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Baseball is in Milledge's blood. His father Tony Sr. was the Cardinals' third-round pick in the secondary phase of the January 1973 draft and played one year in Rookie ball. Lastings' older brothers Anthony and Tony Jr. also played professionally, though neither made it out of Class A. That won't be a problem for Milledge, who projected as a future first-round pick since he was a high school sophomore. New York was able to get him with the 12th overall pick in 2003 because of his mixed success with wood bats, a rumored high price tag and allegations of improper sexual conduct--none of which was ever substantiated. The Mets say he has been a solid citizen since signing for $2.075 million, the third-highest bonus in club history. Milledge missed the first month of the 2004 season after breaking a finger when he was hit by a pitch during bunting drills in spring training. Once he returned, he quickly showed all of the tools the Mets have been salivating about. Though he struggled after a promotion to high Class A St. Lucie and returned to low Class A Capital City to help the Bombers' playoff run, he showed signs of being able to adjust and his effort never wavered. Milledge's bat speed is exceptional, giving him the ability to wait on pitches and drive them to all fields. He already has above-average power and should be a No. 3 hitter in the majors. He's most comfortable roping line drives to the gaps, but he can also bounce balls off of light towers on occasion. Since he's an above-average runner (4.1 seconds from the right side of the plate to first base), he also has the ability to serve as a tablesetter. He batted almost exclusively out of the leadoff spot last season. His speed, range and arm strength make him the best defensive outfielder in the system. Milledge's all-around tools compare favorably to those of anyone in the minors, and he has delivered production to go along with his potential. Milledge covers plenty of ground in center field, but he still needs to improve his jumps. He also had trouble going back on balls in 2004. If he's blocked in center by Carlos Beltran or even Mike Cameron, he could handle a move to right field. While he has plenty of speed and has succeeded on 31 of his 40 pro steal attempts, Milledge needs to take more chances on the bases. On the other hand, he's sometimes too aggressive at the plate. His exceptional bat speed keeps him from being a 100-strikeout guy, but he doesn't work counts particularly well and he doesn't draw a lot of walks. Milledge's first full season was everything the Mets had hoped for. He'll return to high Class A to start 2005 but should reach Double-A Binghamton before too long. In an organization that promoted one potential all-star (David Wright) and traded another away (Scott Kazmir) in the second half of the 2004 season, Milledge could move quickly. There isn't another player in the system whose ceiling approaches his.
Petit has dominated at every step up the ladder. He has struck out more than a batter an inning in all six minor league stops, finishing second in the minors with 200 whiffs in 2004. He followed up with a strong winter in Venezuela. Petit's fastball leaves batters and scouts scratching their heads. It has solid velocity (89-91 mph, touching 93) and movement, but nothing about it appears to be exceptional--except how hitters never seem to get a good swing against it. His slider is already average and has plus potential. His changeup is more advanced than his slider, but with less room for growth. It's uncertain whether Petit's fastball will play as well against more advanced hitters. However, those questions are diminishing as he continues to have success. Petit carries a little extra weight and will need to make sure he doesn't add too much more. The trade of Scott Kazmir left Petit as the Mets' best pitching prospect, though first-round pick Philip Humber may have something to say about that after signing in January. Petit will likely begin 2005 in Double-A.
One of three Rice righthanders to go in the top eight picks of the 2004 draft, Humber was the first selected and the first to sign. He waited until early January to come to terms, inking a five-year major league contract that includes a club-record $3 million bonus and $4.2 million in guaranteed money. Humber didn't have the highest ceiling in the draft, but he could make a case for being the safest choice. He has three potential plus pitches, starting with a 12-to-6 curveball the Mets rated as the best breaking ball in the entire draft. He also has a 90-94 mph fastball that has touched 97, and a splitter he uses as a changeup. He has clean mechanics, a sturdy frame and a resilient arm. Humber also has a long track record of success, going 35-8, 2.80 in three years at Rice and winning the College World Series-clinching game in 2003. His fastball can straighten out at times and there's a little recoil in his delivery, but neither is a major concern. Intense and introverted, Humber likely will begin his pro career in the warm weather of St. Lucie. With his pedigree and ability, he should reach Double-A quickly and may not need much more than a season in the minors before he pushes for a big league job.
