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December 16, 2008

Future Shock

Mets Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart

Four-Star Prospects
1. Fernando Martinez, CF
2. Wilmer Flores, SS
3. Jefry Marte, 3B
Three-Star Prospects
4. Brad Holt, RHP
5. Jon Niese, LHP
6. Reese Havens, SS
7. Jenrry Mejia, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
8. Ike Davis, 1B
9. Bobby Parnell, RHP
10. Eddie Kunz, RHP
11. Scott Moviel, RHP

Just Missed: Dillon Gee, RHP; Francisco Pena, C; Cesar Puello, OF

Ranking Challenges: The question of whether Martinez or Flores should be number one haunted me for a while, but in the end I saw Flores as what Martinez was a few years ago, except that Martinez has since accomplished something at the upper levels. From there it's a mix that is difficult to sort between players nearly ready and players just drafted, and there are realistically eight to ten solid candidates for the bottom three slots.

1. Fernando Martinez, CF
DOB: 10/10/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/190
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005
2008 Stats: .429/.467/.643 at Rookie-level (4 G); .287/.340/.432, .240 EqA at Double-A (86 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 1

Year in Review: Still just 19 and repeating Double-A, Martinez made significant improvements in his production, but still had trouble staying healthy.
The Good: While the view is hardly universal, there are still plenty of scouts who see superstar potential in Martinez. When it comes to the level of his tools, there's little to argue with. He has the fastest bat in the system and still projects for above-average power as his frame fills out and he learns how to take advantage of his strength. While he's not a burner, he is an above-average runner who holds his own in center field thanks to good instincts and a nice arm. He gets high marks for his maturity, has not been fazed by being among the youngest players in his leagues, and he's the kind of player who wants to be at the plate when the game is on the line.
The Bad: Despite some glowing scouting reports, Martinez has been unable to stay healthy or dominate at any level. A hamstring injury limited him to just 86 games in 2008, and that's a career high. He's a bit too aggressive at the plate, and is still prone to chasing outside breaking balls. Views vary wildly on his defense, with some seeing him as more of a left fielder in the end, a position where his bat will need to progress much more quickly from potential to reality.
Fun Fact: Martinez hit .407 (22-for-54) against Connecticut in 2008, but just .265 against the rest of the Eastern League.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a two- or three-hole hitter for a championship-level ball club.
Glass Half Empty: We're still dreaming an awful lot with Martinez, and if it doesn't all come together, he'll be merely average.
Path to the Big Leagues: While Carlos Beltran is taking care of center field, the Mets don't have a long-term plan for left, with Daniel Murphy rating as no more than a placeholder for now.
Timetable: Martinez will begin the year with the Mets' new Triple-A affiliate at Buffalo, and if he stays healthy he could be in line for a September look before his 21st birthday.

2. Wilmer Flores, SS
DOB: 8/6/91
Height/Weight: 6-3/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2007
2008 Stats: .310/.352/.490 at Rookie-level (59 G); .400/.400/.400, .283 EqA at Low-A (1 G); .267/.290/.300 at Short-season (8 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 4

Year in Review: This high-profile Venezuelan signee had a stunning pro debut, slugging seven home runs before his 17th birthday.
The Good: Where his offense is concerned, Flores' potential is through the roof. His bat is nearly as fast as Martinez' and he has more power potential and as much plate coverage as anyone in the system. He worked well with coaches, making significant defensive improvements throughout the season.
The Bad: Flores' bat is tremendous, but it's also his only plus tool. He's a shortstop in name only, and has nowhere near the speed or range to play the position as a professional. He'll be moved to third base initially, but with his thick build likely to limit his mobility as he matures, many think he'll end up at first base or in left field.
Fun Fact: Flores hit just .241 in his first at-bats in games for Kingsport, but .330 afterwards.
Perfect World Projection: He becomes a middle-of-the-order offensive force.
Glass Half Empty: At just 17 years old, there's so much that can still go wrong.
Path to the Big Leagues: Again, he's 17, so there's no need to clear a spot for him yet.
Timetable: The Mets do not have any issues with rushing young players if their talent justifies it. Flores will begin the year as one of the youngest players in the Sally League at Low-A Savannah, where he'll likely stay at shortstop for now.

