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, 2009.

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New York Mets

After being eliminated from the playoffs on the final day of the regular season in 2007 and 2008, the Mets continued to generate drama in 2009—though this time it was primarily off the field. New York christened Citi Field by going 70-92, the third-worst record in the National League, after they were expected to contend.

General manager Omar Minaya fired vice president of player development Tony Bernazard, whom he viewed as a trusted friend, on July 27 after Bernazard had a series of over-the-top confrontations with members of the organization. The incidents included Bernazard removing his shirt and challenging Double-A Binghamton players to a fight after a game there, and getting into a heated exchange on a team bus with Francisco Rodriguez after a lopsided loss in Atlanta.

The front-office turnover continued after the season as well. The team fired Ramon Pena, a special assistant who oversaw Latin American operations, as well as field coordinator Luis Aguayo. Vice president for scouting Sandy Johnson was mulling retirement.

Minaya and big league manager Jerry Manuel got a reprieve after injuries decimated the major league roster, with Carlos Delgado (hip) and Jose Reyes (hamstring) not playing after May and John Maine (shoulder) and Oliver Perez (knee) missing significant portions of the season. The farm system showed its weakness at the upper levels and provided little in the way of reinforcements, which prompted Minaya to acquire plug-ins such as Anderson Hernandez, Pat Misch and Wilson Valdez.

The biggest player-development success story was Bobby Parnell, who set a franchise rookie record with 68 appearances and at one point emerged as the primary set-up man to Rodriguez. Parnell's audition as a starter didn't go as well, as he went 1-5, 7.93 in eight starts. Josh Thole came up to New York in September, batted .321 and looked better than the Mets other catching options.

After hitting .313 in New York in 2008, Daniel Murphy flopped as a left fielder, eventually succeeded Delgado at first base. He didn't hit as hoped. Fernando Martinez, the No. 1 prospect in the organization the previous two years, got a chance to replace Murphy and hit .176 before tearing the meniscus in his right knee, requiring season-ending surgery in July. Jon Niese's chance to claim a spot in the big league rotation went awry when he tore a tendon in his upper right hamstring and needed surgery in early August.

Like the Mets, the clubs at the upper levels of their system performed dismally. Buffalo, in its first season as the organization's Triple-A affiliate, went 56-87, the worst record in the International League. At 54-86, Binghamton had the worst record of any full-season team in the minors. Of New York's seven domestic minor league clubs, only short-season Brooklyn posted a winning record, and their combined 338-412 (.451) record was the second-worst in baseball.

Though the Mets bring in more money than most big league clubs, they continued to remain conservative in the draft. They spent just $3.1 million on the 2009 draft, the lowest figure in baseball. New York forfeited its first-round pick as compensation for Rodriguez and used its top choice (second round) on Long Island high school lefthander Steve Matz.

1.  Jenrry Mejia, rhp   Born: Oct. 11, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 162
 Signed: Dominican Republic Signed by: Ramon Pena/Ismael Cruz/Sandy Rosario/Juan Mercado
Jenrry MejiaBackground: On the day Mejia auditioned for the Mets in 2007, he felt ill and stiff, and told his representative he didn't think he could register more than 86 mph with his fastball. Mejia outperformed his own expectations that day, throwing 91-92. He agreed to a $16,500 bonus before leaving the organization's complex in Boca de Niqua, D.R., and since has proven to be a bargain. Mejia emerged as the organization's top prospect in 2009, when he opened the season by dominating at high Class A St. Lucie before earning a promotion to Double-A Binghamton that made him the youngest pitcher in the Eastern League. He missed seven weeks with a strained right middle finger, the result of overthrowing a fastball in late June when he got upset after surrendering one of only two homers he served up all year. The injury cost him a trip to the Futures Game. The Mets eased him back on short pitch counts when he returned to the mound in August, then sent him to the Arizona Fall League.

Strengths: Mejia's fastball ranges from 90-96 mph, and it hit 98 on a handful of occasions in 2009. He's able to maintain his velocity late into games, and his fastball has so much cutting and sinking action that it befuddles hitters. He induces a lot of groundouts and broken bats. "They're asking me if it's a slider," said Josh Thole, who caught Mejia with Binghamton. "I said, 'It's 94 (mph), guys. I don't think that's a slider.' " Mejia's changeup is a plus pitch at times, resembling a splitter with its 81-84 velocity and drop. Though he's not particularly tall by righthander standards, he has a good angle to the plate and throws downhill. In 210 pro innings, he has allowed just six homers. Mejia does a good job of pitching inside, and he generally stays composed with traffic on the bases. Stocky and muscular, he has impeccable conditioning.

Weaknesses: Mejia's slider needs a lot of work. He throws it with an inconsistent release point and arm speed, often leaving it up in the strike zone. He sometimes throws his changeup too hard and doesn't achieve enough separation form his fastball. His fastball command also can stand to improve, and even he acknowledges he doesn't quite know where the pitch is headed when he releases it. He just aims for the middle and lets the movement work for him.

