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February 12, 2010

Future Shock

Mets Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Five-Star Prospects
1. Jenrry Mejia, RHP
Four-Star Prospects
2. Fernando Martinez, CF
3. Wilmer Flores, SS
4. Ike Davis, 1B
Three-Star Prospects
5. Jon Niese, LHP
6. Brad Holt, RHP
7. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF
8. Josh Thole, C
9. Kyle Allen, RHP
10. Ruben Tejada, SS
11. Reese Havens, SS

Four More:
12. Jeurys Familia, RHP: Familia had the best pure arm on an impressive staff at Low-A Savannah last year, but most see him in a future relief profile.
13. Cesar Puello, OF: An athletic Dominican who has impressive tools, Puello also has considerable rawness.
14. Jefry Marte, 3B: Marte wasn't ready for a full-season league, but he has the ability to move back up the list.
15. Juan Urbina, LHP: He's a big bonus Venezuelan who has crazy upside, but he needs considerable refinement.

1. Jenrry Mejia, RHP
DOB: 10/11/89
Height/Weight: 6-0/160
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007
2009 Stats: 1.97 ERA (50.1-41-16-44) at High-A (9 G); 4.47 ERA (44.1-44-23-47) at Double-A (10 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 7

Year in Review: This right-hander took a big step forward in 2009, as he reached Double-A as a teenager and more than held his own.
The Good: It's rare to find a fastball with plus-plus velocity and movement, but Mejia has just that. His heater sits at 93-95 mph, touches 98, and features heavy, hard sink, generating as many grounders as it does swings and misses. He'll flash a plus changeup that also features significant downward action. While he's a bit undersized for a starter, he's broadly built (well over his listed weight), has clean arm action, and scouts have no problem projecting him as a starter.
The Bad: Mejia needs to find a consistent breaking ball. He gets around on his slider too often, leading it to sweep across the plate on a single plane. His pitches have so much movement that at times he has trouble controlling them in the strike zone.
Ephemera: While Mejia got hammered in the Arizona Fall League to the tune of 25 hits and 21 runs over just 14 1/3 innings, there was a bit of silver lining, as he did not give up a home run and generated 21 ground-ball outs against just six of the fly-ball variety.
Perfect World Projection: Mejia will be an upper-echelon starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: Power arms like this are rarely blocked.
Timetable: While Mejia will continue his development as a starter, his fastball alone could land him in the Mets' bullpen at some point during the season.

2. Fernando Martinez, CF
DOB: 10/10/88
Height/Weight: 5-11/200
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005
2009 Stats: .290/.337/.540 at Triple-A (45 G); .176/.242/.275 at MLB (29 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 1

Year in Review: A perennial top prospect, Martinez was finally living up to expectations statistically before struggling in the big leagues. He got injured (again) and had to undergo season-ending knee surgery.
The Good: Martinez still shows star-level offensive potential. His swing gets into the zone quickly, stays there a long time, and his strong wrists provide plenty of raw power to all fields, with some projecting 20-30 home runs annually from him. He's a good outfielder with an above-average arm.
The Bad: Martinez has been hurt so often that many are putting the injury-prone tag on him, as he's never played more than 100 games in any season. He needs to develop a more patient approach at the plate, as he's overly aggressive early in at-bats and often puts himself in bad counts. He's no longer a five-tool talent, and between his injuries and physical maturity, he no longer has the speed to cover enough ground in center field.
Ephemera: While Martinez generated considerable press for earning MVP honors in the Caribbean World Series, during the regular Dominican season for Escogido, he hit just .191/.264/.213 in 14 games.
Perfect World Projection: There are still many scouts who see Martinez as a future All-Star.
Path to the Big Leagues: He's blocked for now.
Timetable: The signing of Jason Bay means that Martinez is assured to begin the year at Triple-A Buffalo, barring injuries. He'll likely get at least a September call-up, with the hope that he's ready to take over in right field in 2011.

