Mets Top 10 Prospects
By Bill Ballew
Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz, Roger Cedeno and Mo Vaughn were brought in at great expense and to much fanfare, but none lived up to his billing. A 15-game home losing streak in August was followed by reports of marijuana use by several players, including published photographs of Grant Roberts using the drug. The soap opera between general manager Steve Phillips and manager Bobby Valentine ended with Valentines firing after the club finished in last place for the first time since 1993.
The local media showed little restraint in criticizing the hiring of former Athletics manager Art Howe to replace Valentine. Howe comes with an impressive track record, however, including three straight postseason appearances and 103 wins last season. More important, his calm and confident demeanor could prove to be the perfect change of pace to the chaos that swirled around Valentine.
Howe inherits an aging major league roster that figures to remain in a state of flux. To patch some of the Mets numerous holes, Phillips signed Cliff Floyd, Tom Glavine and Mike Stanton as free agents. The farm system should be able to provide reinforcements soon.
Despite losing several early picks in recent years as compensation for free agents, Gary LaRocque has overseen five productive drafts, first as scouting director and now as assistant GM. His initial effort in 1998 has produced five major leaguers (Jason Tyner, Pat Strange, Ty Wigginton, Jaime Cerda, Earl Snyder) and a Top 10 Prospect in Craig Brazell.
LaRocque and director of amateur scouting Jack Bowen got the steal of the 2002 draft when lefthander Scott Kazmir fell to them at 15th overall. The Mets surrendered their second- and third-rounders to sign David Weathers and Cedeno, but found promising players in later rounds, including outfielders Bobby Malek and Jon Slack, righthander Adam Elliott and third baseman/catcher Shawn Bowman. New York also is encouraged by the rapid progress made by outfielder Jamar Hill, a draft-and-follow who signed in May.
The Mets are improving as an organization. Their system is deep with middle-of-the-rotation starters, catchers and athletic outfielders. Even after losing Enrique Cruz in the major league Rule 5 draft, they also have upgraded at the infield corners after being thin there a couple of years ago.
Age: 19. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1999. Signed by: Eddy Toledo.
Background: After finishing fifth in the low Class A South Atlantic League batting race in 2001, when he was the youngest regular in any full-season league, Reyes was even better in 2002. He stood out in big league camp before reporting to the high Class A Florida State League, where he earned a quick promotion to the Double-A Eastern League. Managers in both leagues rated him the top defensive shortstop, strongest infield arm and most exciting player. He also was MVP at the Futures Game after stroking a bases-loaded triple, appropriate, as Reyes led all minor leaguers with 19 triples while ranking fifth in runs and sixth in steals. He has emerged as the best shortstop prospect in the game.
Strengths: Reyes surprises people with his solid physique. His dedication to improving his strength, along with natural maturation, have transformed him from a skinny kid into an impressive specimen. He drives the ball more consistently to all fields. Reyes plate discipline improved in high Class A before slipping after he reported to Double-A. Hes an excellent baserunner with plus speed. He has demonstrated Gold Glove ability throughout his career, with a strong arm and tremendous range.
Weaknesses: Reyes needs to make improvements that should come with experience. Hell need more consistent strike-zone discipline to succeed against better pitching and to become the true leadoff hitter the Mets need. Reyes also is prone to making youthful mistakes in the field, though part of that stems from his exuberance. While hes a prolific basestealer, he can become more effective after getting caught 24 times last year.
The Future: Reyes is the Mets best everyday prospect since Darryl Strawberry blazed through the system in the early 1980s. Though the organization shuns comparisons to other players, Reyes all-around ability and athleticism remind scouts of Alfonso Soriano. The Mets unloaded Rey Ordonez to the Devil Rays in December, clearing the way for Reyes in the long term. The club did sign Rey Sanchez as a stopgap to give Reyes some time in Triple-A to make final preparations for New York, if he needs it.
Click here for prospects 2-10.
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