as a Mets fan, I consider my knowledge of their minor league system to be vital. This is why I have gone ahead and drawn up my list of the Top 40 prospects in the Mets farm system. Warning: I am not a scout; rather, I’m just a college kid with a love of minor league baseball, a good amount of knowledge about the Mets farm system, and a lot of time on my hands. Please don’t take this as a reflection of what anyone else but myself feels is the appropriate ranking of the Mets prospects.
My criteria: some combination of written scouting reports, performance, evaluations from prospects gurus (e.g. John Sickels, Kevin Goldstein, etc.), and position scarcity (yes, if I am rating between a shortstop and first baseman with similar numbers, the shortstop will get an edge; isn’t this the whole point of the defensive spectrum anyway?). So, without further ado:
1. OF Fernando Martinez, Triple-A/MLB
He didn’t fair all too well in the majors, but not many 20 year-olds do. His AAA numbers were solid, as he displayed his power with a .250 ISO. His centerfield defense was shaky, although he was solid in left field (sample size warning). He’ll probably start 2010 in Triple-A as he recovers from knee surgery, but could be a breakout player by 2011.
2. 1B/RF Ike Davis, High-A/Double-A
What a year for this guy. The tall lefty was a first-round pick for the Mets out of Arizona State in last year’s draft. He got off to a miserable pro start in Low-A Brooklyn in 2008, hitting just .256/.326/.326 in 239 plate appearances. But after leading the league in total bases in St. Lucie (with a .387 wOBA) to start the season, Davis, who just turned 22 years-old in March, went on an absolute tear for Double-A Binghamton, hitting .309/.386/.565 in fifty-five games. Primarily a first baseman, Davis spent the end of the season playing some right field, and has continued playing there for Team USA. It’s scary to think that out of a first base class in the 2008 Draft that included the likes of Justin Smoak, Yonder Alonso, David Cooper, and Allan Dykstra, Davis has been the biggest performer to date. Davis’s biggest hurdle in 2010 will be trying to garner more success against lefties. However, after hitting terribly against them in St. Lucie, he managed to post an .807 OPS against southpaws in Binghamton, so he could be on his way.
3. SP Jenrry Mejia, High-A/Double-A
What’s not to like about this kid? At 19 years-old, Mejia posted a 1.97 ERA in 50.1 High-A innings. Bumped up to Double-A Binghamton, his superficial numbers look weak (0-5, 4.47 ERA), but his peripherals are still solid. He’s suffering from a .350 BABIP thanks in part to a mediocre defense; however, he has a 3.49 FIP and has struck out 47 batters in just 44.1 innings. His walks have increased a tick, but with his age and talent, Mejia could find his way into some Top 50 (or higher) prospect lists this year.
4. SS Wilmer Flores, A
Oh, Wilmer. Mets fans went wild last year when the 16 year-old Venezuelan (who looks about 12) hit .310/.352/.490 for Rookie Kingsport. This year, Flores jumped up to Savannah at the A level and held his own, batting .264/.305/.332. As a 17 year-old in the Sally, that’s not that bad. However, scouts say he won’t stick at shortstop and that he will have to move to another position (most likely third base). Still, the performance is quite impressive given his age.
5. SP Jon Niese, Triple-A/MLB
The lefty owns a low-90’s fastball and big breaking curveball that give him the chance to be a successful major league pitcher, as he posted a tRA of 3.77 and a FIP of 3.24 in 25.2 MLB innings. Pitching in Triple-A for most of the year, Niese posted a 3.38 FIP for Buffalo and simply dominated minor league hitters before getting his call up to the majors. Niese’s 2009 ended in a way typical of the Mets 2009 season, as he injured his hamstring while covering first base (then proceeded to tear it while throwing a warm up pitch and surrounded by the Mets’ training staff). If he recovers successfully, he will most likely find his way as the Mets fourth or fifth starter next year.
6. SP Brad Holt, High-A/Double-A
Taken in the first supplemental round in the 2008 draft, Holt, a 6’4 righty out of UNC-Wilimgton, quickly impressed in his pro debut. After posting a 2.62 FIP for Brooklyn last year, Holt struck out 54 batters in 43.1 innings for St.Lucie in 2009 before being called up to Binghamton. However, his run of great pitching ended there. He only struck out 45 in 58 innings and walked 23 while giving up nine homers, leading to a 5.01 FIP. Holt is a power pitcher who has to rely on his plus fastball, so when he’s not striking out guys at a good enough rate it could lead to problems. However, he was hampered by an ankle injury, so we’ll see if he can bounce back in Binghamton in 2010.
7. SS Reese Havens, High-A
A big sleeper, Havens has been nagged by injuries since being taken by the Mets in the first round of last year’s draft. The lefty shortstop has some serious power, as he had ISO’s of .224 last year and .175 this year. A .275 BABIP has given him just a .247 batting average, but he’s maintained a walk rate of 13.3%, showing that when he combines power and a good eye with some luck on balls in play, he can be a big threat. He still needs to cut down on his strikeouts and work on his defense, as many see a move to second base in his future.
8. SP Jeurys Familia, A
Familia is a right-handed pitcher with a live arm. I’ll let the great Mike Newman of the must-read “Scouting the Sally” do the honors on the 19 year-old:
In only a couple of months, Familia has grown significantly as a prospect and should be garnering much more attention than he currently is. Behind Jenrry Mejia and Brad Holt, Familia is quickly becoming the third best upside arm in the entire organization and should have a place in the Mets top ten organizational prospects…Going forward, I’m extremely bullish based on the continuous improvement I’m seeing in his repertoire. He has made enormous strides since I first saw him and should continue to do so…With Familia flashing two plus pitches and a fiery demeanor, his downside potential is that of a late inning reliever. With the development of his change up and more consistent primary offerings, Familia could take off in 2010 and not look back.
