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Mets Chat with J.J. Cooper

Moderator: J.J. Cooper will begin taking your Mets questions at 2 p.m. ET

Moderator: OK, here we go a couple of minutes early. Hi everyone and thanks for stopping by.

 Q:  Jason from NY asks:
Raw outfielders Carlos Gomez, Jamar Hill, and Jesus Gamaro have been getting a lot of (virtual) ink lately. How legit are these guys? Which would you say has the highest ceiling?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: At this time last year, the Mets stock of toolsy outfielders with any production at all was pretty slim. But Concepcion, Gomez, Gamero, Hill and even improved production from Angel Pagan has changed that a little bit. All three you mentioned are legit, although none is anywhere close to a sure bet. All have significant upsides, but if I had to choose one with the highest ceiling, I'd take Hill. He has the best raw power in the system, and he took a big step towards turning that into useable power this season. He's obviously a little old for the South Atlantic League, but considering he came from Alaska, it's not too surprising that he had a little catching up to do when he signed with the Mets.

 Q:  Ricardo from Los Angeles asks:
Why is Concepcion ranked above Diaz?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Diaz has produced more than Concepcion, obviously. But I put Concepcion about Diaz because, as I see it, Concepcion's ceiling is higher. We're talking about the difference between an athletic corner outfielder (who can handle center field) with a potentially strong bat, and a poor defensive left fielder who still has questions about if there really is a position for him. The questions about Diaz' defense mean that he has to really produce with the bat to start at the major league level, and with his free-swinging ways, he'll have to show major power production to make up for what projects to be a .330-.340 OBP. Concepcion also has some questions, but his ability to be a solid defensive outfielder with some more versatility gives him a little more leeway.

 Q:  John Vozab from Amenia, NY asks:
What's the status of negotiations with #1 pick Humbert? How would his signing affect the Met Prospect list? Thanks, John
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: OK, I'll try to address all of the Phillip Humber questions in one. With all of the unsigned first rounders, there seems to be little impetus on either side to get a deal done during the winter. It seems that on the players' side, the unsigned players don't want to sign a deal too quickly only to watch Jeff Weaver sign a much more lucrative deal. On the team's side, there's no real benefit to signing a guy in January instead of March. When spring training nears, expect to see negotiations with all of the unsigned first rounders heat up. As far as where he would rank on this list, he'd be behind Milledge, and maybe Petit, but I think he'd be third at the worst. He's a much surer bet with more upside than anyone else in the Mets top 10 not named Lastings Milledge.

 Q:  LF from The Crane Pool Forum asks:
Any explanations for Royce Ring's reported loss of velocity that's dropped him from his once loftier perch on the pitching pecking order?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Ring has gained some weight and watched his fastball drop off to the mid to high 80s. For a guy who was once projected as a potential closer, right now Ring looks more like an org guy. He could bounce back, as his arm at one point was pretty lively, but with his current stuff, it's hard to project him as more than a middle innings reliever. His performance in the AFL didn't help his case much.

 Q:  Jimmy from Port St. Lucie, FL asks:
Two part question...Where would you rank the Mets farm system from top to bottom in the majors? Now that Shawn Bowman is making his way up the charts, do you see them trying to have him learn some other positions or is he simply trade ammo?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: As I talked about in the overview, the system will assuredly rank lower than it has in recent years. Because of promotions and trades of last year's top 10, only four players are still eligible for this year's top 10. As far as Bowman, he'll stay at third base for the time being. He's far enough away where it's more valuable to let him develop than risk playing him at other positions because of a logjam that is 2-3 years down the road at best.

 Q:  Jay from Manhattan asks:
Did Blake McGinley make the Top 30? Do you think he has a shot of making the Mets at all?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: He'll definitely make the top 30. He's limited in how high he ranks because of his ceiling, which is that of a solid middle reliever, but I believe McGinley will end up having some sort of a major league career. He throws strikes, gets guys out and knows how to pitch. His stuff seems pedestrian, but he's had enough success at Double-A and Triple-A and in winter ball to get at least a cup of coffee at some point. If he turns that cup of coffee into a major league career depends on what he does with it.

