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Top Ten Prospects: New York Mets
Complete Index of Top 10s

By Matt Meyers
November 11, 2005


Chat Wrap: Matt Meyers took your Mets questions
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2006.

Unlike the year before, the Mets resisted the urge to part with their top prospects at the 2005 trade deadline in an effort to bolster their playoff chances. Ironically, the team was more suited for a postseason run and stayed in the National League wild-card race until late September.

Omar Minaya made a splash in his first offseason as Mets general manager by signing Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran to lavish contracts. While Martinez proved to be the frontline starter the Mets hoped, Beltran was a disappointment. Nonetheless, New York hovered around .500 in late July and rumors circulated that they were close to acquiring Manny Ramirez and Danys Baez in a variety of three-team scenarios with the Red Sox and Devil Rays that would have cost them top prospects Lastings Milledge and Yusmeiro Petit, along with Mike Cameron.

While they failed to make the postseason, their hesitance to part with their top prospects for short-term gain indicated a potential change in organizational philosophy and a willingness to build through their farm system.

While the Mets system has lacked depth for years, it has produced impact talents such as Scott Kazmir (sent to Tampa Bay in a horribly shortsighted deal for Victor Zambrano in 2004), Jose Reyes and David Wright. Their emergence influenced Minaya’s decision to ultimately not part with Milledge and Petit, who soon should get a chance to make their mark in New York.

The Mets bolstered their system in 2005 by delving into the Latin American market, which was as strong as it had been in years. They invested a total of $2.1 million in a pair of 16-year-olds, power-hitting Dominican outfielder Fernando Martinez and projectable Venezuelan righthander Deolis Guerra.

Minaya was once the Mets’ international scouting director, and seems intent on making his club the dominant force in signing Latin American talent. New York saw the Martinez and Guerra signings as a way to make up for the loss of their second- and third-round picks in the 2005 draft as free-agent compensation.

Minaya also has made an imprint on the scouting department, restructuring it twice since becoming GM. After the 2005 season, 11 scouts were fired or demoted. Russ Bove, who had replaced Jack Bowen as director of amateur scouting a year ago, was reassigned as a major league scout. Assistant scouting director Rudy Terrasas was promoted to replace Bove.
Mets officials were miffed they were unable to reach down into its system to promote major league players when injuries hit.

It’s hard to put all the blame on the scouting department for that lack of depth, however. In three of the last four drafts, the Mets have given up their second- and third-round picks after signing free agents.

Mike Pelfrey, considered the best pitching prospect in the 2005 draft, slipped to New York as the ninth overall pick because of a high price tag. He had yet to sign by the end of October, but the Mets were expected to work out a deal this winter.


1. LASTINGS MILLEDGE , of       Age: 20 Ht: 6-1 Wt: 185 B-T: R-R
Drafted: HS—Palmetto, Fla., 2003 (1st round)   Signed by: Joe Salerno

Background: In the Mets’ draft room in 2003, the decision came down to Milledge or righthander Jeff Allison. The Mets loved Milledge’s talent, but were worried about allegations of sexual misconduct at his high school. They decided they had a positive read on his makeup, and his talent was too tantalizing too pass up. The Mets haven’t had any reason to second-guess their decision, as Milledge has established himself as an elite prospect while Allison has battled drug addiction. Milledge’s talent has been evident since he played youth baseball, as he led Manatee East to the 1997 Little League World Series. He comes from a baseball family, as his father Tony Sr. and brothers Anthony and Tony Jr. all played professionally. The family has followed Milledge’s career throughout the minors in a recreational vehicle affectionately dubbed “Milledgeville.” While he was rumored to be involved in a myriad of deadline deals in July, the Mets held onto Milledge and he rewarded them by tormenting Double-A pitching in the second half. He ranked as the top position prospect in the Eastern League.

Strengths: The first thing scouts mention about Milledge is his lightning-quick bat speed. Milledge boasts one of the fastest bats in the minor leagues, allowing him to wait on pitches longer than most. He uses the entire field and has the strength to hit for average as well as power once he matures as a hitter. He made very good adjustments after he moved from high Class A St. Lucie to Binghamton, improving his pitch recognition. It’s still unclear as to whether Milledge profiles better at the top or in the middle of the order. He has above-average speed that he uses to his advantage on the bases and in center field, and he also has a plus arm. With his package of five tools, Milledge has few peers in the minors, and he has produced throughout his minor league career.

