Mets Top 10 Prospects Chat With Matt Eddy

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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, 2011.

Matthew Eddy: Lots of interest in the Mets and/or their farm system, at least judging from the number of questions already in the queue. Let's get started.

    Ryan (AZ): Matt Den Decker. What do you think of him? Can he stick in center? What type of a hitter do you see him as? Thanks!

Matthew Eddy: Ryan got his den Dekker question in before any others, so let's begin there. Evaluators believe den Dekker has the range and raw speed to profile as at least a solid-average defensive center fielder—if not a plus one. How much he hits will determine whether he's a starter or a reserve. The strikeouts are an issue (156 in 139 games this year) at this stage, but those bullish on den Dekker think he has the discipline and the line-drive stroke to hit for a decent average with walks and doubles.

    Dawson (Toronto): What are the Mets' plans with Mejia next year? I would imagine he will begin the year as a starter in triple A, correct?

Matthew Eddy: I think you're correct. Look for Jenrry Mejia to head to the Triple-A rotation when he's ready to let it fly in 2012. As to his future role, he'll probably be given a season in New York's rotation to show what he's got, but the reality is that most righthanded pitching prospects wind up in the bullpen if they don't have at least an average breaking ball or if they don't produce early results.

    Pat Murphy (Sandpoint, Idaho): Matt Harvey......middle rotation innings eater? Mike Pelfrey?? Middle releiver? Or an ace needing polish?

Matthew Eddy: Some evaluators still see Matt Harvey as more of a reliever down the road because they question how far the changeup and command can realistically be expected to develop. On the other hand, Harvey had an outstanding full-season debut and showed swing-and-miss stuff in Double-A, a strong indicator that he has the raw tools to start. I'd probably hedge and call him a high-quality No. 3 starter or borderline No. 2. Harvey is a notch above where Mike Pelfrey was at the same point in his development. The breaking ball is a real separator between the two. Harvey's is really good, while Pelfrey never has had a swing-and-miss breaker.

    Roger (Santa Barbera): Did Philip Evans play in instructs? If so, any reports on how he looked? How close was he to the top 10? Thanks!

Matthew Eddy: From what I'm told, Mets personnel at instructional league really took to Phillip Evans, a 15th-round prep shortstop who signed late for $650,000. They laud his work ethic and simple, repeatable righy swing. Look for Evans to slide across the bag to second base at some point in the future, but he might have the bat to handle the switch.

    Brett (I like Jamba Juice): It says that Zach Lutz is the system's best power hitter. What can you say about him?

Matthew Eddy: Low-A 3B Aderlin Rodriguez can challenge or surpass Lutz in terms of raw power, but Lutz has a much better idea how to use it in games. He's mashed 29 homers in 127 games the past two season. But while Lutz's performance record in the high minors is encouraging, his health track record is not. He missed time this year with a hamstring injury, two concussions and a broken finger. He might get a look in Queens in 2012 if he can stay healthy.

    Michael (My house): Does Lucas Duda have enough bat/defense to profile as an every day left fielder, in your opinion?

Matthew Eddy: Enough bat, yes. Over a full season, Duda could give you 20 homers and a .350+ on-base percentage. That won't cause anyone to confuse him with Barry Bonds, but with offensive levels in complete free fall in the big leagues, what Duda accomplished in 2011 was actually quite impressive. The trouble, of course, is that his natural position is 1B, and the presence of Ike Davis rules out that option. On the bright side, the Mets may not have anything to lose in 2012 by simply letting Duda show them what he can or can't do in right field.

    James (ASU!): Is it safe to write off Fernando Martinez as a prospect at this point?

Matthew Eddy: I didn't have to grapple with that question this year because he (barely) cleared our 130 ab-bat threshold. However, I can't shake the feeling that he's got one or more productive seasons in his future. He's got real thunder in his bat, and one of these years he'll be healthy enough to play 120-130 games, right? Looks like he's got one minor league option remaining for 2012, but after that his next big league opportunity may come with an organization other than the Mets.

