Chat Wrap: Matt Meyers took your Mets questions
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections
of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development
personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards
of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time)
are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2006.
Unlike the year before, the Mets resisted the urge to part with their
top prospects at the 2005 trade deadline in an effort to bolster their
playoff chances. Ironically, the team was more suited for a postseason
run and stayed in the National League wild-card race until late September.
Omar Minaya made a splash in his first offseason as Mets general manager
by signing Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran to lavish contracts. While
Martinez proved to be the frontline starter the Mets hoped, Beltran
was a disappointment. Nonetheless, New York hovered around .500 in late
July and rumors circulated that they were close to acquiring Manny Ramirez
and Danys Baez in a variety of three-team scenarios with the Red Sox
and Devil Rays that would have cost them top prospects Lastings Milledge
and Yusmeiro Petit, along with Mike Cameron.
While they failed to make the postseason, their hesitance to part with
their top prospects for short-term gain indicated a potential change
in organizational philosophy and a willingness to build through their
While the Mets system has lacked depth for years, it has produced impact
talents such as Scott Kazmir (sent to Tampa Bay in a horribly shortsighted
deal for Victor Zambrano in 2004), Jose Reyes and David Wright. Their
emergence influenced Minaya’s decision to ultimately not part
with Milledge and Petit, who soon should get a chance to make their
mark in New York.
The Mets bolstered their system in 2005 by delving into the Latin American
market, which was as strong as it had been in years. They invested a
total of $2.1 million in a pair of 16-year-olds, power-hitting Dominican
outfielder Fernando Martinez and projectable Venezuelan righthander
Minaya was once the Mets’ international scouting director, and
seems intent on making his club the dominant force in signing Latin
American talent. New York saw the Martinez and Guerra signings as a
way to make up for the loss of their second- and third-round picks in
the 2005 draft as free-agent compensation.
Minaya also has made an imprint on the scouting department, restructuring
it twice since becoming GM. After the 2005 season, 11 scouts were fired
or demoted. Russ Bove, who had replaced Jack Bowen as director of amateur
scouting a year ago, was reassigned as a major league scout. Assistant
scouting director Rudy Terrasas was promoted to replace Bove.
Mets officials were miffed they were unable to reach down into its system
to promote major league players when injuries hit.
It’s hard to put all the blame on the scouting department for
that lack of depth, however. In three of the last four drafts, the Mets
have given up their second- and third-round picks after signing free
Mike Pelfrey, considered the best pitching prospect in the 2005 draft,
slipped to New York as the ninth overall pick because of a high price
tag. He had yet to sign by the end of October, but the Mets were expected
to work out a deal this winter.
HS—Palmetto, Fla., 2003 (1st round) Signed
by: Joe Salerno
Background: In the Mets’ draft room in
2003, the decision came down to Milledge or righthander Jeff Allison.
The Mets loved Milledge’s talent, but were worried about allegations
of sexual misconduct at his high school. They decided they had a positive
read on his makeup, and his talent was too tantalizing too pass up. The
Mets haven’t had any reason to second-guess their decision, as Milledge
has established himself as an elite prospect while Allison has battled
drug addiction. Milledge’s talent has been evident since he played
youth baseball, as he led Manatee East to the 1997 Little League World
Series. He comes from a baseball family, as his father Tony Sr. and brothers
Anthony and Tony Jr. all played professionally. The family has followed
Milledge’s career throughout the minors in a recreational vehicle
affectionately dubbed “Milledgeville.” While he was rumored
to be involved in a myriad of deadline deals in July, the Mets held onto
Milledge and he rewarded them by tormenting Double-A pitching in the second
half. He ranked as the top position prospect in the Eastern League.
Strengths: The first thing scouts mention about Milledge is
his lightning-quick bat speed. Milledge boasts one of the fastest bats
in the minor leagues, allowing him to wait on pitches longer than most.
He uses the entire field and has the strength to hit for average as
well as power once he matures as a hitter. He made very good adjustments
after he moved from high Class A St. Lucie to Binghamton, improving
his pitch recognition. It’s still unclear as to whether Milledge
profiles better at the top or in the middle of the order. He has above-average
speed that he uses to his advantage on the bases and in center field,
and he also has a plus arm. With his package of five tools, Milledge
has few peers in the minors, and he has produced throughout his minor
Weaknesses: The biggest knock on Milledge is his inability to
control the strike zone. He’s a free swinger prone to chasing
breaking balls out of the zone, and he hasn’t drawn many walks
even though pitchers are wary of him. Though he has the speed to steal
bases, his instincts are unrefined and he was caught in 38 percent of
his attempts in 2005. He stands up too quickly when he moves toward
second base, which slows him down. Milledge has lost time to work on
those flaws having played just 204 games in 21/2 pro seasons. He held
out for most of the summer in 2003, and a broken finger (in 2004) and
a shoulder injury (in 2005) cost him playing time the last two seasons.
