New York Mets: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

New York Mets: Scouting Reports

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, 2008.

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Advance scouts descended on the Mets in September, as other contenders sent in their top evaluators to check out the team bound to win the National League East. As late as Sept. 12, New York led the Phillies by seven games.

But the team scouts saw in September wasn't a playoff team. A listless team that played without enough energy, a manager in Willie Randolph who couldn't find the right spark for his team, a bullpen constructed by general manager Omar Minaya that gave Randolph few if any reliable middle-relief options . . . the Mets were a mess. A team that spent 140 days in first place didn't finish there, as Philadelphia won 13 of its last 17 games while New York was going 5-12.

It was a historic collapse, but the Mets didn't suddenly become a bad team in September. In fact, they had been a .500 team since the calendar turned to June. New York went 34-18 in the season's first two months and just 54-56 the rest of the way.

The Mets faltered in part because they got old in a hurry. Carlos Delgado and Paul LoDuca had the worst full-season numbers of their careers. Moises Alou remained productive but couldn't stay healthy. On the mound, Tom Glavine got bombed in his final three starts and Billy Wagner blew three saves down the stretch.

More disconcerting, however, was that some of New York's young building blocks struggled. Franchise cornerstone Jose Reyes wilted in the second half, hitting just .251 after the all-star break and .205 in September. Mike Pelfrey, who signed for a club-record $3.55 million bonus as a first-round pick in 2005, went 3-8, 5.57 and failed to keep the No. 5 starter's job. Philip Humber, a first-rounder whose $3 million bonus ranks second in club history, got hammered by the Nationals in his lone start during the season's final week.

Scouts from other organizations say the Mets have little immediate help on the way in the farm system. The jury is still out on how much Pelfrey and Humber will contribute, and there's not much in the way of upper-level position players behind outfielders Lastings Milledge and Carlos Gomez.

The lack of talent reflects New York's decision not to wield its large-market resources to acquire talent the last two years, particularly in the draft. The Mets have surrendered their first-round choice as free-agent compensation in each of the past two drafts, and haven't tried to compensate by exceeding MLB's bonus guidelines with other picks. Minaya said that could change in the near future.

"We've adhered to the commissioner's slot recommendations," Minaya said. "We've been good citizens. But not all the teams have done that, and the competitive balance is not fair. We have to take that position under review as an organization."

New York did sign 15 players internationally in the summer of 2007, more than any other organization, and has tried to use that market to find impact talent. The Mets have aggressively pushed prospects such as Dominican outfielder Fernando Martinez and Venezuelan righthander Deolis Guerra—the top two prospects on this list—and they've handled it well. A third, Dominican catcher Francisco Pena, faltered in full-season ball as a 17-year-old in 2007.

1.  Fernando Martinez, of   Born: Oct. 10, 1988B-T: L-RHt: 6-1Wt: 190
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005Signed by: Rafael Bournigal/Sandy Johnson/Eddy Toledo
Fernando MartinezBackground: Martinez was the most coveted Latin American free agent on the market in 2005, and the Mets were positioned perfectly to land him. He received a $1.4 million bonus both for his present and future hitting ability and as a statement that New York intended to be a leader in Latin America and not a follower. The impact of Martinez' signing and that commitment continues, as the Mets led all organizations by signing 15 international amateurs in the July-August 2007 signing period. He became the youngest player in Arizona Fall League history in 2006 and opened 2007 as the youngest player in Double-A by nearly two years. A right hand injury, initially diagnosed as a bruise, lingered and hampered his play at Binghamton. New York finally shut him down in late July after a pair of appearances in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Despite the injury and his tender age, Martinez, 18, ranked as the Double-A Eastern League's No. 3 prospect. He also was the first player selected in the Dominican League draft in October.

Strengths: Latin American players who get seven-figure bonuses get paid to hit, and scouts believe Martinez will hit. He has excellent bat speed and generates easy power to all fields. One scout who saw him this year said Martinez "can do anything he wants offensively." He spent the year batting leadoff or third as the Mets tried to give him more at-bats, and he began recognizing breaking balls and learning when to lay off and when to attack them. He's learning to trust his hands and stay back against lefthanders as well. Martinez has some athleticism and runs well once he's underway. He has average raw arm strength.