    Dillion (Oklahoma!): I know to not pay attention to the future lineup, but I do notice that Johan Santana is not listed anymore. Are you just that worried about his recovery? I thought he was making progress. Thanks!

Matthew Eddy: Santana's contract runs through 2013, and he'll be 36 when 2015 rolls around. Those were the biggest reasons I chose not to include him in the future lineup.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Jordany Valdespin had what could be considered a breakout year. Was he considered for the top 10?

Matthew Eddy: I went back and forth with Wilmer Flores and Jordany Valdespin at No. 10 before settling on Flores. With 15 homers and 33 steals, Valdespin had one of the more dynamic power/speed seasons in the Eastern League, and his hitting and running tools are intriguing. He can throw, too, so that boosts his utility player chances. My main worry for Valdespin is that big league pitchers will be able to exploit his ultra-aggressive hitting approach, making him more of a bench player or fringe starter than impact regular. Also, he kept his nose clean in 2011, but thus far in his career that's the aberration, not the norm.

    Liam (Buffalo): The Mets system is devoid of catching prospects. Who is their best overall catching prospect and does he have a legitimate chance of making any impact?

Matthew Eddy: Most other clubs probably would identify Low-A Savannah's Albert Cordero as the prime trade target among Mets catchers. He's a deft, athletic receiver with a solid-average arm and a high energy level. Cordero has the hand-eye coordination and plate coverage to continue to hit for average, though he may profile best as a big league backup because his swing isn't geared for power.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Did Logan Verrett get any top 10 love?

Matthew Eddy: Third-rounder Logan Verrett did not receive support for a Top-10 ranking, though he appears in the Top 30 I turned over in October. The Mets believe he has the best breaking ball of any pitcher they drafted in 2011, though his fastball is merely average and his changeup nonexistent at this stage. That could be a recipe for an eventual conversion to the bullpen for Verrett, though he'll get every chance to start in the minors.

    Herbert (Texas): Has Christian Montgomery's stuff ticked back up since he signed?

Matthew Eddy: The Mets are cautiously optimistic that 11th-rounder RHP Christian Montgomery will recover some of the velocity he showed as a high school junior in Indianapolis. They like his breaking ball quite a bit, though, and will give the benefit of the doubt to the teenager from a cold-weather background.

    Candy (Queens): Did outfielders Juan Lagares and Darrell Ceciliani make your overall 30? Which was closer to making your top 10 list?

Matthew Eddy: Yes, both Lagares and Ceciliani will rank among the top 20 or so Mets prospects. I slotted Ceciliani a little higher because his profile is a little cleaner as a lefty-swinging center fielder with average speed and range. None of his single tools will blow you away, however. Lagares doesn't have the classic power teams like to see from corner outfielders, though he does square up different kinds of pitching and has a chance to hit for average. He seemed to swing at pitches he could drive more frequently this season, thus his average jumped from .279 to .349.

    Frank (Chicago): Which list would you choose between this year's and last year's top 10 Mets prospects?

Matthew Eddy: The addition of Zack Wheeler and two top-50 draft picks make up for the loss of Lucas Duda, in my opinion. Plus, this year we have a better idea of what Matt Harvey is capable of in pro ball. Give me this year's list.

    Candy (Queens): Is RHP Domingo Tapia one to keep an eye on?

Matthew Eddy: Without a doubt rookie-ball RHP Domingo Tapia is a pitcher to watch. He tops out near 100 mph and holds legit double-plus velocity late into his starts, his limitations being that he does not yet have a reliable second pitch. Nor does he strike out as many opponents as you'd like to see with 96-98 mph heat. He's tall and his ball is heavy, so it sounds like Tapia possesses the Fausto Carmona starter kit.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Does your gut tell you Familia can remain a starter, or is he likely headed to the pen next year?

Matthew Eddy: My gut says reliever, and a really good one. One scout said he though Familia lacked the fluidity/athleticism to repeat his delivery for 100+ pitches a night. There's no shame in being a high-leverage reliever, though, and Familia's fastball and slider could be legitimate weapons in that role.