 Q:  Jay from Flushing,NY asks:
What is up with so many writers being down on Ambiorix Conception, In a chat for the Marlins there was a question where one of your writers called Millidge his favorite along with Jeff Francour and others but stated that Conception does not belong in the class of any of these other prospects. Where is the respect?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: It's not necessarily being down on Concepcion, as a statement of fact. He's not in the same class of prospect with guys like Milledge, Francoeur and Jeremy Hermida. Concepcion is the oldest of the four, but while Milledge, Francoeur and Hermida have been succeeding in Class A and Double-A, Concepcion just had his first standout season in short-season ball. Guys like Milledge, Francoeur, Hermida and Delmon Young have tools that are as good as Concepcion's or better, with production at higher levels at younger ages. That's not a knock against Concepcion as much as it is a credit to these guys, who are the elite OF prospects in the game.

 Q:  Brighid from Washington, DC asks:
Without blazing stuff, how can you explain how Yusmerio Petit keeps striking all these people out?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: No one has yet been able to fully explain it to me, and I've asked at least 10 different managers, coaches and scouts to try to explain it. He locates well, while obviously hiding the ball well enough to keep batters from getting a good look. With the way he's handling the Venezuela league this winter, it's becoming harder and harder to doubt his ability to keep getting guys out.

 Q:  cp from Washington DC asks:
What is it about Bladergroen & Bowman that would rank them ahead of Vic Diaz?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Ceiling. Both Bladergroen and Bowman have chances to be solid all-around everday major leaguers. Diaz' bat seems able to handle that job, but he's still working on establishing himself as an everyday major leaguer with a glove.

 Q:  acerimusdux from Vero Beach, FL asks:
Joe Hietpas - I've heard good things about his defense, but the guy for his career hasn't been too far above the Mendoza line. But he hit pretty well last year in the 2nd half and in the AFL. If he can do that for a full season, does he become a genuine prospect, or is he more a good defensive backup at best? (p.s- and by the way, isn't he still on the Mets roster? I think BA missed him your November, pre-rule 5, 40 man roster).
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Hietpas is off of the 40-man, and was in time for the Rule 5, according to the Mets when I called them to compile the 40-man roster (their own roster on their official Web site was not updated at the time). The Mets would love to see him put together a solid season with the bat. If he could hit .250 with just a little pop, he could be a major league backup because of his defensive ability. But the AFL and a .287 average for Binghamton in August isn't enoug to convince anyone yet that he's turned a corner offensively. He'll get a chance to prove that the improvement is for real next year in the minors, but it's still an uphill climb for Joe.

 Q:  LF from The Crane Pool Forum asks:
I assuming that it's Aarom Baldaris's lack of power that pushed him out of the top-10. And, with Wright ahead of him and Bowman breathing down his neck, is a move to 2nd base - one that would reduce that negative somewhat - a realistic possibility for him?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Baldiris will rank in the 11-15 range. He dropped off because most scoutsmanagers who see him now have doubts that the power will ever come. It seems like his swing is not suited to pulling the ball, and his average suffers when he tries. The Mets have discussed moving him to second base. There are some questions about whether he has the foot speed to handle the move (and his lower half got thicker this past season, which made him a little more sluggish), but if he can handle the switch, he would profile nicely as a high averagehigh OBP second baseman.

 Q:  acerimusdux from Vero Beach, FL asks:
Who do you like better, Brian Bannister, or Kevin Deaton?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Bannister. He knows how to pitch and has a nice assortment of useable potentially major league pitches. There's nothing about Bannister that jumps out as exceptional, but the total package is one that could end up being a solid back of the rotation starter.

 Q:  Brad from Harlem, NYC asks:
Realisically speaking which prospects have a shot of really contributing down the line? Is Petit the real deal, everyone says he has below average stuff. Has Gaby Hernandez really established himself enough to be the #3 prospect or is that just a reflection of how poor our farm system is?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: The Mets have a large number of prospects who "could" contribute. As I see it, this list, and really the Mets 1-20 list could look really good a year or year and a half from now, or a lot of these guys could have washed out. Guys like Ian Bladergroen, Jamar Hill, Ambiorix Concepcion, Jesus Flores, Shawn Bowman and others have shown signs of becoming good prospects, but they all also have some question marks to go with that, which makes this a much riskier list than last year's, when guys like David Wright and Scott Kazmir were hard to picture completely failing. This list is filled with guys who could be major leaguers, or could fade out in Double-A, there are very few sure bets, but a number of interesting guys.

