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Unlike many pro baseball players, Mejia didn't sign his first contract for love of the game. He began playing at age 15 only after seeing how lucrative the sport could be for many impoverished young Dominicans, citing Pedro Martinez's $53 million deal with the Mets as an eye-opener. Scouted by the Red Sox and Yankees, among others, Mejia struggled to get noticed because he was undersized and skinny. When the Mets offered $16,500 in April 2007 he signed on the spot--it sure beat the roughly $8 a day he made shining shoes in Santo Domingo. Mejia made a much quicker impression in his U.S. debut in 2008, when he came out firing mid-90s heat for Brooklyn. He began the 2010 season in the Mets big league bullpen, at 20 the youngest player to make an Opening Day roster. His youth and inexperience showed, prompting New York to option him to Double-A on June 20. He left his second start there with a strained shoulder and sat out a month. Upon his return in August, Mejia went on a monthlong tear to earn his way back to the New York. Back in the majors, Mejia got rocked in two starts and left his third with what eventually was diagnosed as a rhomboid strain of his shoulder blade. Mejia adopted a reliever's mentality while working in the big league bullpen, showcasing his plus-plus fastball at the expense of his secondary pitches. He sits at a steady 94-96 mph and induces boatloads of groundballs because his ball features such late cutting action. Mejia throws a firm 86-88 mph straight changeup that behaves like a splitter and serves as a second out pitch. Scouts like his 12-to-6 downer curveball, which is a plus pitch at times at 79-81 mph. Because he struggles to repeat his release point on his curve, he tends to shy away from it. Concerns about Mejia center on his inconsistent secondary stuff and smallish build--though his strong lower half mitigates the latter somewhat. He worked just 81 innings last season and 95 in 2009, when he missed seven weeks with a strained right middle finger. Mejia has the raw stuff to pitch at the front of a rotation, but he has yet to prove he can complete anything close to 200 innings in a season. Even if he flames out as a starter, he can be a dominating late-inning reliever with just a slight improvement to his control. The new frontoffice regime intends to slow down Mejia's development track and have him build innings as a starter at Triple-A Buffalo in 2011.
Flores began fine-tuning his skills at an academy near his home at age 13, but his parents allowed him to pursue a baseball career only upon early graduation from high school. Signed for $750,000 on his 16th birthday in 2007, he reached high Class A St. Lucie as an 18-year-old last June. Flores always has shown natural aptitude for hitting, something that can't be said for his running or fielding ability. He puts a charge into the ball with quick wrists and a loose, easy stroke. He doesn't swing and miss much, making rapid adjustments and excelling at barreling the ball and driving it to all fields when he gets extension. The results began to manifest in games last season when he smacked 50 extra-base hits, doubling his total from 2009. Flores' ability to hit for average and power will be crucial as he slides down the defensive spectrum. His hands work at shortstop, but his lack of first-step quickness and range won't allow him to play up the middle in the majors. He throws well enough to play third base, though his well below-average speed would make an outfield post an adventure. As he fills out and improves his selectivity, Flores could grow into a middleof- the-order presence. He'll reach Double-A at some point in 2011, probably before his 20th birthday.
Signed for $400,000 in 2007, Puello was one of five teenage regulars in the low Class A South Atlantic League last year, batting .346 in the second half before missing the final three weeks with a strained lower back. Some scouts prefer him to Wilmer Flores because Puello has five-tool potential. Puello went on his tear after going from a deep crouch to a more upright stance, giving him a stronger load and better plate coverage on the inner half. Though he homered only once in 2010, he has as much raw power as anyone in the system, and scouts were impressed he never betrayed his all-fields approach to sell out for power. The home runs will come--potentially as many as 25 annually--because he accelerates the barrel through the hitting zone with strong wrists, generating ample backspin and carry. Puello's most evident tool is his plus speed, which he used to steal 45 bases in 55 tries last year. He has a plus arm and covers a lot of ground in right field, but grades as a merely average defender because of unfocused play and instincts lacking for center. If Puello truly does hit 20-plus homers a year, he'll be a fixture in right field for the Mets for a long time. His first taste of high Class A awaits in 2011.
