PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—The Mets added six players to the 40-man roster last fall to shield them from selection in the Rule 5 draft. Those protected ranged in stature from Zack Wheeler, the system's top prosepct, to Hansel Robles, a 22-year-old righthander who spent last year carving up batters for short-season Brooklyn.
Even though he signed out of the Dominican Republic in August 2008, Robles lacks full-season experience. Yet New York feared his fastball command and feel for pitching would draw attention in the Rule 5.
"We think he's a guy who can move fast," vice president for scouting and player development Paul DePodesta said. "We think he's got a real ceiling, too.
"It's one thing to lose a guy if you think, 'Hey, he can be a big leaguer, but maybe it's just a role player.' We think he has a chance to be something more than that, so we didn't want to risk the chance of losing him."
Robles paced the New York-Penn League last year with a 1.11 ERA and 0.78 WHIP. He didn't allow an earned run in his final 45 regular-season innings, then tossed a four-hit shutout at Hudson Valley in the playoffs.
Not bad for someone who spent all of 2011 in the Rookie-level Kingsport bullpen.
"He's always had a good arm," DePodesta said, "and always had a very good changeup.
"For him, partly, it was a matter of opportunity, and it was also just a matter of increased command—because he had the stuff."
DePodesta said that Robles' fastball ranges from 92-96 mph with the best sinking life in the system.
• Outfielder/second baseman Jordany Valdespin hit a postseason-best .424 (36-for-85) for runner-up Escogido during the Dominican League playoffs. He also paced all participants with 11 steals, eight doubles and 13 runs scored.
• The Mets sought to ease second baseman Reese Havens into baseball activity as spring training opened. The 2008 first-rounder has been plagued by back problems that limited him to 94 games at Double-A last season.