Weaknesses: The biggest knock on Milledge is his inability to control the strike zone. He’s a free swinger prone to chasing breaking balls out of the zone, and he hasn’t drawn many walks even though pitchers are wary of him. Though he has the speed to steal bases, his instincts are unrefined and he was caught in 38 percent of his attempts in 2005. He stands up too quickly when he moves toward second base, which slows him down. Milledge has lost time to work on those flaws having played just 204 games in 21/2 pro seasons. He held out for most of the summer in 2003, and a broken finger (in 2004) and a shoulder injury (in 2005) cost him playing time the last two seasons.

The Future: With Carlos Beltran entrenched in center field at Shea, Milledge might need to try his hand in right. He’ll still play center in the minors in 2006, probably at Triple-A Norfolk, and could make his major league debut before the end of the season. With Beltran still in his prime and Milledge, Jose Reyes and David Wright not having reached theirs, the heart of New York’s lineup should be in good shape for years to come.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
St. Lucie (Hi A) .302 .385 .418 232 48 70 15 0 4 22 19 41 18 13
Binghamton (AA) .337 .392 .487 193 33 65 17 0 4 24 14 47 11 5


2. YUSMEIRO PETIT , rhp       Age: 21 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-0 Wt.: 230
Signed: Venezuela, 2001   Signed by: Gregoria Machado

Background: : Petit continues to dominate with stuff that is typically deemed ordinary. He had no trouble making the jump to Double-A, and though he struggled in a late callup to Triple-A, he fanned 14 in a playoff start there. He pitched in the Futures Game for the second straight year.


Strengths:
Petit’s four-pitch attack plays up because of his above-average command and deception. Some grade his 88-90 mph fastball as a plus because of its movement and his ability to hide the ball well. He complements the fastball with a solid changeup, a slider and a curve.

  

Weaknesses:
With stuff that is, at best, a tick better than average, scouts continue to question whether he has enough to succeed in the majors. While he mows down righthanders, he struggled in 2005 against lefties who slugged .525 against him. At 6-feet and 230 pounds, he must watch his weight.

  

The Future:
Petit’s numbers suggest a frontline starter, but his raw stuff profiles him toward the back of a rotation. Like Lastings Milledge, he’ll probably open 2006 in Triple-A and make his big league debut in the second half.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Binghamton (AA) 9 3 2.91 21 21 2 0 118 90 15 18 130 .209
Norfolk (AAA) 0 3 9.20 3 3 0 0 15 24 0 6 14 .375


3. GABY HERNANDEZ, rhp        Age: 19 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt.: 215
Drafted: HS—Miami, 2004 (3rd round)  Signed by: Joe Salermo

Background: After dominating the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in his pro debut, Hernandez did the same in the low Class A South Atlantic League as a teenager. He no-hit West Virginia on Father’s Day to clinch a share of the Northern Division first-half title, then beat top Astros prospect Troy Patton in a one-game playoff to win it.


Strengths:
Hernandez commands a two-seam fastball with low-90s velocity and excellent life. He also has the makings of a plus changeup. He employs an effortless delivery that bodes well for his command, and he’s not afraid to challenge hitters. His grasp of the game is well beyond his youth.

  

Weaknesses:
Hernandez’s curveball is a work in progress. It lacks depth and he tends to reveal it early. He’s not overpowering enough to survive without a good breaking ball, a point more advanced hitters drove home following his promotion to high Class A.

  

The Future:
Struggling in high Class A was to be expected, and Hernandez will get another shot at the Florida State League in 2006. He projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter if his curve develops.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Hagerstown (Lo A) 6 1 2.43 18 18 1 0 93 59 4 30 99 .179
St. Lucie (Hi A) 2 5 5.74 10 10 0 0 42 48 1 10 32 .298


4. MIKE JACOBS, c/1b        Age: 25 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-2 Wt.: 200
Drafted: Grossmont (Calif.) JC, 1999 (38th round)   Signed by: Bob Minor

Background: The Mets’ minor league player of the year in 2003, Jacobs missed most of the following season with a torn labrum. He came back to win the Eastern League MVP and organization player of the year awards in 2005, and became the first big leaguer ever to homer four times in his first four games.