    William (Pensacola, Florida): Seems that Juan Urbina took a step back in 2011. Where does he rank on the Mets Top 30 list ?

Matthew Eddy: Lefty Juan Urbina didn't exactly take a big step forward in 2011, but nor did he take a step back. He's still a potential three-pitch lefty with a loose, easy delivery. Check that strikeout-to-walk ratio in his final seven starts for Kingsport: 34-to-8 over 36 innings. Sure, a 5.95 ERA in rookie ball is ugly, but don't lose faith.

    Darin Gorski (Mount Joy, Pennsylvania): You said that I have the best changeup in the system. You also said that I have the best control. Why am I not ranked?

Matthew Eddy: For those of you who missed it: St. Lucie LHP Darin Gorski earned pitcher of the year honors for the Mets as well as Florida State League. He helped pitch St. Lucie to the league finals and led the loop in ERA and WHIP. Among Mets farmhands, only Matt Harvey struck out more batters than Gorski. He's racked up strikeouts with his changeup before, but this year he sat more consistently at 90-91 mph, after pitching 3-4 ticks lower in the past. That's critical for a pitcher who relies on a plus changeup and throws more of flat-plane slider than a true breaker. Before getting aggressive with a ranking I want to see Gorski maintain his velocity gains in 2012 and also see if Double-A batters have an easier time solving him. Also, keep in mind that Gorski already is 24.

    Candy (Queens): Mr. Eddy, you describe Harvey's command as below-average, yet he's had starts in which he has looked dominant, with several starts in which he struck out 8 or more. Just a case of hitters swinging at bad pitches, or can he find the strike zone more often than he misses?

Matthew Eddy: Matt Harvey's control is just fine, and so is his raw stuff. The distinction to be made here is that not all strikes are necessarily good strikes from the pitcher's point of view, and that's why command is so important. The more advanced hitters in Triple-A and the big leagues are going to more frequently punish hanging breaking balls and belt-high fastballs that catch too much of the plate.

    Matt (Malone, NY): Is Wheeler's ceiling really a #2? His numbers and stuff indicate he could be an ace given improved command, no?

Matthew Eddy: This is how we define a No. 2 starter in the Prospect Handbook: two plus pitches, average third pitch, average command, average makeup. Sounds an awful lot like Zack Wheeler's ceiling, no? To reach No. 1 status he'd need plus-plus command, and you can count the number of big league starters who meet that definition on probably two hands—three tops.

    Kyran (Albany): Why is Brandon Nimmo so high? He's very young and comes from a state with no high school baseball. Isn't that ranking a little generous?

Matthew Eddy: We're not presenting absolute truth with these rankings. We're trying to present a synthesis of opinions from scouts, managers and other evaluators. In other words, the people who get paid to make these decisions. Perhaps Nimmo carries more risk than the typical No. 3 prospect in a system, but his foundation of tools is intriguing. He's got present strength, a sweet lefty stroke and enough range to play center. As an added bonus, the Mets were absolutely sold on Nimmo's makeup, which ought to enable him to get the most out of his raw ability.

    JD (AZ): Matt, thanks for the chat. Should we expect to see Steven Matz in action next year? After two years off would he start in Brooklyn?

Matthew Eddy: The club's top pick in 2009, Matz missed 2010 after having Tommy John surgery, and then he missed 2011 after a slow recovery from the procedure. The Mets say he looked good in instructional league, but who knows what to expect at this stage?

    Rich (Port Jeff): With a strong Spring, can Reese break camp as the starting second baseman?

Matthew Eddy: It's a long-shot possibility, but it probably requires an injury to either Justin Turner or Ruben Tejada to happen. The Mets will have to add Reese Havens to the 40-man this offseason or else risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft. He's got the perfect profile for second base, but it's a matter of staying healthy, just as it was in 2010 and 2009.

    Sam (Connecticut): Who will end up being a bigger contributor for the 2012 Mets, Ruben Tejada or Reese Havens?