The Future: Manager Jerry Manuel intended to watch Mejia pitch in the AFL to gauge whether he could contribute out of the major league bullpen to open 2010, though that may be a bit premature. Mejia instead may return to Double-A, where he has made just 10 starts and has yet to record a win. He has more value as a potential frontline starter, and his fastball life is so good that he probably could succeed by throwing mostly heaters. Regardless of his role, he has a good chance to reach New York at some point during the season. "Somebody told me if you play in the big leagues at 20 years old, that's good," Mejia said. "I said, 'I know. But I wanted to play in the big leagues last year.' "
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
St. Lucie (Hi A) 4 1 1.97 9 9 0 0 50 41 0 16 44 .217
Binghamton (AA) 0 5 4.47 10 10 0 0 44 44 2 23 47 .263
2.  Wilmer Flores, ss   Born: Aug. 6, 1991B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 175
 Signed: Venezuela, 2007Signed by: Robert Alfonzo/Ismael Cruz
Wilmer FloresBackground: Flores signed with the Mets for $750,000 in 2007 after honing his skills at the same Venezuelan academy (Agua Linda) that produced Pablo Sandoval. He became the youngest player ever to compete for short-season Brooklyn when he finished the 2008 season there as a 17-year-old. Flores continued to face older competition in 2009, when he was the youngest player in the low Class A South Atlantic League, and started at second base in the Futures Game.

Strengths: Flores makes consistent hard contact, thanks to his quick bat and ability to put the barrel on the ball. Though he launched just three homers in 2009, heÕs projected to hit for power to all fields as he matures. Even before signing, he displayed opposite-field power potential. He has a plus arm and soft hands at shortstop.

Weaknesses: Flores is a below-average runner with a slow first step and below-average range. He has a thick lower half and is expected to move to third base or an outfield corner as he fills out. He needs to get stronger and develop more patience at the plate to maximize his offensive potential.

The Future: Flores won't turn 19 until late in 2010, and the Mets may be less inclined to push young players in the wake of their front-office turnover. He could begin 2010 back at low Class A Savannah with the chance for a midseason promotion.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Savannah (Lo A) .264 .305 .332 488 44 129 20 2 3 36 22 72 3
3.  Fernando Martinez, of   Born: Oct. 10, 1988B-T: L-RHt: 6-1Wt: 200
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005Signed by: Rafael Bournigal/Sandy Johnson/Eddy Toledo
Fernando MartinezBackground: The highest-profile Latin American signing in Omar Minaya's five years as GM, Martinez received a $1.3 million bonus and ranked No. 1 on this list the two previous years. He made his big league debut in 2009, but injuries continued to undermine his career. He had season-ending right knee surgery in July. He also has dealt with persistent hamstring trouble and a broken bone in his right hand in recent years.

Strengths: Martinez has power potential to all fields, though he has gone to left-center less frequently than when he was younger. He slugs mammoth home runs on occasion that offer a reminder as to why he was so highly touted. His bat speed and improved ability to make contact should allow him to hit for a solid average. He has average arm strength and good range for a corner outfielder after moving from center last season.

Weaknesses: Martinez's once solid-average speed has declined as he has matured and his lower half has become thicker. His throws are inaccurate—some cut, others tail, some are launched, others go into the ground—because his body gets ahead of his arm and his arm slot varies.

The Future: Though Martinez's stock has slipped, he's still just 21. "He'll show you nothing for four days and you're ready to give up on him," a scout said, "and then out of nowhere he'll do something and you'll go, 'Hmmm, OK. That's what they've been talking about.' " Given the Mets' need for outfield help, Martinez will compete for a big league job in spring training.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Buffalo (AAA)
.290 .337 .540 176 24 51 16 2 8 28 11 33 2
New York (NL)
.176 .242 .275 91
11 16 6 0 1 8 5 14 2
4.  Ike Davis, 1b   Born: March 22, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 6-5Wt: 195
 Drafted: Arizona State, 2008 (1st round)Signed by: Mike Brown
Ike DavisBackground: The son of former major league pitcher Ron Davis, Ike went homerless in his first 215 at-bats after signing for $1.575 million as the 18th pick in the 2008 draft. He rebounded with 20 homers while reaching Double-A in his first full season. He hit .333 with three homers in eight games to help Team USA win the World Cup in Italy in September.

Strengths: Davis has quick hands and lift in his swing, giving him plus power. He has the bat speed to catch up to good fastballs. Also a pitcher and right fielder at Arizona State, he's an above-average defender with good hands and a strong arm at first base. He has exceptional makeup and isn't in awe of big league surroundings.