One of the top prep pitchers in the 2007 draft, Harvey slid to the third round because of signability and turned down the Angels to attend North Carolina. Inconsistent in his first two years, he had a strong junior season in 2010 and went seventh overall in the draft. He signed at the Aug. 16 deadline for a slightly over-slot $2.525 million. Harvey has the physicality and arm strength favored by the Mets when they select college righthanders at the top of the draft. The line traces back from Harvey to Brad Holt to Eddie Kunz to Mike Pelfrey to Philip Humber. Harvey pitches at 91-95 mph and touches 97 with his fastball, though his control wavers because his long arm action affects his release point. He throws both a slider and a curveball, but the Mets prefer that he develop the latter, a power downer that shows flashes of being a plus-plus pitch. His mid-80s slider features depth and late finish. He needs to work on his changeup after rarely using it in as an amateur. He improved the balance and tempo in his delivery through hard work in college, a testament to his improved maturity. If he maintains direction to the plate and throws strikes, Harvey has frontof- the-rotation stuff. He'll start his pro career in high Class A.
Nieuwenhuis starred as a running back in high school but opted to pursue baseball in college, leading Azusa Pacific (Calif.) to consecutive NAIA World Series and ranking as the summer Alaska League's top prospect following his sophomore year. He led the high Class A Florida State League in four categories, including extra-base hits (56) and slugging (.467), during his full-season debut in 2009. He continued to hit for power last season in Double-A, leading the Eastern League with 53 extra-base hits at the time of his August promotion to Triple-A. Nieuwenhuis' all-out approach helps sell observers on his allaround ability, which breaks down as five average to a tick below-average tools. He shows an all-fields approach that could spell a .270 average in the big leagues. He has the bat speed to hit for power, but his line-drive stroke is geared more for doubles and a ceiling of 12-15 homers. His range and instincts in center field grade as average, as does his arm, but his speed is merely fringe-average. As an athletic, lefthanded hitter with a dollop of power and speed, Nieuwenhuis could be an ideal reserve who can cover all three outfield spots and produce at the plate. He'll begin 2011 in Triple-A and make his big league debut at some point during the season.
While Ike Davis rocketed to Queens less than two years after being drafted, fellow 2008 first-rounder Havens has shifted from shortstop to second base and seen his progress stalled by a string of elbow, groin, quadriceps, hand, oblique and back injuries. He has played in 152 pro games and hit .261/.363/.467 with 26 homers and 80 walks, hinting at the type of player he could be if healthy. Havens tinkered with his swing last season, moving his hands to a higher starting position to better handle high fastballs. His quiet hitting approach and strong pitch recognition mark him as a future average hitter who will work deep counts and compile both walks and strikeouts. He's quick to the ball and can turn on the inside pitch, enough to project as a 15-20 homer threat. He'll have to make hay with the bat to profile as a big league regular, because he has a thick frame and below-average speed. His actions and hands are modest, as are his range and arm strength. He began playing second base only last season, moving from shortstop. While he won't win any Gold Gloves, Havens profiles as an offensive-oriented second baseman with power and patience. He'll begin his fourth pro season in Double-A, and could move quickly if he stays healthy.
Duda went from afterthought to September callup last season, more than doubling his previous career high for homers and winning the Mets' minor league player of the year award. He recovered from a 1-for-33 start in New York to bat .314 with nine extra-base hits in his final 17 big league games. Duda always made hard contact and showed a discerning batting eye, but he began hitting more homers last season by better identifying pitches on the inner half that he could loft out of the park. He also can drive the ball to the opposite field for doubles. He doesn't strike out much for a player with his raw strength and power, and though he lacks elite bat speed, his tools suggest he could hit .275 with 15-20 homers annually. Duda's best defensive position is first base because he's a poor, lumbering runner with below-average range and arm strength in left field. With Ike Davis entrenched at first base in New York, Duda must hit to stay in the picture for playing time on an outfield corner. The presence of Jason Bay could force Duda to Triple-A to start the year. If he hits, the Mets will make room, either in right field or as a bat off the bench.
