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January 10, 2012

Future Shock

New York Mets Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: With improvement coming via all three areas—draft, trades, international—the Mets are finally moving in the right direction.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Matt Harvey, RHP
2. Zack Wheeler, RHP
Four-Star
Prospects
3. Jeurys Familia, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
4. Brandon Nimmo, OF
5. Juan Lagares, OF
6. Jordany Valdespin, 2B
7. Jenrry Mejia, RHP
8. Reese Havens, 2B
9. Cesar Puello, OF
10. Michael Fulmer, RHP
11. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF

Nine More:
12. Cory Mazzoni, RHP: 2011 second-rounder was great in brief debut; will move to rotation in 2012.
13. Akeel Morris, RHP: 20-year-old Virgin Islands native has big, but unrefined, power arm.
14. Darin Gorski, LHP: Had arguably the best stats of any pitcher in the system, but he’s older and has more finesse than stuff.
15. Phillip Evans, SS: Over slot 15th-rounder profiles as offense-oriented second baseman
16. Wilmer Flores, INF: Bat has never taken expected move forward while scouts see big moves down defensive spectrum.
17. Jefry Marte, 3B: Age and strong showing in Arizona Fall League saves him; some scouts still believe in the bat.
18. Juan Urbina, LHP: Shows flashes of high-ceiling potential, but not enough of them.
19. Chris Schwinden, RHP: Reached the big leagues, but what you see is what you get with potential to be a number-five starter.
20. Darrell Ceciliani, OF: Plus speed and a leadoff man's approach, but never got going with the bat in full-season debut.

1. Matt Harvey, RHP
DOB
: 3/27/89
Height/Weight: 6-4/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2010, University of North Carolina
2011 Stats: 2.37 ERA (76-67-24-92) at High-A (14 G). 4.53 ERA (59.2-58-23-64) at Double-A (12 G)
Tools Profile: Pure power pitcher.

Year in Review: Seventh overall pick in the 2010 draft reached Double-A in debut and missed plenty of bats.
The Good: Harvey attacks hitters with a 92-95 mph fastball that can touch 97 and features plenty of life. His slider gives him a second bat-missing offering with its heavy two plane break, and Harvey is comfortable throwing it at any point in the count. He's an efficient pitcher who throws strikes and has the kind of body and delivery designed to handle a big league workload.
The Bad: Harvey's changeup continues to lag behind the rest of his arsenal and lacks deception or enough movement. His delivery is easy to pick up for left-handed hitters, which leads to some large platoon splits.
Ephemera: Rich Dotson (1977), who has a career losing record of 111-113, is the only seventh overall pick with more than 50 major league wins, but Clayton Kershaw (2006) should change that in 2012.
Perfect World Projection: At least a number-three starter with a good chance of become a number-two with some refinements.
Fantasy Impact: Harvey has the potential to be an early pick if he reaches his potential.
Path to the Big Leagues: Harvey will begin the year either back at Double-A or in Triple-A Buffalo and should reach the big leagues at some point during the season.
ETA: Late 2012.

2. Zack Wheeler, RHP
DOB
: 5/30/90
Height/Weight: 6-4/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, East Paulding HS (GA)
2011 Stats: 3.52 ERA (115-100-52-129) at High-A (22 G)
Tools Profile: Two potential plus-plus offerings provide high ceiling.

Year in Review: 2009 first-round pick stayed healthy and made improvements throughout the year, including after his trade to the Mets for Carlos Beltran.
The Good: Wheeler has plus-plus heat with a 92-98 mph fastball that he threw more strikes with as the season wore on. Scouts are equally bullish on his classic over-the-top curveball that features heavy late break and can freeze hitters in the zone or induce them to chase in the dirt. He has a projectable frame and a smooth delivery.
The Bad: Wheeler's fastball can get a bit straight, but he's made some adjustments by letting up on the velocity and adding either sink or cut to it. His changeup needs to be sharpened and is often thrown too hard. While his control is better, his command still needs improvement.
Ephemera: California League batters leading off an innings against Wheeler hit just .141/.264/.205 in 91 plate appearances, but despite having better overall numbers in the Florida State League, they hit .333/.407/.458 against him after the trade.
Perfect World Projection: Star-level starting pitcher.
Fantasy Impact: Plenty of strikeouts lead to contributions in every category.
Path to the Big Leagues: Wheeler will get his first taste of the upper levels by opening 2012 at Double-A Binghamton.
ETA: 2013.