The Future: With Carlos Beltran entrenched in center field at
Shea, Milledge might need to try his hand in right. He’ll still
play center in the minors in 2006, probably at Triple-A Norfolk, and
could make his major league debut before the end of the season. With
Beltran still in his prime and Milledge, Jose Reyes and David Wright
not having reached theirs, the heart of New York’s lineup should
be in good shape for years to come.
Venezuela, 2001 Signed by: Gregoria Machado
Background: : Petit continues to dominate with
stuff that is typically deemed ordinary. He had no trouble making the
jump to Double-A, and though he struggled in a late callup to Triple-A,
he fanned 14 in a playoff start there. He pitched in the Futures Game
for the second straight year.
Petit’s four-pitch attack plays up because of his above-average
command and deception. Some grade his 88-90 mph fastball as a
plus because of its movement and his ability to hide the ball
well. He complements the fastball with a solid changeup, a slider
and a curve.
With stuff that is, at best, a tick better than average, scouts
continue to question whether he has enough to succeed in the majors.
While he mows down righthanders, he struggled in 2005 against
lefties who slugged .525 against him. At 6-feet and 230 pounds,
he must watch his weight.
Petit’s numbers suggest a frontline starter, but his raw
stuff profiles him toward the back of a rotation. Like Lastings
Milledge, he’ll probably open 2006 in Triple-A and make
his big league debut in the second half.
HS—Miami, 2004 (3rd round) Signed by: Joe Salermo
Background: After dominating the Rookie-level
Gulf Coast League in his pro debut, Hernandez did the same in the low
Class A South Atlantic League as a teenager. He no-hit West Virginia on
Father’s Day to clinch a share of the Northern Division first-half
title, then beat top Astros prospect Troy Patton in a one-game playoff
to win it.
Hernandez commands a two-seam fastball with low-90s velocity and
excellent life. He also has the makings of a plus changeup. He
employs an effortless delivery that bodes well for his command,
and he’s not afraid to challenge hitters. His grasp of the
game is well beyond his youth.
Hernandez’s curveball is a work in progress. It lacks depth
and he tends to reveal it early. He’s not overpowering enough
to survive without a good breaking ball, a point more advanced
hitters drove home following his promotion to high Class A.
Struggling in high Class A was to be expected, and Hernandez will
get another shot at the Florida State League in 2006. He projects
as a middle-of-the-rotation starter if his curve develops.
Grossmont (Calif.) JC, 1999 (38th round) Signed
by: Bob Minor
Background: The Mets’ minor league player
of the year in 2003, Jacobs missed most of the following season with a
torn labrum. He came back to win the Eastern League MVP and organization
player of the year awards in 2005, and became the first big leaguer ever
to homer four times in his first four games.
Jacobs is primarily a pull hitter with power, but he can drive
the ball to the opposite field on occasion. He has a smooth lefthanded
stroke and is a purely offensive player. Though the Mets benched
him against lefties, he handled them well in Double-A, posting
a .896 OPS.
While he came up as a catcher, Jacobs split time behind the plate
and at first base in Double-A and only played first in his brief
stint in New York. He has below-average catch-and-throw skills,
but is adequate at first. His swing can get long at times, and
plate discipline has never been his strong suit.
The Mets have yet to decide if they will give him a shot behind
the plate, but they’re also in the market for a first baseman.
Without an offseason move, he’s their best in-house option
Rice, 2004 (1st round) Signed by: Dave Lottsfeldt
Background: Humber won the final game of the
2003 College World Series and was one of three Rice pitchers to go in
the first eight picks in 2004. Considered the safest bet among pitches
in that draft, Humber proved anything but after blowing out his elbow
15 starts into his pro career and had Tommy John surgery in July.
Never fully healthy in his pro debut, Humber showed flashes of
why he was a No. 3 overall pick. He has two plus pitches, a 12-to-6
curveball and a 91-94 mph fastball. He can vary the break on his
curve so it runs in on lefthanders. His changeup eventually could
give him a third above-average pitch.
The biggest question is how he’ll return from reconstructive
elbow surgery. He fills the strike zone with all three of his
pitches, but his command isn’t at the same level of his
control. He got hit hard when he left his fastball and changeup
up and over the plate.
The Mets hope Humber, like many Tommy John survivors, will come
back stronger than before. He’s scheduled to return to the
mound in the second half of 2006.
2005 Club (Class)
St. Lucie (Hi A)
20 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt.: 190
Dominican Republic, 2002 Signed by: Eddy Toledo
Background: Signed as a speedy but wiry 16-year-old,
Gomez has grown into his body and some in the organization think his raw
tools might be better than Milledge’s. Eight months younger than
Milledge, Gomez isn’t nearly as polished.
Gomez excites scouts with his raw power, speed and arm strength.
He can put on a show in batting practice, ranked second in the
minors with 64 steals in 2005 and has the best outfield arm in
the system. Though he always has been young for his league, he
has had no trouble making consistent contact.