3. Wilmer Flores, SS
DOB: 8/6/91
Height/Weight: 6-3/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2007
2009 Stats: .264/.305/.332 at Low-A (125 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 2

Year in Review: The top young hitter in the system didn't impress statistically in his full-season debut, but scouts still liked what they saw.
The Good: Flores has big offensive potential. His bat speed ranks with anyone in the system, and he already has an excellent feel for contact. He projects for above-average power as his frame fills out and he learns how to drive balls more consistently. His arm is well above average.
The Bad: Flores just isn't a shortstop. He's big and not especially athletic, with average speed at best and poor instincts. His profile will likely fit best in right field, but some would like to see him at third base before getting moved further to the wrong side of the defensive spectrum. Like many young hitters, a more patient approach could lead to a major step forward.
Ephemera: Maybe Flores is just a day person, as in 20 games played under natural light last season, he hit .363/.381/.500.
Perfect World Projection: Flores' bat has middle-of-the-order potential, but it's certainly no guarantee.
Path to the Big Leagues: He's still at least three years and a position switch away.
Timetable: Because of his youth, the Mets are comfortable with Flores returning to Savannah if necessary, with the hope that he can earn the promotion to the High-A Florida State League as opposed to just being handed one.

4. Ike Davis, 1B
DOB: 3/22/87
Height/Weight: 6-5/195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Arizona State University
2009 Stats: .288/.376/.486 at High-A (59 G); .309/.386/.565 at Double-A (55 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 8

Year in Review: The Mets' first-round pick from 2008 bounced back from a miserable pro debut to establish himself as the top power prospect in the system.
The Good: Davis has classic first-base tools, with a good feel of the strike zone and plus to plus-plus raw power, and he's equally successful at turning on fastballs as he is driving them the other way. He's a solid defender at first base, although his outstanding arm is a bit wasted at the position.
The Bad: Davis struggles against left-handers, having hit .235 against them last year with just four home runs in 132 at-bats. His power-only approach could use some adjustments, especially when behind in the count, and he'll likely always have high strikeout totals. He's not a fluid athlete, and he's also a slow runner.
Ephemera: Davis wore 39 on his jersey at Arizona State, the same number his father, Ron, wore in the big leagues. Bobby Parnell currently dons that number for the Mets.
Perfect World Projection: He won't be a big star, but Davis will be a solid slugging first baseman.
Path to the Big Leagues: Daniel Murphy shouldn't be much of a roadblock
Timetable: Depending on the numbers game, Davis will begin the 2010 season at either Double- or Triple-A, and the Mets hope he makes the adjustments to step into the big-league job in 2011.

5. Jon Niese, LHP
DOB: 10/27/86
Height/Weight: 6-4/215
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 7th round, 2005, Defiance Sr. HS (OH)
2009 Stats: 3.82 ERA (94.1-95-26-82) at Triple-A (16 G); 4.21 ERA (25.2-27-9-18) at MLB (5 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 5

Year in Review: The most advanced pitching prospect in the system, Niese came back from a miserable April to reach the big leagues before requiring season-ending hamstring surgery in August.
The Good: Mets officials credit Niese's step forward to the transformation of his fastball to more of a cutter. The pitch still has average velocity, but it's a much more effective pitch now due to the considerable movement he generates. His curveball is a true big-league plus offering, and his size and pitch efficiency allow him to maintain his stuff deep into games.
The Bad: Niese doesn't have much projection in him, nor the stuff to project as anything more than a dependable starter. He has to throw strikes to succeed and has little room for error.
Ephemera: Only two players have ever been drafted out of Defiance High in Ohio. Niese is one, and Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley is the other.
Perfect World Projection: His upside tops out at being a fourth starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: It seemed to be done before his hamstring was pulled off the bone.
Timetable: Niese will likely begin the year back at Triple-A in order to ensure that his hamstring is 100 percent. He'll be the so-called sixth starter, the first to get the call to the majors should the need arise.