 Q:  Raheel Ghafar from Brooklyn NY asks:
lately i'm hearing this a lot that mike jacobs had one fluke year and is not one of mets top 20 prospects, where is mike jacobs ranked by baseball america
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Jacobs missed almost the entire season with a shoulder injury. He should be recovered in time for the 2005 season, but for a catcher who already had questions about his ability to handle the position on an everday basis, that's a big hurdle to overcome. The shoulder problems affected his power stroke last year. If he comes back and produces in 2005 like he did in 2003, he'll be back on the Mets radar, but right now it's kind of wait and see with how his shoulder recovers.

 Q:  cp from Washington DC asks:
Assuming he's not going to put another 3-5 mph on his fastball, is there anything Yusmeiro Petit could do to calm the doubting Thomases? Or should he continue to succeed will he always be a guy whose success can't be fully explained?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Keep succeeding at every level. He's done it up to now. If he keeps striking out guys in Double-A and Triple-A like he did in Class A, he'll definitely get his shot. That's what makes him different than a Kazmir. With guys where you can see why he's dominant (a guy with a couple of 70 pitches like Kazmir), there's less concern that more experienced hitters will catch up to him. With Petit, it's a legitimate concern that he may find that veteran hitters don't have the same problems that Class A guys have had with his fastball, but he's earned the chance to face those more veteran hitters and find out.

 Q:  adam from ny asks:
I hope petit and hernandez can make us forget about kazmir, right (please say yes)? How do these pitchers compare to kazmir and will they be solid #2's?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Hard to forget about Kazmir, as he has as good an arm as any lefthanded pitching prospect in the game. That's not a knock on Petit or Hernandez, it's just praise for Kazmir.

 Q:  dave from ca asks:
can you please compare delmon young and lasting milledge?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: That was an interesting discussion around the office all year. Milledge is a better athlete, and unlike Delmon, he doesn't have any tool that projects as below average (there is some concern that as Delmon ages he may gain weight to the point where he's a below average runner), but Delmon has two tools--raw power and arm that most scouts rate as 70 or plus on the scouting scale, which means he has the chance to be a home run champ who is a very solid right fielder.

 Q:  adam from ny asks:
i take it with no craig brazell on the list, you see him to be a AAAA guy?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Brazell seems to have established what he will likely be: a power hitter who hits for a pretty solid average, but with overagressive tendencies that will make it hard to be an everyday first baseman. I could see him being a useful bench player, but he'll have to show either improved plate discipline or significantly more power to be what you want in an everyday first division first baseman.

 Q:  John Vozab from Amenia asks:
What do you feel about the potential of Brett Harper? Thank You!
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Harper had a nice breakout year at St. Lucie, and he'll make the top 30, but there are some questions about his longterm potential, whether he's a major leaguer, or a Triple-A guy. He's got very solid raw power and he used the whole field better this year, but he struggled in Double-A and he's merely adequate at first base.

 Q:  adam from ny asks:
why is everyone so down on Victor Diaz? He just knows how to hit? Victor's clone Manny Ramirez is exactly steller in the field. If you have the potential to hit .290-30-90, doesnt that automtically make you a higher prospect?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: I know you're probably not actually comparing Manny to Victor, but just to point out, at Victor's age, Manny Ramirez was hitting .308-31-107 in the majors with a .402 OBP...While Ramirez had a .595 slugging percentage and a .409 OBP in the minors, Victor's minor league numbers are .486.359. This past year was Diaz' first season with more than 20 home runs. It's an encouraging sign that he showed increased power this past season, but if he's more of a .290-25-90 guy with a .330 OBP, than he's fighting to be an everyday major leaguer. If you're Manny Ramirez hitting .350 with a .600 slugging and a .400 OBP, poor defense is something teams live with, but if you're putting up a .330 OBP and a .490 slugging, it's tougher to stick.

 Q:  Bryan from Amherst asks:
Who is more likely to play at Shea? Aarom Baldiris or Shawn Bowman? Who has more upside?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: I'd say Bowman, although both seem to be more likely to be dealt down the road if they succeed, as the Mets infield is pretty set for the near future.

 Q:  Tom McCullough from York PA asks:
Blake Whealy put up good power numbers at low A in 2004. He is 24 so the prospect clock is ticking on him. Do the Mets still see him as a 3B2B prospect? Thanks.
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Blake has put up solid numbers as a senior sign with the Mets, but he projects as a very solid organizational player right now. Some guys shake off that label, but Whealy will have an uphill battle to do that, especially as he's not exceptional defensively. He'll have to hit at every level, but if he does, he could end up like Rodney Nye, an org guy who can earn a cup of coffee.