Weaknesses: Martinez is heavy on tools and low on present skills, particularly for a Double-A player, though that's typical for a teenager. His approach at the plate is raw, and some scouts disdain his load (too exaggerated) and spread-out stance (he's not strong enough yet). Defensively, he played a below-average center field across the board in 2007. He needs improvement in running routes, picking up cutoff men and getting his body behind his throws. He profiles better in left field, as many scouts had predicted when he signed. Martinez' baserunning skills are another area where his lack of experience holds him back. As the scout said, "He does a lot of things wrong out there."

The Future: Most organizations would have had Martinez in low Class A last season, and the holes in his game were exposed in Double-A. But his upside remains tremendous. From his days as a scout and coach for the Rangers, general manager Omar Minaya learned that Latin American stars usually get to the major leagues at a young age. Minaya says Martinez is on the same track as players such as Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa, all of whom reached the majors by age 20. Martinez' 2008 assignment likely will depend on his spring-training performance, as well as the health of his hand. His bat ultimately will be his calling card, and the Mets see him as a future 30-homer threat.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Binghamton (AA) .271 .336 .377 236 32 64 11 1 4 21 20 51 3
GCL Mets (R) .111 .200 .333 9 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 6 0
2.  Deolis Guerra, rhp   Born: April 17, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 200
 Signed: Venezuela, 2005Signed by: Rafael Bournigal
Deolis GuerraBackground: Last April, many 17-year-old Americans were heading off to high school proms. Guerra, who signed for $700,000 in 2005, was starting on Opening Day for high Class A St. Lucie. He also pitched in the Futures Game in San Francisco, recovering from a bout with shoulder tendinitis that sidelined him for most of May.

Strengths: Guerra has two present above-average pitches that could become well above-average. His fastball had below-average velocity for most of his first season, but now it ranges from 89-94 mph and touches 96. He features excellent arm speed on his changeup, his best offering since he signed, and it should become a big league out pitch once he commands it.

Weaknesses: While Guerra's curveball remains a below-average pitch, he has shown an ability to spin the ball and it projects as an average offering. At 18, Guerra still is learning the finer arts of pitching,  such as holding runners, fielding his position and pitch sequences.

The Future: Guerra has thrown just 179 pro innings and has plenty of projection in his big-shouldered frame. The Mets have monitored Guerra's workload carefully, and he has plenty of projection in his big-shouldered frame. His next goal will be to stay healthy and pass the 100-inning level.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
St. Lucie (Hi A) 2 6 4.01 21 20 0 0 90 80 9 25 66 .240
3.  Carlos Gomez, of   Born: Dec. 4, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 195
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2002Signed by: Eddy Toledo
Carlos GomezBackground: Gomez finished his fast-track trip to the major leagues in 2007 and was the National League's youngest player when he debuted in May. He broke the hamate bone in his left hand on a checked swing in July, however, and missed two months following surgery.

Strengths: A true five-tool athlete, Gomez has game-changing speed and a well above-average arm, tools that help make him a premium defender in center field. He also has excellent bat speed that leads to projections of at least average power, if not more. Scouts said Gomez brought needed energy to the Mets.

Weaknesses: Hitting will be the last tool to develop for Gomez. He's still searching for the balance between aggressiveness and plate discipline. While he showed increased patience in 2007, it came at the expense of his power production.

The Future: Gomez likely will compete with Lastings Milledge for the right-field job in spring training. Milledge has more offensive polish, which could push Gomez back to Triple-A at the season's outset.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
New Orleans (AAA) .286 .363 .414 140 24 40 8 2 2 13 15 23 17
New York (NL) .232 .288 .304 125 14 29 3 0 2 12 8 27 12
St. Lucie (Hi A) .154 .267 .154 13 1 2 0 0 0 0 1 4 2
4.  Kevin Mulvey, rhp   Born: May 26, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 195
 Drafted: Villanova, 2006 (2nd round)Signed by: Scott Hunter
Kevin MulveyBackground: The Mets' top pick in the 2006 draft, Mulvey reached Triple-A New Orleans at the end of his first full season and pitched 13 scoreless, walk-less innings, including a playoff start. He was the organization's pitcher of the year and a Futures Gamer as well.

Strengths: Mulvey throws four pitches for strikes and keeps everything down. His fastball, which sits at 87-91 mph and touches 94, features good sink and run. He dominated righthanders, limiting them to a .224 average and no homers. His mid-70s curveball with 11-to-5 break and his low-80s slider both are average pitches, and at times his slider is a put-away offering. His changeup shows signs of being average. His competitiveness makes his whole greater than the sum of his parts.