6. Brad Holt, RHP
DOB: 10/13/86
Height/Weight: 6-4/194
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, University of North Carolina
2009 Stats: 3.12 ERA (43.1-34-13-54) at High-A (9 G); 6.21 ERA (58.0-58-23-45) at Double-A (11 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 4

Year in Review: After leading the New York-Penn League in strikeouts his pro debut, this power righty dominated at High-A in his full-season debut, but Double-A proved to be a challenge.
The Good: Holt's game revolves around his fastball, as he fills the strike zone with a 91-94 heater that touches 96 mph when he reaches back for more. He's made some progress with his breaking ball, which is now a power curveball that flashes big-league average at times. He has a classic power pitcher's frame and good mechanics.
The Bad: Holt is overly reliant on his fastball, which led to his Eastern League struggles. His curveball is inconsistent, while his changeup lags well behind both offerings. Despite his size and arm action, some scouts feel his future could be much brighter, and his path to the majors much quicker, as a reliever.
Ephemera: After giving up nine runs in his first start of the year for High-A St. Lucie, Holt gave up just seven runs over his last eight starts before moving up to Double-A.
Perfect World Projection: Holt is a third or fourth starter, but he also has the possibility of working in the back end of a bullpen.
Path to the Big Leagues: He is at the point where either a starting or relief path is roughly equidistant.
Timetable: Holt will go back to Double-A to begin 2010, and he should be in the big leagues in 2011.

7. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF
DOB: 8/7/87
Height/Weight: 6-3/210
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2008, Azusa Pacific
2009 Stats: .274/.357/.467 at High-A (123 G); .406/.472/.656 at Double-A (8 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: The surprise third-round pick from '08 had a massive second half, including a dominant 10-day run in the Eastern League at the end of the year.
The Good: Nieuwenhuis is a big athlete with solid tools across the board. He has a good sense of the strike zone, a quick bat, and his long arms and swing extension create average power, especially to the pull side. He's a tick above-average runner with just enough range to play center field, and his arm is solid.
The Bad: Nieuwenhuis has troubles against left-handers, particularly those with good breaking balls. He can get a bit pull conscious at times, leading to high strikeout totals. He can't afford to lose any speed, or he could be bound for a corner.
Ephemera: Paul Moskau, who pitched in the big leagues from 1977-83 for three teams, is the only player drafted out of Azusa Pacific to hit a home run in the big leagues. He actually went deep twice, including one off Phillies lefty Randy Lerch in his big-league debut.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a solid everyday outfielder.
Path to the Big Leagues: It's suddenly much faster than expected.
Timetable: Nieuwenhuis will begin 2010 at Double-A Binghamton, where he'll have a chance to move even further up this list if he can prove that the last eight weeks of the 2009 season were the real deal.

8. Josh Thole, C
DOB: 10/28/86
Height/Weight: 6-1/205
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 13th round, 2005, Mater Dei HS (IL)
2009 Stats: .328/.395/.422 at Double-A (103 G); .321/.356/.396 at MLB (17 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: A catcher with few tools, Thole continued to endear himself to scouts by finishing second in the Eastern League batting race and finishing third in on base percentage.
The Good: Thole is a pure contact hitter who slaps balls to all fields, is especially difficult to strike out, and works the count very well. He has gone from a bad defensive catcher to one who is merely a tick below average, and he earns high marks for his makeup.
The Bad: Thole does little to impress on a scouting level. Because of his approach and swing, he has little to no power, so he'll have to be an on-base machine to have value. His arm is below average, and his overall receiving skills still need refinement.
Ephemera: Thole hit .381/.470/.568 for Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League, reaching base 87 times in 44 games.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a second-division starting catcher.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Mets' current catching situation is a glaring weakness.
Timetable: Thole will likely begin 2010 at Buffalo. The organization hopes he can make enough progress defensively to make a return trip to the big leagues by midseason.

