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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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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 his next goal will be to stay healthy and pass the 100-inning level.
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. 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. 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. Gomez likely will compete with Ryan Church for the right-field job in spring training. Gomez could use more offensive polish, so he could return to Triple-A at the season's outset.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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's 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
The Mets drafted Smith with every intention of moving him quickly through the farm system, and that part worked as planned. He had just 27 pro appearances before making his big league debut on Opening Day 2007, and he quickly established himself as one of New York's most reliable relievers. He didn't give up a run in his first 17 appearances, and when he did give up runs, it was due in part to the fact he hadn't worked in a week. Smith succeeded with a sidearm delivery that pumped fastballs up to 94 mph into the lower half of the strike zone, mostly sitting at 88-91 mph with heavy sink. He got 3.8 groundouts for every flyout, a stat that backs up the scouting report on his sinker. His hard low-80s slider helps him make life difficult for righthanders. However, Smith didn't adjust when big league hitters did. He nibbled more and more as the season went on, and as usual with righty sidearmers, lefthanded hitters feasted on him (.858 OPS). Smith was sent down to Triple-A in July after allowing 19 out of 27 inherited runners to score, and while he was more aggressive in his return, he also was more hittable. His changeup and command could both improve, but the same could be said of many young pitchers. More likely, Smith is what he is: a big leaguer, but probably not anything more than a sixth- or seventh-inning matchup reliever.
Moviel is the youngest of three brothers pitching in pro ball, joining Greg (Mariners) and Paul (Rays). Scott has the highest upside of the trio, in part because he's three inches taller than his brothers. He was set to follow in the footsteps of another 6-foot-11 Cincinnati-area pitcher, Andrew Brackman, and attend North Carolina State when the Mets drafted him in the second round in June and signed him for $414,000. While Brackman, who went 30th overall to the Yankees, has bigger stuff and was a better basketball player, the Mets are happy with Moviel, who has excellent athleticism and coordination for a pitcher his size. He's flexible and repeats his delivery well. His best pitch is his fastball, which sits at 90-92 mph and tops out at 94. He has shown the ability to spot his fastball well and should have average command down the line. He also has feel for his nascent changeup, which he rarely threw as an amateur. His biggest weakness is his breaking ball, which has been slow and slurvy. He has shown the ability to spin the baseball, though, and New York believes he'll eventually have a solid hard slider with work and experience. Moviel has a high ceiling and just needs innings. He's likely to report to extended spring training and then short-season Brooklyn for 2008.
The Mets got Clyne cheap. As a redshirt senior, he had little bargaining power and signed for $100,000, by far the lowest signing bonus of the first three rounds of the 2007 draft. He redshirted as a freshman after having arm problems dating back his high school career, then missed 2004 with Tommy John surgery. But by 2007 he was Clemson's top reliever, allowing lefthander Daniel Moskos (the No. 4 overall pick by the Pirates in June) to move into the rotation. Clyne isn't far removed from the relievers New York drafted ahead of him, Eddie Kunz and Brant Rustich, as he throws hard, reaching up to 94 mph with his low-90s sinker. He also has a strikeout pitch in an above-average, two-plane slider that has depth and power in the low 80s. The Mets see Clyne as a setup man who should move quickly and believe he can reach that ceiling after seeing improvement since he signed. He has cleaned up his somewhat funky arm action a bit, and St. Lucie pitching coach Al Jackson worked on improving Clyne's delivery during instructional league to get all his energy moving toward the plate, rather than side to side. Both changes should improve his command. Mets coaches also are encouraged by the progress of his changeup, which has sink similar to that of his fastball. If he comes out throwing strikes in 2008, Clyne could speed through the system.
The Mets drafted Carr in 2005, when he was the top prep arm in Idaho, and followed him for a year at the JC of Southern Idaho before signing him. While evaluating Carr, they also saw lefthander Todd Privett at Southern Idaho and wound up drafting and signing him as well. Carr hasn't made it to full-season ball as Privett has, but Carr has had more pro success and has the better arm. He holds his fastball velocity well and maintains his stuff both in games and throughout the season. Carr's fastball sits at 91-94 mph and touches 96, and it has some life. His slider can be a plus pitch with power and tilt, reaching 84-88 mph at times. New York was most encouraged with Carr's improved changeup in instructional league and he focused on the pitch during his stint in Hawaii Winter Baseball. It's still below-average, though, and to be a starter, he'll have to be able to change speeds more effectively. He has trimmed up his body since signing, dropping 15 pounds and becoming stronger and more flexible, allowing him to refine and maintain his improved mechanics. The Mets consider him one of their better arms and hope he can emulate Robert Parnell in honing his change while maintaining his power repertoire. Carr's ready for full-season ball and will pitch in low Class A to open 2008.