Hernandez was one of the top high school pitchers in Florida in 2003 and 2004, leading Belen Jesuit to the state 3-A finals as a junior. After signing for $480,000, he won the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League ERA title and pitched the Mets to the league playoffs, where he got shelled. Hernandez features an 89-94 mph sinker that he already commands like a veteran. He baffled GCL hitters by throwing it to both sides of the plate. He also has a sharp curveball with good bite that he throws for strikes. His body is the prototype for a righthander. With all that, the Mets say his poise may be his best attribute. Hernandez is more polished than the average teenager, but he still can improve his mechanics. His changeup is solid but still can improve. More than anything, he just needs experience. Hernandez aced his first exam. The Mets place an emphasis on winning at short-season Brooklyn, so they could send him there in 2005 even though he probably could handle an assignment to their new low Class A Hagerstown affiliate.
When scouts saw Concepcion earn recognition as the top prospect in the short-season New York-Penn League last summer, they had a reason to wonder where he came from. One of many Dominicans caught in the visa crackdowns, he previously had been known as Robert Solano, though his age remained the same. Concepcion's pitch recognition improved in 2004, which paid off in increased average and vastly improved power. He projects as a near-.300 hitter with 20-25 homers a year. Though he's only an average runner, he has demonstrated basestealing ability. He plays a solid right field with a plus arm. As good as Concepcion's season was, he still has yet to play in a full-season league. He has been around long enough that the Mets had to protect him on their 40-man roster, which started his options clock ticking. Thanks to a long swing, he strikes out too much. He's also prone to errors. Concepcion will be the marquee player at Hagerstown in 2005. With a successful first half, he could earn a promotion to high Class A.
Soler helped Cuba win the 2002 World University Games, where he didn't allow a run in two starts, and led the island's major league with a 2.01 ERA in 2003. He defected by boat in November 2003, received asylum in the Dominican Republic and signed a three-year big league contract worth $2.8 million last September. Soler throws a 91-93 mph fastball that can touch 95. It features good armside run when he keeps it down in the zone. His 80-82 mph slider has tight spin with good depth, and his changeup is an average pitch that he can throw for strikes. He has a strong frame and a clean delivery. One scout who saw Soler in the Dominican League this winter said he struggled with his fastball command and his mechanics when he hit 94-95 mph. He sometimes fails to get on top of the ball from his three-quarters delivery. He has a lot of history to overcome, as most Cuban defectors have failed to live up to their hype. Several Cubans were sent straight to the majors, but the Mets will take a more pragmatic approach. Soler will start at high Class A or Double-A.
When Bowman was hitting .187 in his 2003 pro debut, the Mets remained confident he was a prospect. He repaid that faith with a solid 2004 season. One of the system's hardest workers, he trains during the winter at the club's Dominican academy, where his fluent Spanish comes in handy. Bowman began to hit once he fixed mechanical problems with his swing and got more balanced in his stance. He showed the consistency at the plate the Mets envisioned when he hit .395 with a team-best four homers for Canada at the 2002 World Junior Championship. He's an above-average third baseman, with a plus arm and good lateral movement. Bowman still strikes out too much, largely because his pitch recognition needs work. He'll gear up for a fastball and get fooled easily by breaking stuff. Bowman is ready for high Class A. David Wright seemingly has third base to himself with the Mets, but there are no immediate plans to play Bowman at a different position because he's above-average at third base.
Diaz won two batting titles in two full seasons in the Dodgers system before joining the Mets as part of the Jeromy Burnitz deal in 2003. He has continued to hit, including three homers in his 15-game big league debut last September. The biggest blast was a three-run shot in the ninth on Sept. 25 against the Cubs, signaling the beginning of their fall. Diaz has a quick bat that sprays line drives. In past years, there was a concern that he never would have more than gap power, but he hit 27 homers in 2004. His arm is average and better suited to the outfield than the infield, where he played until last season. Diaz never will be a selective hitter. His increased power came with a corresponding jump in strikeouts. He doesn't run well and that shows in the outfield, where he makes routine plays but little more. Conditioning never has been his forte. The Mets still don't know if Diaz is a future big league regular or just a useful reserve. The Carlos Beltran signing means he'll have to come off the bench in 2005 once Mike Cameron returns from wrist surgery.