 Q:  Brian from Queens asks:
How does nobody give Shawn Bowman any love? He will most likely be ranked well below Eric Duncan on any ranking, yet if you look at the stats they are pretty identical, and Bowman appears to be a better fielder.
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Bowman is a better fielder, but scouts project Duncan to have better power and hit for a higher average. Duncan's rated higher partly on potential, but he also did produce at high Class A, while playing in tougher hitters parks than Bowman.

 Q:  Bill from Ft. Worth asks:
If you had to compile a Top-50 prospect list for all of baseball right now, where would you put Milledge?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: I'd put Milledge somewhere in the top 10, top 15 at the worst.

 Q:  DG Siegel from Paris, France asks:
I was wondering what has happened to Bob Keppel. He is still pretty young. Is the general impression that he is no longer a rotation prospect? where would you put him in the top thirty.
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Keppel is still young enough to get it back together. He's had some nagging injuries which have set him back, and he really struggled for the first time in his career in 2004. He'll probably still make the top 30, but it does seem that his less than stellar strikeout rates started to catch up to him some in 2004. If he's fully healthy, he's got a chance to re-establish himself in 2005.

 Q:  Bobby V from Astoria asks:
What was the reasoning for putting Concepcion in the top 10 and leaving off Hill. As you said Hill has the higher upside, and if given the choice of the two I personally would choose Hill. Also Hill just turned 22 in late September. He played most of the year at age 21. I think too much is being made because of his age and is not getting the proper respect.
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Hill just missed the top 10 by the narrowest of margins. There are some concerns with him. He's likely to also pile up the strikeouts, and this is the first time that things have clicked for him (like Concepcion). Concepcion has a wider array of skills, which means that he has more versatility, but there isn't a whole lot of difference prospect wise between the two, I'll agree with you there. The difference between No. 4 and No. 12 in the Mets system isn't that dramatic this year.

 Q:  Brett from Levittown, NY asks:
Where does Aaron Hathaway rank defensively with other catchers in the organization?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: He's not Hietpas yet, but he's very solid. His bat will determine how much of a prospect he is, but there are few questions about the glove.

 Q:  JR from New Jersey asks:
In many local columns, the Mets farm system has been bashed as barren. How does the system compare to others in MLB?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: It's not at the top, and it's not the worst either. Personally, and this is just my own opinion, I think scouting director Jack Bowen was scapegoated, as the Mets system has done very well in the first round in recent years, and has been hurt by not having second and third round picks in recent years. A year ago, the Mets system was one of the better ones around with an impressive top 5 (Matsui, Kazmir, Wright, Peterson and Milledge). It's dropped off because of promotions and trades, but that's something you expect when you deal away three of your top 10 prospects and promote two others. David Wright and Jose Reyes are cornerstones for the major league team now, which is an impressive set, and would have been more impressive with Kazmir nearing a promotion as well. You could knock the Mets for not landing with some of their other top 10 round picks in recent years, but they've also done a nice job of landing intriguing guys with late round signings (like Bladergroen and Jamar Hill) while doing a solid job of scouting Latin talent as well.

 Q:  Andrew from New York asks:
Where ever happened to Alhaji Turay? Is he still a top 30 prospect?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: He's probably in the 25-35 range. He still has some concerns about his approach and attitude, but that showed improvement in 2004. He still has impressive tools, but he's yet to take a big step forward either.

 Q:  Richard from Buffalo NY asks:
Has Matt Lindstrom been helped or hurt by the two year sabbatical that he took from baseball? What do you project as his ceiling?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Hard to say it helped him baseball-wise, but he didn't go off to improve his baseball stock. I'd say Lindstrom is most likely to end up as a setup man in the majors, although he could end up a closer if it breaks right for him. The Mets have no reason to not see if he can develop as a starter, but down the road, he may put it together with a move to the pen, where he can work even more on getting his still less than perfect mechanics polished up.

 Q:  Tony from Broklyn asks:
Who is Jesus Flores? This is the first time I have seen his name come up in a top prospect form and he was ranked #9. I personally thought that Mike Jacobs was our best catching prospect after Huber was dealt, what is the backround on Flores?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Admittedly, Flores has a long ways to go to make the majors, but scouts in the GCL were really impressed by him. He has a chance to be the Mets first total package catcher in a long, long time. Huber and Jacobs wereare both considered offensive catchers at best, guys whose bats allow them to get away with catching despite less than stellar catch and throw skills, while Joe Hietpas is a great catch and throw guy, but poor offensively. Flores has a chance to be an above-average catcher offensively, but with top notch defensive skills as well.