Strengths:
Jacobs is primarily a pull hitter with power, but he can drive the ball to the opposite field on occasion. He has a smooth lefthanded stroke and is a purely offensive player. Though the Mets benched him against lefties, he handled them well in Double-A, posting a .896 OPS.

  

Weaknesses:
While he came up as a catcher, Jacobs split time behind the plate and at first base in Double-A and only played first in his brief stint in New York. He has below-average catch-and-throw skills, but is adequate at first. His swing can get long at times, and plate discipline has never been his strong suit.

  

The Future:
The Mets have yet to decide if they will give him a shot behind the plate, but they’re also in the market for a first baseman. Without an offseason move, he’s their best in-house option for 2006.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Binghamton (AA) .321 .376 .589 433 66 139 37 2 25 93 35 94 1 2
New York (NL) .310 .375 .710 100 19 31 7 0 11 23 10 22 0 0


5. PHILIP HUMBER, rhp        Age: 23 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt.: 210
Drafted: Rice, 2004 (1st round)   Signed by: Dave Lottsfeldt

Background: Humber won the final game of the 2003 College World Series and was one of three Rice pitchers to go in the first eight picks in 2004. Considered the safest bet among pitches in that draft, Humber proved anything but after blowing out his elbow 15 starts into his pro career and had Tommy John surgery in July.


Strengths:
Never fully healthy in his pro debut, Humber showed flashes of why he was a No. 3 overall pick. He has two plus pitches, a 12-to-6 curveball and a 91-94 mph fastball. He can vary the break on his curve so it runs in on lefthanders. His changeup eventually could give him a third above-average pitch.

  

Weaknesses:
The biggest question is how he’ll return from reconstructive elbow surgery. He fills the strike zone with all three of his pitches, but his command isn’t at the same level of his control. He got hit hard when he left his fastball and changeup up and over the plate.

  

The Future:
The Mets hope Humber, like many Tommy John survivors, will come back stronger than before. He’s scheduled to return to the mound in the second half of 2006.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
St. Lucie (Hi A) 2 6 4.99 14 14 0 0 70 74 6 18 65 .273
Bighamton (AA) 0 1 6.75 1 1 0 0 4 4 0 2 2 .250


6. CARLOS GOMEZ, of       Age: 20 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt.: 190
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2002   Signed by: Eddy Toledo

Background: Signed as a speedy but wiry 16-year-old, Gomez has grown into his body and some in the organization think his raw tools might be better than Milledge’s. Eight months younger than Milledge, Gomez isn’t nearly as polished.


Strengths:
Gomez excites scouts with his raw power, speed and arm strength. He can put on a show in batting practice, ranked second in the minors with 64 steals in 2005 and has the best outfield arm in the system. Though he always has been young for his league, he has had no trouble making consistent contact.

  

Weaknesses:
Still extremely raw, Gomez hasn’t shown much power in game situations because he doesn’t control the strike zone, tends to let his hands drift to the ball and often overstrides. He’s also unrefined on the bases, getting caught stealing 24 times in 2005. He can be erratic as a center and right fielder as well.

  

The Future:
Gomez flashed enough upside potential in low Class A that he should begin 2006 in the Florida State League, a notably pitcher-friendly environment. If everything comes together, he’ll be New York’s right fielder of the future.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Hagerstown (Lo A) .275 .331 .376 487 75 134 13 6 8 48 32 88 64 24


7. FERNANDO MARTINEZ, of       Age: 17 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-0 Wt.: 185
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005   Signed by: Rafael Bournigal/Sandy Johnson/Eddy Toledo

Background: In their first year under Omar Minaya, the majors’ lone Hispanic general manager, the Mets were extremely aggressive in mining Latin America. Their biggest splash was Martinez, who signed for $1.4 million. New York, which lacked second- and third-round picks in the draft, believes he matched up with any U.S. high school outfielder taken in the draft.


Strengths:
Martinez’ hitting approach is well beyond his years. He maintains his balance very well while keeping his hands back in his stance. His bat and power are both plus tools, and he’s a good athlete with solid speed and arm strength.

  

Weaknesses:
Though he’s very advanced for his age, Martinez still will need plenty of time to refine his game and is unproven against pro competition. Currently a center fielder, he projects as a right fielder and his bat will need to carry him if he’s to become a star at that position.