Weaknesses: Mulvey has trouble against lefthanders because he can't work them inside easily. At times his changeup is too firm. He has lost 2-3 mph off his fastball from his days at Villanova, but he could gain some of that back as he gets accustomed to the pro workload.

The Future: He'll open 2008 in Triple-A, but Mulvey could get a look in the rotation by midseason. He projects as a No. 3 or 4 starter.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Binghamton (AA) 11 10 3.32 26 26 0 0 152 145 4 43 110 .252
New Orleans (AAA) 1 0 0.00 1 1 0 0 6 2 0 0 3 .095
5.  Eddie Kunz, rhp   Born: April 8, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 250
 Drafted: Oregon State, 2007 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Jim Reeves
Eddie KunzBackground: Kunz helped Oregon State win a pair of national championships, first as a setup man in 2006 and then as closer in 2007. New York's top pick (42nd overall) in June, he held out for much of the summer before signing for $720,000.

Strengths: With a low, almost sidearm arm slot, Kunz produces heavy sink on a 94-96 mph fastball. He allowed only one college home run, and that came in his freshman season. At times, his slider can be an overpowering pitch with short, late break and above-average 86-87 mph velocity. He features good arm speed on his changeup.

Weaknesses: Kunz will have to watch his weight to maintain his best stuff and his command. The Mets have worked to improve the consistency of his slider, which is less reliable than his changeup. Kunz may be able to keep lefthanded batters at bay, despite his arm angle, because of his uncommon velocity and his changeup.

The Future: The Mets have Kunz on the Joe Smith development plan. They sent Kunz to the Arizona Fall League and will invite him to big league camp, where he could win a big league job. He eventually could replace Billy Wagner as their closer.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Brooklyn (SS) 0 1 6.75 12 0 0 5 12 8 0 8 9 .190
6.  Brant Rustich, rhp   Born: Jan. 23, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-6Wt: 225
 Drafted: UCLA, 2007 (2nd round)Signed by: Steve Leavitt
Brant RustichBackground: Rustich dominated in the Cape Cod League in 2005 and got off to a tremendous start at UCLA the following spring, but then he ruptured a tendon in the middle finger on his pitching hand. Following surgery, he struggled as a redshirt junior and lost the Bruins' closer job in 2007. New York drafted him in the second round and landed him for $373,500.

Strengths: Healthy in pro ball, Rustich showed a premium fastball, sitting from 93-97 mph with late life. He pitches inside to righthanders and uses his size well, throwing downhill with his fastball and an 84-87 mph power slider with tilt. His changeup shows flashes of being an average pitch.

Weaknesses: Control was a huge problem before and after his finger injury, but Rustich threw strikes as a pro as he used his fastball more. His delivery can get out of whack easily. His splitter was a plus pitch before he got hurt, but he hasn't thrown it much since the injury. His slider can be inconsistent.

The Future: Rustich has enough stuff to start, but the Mets most likely will have him join Eddie Kunz on the fast track as a reliever. Rustich could jump to Double-A in 2008.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Kingsport (R) 1 0 0.87 5 2 0 0 10 6 0 1 10 .158
Brooklyn (SS) 2 0 2.13 10 0 0 2 13 4 2 1 11 .095
7.  Philip Humber, rhp   Born: Dec. 21, 1982B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 225
 Drafted: Rice, 2004 (1st round)Signed by: Dave Lottsfeldt
Philip HumberBackground: Humber won the championship game of the 2003 College World Series and went third overall in the 2004 draft. He made just 15 pro starts before needing Tommy John surgery in July 2005, and he hasn't been the same pitcher since. He made his first big league start in September, giving up five runs in four innings.

Strengths: Humber still has the best curveball in the organization, and he has learned to shorten it up a bit and throw it for quality strikes. He's learning to spot his fastball better down in the zone, where it has more life. His changeup, which he has used since junking the splitter he had in college, has developed into an average pitch.

Weaknesses: At times Humber still tries to pitch up in the strike zone, and he doesn't have that kind of velocity anymore. His fastball ranges from 87-91 mph after he used to touch 94-95 at Rice. He's still refining his command two years after his elbow reconstruction.