 Q:  Tim from Philadelphia asks:
With the Mets trading away three of last years top six and two or more making it to the show, does this mean that aging prospects such as OF-Alhaji Turay and 3B-Rodney Nye or perhaps draftees C-Hathaway, 3B-Evans, or 1B-Burt have a chance to make the top 30?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: As I'm currently writing the rest of the 11-30 list, this is fresh on my mind. Writing the 11-22 on the list was easy, and really, you could argue that some of the guys who ranked 11-15 could just as easily have ranked sixth or seventh. However, it's not as easy to write up guys in that 25-30 range as last year. Last year, Yusmeiro Petit was No. 28 on the list, it's safe to say that this year's No. 28 is less likely to be No. 2 in 2006. Sorry I'm being a little vague about names, but I'll put out a plug, buy the prospect handbook, it's worth the money.

 Q:  Richard from Buffalo NY asks:
The Mets sailed through the Rule V draft this year unscathed. Does this mean that there isn't much interest in Mets farmhands by other clubs? Even Royce Ring who was previously hyped went through unclaimed.
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: It wouldn't have been too surprising if someone gave McGinley a shot in the Rule V, like what happened with Lenny DiNardo last year. There really wasn't too much talk around scout circles that Ring would be claimed.

 Q:  Greg from Island Trees asks:
I have not heard too much about the Alay Soler, I know they signed him in the summer and he was recently cut form his Winter League team but I have not heard too much about his background, could you tell me about what kind of pitcher he is and what his potential is? Thanks
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Don't pay too much attention to Soler being sent home by his winter league team. Winter league teams are always in a win now mode, so while Soler was showing good peripheral numbers (including a great KBB ratio) his ERA was enough to send him packing. He's a Cuban pitcher, one who had success in the Cuban major league. Because of the track record of Cuban pitchers, it's hard to call him a sure bet, but he instantly becomes one of the better pitching prospects in the Mets system.

 Q:  Inkook from Manhattan ,NY asks:
Hello and thank you for taking my questions. Based on statistics, Yusmeiro Petit is the most intriguing prospect that I've read about for a long time now. His numbers are off the charts. Yet, I don't hear much about him in prospect lists. Is there any particluar reason? How do you see his minor league numbers will translate into major league stats? Where would you rank Milledge compared to Carl Everett, Preston Wilson, and Alex Ochoa, 3 "can't miss" Mets prospects from the past? Thanks again and happy holidays.
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Petit's showing up on most lists that I've seen. He ranked No. 5 in an absolutely stacked top 10 for the Sally League this year (just behind Adam Miller), and he's a sure bet to make our top 100 when it comes out next spring. He's a definite prospect, and he's not exactly flying under the radar. As far as Milledge, if he can produce like Everett in his best years without some of Everett's makeup issues, the Mets would be quite happy, as Everett had a stretch where he was one of the better outfielders around.

 Q:  Bjorn from Saint John, New Brunswick asks:
What can you tell us about Jeff Keppinger, does he have the skill set to stick in NY? Was his batting average an aberration or can it be duplicated at the ML level? Does he have the right mindest and sufficient defensive skills to unseat a Joe McEwing type and hold off a wishy washy Chris Woodward?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Keppinger has hit for average at nearly every stop up the minor league ladder, and he has great hand-eye coordination so I think it's safe to assume he can hit for a pretty solid average at the major league level. But with ReyesMatsui seemingly pretty entrenched in the middle infield, he has to show he can handle a position other than second to earn a utility role. He better keep the average up, as his offensive value is largely tied to his average and his ability to always put the ball on the ball (82 strikeouts in more than 1200 minor league at bats). He doesn't walk much or hit for much power, so if he doesn't hit for average, his value drops off pretty quickly.

 Q:  Tom from Plainview asks:
Nobody seems to talk about Ian Bladergroen much after he went down in mid season with an injury, before that he was having a surprisingly great year. What level do you expect him to start at next year and what kind of player do you think he will be if he pans out?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: He made the top 10, so we're talking about him. He likely starts in St. Lucie, with a chance to build on what was a very loud first half of 2004. The reports are that his wrist injury should be healed by them, although it wouldn't be surprising to see his power take a little while to come back, as that often happens to batters with handwrist injuries. He has a very good batting eye, and what's often missed is that he's also a very good defensive first baseman.