Flores' bat came alive in his first season in the United States. After posting a .233 average in two seasons in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League, he batted .320 over here. He also continued to provide stellar defense, leading Gulf Coast League regulars by throwing out 44 percent of basestealers. Though he's just 20, Flores already rivals veteran Joe Hietpas as the organization's best defensive catcher. He handles pitchers well, blocks pitches with aplomb and has solid footwork. His arm may be his best tool, as he consistently shows 1.9-2.0-second pop times from glove to second base. At the plate, he has a solid swing and already uses the entire field with average power. Despite his strong year, Flores' bat isn't nearly as advanced as his defensive skills. He struggles with breaking balls because he doesn't identify them well. He moves well for a catcher, but his speed still grades out as below-average. Flores could be the all-around catcher the Mets have been searching for. He's ticketed for Brooklyn in 2005.
Lindstrom is raw for a 25-year-old because he spent two years on a Mormon mission to Sweden. He returned to play a year at Ricks (Idaho) Junior College with his brother Rob. After a solid 2004 season, he attracted the attention of scouts in the Arizona Fall League, so the Mets protected him on the 40-man roster. Lindstrom has the best arm in the Mets system, with a fastball that sits at 94-96 and touched 100 mph during the season. He carries his velocity deep into his starts, and when he's locked in he can dominate hitters. His slider and curveball are average pitches. For a guy that can put triple digits on the radar gun, Lindstrom is passive too often. His fastball lacks movement and hitters get a good look at it coming out of his hand. He needs to pitch to both sides of the plate, tighten his slider and stay on top of his pitches. His changeup is merely usable. At some point Lindstrom has to turn projection into production, but his arm will buy him time. He'll probably return to high Class A to begin 2005. His long-term role could be in relief.
A native of Alaska, Hill had fewer at-bats than the typical junior-college product when he signed in 2002. He struggled in his adjustment to pro ball because he over-analyzed everything. Hill is intelligent and a hard worker. The game started to click for him in 2004, allowing him to start to take advantage of his multitude of tools. Hill is an average runner with a strong arm (he threw 90-92 mph as a pitcher in junior college), but his calling card is his pop. He has the best raw power in the system, with wiry strength that allows him to whip the bat through the zone. With the power comes plenty of strikeouts. Hill has made some improvement and isn't fooled by pitches as often as he was in the past, but he'll always be somewhat of a feast-or-famine hitter. If he can continue the strides he made in 2004 this year in high Class A, he quickly could become part of the Mets' future plans.
The younger brother of Billy Keppinger, whom the Royals converted from an outfielder to a pitcher last year, Keppinger has shown the ability to hit for average throughout his pro career. Acquired from the Pirates in the Kris Benson trade, he doesn't blow scouts away with any exceptional tools. But he's able to put the bat on the ball in almost any situation, a skill he continued to show off after his major league promotion. Keppinger's value is almost entirely derived from his batting average, as his contact approach diminishes his power potential and reduces his walks. He homered twice off Mark Prior in a 2001 College World Series game, but has gone deep just seven times in two years after leaving low Class A. He has average speed and defensive ability at second base. He has good body control and decent hands. Keppinger's value to the Mets depends on his ability to add some versatility. He was a shortstop in college, but hasn't played there as a pro. New York wants him to play some shortstop and third base this spring to help him battle for a utility role.
Baldiris contended for the high Class A Florida State League batting title, but he failed to show any glimpse of power potential. He has topped .300 in all but two of his eight minor league stops, but he failed to slug .400 with either of his two teams last year. Baldiris has a terrific batting eye and a solid swing that stays inside the ball as he uses the entire field. But he seems unlikely to develop power, struggling whenever he gets more pull-conscious. He gained weight in his lower half, which made him a little slower in the field. Even so, the Mets are considering moving Baldiris to second base in Double-A this year. He tried the position in instructional league, and he would have more value as a top-of-the-order hitter if he can handle the position switch. His arm and soft hands would be an asset at second base, though there are questions about whether he would have enough range, as his foot speed is a tick below-average. If he remains at third base, he doesn't have enough pop to profile for the position--and he'll never dislodge David Wright from the hot corner.
Durkin made a gaudy debut at San Jose State, going 11-3, 2.75 as a freshman, and had a solid sophomore season. He headed into last spring with lofty expectations but his ERA jumped to 4.49. He still became the second-highest draft pick in Spartans history (behind only Mark Langston) when the Mets took him in the second round and signed him for $800,000. Durkin's problems at San Jose State could be traced to his inconsistent command and over-reliance on his fastball. He showed little knack for changing speeds and tried to blow the ball past hitters. The Mets were encouraged that he started to regain the feel on his curveball late in the spring, as he won his last four decisions. Durkin didn't sign until late in the season, so the Mets won't get a good look at him in game action until 2005. They like his live arm, which delivers a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96. He also has an effective cut fastball and changeup, and he's regaining the plus curveball he had as a freshman. With his loose delivery and sturdy frame, he should be durable. Durkin probably will make his pro debut in low Class A but could get a promotion before his first full season ends.