3. Jeurys Familia, RHP
DOB
: 10/10/89
Height/Weight: 6-3/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: 1.49 ERA (36.1-21-8-36) at High-A (6 G). 3.49 ERA (87.2-85-35-96) at Double-A (17 G)
Tools Profile: Throws hard.

Year in Review: Pitched well in Double- and Triple-A before his season was cut short by shoulder soreness.
The Good: Familia has the best fastball in the system. It sits in the mid-90s, touches the upper 90s, and he seems nearly incapable of throwing it straight, as it has natural boring action. His slider shows flashes of being plus, and he has some idea of how to throw a changeup.
The Bad: Familia's breaking ball is inconsistent, and his changeup is below-average in terms of movement and arm-side deception. He doesn't make it look easy, and his limited arsenal, delivery, and recent injuries have many scouts seeing him as a reliever.
Ephemera: Familia didn't allow a run in the third, fourth, or fifth innings in his six starts for High-A St. Lucie, allowing just six hits over 17 frames.
Perfect World Projection: Middle-of-the-rotation starter or late-inning reliever.
Fantasy Impact: Could be greater if he ends up in the bullpen, as he has ninth-inning possibilities.
Path to the Big Leagues: Familia will remain a starter for now and begin the 2012 season at Triple-A Buffalo.
ETA: Late 2012.

4. Brandon Nimmo, OF
DOB
: 3/27/93
Height/Weight: 6-3/185
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2011, Cheyenne East HS (WY)
2011 Stats: .211/.318/.368 at Rookie (10 G)
Tools Profile: Certainly plenty to dream on

Year in Review: Despite playing in a state without high school baseball, Nimmo did plenty on the showcase circuit to earn a $2.1 million bonus as the 13th overall pick in the draft.
The Good: Nimmo certainly has tools. He's a fantastic athlete with above-average speed and the projection for average-to-plus power based on his frame, bat speed, and sound hitting mechanics. The Mets rave about his work ethic and energy.
The Bad: Despite making considerable efforts to make up for his location, Nimmo is still inexperienced with far less exposure to good pitching than most. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school, so he's never focused on baseball, and his instincts at the plate, on the bases, and in the field all need to improve.
Ephemera: Nimmo became the highest drafted player from Wyoming by 60 picks, as University of Wyoming righty Scott Freeman was the previous record holder, selected 73rd overall by the Dodgers in 1990.
Perfect World Projection: Star-level outfielder with some chance in center field.
Fantasy Impact: He could hit for average, he could hit for power, he could run, but that's more a range of possibilities than a guarantee of multi-category stardom.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Mets hope that Nimmo's spring will earn him a 2012 full-season assignment at Low-A Savannah.
ETA: 2015

5. Juan Lagares, OF
DOB
: 3/17/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: .338/.380/.494 at High-A (82 G). .370/.391/.512 at Double-A (38 G)
Tools Profile:
The bat leads the way, but there are other tools here.

Year in Review: Dominican outfielder finally began to live up to potential.
The Good: Lagares can flat out hit. With a quick, compact swing, he makes consistent hard contact, uses all fields, and has no platoon issues. Originally an infielder, he's a solid-average runner who has improved in the outfield, and his arm is solid.
The Bad: Legares needs to hit .300 to have value, as both his power and patience are below average. He's played some centerfield in the minors but projects as a corner in the big leagues, putting even more pressure on the bat and leading some to see him as a tweener.
Ephemera: Lagares made at least three starts at every position in the batting order other than ninth in 2011.
Perfect World Projection: High-average corner outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: .300 hitter with minor contributions across the board.
Path to the Big Leagues: Lagares could improve his prospect stock dramatically by proving 2011 was the real deal, likely beginning the year back in Double-A.
ETA: 2013

6. Jordany Valdespin, 2B
DOB
: 12/23/87
Height/Weight: 6-0/190
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: .297/.341/.483 at Double-A (107 G). .280/.304/.411 at Triple-A (27 G)
Tools Profile: Middle infielder with power and speed.