Murphy played in the same Jacksonville infield with Anthony Bernazard, whose father Tony is the Mets' vice president of player development. The team had an extended look at him and wasn't fazed by knee and arm injuries in his junior season that limited Murphy to DH duties after signing in 2006. His bat always has been his calling card--he hit .398 as a college junior--and allowed him to rank second in the Florida State League with 143 hits in his first full season. He has a steady, contact-oriented approach and a short, balanced swing. He has a feel for RBI situations and for moving runners along. Murphy's defense at third base remains a work in progress. He didn't play the position regularly until midway though his sophomore college season, and he made 35 errors in 135 games for St. Lucie. Footwork is the main culprit, as he's inconsistent with his setup and has somewhat limited mobility. A below-average runner, he is more likely to move to first base than the outfield if his defense and/or David Wright's presence in New York forces the issue at third. The problem is Murphy's gap-to-gap power doesn't profile well at a less challenging position, though optimistic scouts believe he might hit 20 homers annually. After working primarily on his defense in Hawaii Winter Baseball, Murphy is ticketed for Double-A.
The Mets had high expectations for Veloz entering 2007, as he was the team's MVP at in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League the year before. He moved with DSL double-play partner Juan Lagares to low Class A to start the season, but neither was ready for the challenge. Veloz is the physically stronger of the pair and rebounded in the second half after moving down to the Rookie-level Appalachian League, which he led with nine triples. Veloz ranked fourth in the Appy League with 18 steals in 25 tries, yet speed isn't his calling card. At 4.2 seconds to first base from the right side, he's an average runner, though he's a tick better underway. Veloz has power from both sides of the plate that excites scouts even though he's quite raw. The ball jumps off his bat, and he could hit 25 homers annually if he learns to temper his aggressiveness and swing at strikes. Defensively, Veloz has average arm strength and could move over to third base. He's a second baseman for now with solid range, and he projects to be above average there if he can improve his footwork. He'll take another shot at low Class A this year.
New York signed 15 players on the international market last summer, more than any other organization. Flores was the top player from that crop in terms of present tools and future potential, and he got the largest bonus at $750,000. He also was the only 2007 Mets international signee playing winter ball in Venezuela's winter minor league (the Parallel League), doing so at age 16. Flores currently lacks strength but has a projectable frame and should grow into his body and become a force with the bat. He has an advanced approach for a young player, not to mention a 16-year-old Latin American, and earns some internal comparisons to Miguel Cabrera for his present pull power and ability to use the whole field. Flores has the bat speed to catch up to good fastballs, though he's tall and may have to refine a swing that at times gets long. Club officials were most encouraged that he held his own against older pitchers in instructional league, never looking overmatched, and one said he had the best at-bats of anyone in camp. The biggest question scouts have on Flores is his future defensive home, and they're not as sold on his bat as the Mets are. He's a big, rangy shortstop who's likely to outgrow the position. He has the hands and arm to remain in the infield, unless his body goes south. Flores is the most likely of New York's 2007 international signees to jump on the fast track and play full-season ball in 2008 despite his tender age, but the system also has a glut of infielders at the lower levels. His assignment largely will depend on his spring-training performance.
Tejada is the Mets' top signee from Panama, a nation the organization considers a growth area in terms of prospects. He began his pro career last year in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League, where he batted .364 to earn a callup to the Gulf Coast League as a 17-year-old. Tejada was the best player in a talented infield that included fourth-round pick Richard Lucas at third base and polished Australian hitter Stefan Welch at first. Tejada's best present tools are on the defensive side, as he has above-average arm strength and range that allow him to make all the plays at shortstop. In his time at second base, he showed an aptitude for turning double plays. He's an above-average runner and has an advanced approach at the plate, as he walked more than he struck out. Tejada also has some strength and gap-to-gap power, and while he doesn't project to hit for more than fringe-average power, he's not a slap hitter either. Tejada's best quality could be his savvy, as he's mature and showed a grinder mentality. He may have pushed his way to a full-season assignment for 2008, pending his spring performance.