9. Kyle Allen, RHP
DOB: 2/12/90
Height/Weight: 6-3/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 24th round, 2008, The Pendleton School (FL)
2009 Stats: 3.45 ERA (125.1-109-51-111) at Low-A (25 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Given a $150,000 bonus out of the 24th round, Allen looked to be worth much more than that in his full-season debut.
The Good: Allen's bread and butter is a plus sinker than some say ranks only behind Mejia's in the organization. The pitch sits at 89-92 mph, gets up as high as 94, and features heavy late movement. He's long and projectable, and he flashed a solid slider and changeup at various times last year.
The Bad: Allen can rush his delivery at times, flying open and losing the strike zone. Both his slider and changeup still need consistency and refinement. He doesn't have the kind of velocity for a star-level projection.
Ephemera: Allen was born at an Air Force base in Portugal. No player born in Portugal has ever played in the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: He projects to be a good fourth starter, or maybe a touch more than that.
Path to the Big Leagues: Allen will likely move up one level at a time.
Timetable: Allen will spend the 2010 season at St. Lucie in the Florida State League, where big parks and ground-ball tendencies often result in impressive numbers.

10. Ruben Tejada, SS
DOB: 9/1/89
Height/Weight: 5-11/165
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Panama, 2006
2009 Stats: .289/.351/.381 at Double-A (134 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: This gritty middle infielder more than held his own at Double-A as a teenager.
The Good: Tejada just plays the game right. His approach is advanced for his age, he makes consistent contact, and he even surprises with his occasional ability to drive the ball. He's a fundamentally sound fielder with good range and instincts, and he has a solid arm.
The Bad: Tejada's tools hardly overwhelm. His power will always be below average, he doesn't draw many walks, and he doesn't have enough wheels to be a true threat on the bases. One scout summed up his ability by saying, "I'd love to have a hundred guys like this in my system, but I'm not sure I'd want any of them playing every day."
Ephemera: Tejada hit exactly .289 against both lefties and righties at Binghamton, but his on base percentage and slugging percentage were both more than 30 points higher against southpaws.
Perfect World Projection: Tejada could be a second-division starting middle infielder or, at the very least, a nice utility player.
Path to the Big Leagues: It's far shorter than the path for most players his age.
Timetable: A Buffalo team loaded with middle infield insurance policies could lead to a return to Binghamton, where Tejada would still be among the youngest players in the league.

11. Reese Havens, SS
DOB: 10/20/86
Height/Weight: 6-1/195
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, University of South Carolina
2009 Stats: .247/.361/.422 at High-A (97 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 6

Year in Review: A first-round pick from 2008, Havens had trouble staying healthy in his full-season debut, but he showed some unique skills when he was on the field.
The Good: Havens has the most patient approach in the system, as well as well above-average power for his position. He has a high baseball IQ, plays the game hard, and has very good defensive fundamentals.
The Bad: There are considerable questions about Havens' pure hitting ability, as his swing can get both long and loopy. He doesn't have the athleticism to stay at shortstop, and he will likely move over to second base in 2010, where he profiles much better.
Ephemera: Havens (29th round, Rockies, 2005) and Drew Meyer (second round, Dodgers, 1999) are the only two players ever drafted out of Bishop England, the largest Catholic high school in South Carolina. Both decided to play at the University of South Carolina, and both were first-round picks three years later.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a low-average second baseman who makes up for it with walks and power.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Mets are looking for a second baseman, and they're hoping that Havens can provide the fix from within.
Timetable: Havens will move up to Double-A in 2010, where he's likely to also move over to second base permanently.

The Sleeper: A big-bodied southpaw who had a 3.21 ERA at Savannah last year, some Mets officials think lefty Robert Carson could be on the verge of a big performance.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (Born 4/1/84 or later)

1. Jenrry Mejia, RHP
2. Fernando Martinez, CF
3. Wilmer Flores, SS
4. Ike Davis, 1B
5. Bobby Parnell, RHP
6. Daniel Murphy, 1B/OF
7. Jon Niese, LHP
8. Brad Holt, RHP
9. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF
10. Josh Thole, C

Parnell has outstanding velocity, but that's also the sum of his skills at times, as his command and control are below average, and his secondary pitches are ineffective at the big-league level. Daniel Murphy is a decent young hitter, but as a first baseman, he's well below average and just a stopgap measure for Davis or a free agent.

Summary: By finally having a draft that paid some dividends, this is a much better system than it was 12 months ago. It's posed to improve more, as the Mets select seventh overall in June, but they continue to be better served by following the over-slot tendencies in a later round of their big-market brethren.

Next up: the Philadelphia Phillies.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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