Martinez' signing for $1.3 million in 2005 signaled the Mets' intention to be major players on the international market, though they have given a seven-figure bonus only once since ($1.2 million for lefthander Juan Urbina in 2009). Injuries continue to define Martinez, who never has played more than 90 games in any of his five pro seasons. He looked electrifying while winning Caribbean Series MVP honors and batting .383 in big league camp in early 2010, then missed half the season with lower-back, hamstring and knee maladies. He left the Dominican League after one game with mild arthritis in his right knee. Martinez has plus power to all fields, but his pull-only approach makes him susceptible to pitches on the outer half. He has the hand-eye coordination to hit for a decent average, but he's impatient and too often gets out on his front side against offspeed stuff. Repeated injuries to his knees and hamstrings have turned Martinez into a below-average runner. He has worked to improve his range and throwing accuracy, and some scouts see his defense and arm as average tools, fit for right field. When healthy, Martinez has held his own despite being consistently younger than his competition. But unless he improves his selectivity and plate coverage, he seems destined for life as a lefthanded power bat off the bench.
After signing for $600,000 in 2008, Rodriguez missed a large chunk of his 2009 pro debut with a wrist injury. He showcased impressive hitting tools last season in the Appalachian League, finishing third in homers (13), RBIs (48) and extra-base hits (35). Rodriguez has more raw power than any player in the system and could mature into a 25-30 homer threat. His wrists are strong and quick, producing elite bat speed. With strong pitch-recognition skills and barrel awareness, he could hit for average as well. The catch is that Rodriguez is a poor runner with a thick lower half and heavy feet who may have to shift to first base. He has a strong arm and moves his feet well for his size, but his hands are hard and he simply might outgrow the hot corner. Some scouts believe Rodriguez could be playable at third if he takes care of his body and proves willing to put in the work on defense. He drew criticism in the Appy League for uneven effort and lack of hustle, getting benched on at least two occasions. The Mets promoted Rodriguez to low Class A Savannah for the final week of 2010, and he'll spend this year there as a teenager. If Wilmer Flores has to play third base, he'll be an obstacle for Rodriguez in the future.
Signed for $1.04 million as 33rd overall pick in 2008, Holt dominated in his pro debut and earned a quick promotion to Double-A the next year. He injured his ankle in his first start for Binghamton, missed three weeks and never recovered, running up a 6.62 ERA over his final 10 starts. His misadventures continued in 2010 when he hurt his right wrist in spring training, setting the stage for a season in which he allowed more baserunners per nine innings (19.6) than any minor leaguer with as many as his 95 innings. According to scouts, Holt still had plus stuff in 2010. They think his problems stemmed from a lack of focus as well as a new, overly mechanical delivery that caused his front side to open early. At his best, Holt locates his 92-94 mph four-seam fastball down in the zone, mixing in an occasional low-90s cutter. He can spin a high- 70s curveball with occasional sharp bite and shows feel for a low-80s changeup with sink, but his poor command undermines both pitches. His curve often breaks too early to convince batters to commit. Holt has the stuff to profile as a No. 3 starter, but that ceiling seems impossibly tall now. He had a fine showing in instructional league and in the Arizona Fall League, giving hope he'll succeed in his third try at Double-A in 2011.
The Mets compensated for having no first-round pick in 2009 by signing Urbina for $1.2 million. New York hadn't approached that bonus figure with a foreign amateur since inking Fernando Martinez for $1.3 million in 2005. Urbina is the son of two-time all-star closer Ugueth Urbina, who is serving a 14-year prison sentence in Venezuela for two counts of attempted murder. Despite a 5.03 ERA, Juan made a promising pro debut in the Gulf Coast League last year, ranking as the circuit's top pitching prospect. He touches the low 90s now but mostly shows a fringe-average fastball at 87-88 mph. The Mets expect him to add velocity because he has plenty of room to fill out his 6-foot-2 frame and because of his loose, easy arm action. Urbina repeats his delivery well, which helps him sell the arm speed on a plus changeup that features late sink and fade. He shows precocious faith in the changeup, throwing it in any count. Urbina's slider features late downward action and two-plane break when it's right, but it's a work in progress that often sweeps more than breaks. If his fastball graduates more into the 90s and his slider comes up a grade or two, Urbina could be a rotation mainstay. He'll be 18 for all of 2011, so the Mets have time to bring him along slowly with another assignment to a short-season league.