What began as a promising 2007 for Carp instead became the worst year of his pro career. Injuries to Carlos Delgado and Julio Franco and visa issues for Michel Abreu prompted the Mets to keep Carp around big league camp for most of spring training, and he went 10-for-43 with a homer before he broke his right ring finger sliding into second base. After missing the first seven weeks of the regular season, he reported to Binghamton and got off to a fast start. Then he struggled making adjustments in his first try at Double- A. Carp has some of the best hitting ability in the organization thanks to his willingness to use the entire field, good hand-eye coordination and usually disciplined approach. However, he struggled mightily with lefthanders for the third straight season, posting a lousy .418 OPS in 110 at-bats with just two walks and two extra-base hits. New York thought he had turned the corner in that regard in the spring, but he looks like a platoon player. Carp's defense also remains below average, as he ranked third in the Eastern league in errors with 10 in just 97 games. Carp tried to make up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League, but didn't swing the bat with much confidence or conviction there. He's just 21, so the Mets will give him a mulligan for 2007 and probably promote him to Triple-A this year.
Evans has become exactly what scouts said he would be out of high school: a one-dimensional slugger whose value is tied completely to his bat. A prep third baseman, he has moved to first base and is just a fair defender. One scout with a National League club said he turned in Evans as a prospect despite considering him below-average as a hitter, runner, fielder and thrower. The reason is that fifth tool. Evans has more usable power than any Mets minor leaguer from the draft. He has a swing that can get long, but he has enough bat speed to catch up to good fastballs when he's looking for them. He's exceptionally strong and can drive the ball out of the park to all fields. In fact, using the whole field as well as improving his two-strike approach were key improvements he made in 2007. He's willing to draw walks and absolutely mashed lefthanders (1.036 OPS). Evans had injury problems interrupt his season early and late. He missed most of May with a partially torn ligament in his left ankle and was set to report to Hawaii Winter Baseball before being shut down with a stress fracture in his right hand. He's going to go as far as his bat will take him, but with Carlos Delgado aging less gracefully than the New York had hoped, 2008 could be a huge year for Evans to see if he can move ahead Mike Carp as the system's best hope for a homegrown first baseman of the future. He should replace Carp as Binghamton's first baseman this season.
Signed for $750,000 in 2006, Pena was put on the same fast track as the Mets' top two prospects, 2005 signees Fernando Martinez and Deolis Guerra. His big league bloodlines--he's the son of former all-star catcher and current Yankees first-base coach Tony Pena and the brother of Royals shortstop Tony Pena Jr.--good-looking swing and powerful, physically mature build seemed to indicate he'd be well-suited to jump into full-season ball at age 17. But Pena simply wasn't ready and had a dreadful season in low Class A. His best tool is raw power, and he just wasn't skilled enough to make consistent enough contact against older pitchers for his power to come into play. None of his other tools is average right now, and for Pena to bring his overall game into line with his potential, he must get into better shape. One scout outside the organization said simply, "He's just fat right now. It's hard to project much with the shape he's in." Mets international scouting director Ismael Cruz, whose father signed Tony Pena Sr., says Francisco resembles Tony the elder physically when he was 17 and isn't worried about the body or Pena's athletic ability. New York acknowledges Pena has work to do and says he put too much pressure on himself to hit for power immediately, leading the rest of his game to sag. He threw out just 23 percent of basestealers despite above-average arm strength. The combination of being the South Atlantic League's youngest player and having to handle the defensive responsibilities of catching were too much for Pena in 2007. The organization remains confident that Pena will get on track this year as an 18-year-old back in low Class A.