Year in Review: Dominican infielder had career year with 17 home runs and 37 stolen bases.
The Good: Valdespin has plenty of tools. He has electric bat speed and strong wrists, giving him average power with the potential for 15-18 home runs annually. He's a well above-average runner who is a threat to run every time he's on base and has plenty of range in the infield.
The Bad: Valdespin's game was described by one scout as “completely out of control.” While he has excellent plate coverage, he swings at far too many pitches, and he profiles better at second base due to his error prone defense that’s often caused by rushing his throws and footwork. He needs to learn how to steal bases as opposed to just depending on his speed.
Ephemera: Valdespin had a flair for the dramatic with Double-A Binghamton in 2011, batting .480 in the ninth inning by going 12-for-25 with three home runs.
Perfect World Projection: Everyday second baseman with a low-OBP, but plenty of other secondary skills to make up for it.
Fantasy Impact: Greater than his real-world one.
Path to the Big Leagues: Valdespin will begin the year at Triple-A Buffalo and has the ability to work his way into the Mets’ muddled second base picture.
ETA: Late 2012.

7. Jenrry Mejia, RHP
DOB
: 10/11/1989
Height/Weight: 6-0/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: 2.86 ERA (28.1-16-14-21) at Triple-A (5 G)
Tools Profile: Short righty, big arm

Year in Review: Hoped to get back on the development path at Triple-A but ended up needing Tommy John surgery in May.
The Good: Mejia is a short but wide-bodied right-hander who blows away hitters with a 94-97 mph fastball that shows late life. His changeup falls of the table and encourages some silly looking swings, and his hard curveball flashes plus when he doesn't get around on it.
The Bad: Plenty of scouts saw Mejia's future role as that of a bullpen arm, and with the surgery, more believe he'll end up there. His delivery has always had plenty of effort, which leads to problems throwing strikes. His secondary pitches, while impressive at times, are also inconsistent, and he hasn't gotten the innings needed to refine them.
Ephemera: In his five starts for Triple-A Buffalo, right-handed hitters hit just .111 (6-for-54) against him.
Perfect World Projection: There is still some chance for him to start, but more likely he's a good late inning reliever.
Fantasy Impact: Dependent on role.
Path to the Big Leagues: Mejia should be ready to return to the mound before mid-season, and an immediate move to the bullpen could get him back to the big leagues quickly.
ETA: 2013

8. Reese Havens, 2B
DOB
: 10/20/86
Height/Weight: 6-1/195
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, University of South Carolina
2011 Stats: .273/.385/.455 at High-A (3 G). .289/.372/.455 at Double-A (58 G)
Tools Profile:
Middle infielder who can hit.

Year in Review: As usual, when he was healthy, he performed.
The Good: Havens has the ability to hit second in a big league lineup. He works the count well, has enough hitting ability to bat .275, and has enough power for 30 doubles and 15 home runs annually. He's a fundamentally sound player with good hands and a solid arm.
The Bad: Havens has played just 190 games in his first three full seasons due to back, elbow, groin, hamstring, and oblique issues. He's not especially athletic and is a 40-45 runner whose range is a bit limited, even at second base.
Ephemera: While South Carolina is a national power house that has produced more than 70 draft picks in the last decade, nobody from the school has become an established everyday player since Brian Roberts (1999)
Perfect World Projection: Good everyday second baseman, but can he stay on the field?
Fantasy Impact: No speed, but above-average power and on-base skills for the position.
Path to the Big Leagues: If Havens had stayed healthy since getting drafted in 2008, he'd likely already be the Mets second baseman. Instead, he'll go to Triple-A and get there if he stays on the field and keeps producing.
ETA: Late 2012.

9. Cesar Puello, OF
DOB
: 4/1/91
Height/Weight: 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: .259/.313/.397 at High-A (117 G)
Tools Profile:
Plenty of tools, but little to show for it.

Year in Review: Athletic Dominican found some power but still showed lots of holes in his game.
The Good: Puello certainly passes the sniff test. He always showed bat speed and plenty of raw power, which is finally showing a bit in games, and is an above-average runner who can player center field in a pinch and has more than enough arm for right field.
The Bad: Puello gets himself out far too often with a horrible approach at the plate, as he drew just 17 unintentional walks in 488 plate appearances last year. He's fast, but not a burner, and needs to pick up his offensive game to fit in a corner.
Ephemera: In his 53 games as St. Lucie's leadoff man, Puello had a .287 on-base percentage.
Perfect World Projection: Star-level outfielder, but he's a long way from it.
Fantasy Impact: Puello is certainly a potential power/speed candidate.
Path to the Big Leagues: Youth has always been on Puello's side, and he'll be just 21 at Double-A Binghamton in 2012. He still has the potential to break out, but it will take big strides in plate discipline.
ETA: 2014.