Carson made his full-season debut in 2009 on the same low Class A Savannah pitching staff as Jeurys Familia and Kyle Allen. He beat those two righthanders to Double-A last July, but proving his youth, Carson got hammered by Eastern League batters. Despite his poor performance, teams continued to ask the Mets about the physical lefty's availability because he ranges from 92-95 mph with his fastball and shows the potential for two average secondary pitches. Carson works off his fastball, which features tailing life and deception from a high three-quarters slot, and he holds his velocity deep into games. He locates a high-80s cutter in on righthanders, and pairs it with an average low-80s slider to induce groundballs. Some scouts throw future average grades on Carson's changeup, which he'll need to stay in the rotation. Like fellow Mets power pitching prospects Brad Holt and Familia, Carson appeared to fight his mechanics last season, and his command suffered significantly. He always will be more about power than pitchability, which prompts some to predict a move to the bullpen. Others are more bullish and see a mid-rotation starter because he has arm strength and the athleticism necessary to refine his secondary stuff. Carson will get a chance to redeem himself in Double-A to begin 2011.
Familia earned organization pitcher of the year honors in 2009 when he ranked third in the low Class A South Atlantic League in ERA (2.69) and fourth in WHIP (1.16). That same pitcher went missing in action for much of last season. Familia represented the Mets in the Futures Game despite running up a 6.38 ERA through his first 16 starts for high Class A St. Lucie. He didn't fare much better in the prospect exhibition, serving up two runs on three consecutive doubles while recording only one out. Everything fell into place for a seven-start stretch in July and August, during which Familia went 4-2, 3.38 with 58 strikeouts in 43 innings. He fought his delivery all season and finished with 5.5 walks per nine innings and 25 wild pitches. He still maintained a strong strikeout rate (10.2 per nine innings) and kept the ball on the ground, thanks mostly to plus-plus fastball velocity. Familia scatters the lower half of the zone at 94-97 mph and can sniff triple digits. He's broad-shouldered and has an ideal pitcher's frame, so he keeps his velocity deep into games. His long arm action affords the batter a long look at the ball, however. Familia buries his 86-87 mph slider as a chase pitch, but he struggles to throw it for strikes because his release point tends to wander. He'll throw an occasional average changeup with sink and fade, but it's not consistent. Even scouts outside the organization laud Familia for his work ethic, though they also foresee a shift to the bullpen in his future. He figures to spend a good portion of 2011 in Double-A as a 21-year-old.
Ceciliani hails from Madras, Ore., the same small town that produced Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. He signed with the Mets for $204,300 in 2009 as a fourth-round pick and then promptly fell on his face at Rookielevel Kingsport, batting .234 in 42 games. He made a full recovery last season with Brooklyn, hitting .351 to win the New York-Penn League batting title while also leading the league with 56 runs and 12 triples. Ceciliani is a contact-oriented, line-drive hitter who uses the whole field, which gives him a chance to be an average to plus hitter. He handles both lefthanders and righthanders, and he records his fair share of bunt hits. Ceciliani has strength in his wrists and forearms, but he's more of a gap hitter and not a big home run threat. Evaluators expect him to top out near 10 homers per season--though he did drive one ball out to right field in Brooklyn, where charging winds keep most everything in play. (Lucas Duda, Reese Havens and Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit one homer each to right field while with the Cyclones, and Ike Davis managed zero.) Ceciliani hits around the ball at times when his swing gets too big, and he'll need to improve his stolen-base success rate (just 60 percent last year in 35 attempts), but he profiles as a big league tablesetter. He's an average to a tick above-average runner who accelerates quickly and reads the ball well off the bat in center field. He has enough range to make center his permanent home, though his arm is fringe-average. A ticket to low Class A awaits.
Vaughn served as batboy for the Devil Rays while his father Greg wound down his 15-year career in Tampa Bay in the early 2000s. Cory has big shoes to fill--Greg made four all-star teams, hit 30 or more homers in four seasons and finished with 355 round-trippers. Cory first met Tony Gwynn, his future coach at San Diego State, when his father played for the Padres from 1996-98. Though Vaughn's tools have been obvious since he was a teenager, he couldn't shake the feeling of promise unfulfilled in college. He had his best college season a junior last spring--.378/.454/.606 with nine homers--but still racked up strikeouts as he struggled with pitch recognition. However, scouts both inside and outside the Mets organization said that Vaughn cut down on his swing upon turning pro for $240,300 as a fourth-round pick. The results were tangible: He saw breaking balls better, used the opposite field, struck out less frequently and led the short-season New York-Penn League in slugging (.557) and OPS (.953) while ranking second with 14 homers and 56 RBIs. A physical specimen, Vaughn has prototype right-field tools. He sports above-average power and has a chance to be an average hitter, assuming his new approach holds. He's also an average runner with average range and arm strength in right field. Vaughn has Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, which he monitors and controls with an insulin pump he wears while playing. Much like 2008 third-rounder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Vaughn may be able to handle an assignment to high Class A for his full-season debut.