The Mets' top draft-and-follow signee in 2007, Orta turned pro for $135,000 and has one of the better arms in the system. He's still raw after two seasons at Western Nebraska CC and went just 2-7 as a sophomore, though he helped the Cougars get within a game of the Junior College World Series with a team-best 2.61 ERA. One of four Venezuelans on the Western Nebraska roster, he made his pro debut in the Venezuelan Summer League after going back home to get a work visa. He was signed by the same scout who landed A.J. Burnett for the Mets, Arkansas-based Larry Chase, who said Orta has a ceiling of being a No. 2 or No. 3 starter. Chase had to trek about 1,000 miles to see Orta, impressive dedication that landed the Mets a live arm. Orta's fastball sat at 91-94 mph during the spring and touches 96 at times. He worked more at 88-91 mph during his debut. His fastball has armside run and he needs to learn to spot it to the outer half against righthanders. His clean arm action prompts scouts to predict improvement in his velocity and command. Orta's changeup is a solid-average pitch at times and he has flashed a hard curveball. He also loses feel for his curve at times and doesn't consistently throw it with enough power. He might take a while to develop but he has a strong arm and projection, so the Mets will be patient. He'll have to earn a spot in low Class A in spring training.
Bostick came to the Mets with fellow lefty Jason Vargas in the trade that sent righties Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom to the Marlins. The deal didn't work out well at all for New York in 2007, as Lindstrom blossomed as a hard-throwing middle reliever in Florida while Bostick and Vargas struggled mightily. The Mets believe Bostick started straightening himself out right after the season ended. Before heading to the Arizona Fall League, he lost about 15 pounds to get back to his ideal weight of 220. He also started regaining some of the bite on his curveball, which long has been his best pitch. His trimmer frame allows him to maintain his mechanics better and throw harder. After sitting in the upper 80s for most of the year with his sinking two-seam fastball, Bostick operated at 89-91 mph and touched 93 in the AFL. His fringe-average changeup works better when set against a harder fastball. Despite his athleticism--NCAA Division II Slippery Rock (Pa.) offered him a football scholarship as a quarterback--throwing strikes consistently always has been a problem for Bostick. He can gets swings and misses with his fastball and curve but can't always catch the plate as much as he needs to. Bostick could be in the fifth starter's mix in New York in 2008, but more likely will return to Triple-A.
Garcia, whose father was a professional tennis player from Spain before settling in Canada, didn't get drafted because of the visa shortage baseball experienced post-9/11, but he has made up for lost time and has developed into one of the Mets' most reliable middle-infield options. He made Top 20 Prospects lists in both the Gulf Coast and Appalachian leagues in his first two years, and was productive in his full-season debut in 2007 after jumping a level to high Class A. After the season, he batted .348 in Hawaii Winter Baseball before joining Team Canada for the World Cup in Taiwan. Garcia has no home run power, but he can go gap to gap and uses the whole field. He isn't afraid to draw a walk, hit behind a runner or lay down a bunt, and he's improving his ability to make contact. He has plus speed and is a solid baserunner who's getting better in that aspect of the game, a crucial aspect of his development. Defensively, Garcia makes the routine plays at shortstop and has average tools, but he's probably better suited to second base, where he saw more time last season. The Mets love his energy, and his overall profile screams utility infielder. He's ticketed to start at shortstop in Double-A in 2008.
Register's career has come full circle. He was a reliever at Auburn and led NCAA Division I with 16 saves as a sophomore in 2003, pitching with Team USA as Huston Street's setup man that summer. The next year he struggled a bit more and moved into a starting role, and the Rockies kept him in the rotation after taking him in the third round in 2004. After reaching Double-A as a starter, he moved back to the bullpen there in 2007 and had his best year as a pro, leading the minor leagues with 37 saves. Register still throws a changeup that he picked up as a starter, but in relief he focuses more on using his average fastball and plus slider. His fastball will touch 93 mph but more regularly sits at 90-91 with a little sink. His slider sits at 82 mph and has some life down as well as away from righthanders and helps him get groundballs. Pro scout Jerry Krause, the former Chicago Bulls general manager, recommended him to the Mets as a major league Rule 5 draft pick because of his solid-average command of those pitches. Register will battle Jorge Sosa and Joe Smith for innings and a spot on the roster, and if he doesn't make it, New York must put him on waivers and offer him back to Colorado for half of the $50,000 Rule 5 price before sending him to the minors.
