NEW YORK—Two years into Sandy Alderson's reign as general manager, the Mets farm system has shown signs of improvement.
Team officials often rave about the collection of young righthanders, with standouts like Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler leading the charge, and lesser-known names like Domingo Tapia and Rafael Montero on the verge of breaking out.
However, the organization's dearth of viable position prospects remains a concern.
That's why any potentially useful position player is worth keeping an eye on, such as undersized Venezuelan corner outfielder Vicente Lupo, who torched the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2012.
After a dominant sophomore campaign—he batted 343/.500/.608 with 10 homers in 204 at-bats—Lupo figures to make his U.S. debut in 2013 at age 19.
Baseball America ranked him the No. 25 player available during the 2010 international signing period. Scouts liked Lupo's solid frame when he was a teenager in Caracas, though he struggled during his DSL debut season in 2011. For the record, team officials chalk that up to him battling an illness.
Lupo betrayed none of those symptoms in 2012. He carried his plus raw power into games, ranking second in the DSL in homers, slugging and extra-base hits (31). He walked 46 times, struck out just 45 and led the league with a 1.108 OPS.
Rookie-ball performance means only so much. To stand out as a prospect, Lupo will need to hit—and hit some more.
For young players, the process of development is rarely a straight line. Lupo will be challenged when he arrives at spring training in 2013, but he's a player worth keeping an eye on in an organization desperate for useful position players.
• The Mets appreciate how catcher Mike Nickeas works with young pitchers, which is why they quickly re-signed him to a minor league deal after he elected free agency. He received an invitation to big league spring training.
• Righthander Greg Burke, whom Mets officials knew from their Padres days, received a similar deal to Nickeas after notching a 3-1 K-BB ratio and 0.94 WHIP in 65 relief innings in the Orioles system in 2012. His arrival even prompted vice president of scouting and player development Paul DePodesta to Tweet for the first time.