Gee made just nine starts in 2009 because he tore the labrum in his shoulder at the end of May. He opted for rest and rehab rather than surgery, and he returned strong in 2010. He led the International League with 165 strikeouts in 161 innings before making his big league debut in September. Despite a career strikeout rate of 8.0 per nine innings in the minors, Gee lacks a dominating pitch, thriving instead on command and pitch sequencing. An unheralded 21st-rounder who signed for $20,000 in 2007, he's a hard-nosed competitor who hates to come out of starts. While Gee's pitches all grade as below-average, his plus control makes them play up. He works at 87-90 mph with some sink on his fastball, though he sat more comfortably at 89-91 at the end of the season as his shoulder regained strength. Gee's low-80s, sinking changeup is probably his best pitch because he sells it with a consistent arm action. He throws a slurvy, low-70s curveball as a change-of-pace breaking ball and a short, spinning slider at 79-81 mph as a harder breaker. Like all command pitchers, Gee gets hit when he elevates his pitches or misses his spots. To that end, he allowed 23 home runs with Buffalo to rank second in the IL. Gee will have to curtail the free passes at the big league level, but his positive five-start audition last September gives him a leg up on winning New York's No. 5 starter job in 2011. He perfectly fits the description of dependable innings-eater.
Goeddel seemed like a certain top-three-rounds pick heading into his senior season at San Jose's Bellarmine Prep in 2007, but he had Tommy John surgery that April and missed two full years while recovering. He redshirted his first year at UCLA, returned to limited action in 2009 and then fully emerged last season as a dominant bullpen force for the Bruins as they advanced to the College World Series finals. He struck out 58 batters in 49 innings, allowing just four homers and a .232 average. A draft-eligible sophomore whose signability scared off clubs, Goeddel fell to the Mets in the 24th round and signed for $350,000, the equivalent of third-round money. New York views him as a starter, though he didn't fit in that role with UCLA because of a stacked weekend rotation that featured two potential 2011 first-rounders in Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole and a 2010 second-rounder in Rob Rasmussen (Marlins). Goeddel's four-seam fastball sits at 93-94 mph and touches 96 when he comes out of the bullpen, and his mid-80s slider with three-quarters tilt gives him a second plus pitch. He hasn't started a game since high school, so he'll need to dust off his changeup, which is below-average. Goeddel threw exactly one inning after signing, so the Mets will have to wait until 2011 to see what they've got. He'll be considered for assignment to a full-season club coming into spring training.
Matz hasn't thrown an inning for the Mets since signing for $895,000 as their top pick (second round) in the 2009 draft. Like Robbie Shields, the club's third-rounder from the same draft, Matz needed Tommy John surgery. He threw well in minor league camp last spring, but stayed behind in extended spring training with a sore elbow and had reconstructive surgery in May. Before he got hurt, Matz's fastball sat at 89-91 mph and touched 94 with life to his glove side, enabling him to pitch in on the hands of righthanders. He's big and projectable, so he could work comfortably at 92-93 mph once he matures physically. He also had an average changeup with some fade and sink, as well as a curveball that showed flashes of being a plus pitch with short, down-breaking action. Matz finally should be able to make his pro debut in mid-2011, either at Brooklyn or Savannah.
The NCAA Division III player of the year as a senior at Alvernia (Pa.) in 2007, Lutz fractured a bone in his left foot while backhanding a ball at third base during the first inning of his first pro game. He spent the next six months on crutches and didn't reach full-season ball until 2009, when he missed more time when his ankle flared up. A stress fracture in his left foot cost him six weeks last season as well. The repeated injuries have hampered his speed and lateral movement significantly, but Lutz hasn't lost his power stroke. He cracked 17 homers in 61 games and slugged .578 in Double-A last year, showing a quick bat, strong hands and plus raw power. He uses an open stance and tries to pull the ball for power by collapsing his back side in his swing, which gets him in trouble against pitchers who can locate away. He projects as an average hitter because he has a plan at the plate and shortens his swing with two strikes. Lutz makes the routine play at third base and has an average arm, but injuries have robbed him of much of his formerly average range. He could make his way as a corner-infield extra with thunder in his bat. The Mets added him to the 40-man roster in November and he's ready for Triple-A.