The son of former No. 1 overall pick and major leaguer Floyd Bannister, Bannister has the advanced approach expected of a pitcher's son. He has made a quick ascent up the minor league ladder, holding his own in Double-A in his first full season of pro ball. Bannister throws five different pitches and can locate them all. He works with a 90-92 mph fastball, a 12-to-6 curveball that's inconsistent but can be an out pitch, an average changeup and an average slider. Last year he added an 87-88 mph cut fastball that could be another out pitch. His cutter has good movement and generates a lot of bad swings. Bannister throws strikes, though he's not overpowering and is fairly hittable. He doesn't have a high ceiling, but with good control, a feel for pitching and a solid repertoire, he could develop into a solid back-of- the-rotation starter, maybe as soon as 2006. He's likely to start 2005 at Triple-A Norfolk.
When the Mets signed Gomez at age 16, he was a rail-thin but speedy outfielder. Now he has grown two inches and started to fill out his 6-foot-4 frame while retaining much of his speed. He's still a long way from Shea Stadium, but Gomez' tools compare favorably with those of any outfielder in the system except Lastings Milledge. He deftly handled the transition from his native Dominican Republic to the United States last year. Gomez projects to have average or better tools across the board. He flashes plus speed and good bat speed while showing a plus arm and plus range in right field. Power is his least developed tool, but he already can drive balls to the gaps. With his bat speed, scouts expect home runs to come. He'll have to tone down his aggressive approach at higher levels. He'll probably move up just one level to Brooklyn this year and make his full-season debut in 2006.
Acquired in a January deal for catcher Vance Wilson, Hernandez immediately became the Mets' best shortstop prospect. Long considered the top defensive shortstop in the Tigers organization, Hernandez bounced back last year after a pair of disappointing seasons to show his bat isn't a lost cause. He still has work to do offensively, however. While added strength has helped him at the plate, he strikes out too much to take advantage of his above-average speed and doesn't drive the ball. He operates with more of a slap-hitting approach, which doesn't complement his free-swinging style. Hernandez' glove is major league-ready. He has fluid shortstop actions, excellent range and a strong arm. He has the athletic ability and body control to make accurate throws from all angles on the run. He toned down his tendency to be too flashy last season and was much more consistent on routine plays. Hernandez probably will open 2005 in Triple-A, but it's hard to imagine him pushing Jose Reyes or Kaz Matsui for a starting job in the Mets' middle infield.
Koo is a hero in his native Korea for his work in the 2000 Olympics, when he outdueled Japan's Daisuke Matsuzaka in the bronze-medal game, notching 10 strikeouts. By then, he already had established himself as one of the best pitchers in the Korean Baseball Organization. He was the league's MVP in 1996, when he went 18-3, 1.88 with 24 saves. He added to his fame by becoming one of the few Korean players to make a successful transition to the Japanese majors. Koo flirted with signing with the Yankees before agreeing to a one-year contract with the Mets. He'll earn $400,000 if he makes the big league team, with the possibility for another $700,000 in incentives. Primarily a starter in Japan, Koo will pitch out of the bullpen for New York. He has a twisting windup that hides the ball, especially from lefthanders. His stuff is solid, as he complements an 86-89 mph fastball with a slider that rates a tick above-average. He can get righthanders out with an average curveball and will occasionally use a below-average changeup, so he could see action as a spot starter.
The other player the Mets acquired in the Victor Zambrano/Scott Kazmir deal last July, Fortunato took a long and winding road from the Dominican Republic to the majors. The Devil Rays signed him as an outfielder, but quickly found out his arm was more valuable than his bat. They were less thrilled to discover he was actually six years older than originally believed, in the visa crackdowns after the Sept. 11 attacks. Fortunato likely wouldn't have gotten a chance at pro ball if it had been known he was nearly 22 at the time of his signing, but he has made it to the majors despite not making it out of the DSL until he was 25 years old. Equipped with a 93-95 mph fastball, an average slider and a solid changeup, he has the stuff to contribute to the big league bullpen this season. Throwing strikes on a consistent basis is his biggest obstacle. His ceiling is limited, of course, by his age.