The Future: Humber is likely ready for on-the-job training in the majors, but he'll have to earn the spot in spring training. He now projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
New Orleans (AAA) 11 9 4.27 25 25 0 0 139 129 21 44 120 .244
New York (NL) 0 0 7.71 3 1 0 0 7 9 1 2 2 .300
8.  Jon Niese, lhp   Born: Oct. 27, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS—Defiance, Ohio, 2005 (7th round)Signed by: Erwin Bryant
Jon NieseBackground: Ohio's first-ever back-to-back state high school player of the year—he attended the same high school as Dodgers righthander Chad Billingsley­—Niese signed with New York after a recruiting call from Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter. After getting hit hard early in the season, Niese went 4-1, 2.18 with 42 strikeouts in 45 innings over his final eight starts, including six innings of one-hit ball in the high Class A Florida State League playoffs.

Strengths: Niese uses a fastball that sits at 91-92 mph early in games, then attacks hitters with an improved curveball that has become a plus pitch as he has learned to locate it. He has figured out how to throw his changeup with the same arm speed he uses for his fastball, and it has similar sink and tailing action.

Weaknesses: While he has improved his conditioning, Niese remains inconsistent in terms of maintaining his velocity. He's still learning to pitch inside with his fastball and remain aggressive with his changeup. His competitiveness can work against him at times.

The Future: After his strong finish, Niese is ready to hit Double-A as a 21-year-old. He's still probably two years away from making an impact in New York's rotation.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
St. Lucie (Hi A) 11 7 4.29 27 27 2 0 134 151 9 31 110 .285
9.  Nathan Vineyard, lhp   Born: Oct. 3, 1988B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS—Cartersville, Ga., 2007 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Marlin McPhail
Nathan VineyardBackground: Vineyard was a fixture on the summer showcase circuit for Georgia's East Cobb program and helped his cause with a strong performance at the World Wood Bat tournament in Jupiter, Fla., during the fall of his senior year. He wasn't as consistent last spring, but still showed enough for the Mets to draft him 47th overall and sign him for $657,000.

Strengths: At his best, Vineyard throws three pitches that presently grade as average or better, with some projection remaining. His fastball sits at 88-91 mph and he should develop more velocity and command as he uses it more as a pro. His slider is a plus pitch at times, with depth and some low-80s power. He also has shown the ability to turn over his changeup and throw it for strikes.

Weaknesses: Vineyard threw too many sliders as a high schooler and needs to prove he can get hitters out with his fastball in fastball counts. His changeup needs refinement as well.

The Future: The Mets believe Vineyard can be a future No. 3 starter and has as much upside as anyone in their 2007 draft class. As a high-schooler, he is further from his ceiling than Eddie Kunz or Brant Rustich. He'll open his first full season at low Class A Savannah.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
GCL Mets (R) 0 3 5.27 9 7 0 0 27 30 4 9 33 .265
10.  Robert Parnell, rhp   Born: Sept. 8, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 180
 Drafted: Charleston Southern, 2005 (9th round)Signed by: Marlin McPhail
Robert ParnellBackground: Parnell has one of the system's best success stories. Though he posted 6.82 and 8.86 ERAs in his final two seasons at Charleston Southern, area scout Marlin McPhail liked his arm strength. Parnell led the short-season New York-Penn League with a 1.73 ERA in his pro debut and finished his second full season in Double-A.

Strengths: A former prep shortstop, Parnell has velocity to spare. His fastball sat in the low 90s and regularly hit 95 mph late in games in August. His heater also has heavy sink and generates plenty of groundouts. His hard slider sits in the mid-80s at times and can be a strikeout pitch.

Weaknesses: The development of his changeup has been an issue since Parnell became a pro. He still needs to trust the pitch more, but he made significant progress with it in 2007, giving the Mets hope he can remain a starter. Too often  Parnell works away from contact while trying to strike every hitter out.

The Future: Parnell still needs polish, but he has improved his profile from middle reliever to middle-of-the-rotation starter. He'll return to Double-A to begin 2008.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
St. Lucie (Hi A) 3 3 3.25 12 12 0 0 55 56 0 22 62 .259
Binghamton (AA) 5 5 4.77 17 17 0 0 89 98 9 38 74 .276

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Pre-Order the 2008 Prospect Handbook
30 scouting reports on every team

Photo Credits:
Rodger Wood (Martinez)
Steve Moore (Guerra, Gomez, Humber, Niese)
Rich Abel (Mulvey)
Bill Mitchell (Kunz)
Larry Goren (Rustich)
David Stoner (Vineyard)
Cliff Welch (Parnell)