Shields settled at NCAA Division II Florida Southern when no D-I program recruited him. He started from day one for the Moccasins, and his draft stock really took flight when he hit .429 with two homers over 10 games in the Cape Cod League following his sophomore season. Shields' time on the Cape was cut short, however, when he fractured his wrist while sliding headfirst into third base, and he hasn't looked like the same player since. He had a lackluster junior year and signed with the Mets for $315,000 after going in the third round of the 2009 draft. The injury bug bit Shields one more time when he had Tommy John surgery in late October of his draft year, which helped explain his brutal pro debut. He got back on the field late last June, spending a month in Rookie ball before taking over as Savannah's everyday shortstop. A steady player with modest tools across the board, Shields has strong hands and average offensive potential. He figures to hit about .280 with gap power. He's not flashy at shortstop but makes the routine play with average range and running speed. However, many scouts pegged Shields as a future second baseman even before elbow surgery, and he hadn't fully recovered his arm strength at the conclusion of the 2010 season. The Mets say his arm played a tick above-average prior to his injury. Shields figures to begin 2011 with a club for which he can play shortstop everyday, and his assignment may hinge on the Opening Day destination for teen phenom Wilmer Flores.
Emaus doesn't have a standout tool, but the Mets have a hole at second base and gave him a chance to fill it when they plucked him from the Blue Jays system in the major league Rule 5 draft in December. He's coming off the best season of his four-year pro career, having hit .290/.397/.476 with 15 homers and 81 walks between Double-A and Triple-A. Emaus' best skill is his ability to control the strike zone. He consistently works counts to his advantage, with the payoff of walks and doubles to the gaps. He has some home run power to his pull side and could hit as many as 15 longballs annually in the big leagues. The question with Emaus is whether he can be a big league starter at second or third base. He doesn't have ideal pop for the hot corner, where he has a decent arm and can make routine plays but is error-prone. He's more dependable at second base, though he lacks the quickness needed there. He's a well below-average runner but has good instincts on the bases. Per Rule 5 guidelines, the Mets must keep Emaus on their big league roster all season, or else put him on waivers and offer him back to Toronto.
Ask any scout about Cohoon and one of the first words out of his mouth will be "pitchability." More on savvy than stuff, he has shot from Brooklyn to Binghamton in the last two seasons, going 21-7, 2.42 with nearly four times as many strikeouts (201) as walks (52). In June, Cohoon tied a South Atlantic League record when he threw three consecutive shutouts, earning a ticket straight to Double-A. He continued to throw strikes and change speeds on his three-pitch mix to good effect in the Eastern League. Cohoon pitches at 87-89 mph and can scrape 90 when he goes for strikeouts. He goes to a solid-average changeup as his second pitch, and it shows plus potential. He adds and subtracts from a soft curveball, which he'll need to tighten to have a third average pitch. Cohoon pitches to the corners of the plate, locates the ball down and knows how to read opponents' weaknesses. He keeps runners close at first base with an excellent pickoff move, and basestealers succeeded in just nine of 20 tries against him last season. Pitchers with fringy fastballs who can throw offspeed pitches for strikes usually thrive against low-level competition, so Cohoon will be tested in Triple-A in 2011. If he passes, he'll get a chance as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
On the heels of poor junior season, den Dekker turned down the Pirates as a 16th-round pick in 2009, opting to return to Florida for his senior year. He moved up 11 rounds in the draft and signed for $110,000 after a career year for the Gators, during which he batted .352/.435/.563 with 13 homers and 23 steals in 62 games. That performance helped mitigate scouts' concerns about his pitch-recognition skills and contact ability, and den Dekker continued to hit after jumping to low Class A in his pro debut. His swing can get choppy and he's not a high-contact, bat-control player, so his average may settle in the .260 range. An open batting stance this season helped him shorten his stride, though it didn't appear to aid him against lefthanders, who have tormented him since college. A physical player with strength in his swing, he can drive the ball to the alleys and to his pull side, but his power is below-average. It's on defense where den Dekker shines. He's a big league-caliber defender in center field with tremendous range and solid arm strength. He's a plus runner. The Mets intend to challenge den Dekker, a high-energy player who could have a long career as a lefty-batting extra outfielder who can defend, run and hit a bit.