The Mets may have gotten an 18th-round steal last June in Antonini, a college senior who cost them just $2,500 and could move quickly. He attended Gloucester County (N.J.) JC and helped the team to the 2005 Division III juco national championship before moving on to Georgia College & State for two seasons. He spurned his hometown Phillies as a 41st-round pick after his junior season and struggled somewhat as a senior (7-6, 3.97). However, Antonini showed the Mets three potential average big league pitches, and he has an out pitch in his changeup, which has excellent fade and helps neutralize righthanders. Big leaguer Paul LoDuca caught Antonini in an August rehab stint at Brooklyn and proclaimed his changeup big league-ready. His fastball ranges from 88-91 mph and is fairly straight, and he's homer-prone when he leaves it up in the strike zone. His slider grades out as an average pitch because he throws it with some power in the low 80s. Antonini has little room for projection but has the stuff to be a fourth or fifth starter if he can hone his command and avoid the longball. He could skip a level and jump to high Class A this year.
Marte signed with the Mets soon after turning 16 last June, and he received a $550,000 bonus, the ninth-highest of any position player on the international market last summer. International scouting director Ismael Cruz said New York considered Marte's bat the quickest in the international class and projects him to hit for significant power down the line. Top evaluator Sandy Johnson--who has scouted Latin America for 35 years and signed the likes of Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa--was heavily involved in scouting Marte, as he was with all the Mets' six-figure international signees the last three years. He's raw but hit some 400-foot shots during instructional league and got further experience in the organization's Dominican instructional program. He's is physical and has some all-around skills, with a solid arm and above-average speed (6.7 seconds over 60 yards). His defense and ability to hit for average are far from polished, befitting a 16-year-old. New York is flush with infielders at the lower levels, so Marte may start his pro career in the Dominican Summer League, though he could debut in the Gulf Coast League.
Lagares teamed with Greg Veloz in the Dominican Summer League in 2006 and again at Savannah to start 2007, but in the second half Lagares was worn down and Veloz sent down to Kingsport. Mariners phenom Carlos Triunfel and Savannah teammate Francisco Pena were the only younger players to begin the 2007 season on a full-season club in the minors, and Lagares' youth showed in his statistics. He hit just .210 and ranked second in the South Atlantic League in errors by a shortstop (40) in just 82 games. However, Lagares has some obvious tools. He's a plus runner with excellent athleticism and body control, and he has the quick feet and requisite arm strength to play shortstop. One Mets official insists Lagares' best tool will be his bat, saying he should develop solid gap power and noting that he actually posted a higher slugging percentage than Pena (.317 to .283) at Savannah. Lagares was obviously raw, expanding his strike zone and being too aggressive on the basepaths to take advantage of his speed. He's likely to repeat low Class A in 2008 and should team with Veloz once again in an intriguing middle infield.
Duda ranked among the top power hitters in the prep class of 2004 after putting on a show at the 2003 Area Code Games. He also touched 90 mph as a pitcher and was expected to be a two-way impact player at Southern California. That Duda never materialized, however, as he never hit for much power and never pitched in college (in part because he had Tommy John surgery in high school). After slugging just .410 in three seasons for the Trojans, he took off after signing in June for $85,000. His 20 doubles for Brooklyn matched the total of his three college seasons. Duda trimmed up his body and while he still drew walks, he was more aggressive as a pro and his above-average raw power potential finally came to the fore. He can drive the ball to all fields and is still learning how to add loft to his swing. Despite his size, Duda runs well enough to have fringe-average range in left field, and he still has some arm strength. He played mostly left field as a college junior and has a better chance to stick as a reserve player if he can stay there in pro ball. Whether he plays left or first base (where he saw more action during his pro debut), his raw power will have to play more than it did in his amateur career. He's expected to anchor the Savannah lineup in 2008.
The Mets have signed several promising position players from Latin America since Omar Minaya became general manager, but Deolis Guerra stands out as by far the best of the international pitching signees. New York hopes that more depth is on the way, with Ramirez leading a group of young Latin arms that also includes lefthander Angel Calero, who has projectable arm strength, and righthander Pedro P. Martinez, no relation to the big leaguer and one of the organization's most improved pitchers in instructional league. Ramirez has a big arm, having hit 96 mph regularly and sitting anywhere from 87-94 with a short, deceptive arm action. One scout who saw Ramirez at Kingsport said he'd have more velocity if the Mets could lengthen his delivery out front, and club officials say they had success doing that in instructional league. Ramirez has a wiry-strong body that allows him to generate a quick arm that helps produce a hard breaking ball that's closer to a curveball than a slider. He has a chance to have decent control but too much effort in his delivery to have much command, making him profile as a reliever. New York likely will keep him in the rotation to get more innings in 2008, at either Brooklyn or Savannah.
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