Weaknesses: Davis has somewhat of a long swing and can become pull-conscious, leaving him vulnerable to pitches on the outer half and prone to strikeouts. While he hit .298 last season, he'll have to adjust his approach to hit for average in the majors. Though he's agile at first base, he's a below-average runner.

The Future: The Mets entered the offseason with Daniel Murphy set to open 2010 as their first baseman and Davis headed to Triple-A Buffalo. He should make his big league debut later in the year and eventually supplant Murphy as New York's starter.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
St. Lucie (Hi A)
.288 .376 .486 222 28 64 17 3 7 28 31 52 0
Binghamton (AA) .309 .386 .565 207 30 64 14 0 13 43 26 60 0
5.  Brad Holt, rhp   Born: Oct. 13, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 194
 Drafted: UNC Wilmington, 2008 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Marlin McPhail.
Brad HoltBackground: The 33rd choice in the 2008 draft (a supplemental pick received when Tom Glavine returned to the Braves), Holt signed for $1.04 million. He allowed three homers and nine runs in his first start of 2009, then gave up just seven runs over his next eight starts to earn a promotion to Double-A. He injured his ankle after his first outing with Binghamton, missed three weeks and wasn't the same afterward.

Strengths: Holt has the stuff to be a No. 3 or No. 4 starter. He has a solid four-seam fastball, which ranges from 88-93 mph and tops out at 95, as well as a hard 75-78 mph curveball and a 79-81 mph changeup. He gets good extension to the plate and drive from his legs. Once he fills out, his frame should lend itself to durability.

Weaknesses: Holt's biggest problem is a tendency to overthrow. He's infatuated with strikeouts and tries to power his way out of jams, which costs him command. Maintaining a more consistent release point also will help him locate his pitches better. He throws his changeup too hard at times, and it's his least effective pitch.

The Future: Though he'll attend big league camp, Holt isn't ready to compete for a rotation spot in New York. He could return to Double-A, teaming with Jenrry Mejia once again, then advance to Triple-A during the year.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
St. Lucie (Hi A) 4 1 3.12 9 9 0 0 43 34
5 13 54 .215
Binghamton (AA) 3 6 6.21 11 11 0 0 58 58 9 23 45 .270
6.  Jon Niese, lhp   Born: Oct. 27, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-4Wt: 215
 Drafted: HS—Defiance, OhioSigned by: Erwin Bryant.
Jon NieseBackground: Niese went 0-6, 7.36 in his first nine starts at Buffalo to open the season, then went on a 5-0, 0.72 tear to earn a big league callup. He tore a tendon in his right hamstring doing a split while receiving a throw at first base on Aug. 5, and then ripped it off the bone on a warmup pitch. He dropped to the ground in agony and required season-ending surgery.

Strengths: Niese's signature pitch is a 12-to-6 curveball, though he sometimes has difficulty getting it called for strikes. He can run his fastball into the low 90s, and he uses its natural cutting and sinking action to battle righthanders. He also has a solid changeup and he consistently throws strikes.

Weaknesses: Niese gets into trouble when he struggles with his fastball command. When that happens, he can't overpower hitters with sheer velocity and they sit on his curveball. Because he relies on his lower half with his drop-and-drive delivery, Niese will need to make tust in the integrity of from his surgically-repaired hamstring.

The Future: When Niese visited the clubhouse at Citi Field in late September, he already had shed crutches and a brace, a sign that his hamstring should be 100 percent by spring training. He's a favorite to win the last spot in the New York's rotation for 2010, and he projects as an eventual No. 3 or 4 starter.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Buffalo (AAA) 5 6 3.82 16 16 2 0 94 95 7 26 82 .258
New York (NL)
1 1 4.21
5 5 0 0 26 27 1 9 18 .276
7.  Reese Havens, ss   Born: Oct. 20, 1986B-T: L-RHt: 6-1Wt: 195
 Drafted: South Carolina, 2008 (1st round)Signed by: Marlin McPhail.
Reese HavensBackground: Havens passed on seven-figure signing offers out of high school, attended South Carolina, then went 22nd overall in 2008 and signed for $1.419 million. He has had nagging health issues since. Elbow trouble and a groin pull limited him to 85 at-bats in his pro debut, and he missed nearly four weeks in 2009 after pulling a quadriceps muscle in late May. He returned on June 23 but was hit in the right hand with a pitch a week later. He sustained a deep bone bruise and missed an additional three weeks.

Strengths: Havens has good power for a middle infielder and slugged 14 homers in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. He also has an advanced idea of the strike zone and recognizes pitches well, though he has batted just .247 in each of his two seasons. Defensively, he's a sound fielder with good hands and arm strength.

Weaknesses: Havens has slightly below-average speed and lacks the range for shortstop. He trimmed down during the 2009 season in an attempt to improve, but it probably won't stave off a position switch. He worked out at second base in the Arizona Fall League, where some scouts wonder if he has the footwork to stick there.