Under former general manager Omar Minaya, the Mets dedicated as many resources to Latin America as any organization. They operate two Rookie-level Dominican Summer League clubs and three domestic short-season league affiliates, and the club credits 19 international scouts in its 2010 media guide. While New York has spent liberally to acquire Latin amateurs such as Wilmer Flores, Fernando Martinez and Juan Urbina, they also have discovered a number of less-heralded talents in the Dominican Republic. In 2007 alone, the Mets signed 17-yearolds Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia as well as Rodriguez and Jordany Valdespin, both in June at the relatively ripe old age of 19. Their signing age explains why both Rodriguez and Valdespin were added to the 40-man roster in November after just four seasons under contract. Rodriguez spent the better part of three seasons in shortseason leagues before busting out in a big way as a 22-year-old in low Class A last year. He led the South Atlantic League with 152 strikeouts while ranking second in opponent average (.214) and third in ERA (3.08). Despite the gaudy numbers, Rodriguez is a bit of a one-trick pony. He pitches at 89-91 mph and touches 92 with his fastball, mixing in an 86-88 cutter. He's an aggressive strike-thrower who keeps the ball down. Rodriguez comes in on opposing batters and has natural deception in his drop-and-drive delivery, helping his fastball play up to average to a tick above. He tends to push his below-average slider and changeup to the plate, and they lack finish and shape. Rodriguez's fastball command could help him profile in a long-relief role, but he's going to have to prove he can get more advanced batters to swing and miss at his stuff. He's ready for high Class A this year.
Valdespin played at six different levels of the minors in 2009-10, topping out at Double-A last August. On the flip side, he bottomed out in 2009 when he landed in the Dominican Summer League as he began the rehab process from a badly sprained ankle. In both seasons, the Mets removed Valdespin from game action to cool him down after clashes with coaches and managers. Last season the organization suspended him twice for such outbursts, while in 2009 they sent him to extended spring training for two weeks. Ultimately, the Mets concluded that Valdespin's athleticism, quick lefty bat and speed would make him attractive to teams in the Rule 5 draft, so they added him to the 40-man roster in November. (They also may have recalled losing raw talents like Enrique Cruz and Jesus Flores in past Rule 5 drafts.) With a live, projectable body, Valdespin whips the bat through the zone and could hit .270 one day, but only if he tones down his aggressive approach. He has modest power for a middle infielder, though it's below-average overall. He's not an instinctive basestealer, but he's a plus runner capable of racking up 20 steals in a season. The Mets have tried Valdespin at shortstop for brief periods, but he lacks the concentration and throwing accuracy to play there on a full-time basis. He has the soft hands, average arm and quick feet necessary for second base, where he's an average defender. Valdespin's flashy, immature approach rubs a lot of observers the wrong way, but his tools are promising enough to intrigue the Mets as a potential middle-infield reserve. He'll return to Double-A in 2011.
Marte signed for a tidy $550,000 in 2007 and hails from La Romana, the same coastal Dominican Republic city as fellow prospect Cesar Puello. Marte began and ended the 2010 season on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, but in between the down time he showed improvement across the board. He repeated low Class A, but at age 19 he still ranked as one of the South Atlantic League's youngest players. Lead-footed with slow infield actions, Marte will have to hit to make it, and his improved offensive output in last season made some scouts believers again. He improved his strikeout and walk rates and drove the ball form gap to gap with solid bat speed. One scout said Marte made as much hard contact as the college products in the SAL. He doesn't lift the ball consistently and can be pitched inside when he lengthens his swing, but the raw power is there for 15-20 homers annually. He doesn't often chase pitches outside the zone and his swing is simple enough to hit for a modest average. He's a well below-average runner. Marte led all minor leaguers with 49 errors in 2009, but he has worked hard to improve his defensive play and sports fringe-average hands, feet and range. He throws well but tends to give his first basemen a workout with errant throws. Marte will have to either improve his defensive consistency to stick at third base or hit for more power to profile at first base. He figures to spend a good portion of 2011 in high Class A.