9. C Josh Thole, Double-A/MLB
Thole, a converted first baseman, is an extremely interesting player. After moving to catcher in St. Lucie last year, he put up a line of .300/.382/.427. In Double-A Binghamton as a 22 year-old this year, he took off, batting .328/.395/.422, and has been brought up to the major leagues where he has gotten off to a nice start. Thole has little raw power (ISO of just .094 in Binghamton), but is an extreme contact hitter (BB:K of 1.24) who sprays the ball to all fields. My favorite comp: Paul LoDuca; contact hitter who hits line drives and derives his power from his doubles.
10. SS Ruben Tejada, Double-A
Tejada smoked the GCL to a line of .283/.401/.367 in his 2007 pro debut. However, the Mets seemingly rushed him to High-A St. Lucie in 2008 where he hit a meager .229/.293/.296 as an 18 year-old. This could’ve been another case of the Mets rushing a Latino prospect into oblivion, but maybe New York knew what it was doing. Placed in Double-A in 2009, Tejada broke out, hitting .289/.351/.381 in a full season while playing solid shortstop. Oh, and he was just 19 years-old, one of the youngest starters in the league. Tejada’s future may be at second base in the big leagues, but he first needs to show that 2009 wasn’t a fluke.
11. CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis, High-A/Double-A
Nieuwenhuis, a centerfielder out of Azusa Pacific University, was having a pretty good year until August started. Then he had an excellent year. Nieu’s combination of speed and power was a lethal combination, leading to a .193 ISO and sixteen stolen bases in twenty tries. With a .383 wOBA in St. Lucie, the lefty, who spent most of the year as a 21 year-old, moved up to Binghamton and finished the year strong, hitting .406/.472/.656 in 36 plate appearances. Last year, the invaluable Toby Hyde of Mets Minor League Blog said of Nieuwenhuis:
[He] has a big league frame with length and some room to fill out. He has big league tools, notably the speed, range and instincts to play center and the arm to play right. He has big league taste, listing sushi as his favorite food. Nieuwenhuis has a clean swing mechanically, and gap power right now.
12. SP Kyle Allen, A
Another staple in the Sand Gnats rotation, Allen is an interesting prospect. Born in Portugal, Allen is a tall, lanky pitcher who sits at 90-93 MPH with his fastball and features a nice changeup and slider. He’s effective in getting grounders, and the 19 year-old (born in 1990…man I feel old) struck out 111 batters in 125 innings. However, he also walked 51, hit 11, threw 10 wild pitches, and balked twice. Command is definitely an issue, but shouldn’t be much of a problem for a young kid competing at an older level. Allen was impressive in his 2008 campaign as well, striking out 45 in 34 innings with a 2.12 ERA. He should be part of an impressive St. Lucie rotation next year.
13. SP Robert Carson, A
Speaking of that 2011 St. Lucie rotation, Carson is another young pitcher who impressed for Savannah this year. Jumping from Rookie ball in 2008 to A ball this year, the 20 year-old lefty features a low 90’s fastball (tops out around 92 MPH) that helped him to a 3.21 ERA and 3.37 FIP. Carson has to work on getting more whiffs if he wants to compete at higher levels.
14. SP Steven Matz, High School
Matz, the first pick for the Mets in the 2009 draft, is a lefty out of Ward Melville High School in Long Island. Although he grew up close to the Mets, this wasn’t a homer pick by any means; Matz sports a high 80’s fastball that should pick up velocity as he eases into becoming a pro. His best comp is probably Barry Zito, as this tall lefty also sports a nice curveball and changeup that could make him an effective starting pitcher in the big leagues some day.
15. 3B Zach Lutz, High-A/Double-A
Lutz, the Mets fifth round pick in 2007 out of Alvernia College, is able to smoke the ball. He got off to an okay start for St. Lucie, then took off the rest of the year. The right-handed 23 year-old hit .284/.381/.441 and maintained a solid eye with a walk rate of 12.3%. In a brief call-up to Binghamton, Lutz hit .207/.324/.241 (14.7% walk rate) in eight games. He’s a polished hitter who has a great eye; however, he needs to hit for more power if he wants to be a starting third baseman in the major leagues because his defense isn’t good enough to make up for it.
16. SP Juan Urbina, International Signee
17. 3B Jefrey Marte, A
18. SP Dillon Gee, Double-A/Triple-A
19. OF Cesar Puello, Rookie
20. SP Scott Moviel, High-A
21. SP Brant Rustich, High-A
22. SP Eric Beaulac, A/High-A
23. SP Eric Niesen, Double-A
24. 2B Alonzo Harris, Rookie/Low-A
25. P Tobi Stoner, Triple-A/MLB
26. 2B Jordany Valdespin Low-A/A
27. RP Eddie Kunz, Triple-A
28. OF Darrell Celiciani, Rookie
29. SP Mike Anonini, Double-A/Triple-A
30. SS Robbie Shields, Low-A
31. C Francisco Pena, High-A
32. C Nelfi Zapata, Rookie
33. OF Carlos Guzman, High-A/Double-A
34. SP Zach Dotson, High School
35. SP Eduardo Aldama, Rookie/A
36. SP Jim Fuller, Low-A
37. SP Nick Carr, High-A
38. 3B Richard Lucas, Rookie/Low-A
39. 3B Aderlin Rodriguez, Rookie
40. SP Armando Rodriguez, Rookie/A
Just missing: 1B/LF Lucas Duda, 3B/1B Stefan Welch, CF Javier Rodriguez, SP Brandon Moore, OF Nick Santomauro