Talent In Instructional League Heartens Mets Skipper





NEW YORK—With the season over, another losing campaign in the books, Mets manager Terry Collins decided to visit the organization's minor league complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., a few days after the finale in Miami.

As instructional league wound down, he wanted to see some of the team's younger prospects at work.

Player development runs in Collins' blood. He served as Mets field coordinator prior to becoming manager, and he held the same position with the Dodgers in the 2000s.

In particular, Collins had his eye on a few early-round picks from the 2012 draft such as shortstops Gavin Cecchini and Matt Reynolds and catcher Kevin Plawecki—plus center fielder Brandon Nimmo, the team's first-rounder in 2011.

The group of players at instructional league was "probably the youngest I've ever been around," minor league field coordinator Dick Scott said, indicating reason for optimism while watching the players.

The 12th overall pick in June, Cecchini hit .246/.311/.330 in 191 at-bats for Rookie-level Kingsport. The 18-year-old from a high school in Lake Charles, La., suffered a small fracture on his finger after getting hit by a pitch in August, though he required minimal recovery time.

"He's held his own," Scott said. "Cecchini's been playing on probably the equivalent of a High-A team, which is great. He's done a nice job."

Both Plawecki and Reynolds are college players. The former caught at Purdue, and his advancement could be critical, especially after Josh Thole's bat disappeared during the 2012 season. Plawecki hit .250/.345/.384 with a 25-to-24 walk-to-strikeout ratio for short-season Brooklyn.

Reynolds, who attended Arkansas, skipped over Brooklyn and headed directly to low Class A Savannah, where he hit .259/.335/.367 with three homers in 158 at-bats.

Of course, at this stage, the statistics don't matter nearly as much as the potential for development. That's why the Mets are encouraged about Cecchini, Plawecki and Reynolds.

METAMORPHOSES

• The Mets want utilityman Jordany Valdespin to primarily play second base for Licey in the Dominican League this offseason. He played second, shortstop and all three outfield posts for the big league club this year, but the team would like an insurance policy at the keystone.

• Three players who spent most of the season with Triple-A Buffalo—lefthander Justin Hampson, catcher Rob Johnson and outfielder Fred Lewis—elected free agency after being removed from the 40-man roster. The Mets need to clear roster space to shield players from the Rule 5 draft.