Lightning struck twice for the Mets in the 24th round of the draft. Last year, they nabbed UCLA righthander Erik Goeddel and signed him for third-round money. In 2008, they plucked Allen from the high school ranks and signed him for $150,000. A two-way star at The Pendleton School, part of the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., he fell in the draft because of concerns about his maturity and his commitment to North Carolina State. On the heels of a breakout 2009 campaign, Allen regressed badly last year as his command disintegrated. A gifted athlete, he has a solid fastball at 88-92 mph and pitches downhill with sinking and tailing life. Most scouts prefer Allen's 82-84 mph changeup to his fringy slider, but both pitches need considerable tightening. He maintains balance in his delivery, but he short-arms the ball ever so slightly. Allen will require better command or improved secondary stuff to stick in the rotation, so some evaluators view him as a future reliever. Like Jeurys Familia, he may get a chance to catch his breath by repeating high Class A at the outset of 2011.
The Mets added Alvarez to the 40-man roster in early November, preventing him from leaving the organization as a minor league free agent. He would have generated interest from other teams after leading all minor league pure relievers in WHIP (0.85) and ranking fourth in K-BB ratio (7.0) last season. The definition of a late bloomer, Alvarez signed with the Expos in February 2004 but never made it to full-season ball in three seasons before earning his release. The Mets signed him in January 2007, in part because international scouting director Ismael Cruz knew him from their days together in the Montreal organization. Given a new lease on his career, Alvarez still languished in short-season leagues for two more seasons before graduating to full-season ball in 2009. Things began to come together for him last season when he ascended to closing games for Binghamton before finishing the year in Triple-A. Alvarez began to sit more comfortably at 91-92 mph and touch 93 with his sinker, while mixing in a cutter to give him something hard to throw to his glove side. His average slider sweeps late off the barrel of righthanders, and he'll mix in an occasional below-average changeup. With a burly build, Alvarez hides the ball well, but improved command has made the biggest difference. He doesn't project as a bullpen anchor, but he now throws enough strikes with conviction to fit in middle relief. He'll probably begin 2011 back in Buffalo.
Forsythe hit .347 and slugged 15 home runs as a Tennessee sophomore but suffered an apparent case of draftitis last spring, again smacking 15 homers but hitting just .286 with 54 strikeouts in 55 games. The Mets selected Forsythe in the third round and signed him for $392,400, but he didn't turn too many heads with a lifeless pro debut. Like his brother Logan, a second-base prospect with the Padres, Blake possesses strong plate discipline. He compiled a .450 on-base percentage in his last two college seasons, though his batting eye deserted him in his first taste of pro ball. He works deep counts but likes to take huge cuts and may never hit much more than .250. He has above-average power from left field to right-center, and could hit 20 homers per season. New York will accept his strikeouts if that power materializes. Forsythe throws well and nabbed 33 percent of pro basestealers. Some scouts slap above-average grades on his receiving, while others assess it as fringy. Like most catchers, he's not a runner. Forsythe has two plus tools in his power and his arm strength, which could make him a decent starter or quality backup if his receiving and game-calling are up to the task. He'll start his first full pro season in low Class A.
The Mets took Beato out of a Brooklyn high school in the 17th round of the 2005 draft, and then controlled his rights when he attended St. Petersburg (Fla.) JC. But New York couldn't get him signed under the nowdefunct draft-and-follow process, and the Orioles made him the 32nd overall pick in 2006, signing him for $1 million. The Mets finally got their man in December, when they took Beato in the second round of the major league Rule 5 draft. He had floundered as a starter in his first four years as a pro, but flourished when he moved to the bullpen in Double-A in 2010. Beato has an ideal pitcher's frame, and his fastball ranges from 86-93 mph with sink and tail. He has thrown a variety of other pitches during his career, though none of them has developed into a reliable second offering. The best is probably his changeup, which shows good sink. He throws a curveball and slider but they often morph into a slurvy breaking pitch. He has a lot of effort in his delivery, which costs him command, though he has improved his control and was able to throw strikes and generate groundballs out of the bullpen. Beato doesn't have back-of-the-bullpen stuff but should be a reliable middle reliever. To hold onto him, New York will have to keep him on its major league roster throughout 2011. He can't be sent to the minors without clearing waivers or being offered back to the Orioles.