 Q:  Dan from Davis asks:
While I'd like to see more power, I think Baldiris' strong OBPs and good control of the strike zone should have earned him a better ranking. Where does he show up in your Top30?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: If Baldiris stays at third base, it's hard to make the majors as a .300.400.400 guy. It's not that it can't be done, but teams are usually looking for more power production. He didn't miss the top 10 by much, and he could return to the top 10 next year if he handles a move to second.

 Q:  MN from New Jersey asks:
What is Gaby Hernandez's cieling? From what I saw in his scouting video he had beautiful mechanics from the windup and the stretch, a legit curveball, and great movement and control on his fastball. He's only 18 years old. Do you see future ace in this kid? I really like him.
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: It's hard to exactly project Hernandez's ceiling yet, as he has a long way to go, but he could be a No. 2-3 starter it would appear. He has very solid stuff, with a great frame and good mechanics. Scouts in the GCL loved him, as he seemed to fill the role of staff ace with aplomb.

 Q:  Max from NY asks:
Hello, What are your thoughts on 2 Mets' catchers, Flores and Junir Garcia? Flores is ranked higher but Garcia has had sucess in higher level and seems to have a pretty good knowledge of the strike zone.
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Garcia does have a good knowledge of the strike zone, but he's not thought of in the same class as Flores defensively. Garcia did do enough to go from being an org player to catching a little bit of notice this season.

 Q:  Matt from Chatham, NJ asks:
Why don't I see Tyler Davidson or Dante Brinkley's name mentioned anywhere?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Coming into the season, I expected to see Davidson make a big step forward this year, but, unfortunately for him, it never happened. He struggled at Capital City, was sent back to Brooklyn and ended up with a solid season in Brooklyn, but that doesn't prove much for a 24-year-old who's three years out of a Division I college. He still has power potential, but the clock is ticking on producing at a full season level.

 Q:  Nate from Atlanta asks:
Jesus Flores seemed to come from out of the blue, has he really surpassed Aarom Baldiris and Craig Brazell? And after Flores, how does the Mets catching depth chart stack up, where do Yunir Garcia and Aaron Hathaway fit in?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Guys in the GCL usually seem to have come from nowhere. It's hard to get many solid scouting reports from the VSL and DSL, so the GCL is the first chance to get good solid looks at these guys. Flores has a better chance to be a major league regular or maybe even star than Baldiris and Brazell, which is why he's ranked ahead of them. Admittedly, he also has had less chance to have his weaknesses exposed, but based on ceiling, he ranked higher. Depth-wise, it's hard to currently project any of the other Mets catchers as future major league starters, but they have a number of guys who could serve as backups.

 Q:  Ben from Arizona asks:
How do you see the amateur draft taking shape with Omar running things? He seemed to take polished college guys early with success in Montreal (Chad Cordero for one). What is the philosophy with Russ Bove overseeing the amateur draft?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: It's hard to say how much of Omar's philosophy is polished college players and how much of that was by necessity--the Expos drafted guys who could produce quickly without breaking the bank. Cordero and Bill Bray both fit those guidelines.

 Q:  Andy from Sarver asks:
Neil Musser any hope of being a Major Leaguer? When I first saw him he reminded me of a young Curt Schilling.
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Some in the Mets organization thought at one point that he might be their best pitching prospect. He still shows flashes of being a solid prospect, but only in flashes. The Mets aren't ready to give up on him, but he has to develop more consistency.

 Q:  Alex from New York asks:
Is Nick Evans a legit prospects ? And can you give me a scouting report on Matt Durkin ?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Durkin has a very good fastball, but his stuff failed to produce the numbers that you would expect in his final two years in college. The Mets are encouraged that Durkin seems to have found the curveball that he had lost the last two years. If he has a solid breaking ball, Durkin could be an intriguing prospect. Evans has plus power, although there is some concern that his uppercut swing might mean that the power will come with some holes in his swing unless he makes some adjustments.

 Q:  Danny from New York City asks:
Jesus Flores has come out of no where as being a prospect... Is his ceiling and Future, greater than that of fellow Mets catching prospects... Huber(when he was here) and Jacobs
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: The key difference as far as ceiling is that Flores has a chance to be a complete catcher, good offensively and defensively. Huber and Jacobs got mixed reviews for their defense, although their bats are very solid for catchers.

 Q:  Ben from NYC asks:
It looks like the Mets system might be the worst in the NL East. Looking at the Mets list is seems the NationalsExpos have more prospects in the minors than we do. We have so many more resources than the Expos had...how is that possible? What is the plan to fix that? Minaya never seemed afraid to trade prospects...is he the right man to refill our system?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: I'd say the Mets system is several notches above the Nationals, and I bet you'll see that when our talent rankings come out.