Still extremely raw, Gomez hasn’t shown much power in game
situations because he doesn’t control the strike zone, tends
to let his hands drift to the ball and often overstrides. He’s
also unrefined on the bases, getting caught stealing 24 times
in 2005. He can be erratic as a center and right fielder as well.
Gomez flashed enough upside potential in low Class A that he should
begin 2006 in the Florida State League, a notably pitcher-friendly
environment. If everything comes together, he’ll be New
York’s right fielder of the future.
2005 Club (Class)
Hagerstown (Lo A)
17 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-0 Wt.: 185
Dominican Republic, 2005 Signed by: Rafael Bournigal/Sandy
Background: In their first year under Omar Minaya,
the majors’ lone Hispanic general manager, the Mets were extremely
aggressive in mining Latin America. Their biggest splash was Martinez,
who signed for $1.4 million. New York, which lacked second- and third-round
picks in the draft, believes he matched up with any U.S. high school outfielder
taken in the draft.
Martinez’ hitting approach is well beyond his years. He
maintains his balance very well while keeping his hands back in
his stance. His bat and power are both plus tools, and he’s
a good athlete with solid speed and arm strength.
Though he’s very advanced for his age, Martinez still will
need plenty of time to refine his game and is unproven against
pro competition. Currently a center fielder, he projects as a
right fielder and his bat will need to carry him if he’s
to become a star at that position.
Because of his precocious hitting skills, the Mets believe Martinez
may be able to handle a full-season league in 2006. If they send
him to Hagerstown, he’ll almost certainly be the youngest
player in the South Atlantic League at 17.
2005 Club (Class)
Did Not Play—Signed
23 B-T: B-R Ht: 5-9 Wt.: 170
Dominican Republic, 2001 Signed by: Ramon Pena (Tigers)
Background: No player in the organization bolstered
his prospect status in 2005 more than Hernandez. After coming over from
the Tigers in a trade for Vance Wilson, he shed his good-field/no-hit
reputation and emerged as a potential everyday player.
A switch-hitter, Hernandez is adept from both sides of the plate.
He has learned to focus on using the whole field and to make use
of his plus speed. Defensively, he has very soft hands, above-average
range and an average, accurate arm. He has excellent body control
and lateral mobility.
For a player with very little power, Hernandez doesn’t control
the strike zone, and he needs to do a better job of making contact.
For all his defensive gifts, he gets himself into trouble when
he tries to be flashy.
Hernandez isn’t going to move Jose Reyes off of shortstop,
but the disappointing Kaz Matsui is vulnerable at second base.
Most likely, Hernandez will wind up becoming a dependable utilityman.
2005 Club (Class)
New York (NL)
25 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt.: 205
Southern California, 2003 (7th round) Signed by:
Background: Bannister’s father Floyd was
the first overall pick in June 1976 and a 134-game winner over 15 major
league seasons. His brother Brett pitched with Brian at Southern California
and signed with the Mariners as a 19th-round pick in 2005. Brian greatly
exceeded expectations in 2005, finishing the year as the No. 1 starter
for Team USA at the World Cup. He allowed 13 runs in seven innings over
two starts against Nicaragua and Cuba.
Refining his cutter helped Bannister take a huge step forward.
He spots his cutter and his 90-mph fastball to both sides of the
plate. His 12-to-6 curveball can be devastating at times.
Despite his success, Bannister still raises some obvious red flags.
His fastball’s movement is less impressive than its average
velocity, and he tends to leave it up in the zone. He doesn’t
have much feel for a changeup, and his curveball is inconsistent.
Bannister held his own in Triple-A and probably will return there
in 2006. He’ll be among the first in line for a callup in
2006 and could become as much as a No. 4 or 5 starter.
2005 Club (Class)
SOLER , rhpAge:
26 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt.: 240
Cuba, 2004 Signed by: Rafael Bournigal
Background: The biggest mystery in the system,
Soler has yet to pitch in pro ball after signing a three-year, $2.8 million
contract in September 2004. A Cuban defector who received asylum from
the Dominican Republic, he did not get his visa until late October, and
spent 2005 at the Mets’ Dominican academy.
Soler has two plus pitches, a 91-94 mph fastball and a low-80s
slider with exceptional depth. The Mets think his big-game experience
in Cuba—he helped them win the 2002 World University Games—will
serve him well under the bright lights of New York.
Using a three-quarters delivery, Soler sometimes gets under his
pitches and leaves them high in the strike zone. The harder he
throws, the more he struggles with his fastball command. Many
Cuban defectors have needed time to adjust to a new culture and
lifestyle in the United States.
Soler is already 26 and likely will start his pro career in Double-A
once he reaches the United States. He has enough stuff to start
but also projects as a possible closer, a role for which the Mets
have no obvious long-term candidate.
2005 Club (Class)
Did Not Pitch—Visa
Gomez: Rich Abel
Martinez: Mark Levine
Bannister, A.Hernandez, G.Hernandez, Humber, Petit: Steve More
Milledge: Kevin Pataky