10. Michael Fulmer, RHP
DOB
: 3/15/93
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2011, Deer Creek HS (OK)
2011 Stats: 10.12 ERA (5.1-9-4-10) at Rookie (4 G)
Tools Profile:
Classic high school power arm

Year in Review: Overshadowed by other big-name arms in Oklahoma, Fulmer signed for just under $1 million as a supplemental first-round pick and struck out 10 of the 31 batters he faced in his pro debut.
The Good: Fulmer is a beefy right-hander with an impressive fastball/slider combination. He sits in the low-to-mid 90s with a fastball that touched 98 mph in high school, and the slider is a potential plus offering with plenty of bite.
The Bad: Like many teenage pitchers, Fulmer is still learning a changeup, which will be a key to his future development. His delivery is arm-heavy, causing him to fall to the left side in his finish, which can affect his command and control.
Ephemera: While two Oklahoma high school pitches were drafted ahead of Fulmer in the 2011 draft, only 13 such pitchers in the history of the draft have gone higher than Fulmer.
Perfect World Projection: Good number-three starter.
Fantasy Impact: This is going to take awhile.
Path to the Big Leagues: Fulmer will try to earn a spot in the Low-A rotation in 2012, but that will only come with a strong showing this spring.
ETA: 2015

11. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF
DOB
: 8/7/1987
Height/Weight: 6-3/215
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2008, Azusa Pacific University
2011 Stats: .298/.403/.505 at Triple-A (53 G)
Tools Profile: Solid across the board.

Year in Review: Was proving that 2011's breakout was for real before requiring season-ending shoulder surgery.
The Good: Nieuwenhuis can beat teams in a variety of ways. He showed much-improved plate discipline in 2011 to go with average hitting and power skills. He plays the game hard and has good instincts on the base paths and in the field to go with an average arm.
The Bad: Nieuwenhuis is seen by many as stuck between positions. He doesn't have the speed to play centerfield every day, and his power is in the 15-18 homer per year range, so he doesn't profile well for a corner. Strikeouts have always been a big part of his game.
Ephemera: Nieuwenhuis was the 100th overall pick in the 2008 draft, with Shane Mack (1981) and Ron Gant (1983) being the only true success stories from that slot.
Perfect World Projection: Second-division starter.
Fantasy Impact: Doesn't hurt you anywhere, but doesn't help a ton, either.
Path to the Big Leagues: Nieuwenhuis will try to get back on track at Triple-A Buffalo but should get at least a September look.
ETA: 2012.

The Sleeper: A 30th-round pick in 2010, left-handed reliever Josh Edgin has a plus fastball/slider combination and is moving quickly through the system after domination at both A-levels in 2011.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/86 or later)
1. Matt Harvey, RHP
2. Zack Wheeler, RHP
3. Ike Davis, 1B
4. Ruben Tejada, SS

5. Jeurys Familia, RHP
6. Jon Niese, LHP
7. Josh Thole,
C
8. Brandon Nimmo, OF
9. Juan Lagares, OF
10. Dillon Gee, RHP

While the Mets have plenty of youth on their roster, they don't have plenty of youthful impact talent. Davis would rank at the top had he played a full season in 2011 without the disturbingly lingering injury. He just needs to prove he's healthy. Tejada doesn't have the kind of tools to provide much upside, but a shortstop who had a .360 on-base percentage in the big leagues as a 21-year-old should not be discounted. Niese is a steady number-four starter, but there's little reason to suggest more, while Thole is a serviceable catcher without power or plus arm strength. Even with final numbers that were just so-so, Dillon Gee pitched above his head in 2011, and batters started to figure him out during the season half of the season, which doesn't bode well for his future. Just missing the age cut is Lucas Duda, who is an excellent candidate for a step forward in 2012.

Summary: It's easy to look at the Mets system and see a pitching staff of the future. As for where the runs are going to come from, that's still a bit of a mystery.

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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