 Q:  Richie from Brooklyn asks:
Let's face it the Mets traded their whole system away and now all they have left are projects. I can guarantee that Humber and Milledge are the only two that will eventually become actual Mets. I'm sorry but the truth is that the Mets use their farm system to develop for other teams. That is fine with me. Would you agree with me J.J.?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: You can't guarantee that, no one can, but hey, if the Mets use their system to trade for major leaguers, that can work--ask the Yankees. However, they sometimes seem to get caught up in the back page wars, which means thinking they are closer than they actually are to the playoffs. The Mets have the money to fix a lot of holes with free agents, that's the advantage of playing in New York. The disadvantage? Jose Reyes' every move becomes scrutinized instead of letting him develop into one of the top young players in the game. Kaz Matsui is immediately branded a failure, when he could be one of the several Japanese players who suceed more in their second year in the U.S. than the first (ask Hideki Matsui about that). Everything is magnified in New York.

 Q:  Pete from Canton, Mi asks:
where does bob malek rank?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Malek surprisingly got another year at St. Lucie, and didn't really produce dramatically better numbers. He still has some impressive tools, but the Mets are waiting or hoping for a year where he puts it together.

 Q:  Benny from Bronx, New York asks:
You think you can please explain to me the fascination with the Mets and Wayne Lydon? He gets a trip the AFL and he's also placed on the 40 man. What's your take on Wayne Lydon?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Lydon has game-breaking speed, and he's shown enough improvement to keep the Mets hopeful. He's not a sabremetrics darling, but guys who can steal 60-70 bases can have some value.

 Q:  JR from NYC asks:
Thanks for taking our questions. Whats up with Corey Ragsdale, do you see him ever hitting.
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: The Mets were encouraged by a strong start to the season for Corey, but when a .221 year is solid improvement, your bat has a long way to go. As good as he is defensively, Ragsdale is still a long way away because of his bat. He just doesn't put the bat on the ball enough, especially for a guy who doesn't hit for much power.

 Q:  William from Savannah, Georgia asks:
Who do you see as possibly the second best Met minor league talent at plate discipline or has been garnering attention in that area besides Jeff Keppinger?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Baldiris has a very good eye as well.

 Q:  John from New York, NY asks:
I can't see how the Mets' system could be any worse than 15. I have looked through all systems extensively and we are still a very good system.
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Off the top of my head, I'd say they rank around 18-20, but that's without sitting down and mulling it over. The Mets have a couple of top 100 guys, and a number of guys who could eventually be top 100 guys if they continue producing.

 Q:  John from New York, NY asks:
Did Soler show enough this winter to warrant being in the top 10? What is his ceiling?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Soler made the top 10 more off of scouting reports and his work in Cuba than his 20 innings in winter ball. He has solid stuff, especially if he shows he can command it.

 Q:  John from New York, NY asks:
Lydon and Pagan seem to have increased their value with strong winter season's, who is the better all-around player? What are their ceilings?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Right now, all-around it's Pagan. Both are still a ways from being everyday major leaguers, but both have the speedversatility to project nicely as solid backups. The Mets think Pagan's not too far away from projecting as a regular.

 Q:  Scott from NY asks:
Lastings Millege had 80 ab's at St. Lucie and only batted .235. Do you think the Mets sent him back to Capital City because they thought he was being over matched or was that the plan from day one, to give him a taste and send him back. And at his current progress is his ETA at shea sometime in 2006?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: He was sent back to Capital City to help them in their playoff run. It wasn't a demotion, but simply a chance to get more ABs in pressure situation (the FSL season would wind down before the Sally League playoffs wrapped up).

 Q:  Nick from Florida asks:
Do you project Lastings Milledge to be a top of the order hitter or a middle of the lineup power hitter?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Probably more of a middle of the lineup guy, as he doesn't really seem likely to be the .390 OBP guy you want for a leadoff hitter. He's more likely to hit 25-30 home runs as a No. 3 hitter.

 Q:  metsstem from newburgh, ny asks:
What's the deal with Paulk? I watched him pitch a couple of times and he had an o.k. fastball and a great curve why is there no buzz around this guy?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Paulk has a great curve, but he gives up a lot of hits. He has a chance, but it's still a wait and see thing as far as projecting him. He could end up as a reliever with the ability to get double plays with a solid sinker.