The Mets used to dream of what Brazell might become if he could be more selective, but at this point it's unlikely he'll ever walk much or cut down on his strikeouts. As a result, his performance has steadily dropped as he has faced more experienced pitchers. Brazell, whose father Ted caught and managed in the Tigers system, too often ends up behind in the count because pitchers have figured out that he's almost always looking for something he can drive. His aggressive swings and strength give him plus power when he connects. He has soft hands, but he has below-average speed and limited range and arm strength at both first base and left field. He got his first taste of Shea Stadium with a September callup, but New York's trade for Doug Mientkiewicz relegates Brazell to a big league reserve at best.
A year ago, the Mets were wondering if Turay's talent would be smothered by his lack of concentration and disciplinary problems. They sent him home early in 2002 after he alienated people in Brooklyn with run-ins with fans (he professed not to know English and signed autographs as "Tom Hanks"), lackadaisical effort and a tantrum that included bashing a water cooler. A bone bruise in his leg cut short his 2003 season, but he put forth the kind of effort New York had been looking for last year and showed signs of accepting instruction. He took a significant step forward with his power. Turay's pop rates with anyone's in the system. His plus bat speed and short swing allow him to get around on good fastballs. His power-happy approach leaves him vulnerable to offspeed stuff, and he doesn't work counts well. He's a good athlete and an average runner, but he has yet to refine his routes in right field or get good jumps on the basepaths. With a below-average arm, he'll probably move to left field eventually. Turay should get his first action in Double-A this year.
He didn't match the 1.02 ERA that left scouts shaking their heads in 2003, but McGinley did enough last year to show he can be a major league reliever. His mix of top-notch command, plus changeups, show-me curveballs and 85-88 mph fastballs continued to pile up strikeouts at Double-A and Triple-A. What jumps out about McGinley is his moxie. He has no fear of throwing an 85 mph fastball right down the pipe, trusting that its sink and his ability to outthink hitters will allow him to get away with pitches that should be pounded. McGinley has a little twist in his delivery that adds deception, but as with Yusmeiro Petit, it's tough to explain how he has 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings as a pro. He's ticketed for Triple-A, and before long he'll get a chance to see if he can get major league hitters out.
Pagan's climb hasn't gone nearly as quickly as he can get around the bases, but he showed consistency in 2004 after lacking it in previous seasons. He has a nice mix of tools, with above-average speed, an average arm and the ability to hit for average. He has stolen more than 30 bases in each of the past four seasons, and he showed a better feel for getting jumps and picking his spots last year. His 85 percent success rate was the highest of his career. At the plate, Pagan has developed gap power, so he's no longer just a bunt-and-slap hitter. He still doesn't control the strike zone like a top-of-the-order hitter should, however. In the outfield, Pagan has the speed and range to handle center field, and his strong, accurate arm allows him to fill in as a right fielder. His versatility could help him earn a role as a fourth outfielder in the majors, though he'll head to Triple-A this spring to add further polish first.
Harper's father Brian spent 16 seasons in the majors and his uncle Glenn played in the Mets system in the mid-1970s. Brett attracted little notice during his first three seasons with the Mets, but that changed with a loud three months in the Florida State League last year, when he hit .350 with power. He always had put the bat on the ball, but he showed the ability to pull the ball instead of just serving singles to the opposite field. His improved pitch recognition allowed him to get into hitter's counts and show the raw power the Mets had seen in batting practice. The former third baseman is a little stiff at first base. As good as Harper's high Class A stint was, he will have to prove himself against better pitching. He struggled in Double-A, where his strikeout rate soared, and he looked no better in the Arizona Fall League. He's expected to head back to Double-A this year to regroup.
Only a year ago, Keppel was considered one of the top pitching prospects in the organization. But injuries continue to bother the former high school basketball star, who could have played hoops at Notre Dame had he not signed for $895,000. He missed time in 2003 with a strained forearm, then had to skip the Arizona Fall League because of a stiff shoulder. Shoulder tendinitis flared up again in spring training last year, forcing Keppel to get off to a late start to the season. He missed further time in August and was shut down a week early. When healthy, he has a 90-91 mph fastball that touches 93, a major league changeup and a curveball and slider that are less advanced. Limited by his shoulder, Keppel had only one month of effectiveness in a rough introduction to Triple-A. He never has missed many bats but was absolutely tattooed in Triple-A, where opponents hit .304 against him. If he's healthy, Keppel's feel for pitching and solid stuff should be enough to allow him to succeed, but he has to prove that his shoulder is sound. He skipped instructional league again and the Mets hope he'll be healthy for spring training.