  

The Future:
Because of his precocious hitting skills, the Mets believe Martinez may be able to handle a full-season league in 2006. If they send him to Hagerstown, he’ll almost certainly be the youngest player in the South Atlantic League at 17.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Did Not Play—Signed 2006 Contract


8. ANDERSON HERNANDEZ ss/2b       Age: 23 B-T: B-R Ht: 5-9 Wt.: 170
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001  Signed by: Ramon Pena (Tigers)

Background: No player in the organization bolstered his prospect status in 2005 more than Hernandez. After coming over from the Tigers in a trade for Vance Wilson, he shed his good-field/no-hit reputation and emerged as a potential everyday player.


Strengths:
A switch-hitter, Hernandez is adept from both sides of the plate. He has learned to focus on using the whole field and to make use of his plus speed. Defensively, he has very soft hands, above-average range and an average, accurate arm. He has excellent body control and lateral mobility.

  

Weaknesses:
For a player with very little power, Hernandez doesn’t control the strike zone, and he needs to do a better job of making contact. For all his defensive gifts, he gets himself into trouble when he tries to be flashy.

  

The Future:
Hernandez isn’t going to move Jose Reyes off of shortstop, but the disappointing Kaz Matsui is vulnerable at second base. Most likely, Hernandez will wind up becoming a dependable utilityman.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Binghamton (AA) .326 .360 .462 273 46 89 14 1 7 24 14 58 11 9
Norfolk (AAA) .303 .354 .379 261 34 79 6 4 2 30 22 46 24 9
New York (NL) .056 .105 .056 18 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 4 0 1


9. BRIAN BANNISTER, rhp       Age: 25 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt.: 205
Drafted: Southern California, 2003 (7th round)   Signed by: Steve Leavitt

Background: Bannister’s father Floyd was the first overall pick in June 1976 and a 134-game winner over 15 major league seasons. His brother Brett pitched with Brian at Southern California and signed with the Mariners as a 19th-round pick in 2005. Brian greatly exceeded expectations in 2005, finishing the year as the No. 1 starter for Team USA at the World Cup. He allowed 13 runs in seven innings over two starts against Nicaragua and Cuba.


Strengths:
Refining his cutter helped Bannister take a huge step forward. He spots his cutter and his 90-mph fastball to both sides of the plate. His 12-to-6 curveball can be devastating at times.

  

Weaknesses:
Despite his success, Bannister still raises some obvious red flags. His fastball’s movement is less impressive than its average velocity, and he tends to leave it up in the zone. He doesn’t have much feel for a changeup, and his curveball is inconsistent.

  

The Future:
Bannister held his own in Triple-A and probably will return there in 2006. He’ll be among the first in line for a callup in 2006 and could become as much as a No. 4 or 5 starter.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Binghamton (AA) 9 4 2.56 18 18 1 0 109 91 11 27 94 .232
Norfolk (AAA) 4 1 3.18 8 8 0 0 45 48 0 13 48 .270


10. ALAY SOLER , rhp       Age: 26 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt.: 240
Signed: Cuba, 2004   Signed by: Rafael Bournigal

Background: The biggest mystery in the system, Soler has yet to pitch in pro ball after signing a three-year, $2.8 million contract in September 2004. A Cuban defector who received asylum from the Dominican Republic, he did not get his visa until late October, and spent 2005 at the Mets’ Dominican academy.


Strengths:
Soler has two plus pitches, a 91-94 mph fastball and a low-80s slider with exceptional depth. The Mets think his big-game experience in Cuba—he helped them win the 2002 World University Games—will serve him well under the bright lights of New York.

  

Weaknesses:
Using a three-quarters delivery, Soler sometimes gets under his pitches and leaves them high in the strike zone. The harder he throws, the more he struggles with his fastball command. Many Cuban defectors have needed time to adjust to a new culture and lifestyle in the United States.

  

The Future:
Soler is already 26 and likely will start his pro career in Double-A once he reaches the United States. He has enough stuff to start but also projects as a possible closer, a role for which the Mets have no obvious long-term candidate.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Pitch—Visa Problems


Photo Credits:
Gomez: Rich Abel
Martinez: Mark Levine
Bannister, A.Hernandez, G.Hernandez, Humber, Petit: Steve More
Milledge: Kevin Pataky

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