 Q:  Alex from New York asks:
Which of the following 2004 draft pick has the best shot of reaching the majors? Jim Burt jr, Mike Carp or Nick Evans
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: I'll say Evans, although Carp isn't too far behind.

 Q:  rob from asks:
with jose reyes recent injuries, i was hoping for another shortstop prospect in case he can't et over the injury hump. anyone in the mets system that might be something down the line?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Not many SS prospects in the system, but then, Reyes has had one really injury-ruined year. If he's healthy, there is no need for any other shortstops.

 Q:  Jeremy from NJ asks:
What about guys like Jeremy Griffiths and Pat Strange? Do they have any chance at making an impact at the major league level?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Griffiths is no longer a Met. Strange seems to have about run out of chances, a 5.25 ERA in Triple-A doesn't help your chances.

 Q:  Luis Armando Frontera from San Juan, Puerto Rico asks:
What is your scouting report on Angel Pagan. He is blazing fast and I have seen him in winter ball and he shows some pop, specially from the left side. He is a true five-tool player. How do you feel about him cracking the mets lineup soon
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Pagan had a very nice year, but lets not throw around five-tool comparisons. Pagan is a speed guy with a little pop, but he's got seven career home runs in 1800 at-bats, he's not a five-tool guy, but a speedy guy who is starting to show an ability to work counts.

 Q:  chris from worcester asks:
are there any guys in the lower minors that we should keep an eye on for the 05 yr......?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Nick Evans and Mike Carp are two interesting guys, just to throw out a couple of names, Carlos Gomez has a nice toolset as well.

 Q:  Vince from Bronx, NY asks:
With Franco and Stanton gone, and Heredia shaky at best, the Mets could obviously use another lefty in the pen. Do you think either McGinley or Ring has much of a chance to fill that void coming out of Spring Traning?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: I don't think either make the team out of spring training, although I think McGinley could be up at some point this year.

 Q:  hootchdoc from NY asks:
Any thoughts about Celso Rondon and Matt Durkin. Rondon looked good as a closer in short season, but does he project? Durkin was picked ahead of Hernandez but hasn't pitched professionally as far as I know.
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Durkin didn't pitch as a pro because he signed late. He'll make his debut this spring.

 Q:  Scott from manhattan asks:
Any info on ryan harvey who played at cap cities. He put up pretty good numbers.
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: I saw Ryan Harvey have a day in Greensboro where he looked like Mickey Mantle. He was very old for the league and is a guy who still has the look of an org player, but he earned himself a shot at St. Lucie with a very solid season. He's one of those guys who will have to make people notice him, but he did everything he could to do that in 2004.

 Q:  Jimmy from Chesapeake, VA asks:
Tyler Yates has enough time with the Mets that he can no longer be considered a prospect. That being said, do you know how he fits into the Mets plans for 2005? Thanks, Jimmy
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Actually he still is a prospect by our standards (less than 50 IP). He still has a good arm and he could still be a solid contributor to the Mets pen.

 Q:  SAL from Middle Village asks:
I saw Evam Maclane pitch in the Cyclones playoff game last year and he looks he's got somepotential. He looked like he had a nasty change up. Can you tell me more about him
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: MacLane knows how to pitch, and yes, it's a very good changeup. Don't read anything in him being sent to Brooklyn, he was in teh top 10 in ERA in the Sally League at the time of the transaction--the Mets like to make sure that the Brooklyn team is stocked with solid prospects.

 Q:  Kaz M from Tokyo asks:
Come on. Face it. I was overrated. I will have a career of batting .270 with 12 homers. Nothing to sneeze at.
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: Just look at the improvement that Hideki Matsui made in year two. I'm not predicting that Kaz Matsui will hit .300-30-100 or anything, but I wouldn't be stunned by .290-.350-.440 this year, which isn't bad for a second baseman.

 Q:  Lars from Los Angeles asks:
Are there any questions about Milledge's makeup now after he had some off the field problems before during the time he was drafted?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: The Mets say they have had no complaints since drafting him.

 Q:  Not John from Not New York asks:
Do you think you've answered enough questions from John from NY. How about giving some of us a chance?
 A: 

J.J. Cooper: I really don't look at the names, just the questions, sorry...I'm answering 60 questions or more, I'm trying to get to everybody.

Moderator: OK guys, time for me to wrap it up. Have a great new year and I hope you enjoyed the chat.

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