The Future: Havens will open 2010 in Double-A. The best-case scenario is that he becomes an offensive-minded second baseman. If that doesn't work out, third base is blocked in New York by David Wright, so Havens might have to become a corner outfielder.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
St. Lucie (Hi A) .247 .361 .422 360 53 89 19 1 14 52 55 73 3
8.  Josh Thole, c   Born: Oct. 28, 1986B-T: L-RHt: 6-1Wt: 205
 Drafted: HS—Breese, Ill., 2005 (13th round) Signed by: Quincy Boyd.
Josh TholeBackground: A catcher in high school, Thole played just 26 games behind the plate in his first three years as a pro. When Sean McCraw couldn't get his bat going in 2008, Thole replaced him as St. Lucie's catcher a month into the season. He has hit .315 over the last two years, including .321 during a September callup with the Mets.

Strengths: Thole essentially takes a two-strike approach on all counts, choking up on the bat to punch line drives to both gaps. He hits for average and is difficult to strike out. He's receptive to coaching and showed defensive improvement after working with catching instructor Sandy Alomar Jr. in September.

Weaknesses: The downside of Thole's approach is that he hits for little power and rarely works deep enough counts to walk. His receiving is just adequate, his arm strength is below-average and he drops his arm slot, causing his throws to tail. However, he did throw out 30 percent of basestealers in 2009. He's a below-average runner.

The Future: Though Thole received the bulk of the September playing time at the expense of pending free agent Brian Schneider, he likely will require more seasoning. He doesn't profile well at another position, and even at catcher he projects more as a platoon player or backup than an everyday player.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Binghamton (AA) .328 .395 .422 384 48 126 29 2 1 46 42 34 8
New York (NL) .321 .356 .396 53 2 17 2 1 0 9 4 5 1
9.  Ruben Tejada, ss/2b   Born: Oct. 27, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 160
 Signed: Panama, 2006Signed by: Ismael Cruz/Wilfredo Blanco/Alex Zapata
Ruben TejadaBackground: One of several international players whom New York has promoted aggressively, Tejada set career highs in most offensive categories last season while playing as 19-year-old in Double-A. A sparkplug who can play either middle-infield position, he started the year by representing Panama in the World Baseball Classic. The Mets considered calling him up when injuries decimated their middle infield, but decided against it because they didn't want to tie up a 40-man roster spot.

Strengths: Tejada is an above-average defender with the arm strength to make plays from the hole at shortstop. He has slightly above-average speed and the potential to steal 20-25 bases a season. He makes good contact at the plate and could grow into gap power as he matures physically.

Weaknesses: Tejada's bat may prevent him from becoming an everyday player. Even when he gets stronger, power won't be a major part of his game, and he'll need to do a better job of drawing walks. At shortstop, he can improve his ability to go to his right and make backhand plays.

The Future: Tejada figures to open 2010 in Triple-A, with the potential for a callup if injuries strike the Mets again. With Jose Reyes entrenched at shortstop, Tejada and Reese Havens figure to battle to become New York's second baseman of the future.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Binghamton (AA) .289 .351 .381 484
59 140 23 3 5 46 37 59 19
10.  Juan Urbina, lhp   Born: May 31, 1993B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt: 170
 Signed: Venezuela, 2009Signed by: Sandy Johnson/Ramon Pena/Ismael Cruz/Robert Alfonzo
Background: The son of former big league righthander Ugueth Urbina, who's serving a 14-year jail sentence in Venezuela, Juan signed with the Mets in July for $1.2 million. It was the largest bonus the Mets bestowed on any amateur player in 2009, as the organization had no first-round draft pick in June after signing free agent closer Francisco Rodriguez. Unlike his father, who made two all-star teams as a closer, Juan projects as a starter, at least at this early stage of his career. He threw a bullpen session in New York after signing but has yet to make his pro debut.

Strengths: Urbina has a loose, quick arm and already sits at 88-89 mph and tops out at 91 with his fastball. He has plenty of projection remaining in his lean, athletic frame and figures to develop at least a consistent low-90s heater. He commands his fastball well and sets it up with a changeup that features good sink. His clean mechanics should minimize his risk of injury. He pitches like the son of a former big league pitcher, as he shows advanced feel for pitching and the ability to throw strikes.

Weaknesses: Urbina's slider lags behind his other two pitches, though it does show some promise. Thanks to his bloodlines, he's more advanced than most pitchers his age, but he still has a long ways to go and will require a lot of innings to develop. He'll need all three of his pitches if he's to remain a starter.

The Future: The Mets expect that Urbina likely will begin his pro career in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Whether the Mets will push him as quickly as they've moved other recent signees such as Jennry Mejia, Wilmer Flores, Fernando Martinez and Ruben Tejada remains to be seen.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late

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