Matthew Eddy: If Jose Reyes departs as a free agent, I could see Tejada opening some eyes as the starter at shortstop. He can field the position, and he batted .303/.368/.377 in the second half of 2011.

    Sherm (Topeka): What kind of power production does Nimmo project to have?

Matthew Eddy: That will be the big question about Nimmo's ultimate ceiling. If he stays in center field, then he can get away with 45 power, but if he moves to a corner it's a tougher fit. His swing isn't loft-oriented at present, but the Mets actually seem to prefer that at this stage of his development. Nimmo can learn to pull the inside pitch for homers as he matures.

    Matt (Malone, NY): Is this a Top 15 farm now?

Matthew Eddy: At the Low-A level the Mets had C Albert Cordero and SS Wilfredo Tovar, two players who possess the defensive chops to remain at those critical positions. But will they hit enough to make it all the way to the majors? New York's top international forays this year were Jose Garcia, a switch-hitting Venezuelan catcher, and flame-throwing, 21-year-old RHP Luis Mateo, who sits in the mid-90s with a power slider. He could move quickly as a reliever, though his only experience has come in the DSL because of a prolonged identity investigation.

    Jay (Howell, New Jersey): What are the general thoughts of some of the late round selections in the Mets draft. Evans, Marquez, Montgomery, Diehl are all fairly interesting prospects. Do they figure intothe top 30?

Matthew Eddy: You'll have to read the Prospect Handbook to learn their identities—beyond Nimmo and Michael Fulmer—but the initial Top 30 I turned in contained a total of eight 2011 draft picks.

    Jason (New York): Was it a tough decision between Wheeler and Harvey for the top spot?

Matthew Eddy: Yes, I headed into the process believing that Harvey had the advantage because of a cleaner injury history and a nice Double-A debut. In fact, further investigation revealed that Wheeler had more velocity than Harvey, a better breaking ball and a third pitch of equal or greater value. To the person who asked if I was concerned that the Giants had sold high on Wheeler, a la Tim Alderson in 2009, I say, Not anymore. From what I can tell the Giants were just that desperate for a big bat. Keep in mind that only the Mariners scored fewer runs this season, and the addition of Carlos Beltran probably made the difference between San Francisco finishing 29th and 30th.

    Pete (Savannah, GA): How would you rate the Mets farm system overall among all MLB teams, 10 - 15, or 15-20?

Matthew Eddy: The Mets have probably not received full credit for graduating some nice players in recent years. I'm thinking of players like Ike Davis, Dan Murphy, Tejada, Thole and Duda. But to be considered a top 10 system, I think you've got to have a can't-miss hitting prospect or two, and the Mets fall short in that regard. Wheeler, Harvey and Familia do provide a strong pitching corps, however, and perhaps a perfect complement to the position players listed above.

    Kyran (Moira, NY): Wilmer Flores isn't going to make it as a major-league starter is he? It seems the power just isn't coming.

Matthew Eddy: The home run totals aren't encouraging, but Savannah and St. Lucie are tough home environments for a young, aspiring power hitter. Watch to see what he does in Double-A, and hope that he takes a cue from Juan Lagares and learns to wait for a fastball he can drive—and not just the first fastball he can handle.

    Sam Shapiro (Connecticut): Among the highly touted pitchers of their 2011 draft class, who makes the majors first: Cory Mazzoni, Logan Verrett, or Jack Leathersich? Do any have rotation upside?

Matthew Eddy: Sure seems like second-round righty Cory Mazzoni or fifth-round lefty Leathersich could move quickly as relievers. Mazzoni is a better bet to start because he commands two pitches and has a more traditional delivery.

    Kelly (St. Cloud, MN): Your impressions of Danny Muno? Top 11-20 range?

Matthew Eddy: Eighth-round SS Danny Muno, a senior sign from Fresno State, won admirers for his gritty play with Brooklyn. His tools aren't explosive, but he knows the strike zone and his defensive versatility and line-drive stroke from both sides of the plate make him just about the ideal utility player prospect.