He's still not a .300 hitter, and he likely never will be. He strikes out more than a leadoff hitter should, and he probably won't ever develop more than gap power. But as long as Lydon continues to improve and steal 60-plus bases a year--he has won league stolen-base titles in each of his three full seasons--the Mets will continue to believe he can help them in the majors. Lydon has top-of-the-line speed and takes the most aggressive leads in the system, practically daring pitchers to try to pick him off. He has adapted to switch-hitting, something the Mets got him to try in 2003. Despite an athletic frame, Lydon has virtually no power. He draws a decent amount of walks, though not enough to make him a true onbase threat, and still has to find a way to make more consistent contact. His blazing speed allows him to run down balls in the gaps in center field, where his arm is below-average. He'll get his first opportunity in Triple-A this year.
Malek has an abundance of tools, but the Mets are still waiting for him to put it all together. He runs well for a big man, owns a decent batting eye and has a plus arm. He has bounced back from 2002 Tommy John surgery with few ill effects, but his adjustment to wood bats hasn't gone as well. He won Big 10 Conference batting (.427 as a sophomore) and home run (16 as a junior) titles, but hasn't been able to combine hitting for average and power as a pro. When he repeated high Class A last year, he did show more pop. Malek's swing is a little long, and he's not strong enough to produce power without trying to pull the ball. When he does that, it takes away from his ability to use the entire field. There's still room for projection in his upper body. He has good instincts and a strong arm in right field. New York hopes he'll take a huge step forward this year in Double-A.
Yates started 2004 as the Mets' fifth starter, shutting out the Expos for six innings in his first outing. He was shelled in subsequent starts and eventually sent to Triple-A to see if he could get settled as a reliever. The time in Norfolk paid off, as he worked on using his two-seam fastball, which has nice movement and sink. When he returned to New York for a September callup, he went nine straight outings without allowing a run. The positive end to the season was dashed in February, however, when Yates had arthroscopic shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. Yates' stuff had been good enough to get major leaguers out, as he threw a 92-95 mph fastball, an average slider and changeup. Like many hard throwers, he learned that command and the ability to speed or slow down hitters' bats is as important as raw velocity. Yates showed signs that he was beginning to take those lessons in September and was a strong candidate for the big league bullpen, but because of the shoulder surgery he is now expected to miss the entire 2005 season.
Henry was one of the highest unsigned draft-and-follows from 2003. The Tigers took him in the 10th round, and he spent that summer with the U.S. junior national team that also included 2004 first-round picks Matt Bush, Billy Butler and Neil Walker. Originially committed to Tony Gwynn's San Diego State program, Henry decided to attend Diablo Valley (Calif.) Junior College. Detroit couldn't get a deal done last spring, so the Mets were able to draft and sign him as a 20th-rounder in June. In his first exposure to pro ball, Henry showed solid gap and opposite-field power despite a smallish frame. He might end up needing to cut down on his swing, which is a little long. It might cut into his home run numbers, but he can be a solid hitter even if his power is reduced to line-drives. In the field, Henry likely will have to move from shortstop. His arm is strong enough and he has a quick release, but his throws are erratic. He's not particularly fluid at shortstop, though he has the quickness to potentially slide over to second base. Henry has average speed, but he knows how to get jumps and takes extra bases with heady aggressiveness. How he performs in extended spring training will determine whether he moves up to Kingsport or Brooklyn in 2005.
After winning the Mets' minor league player of the year award with a Double-A breakthrough in 2003, Jacobs barely played last year. A torn labrum and a cyst that had to be removed from his shoulder destroyed his season. If healthy, he's the best-hitting catcher in the system, offering outstanding opposite-field power and a fluid stroke. The labrum actually affected his hitting much more than his work behind the plate, because he had little strength in his swing before he was shut down in late April. His strike-zone discipline never has been as an asset. Before his shoulder problems, Jacobs already faced questions about his catching ability. He has a below-average arm, partly because he gets too tall while coming out of his crouch, slowing his release. He also is a below-average receiver. If he can't make it behind the plate, his bat will have to carry him if he becomes a first baseman. Jacobs wasn't cleared to swing the bat in time for instructional league, but New York hopes he'll be ready for spring training. If he's ready to go, he'll begin the 2005 season in Triple-A.