3. Jefry Marte, 3B
DOB: 6/21/91
Height/Weight: 6-1/187
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007
2008 Stats: .325/.398/.532 at Rookie-level (44 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: Yet another high-profile signee from the 2007 international class, Marte nearly matched Flores in terms of impressive stateside debuts; finishing sixth in the Gulf Coast League in batting and second in slugging.
The Good: Marte ranks just below Flores in terms of offensive potential. His projections to hit for average and power are both above-average due to a smooth, steady swing that features plenty of leverage. While he doesn't match Flores in either category, he is a better all-around athlete, with a better chance at sticking at the hot corner thanks to good reactions and a plus arm.
The Bad: Marte is still a raw product. He struggled against left-handers during his debut, and good breaking balls can still give him fits. He needs to improve his fundamentals on defense, particularly with his footwork, a weakness which led to mishandled balls and inaccurate throws.
Fun Fact: He's from La Romona on the far eastern side of the Dominican, one of the country's most successful cities due to tourism and the nation's largest sugar and cigar factories.
Perfect World Projection: Marte has definite star potential.
Glass Half Empty: Like Flores, Marte is eons away from being big-league ready.
Path to the Big Leagues: David Wright is the face of the franchise, but it's not anywhere near a concern at this point.
Timetable: With a good enough showing in spring training, Marte could join Flores at Low-A in what would be one of the most talented left sides in the minors.

4. 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
2008 Stats: 1.87 ERA at Short-Season (72.1-43-33-96)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: A quick-rising college who arm earned a seven-figure bonus as a supplemental first-round pick and then proved to be worth it, Holt led the New York-Penn League in ERA and strikeouts.
The Good: Holt has a dominating fastball that sits in the low to mid-90s and touches 98 mph, with a hard boring action that comes in on left-handed hitters. His mechanics are simple, sound, and repeatable, and he showed an ability to maintain his stuff deep into games throughout the season.
The Bad: His heater allowed him to own the New York-Penn League, but his secondary stuff continues to lag behind. His inconsistent slider flashes as solid at times, and the Mets were happy with the progress he made with the pitch as the season wore on. His changeup also improved when he was forced to throw it, but he has little confidence in the offering, and for good reason.
Fun Fact: Lefties facing Holt went 12-for-104 (.115) with 46 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: With some improvement in the secondary stuff, there is no reason that Holt can't become an above-average starter.
Glass Half Empty: A pure reliever, but a damned good one.
Path to the Big Leagues: He'd get there quicker as a relief pitcher, but that's not where the value lies.
Timetable: Holt will remain in the rotation for now, and the Mets have enough confidence in what he's done so far that they'll have him begin the year at High-A St. Lucie.

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)
2008 Stats: 3.04 ERA at Double-A (124.1-118-44-112), 5.01 DERA; 3.40 ERA at Triple-A (39.2-34-14-32), 3.96 DERA; 7.07 ERA at MLB (14-20-8-11), 15.00 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 2

Year in Review: Niese is a solid left-hander who put up good numbers at Double-A and made three starts for the pitching-desperate Mets down the stretch; two bad ones, and one gem against the Braves.
The Good: His best pitch is a plus curveball-a true power downer than can make hitters look foolish. He has just enough otherwise to set the pitch up effectively: an 88-91 mph fastball with late life, and a solid changeup.
The Bad: Despite his youth and size, Niese offers little in the way of projection. His mechanics have been questioned by some, and there is a lot of torque on his curve. He's had questions about his conditioning in the past, but was in good shape all year in 2008.
Fun Fact: A small town of approximately 20,000 about an hour south of Toledo, Defiance also produced young Dodgers star Chad Billingsley.
Perfect World Projection: He should become a solid and unspectacular number four starter.
Glass Half Empty: More of a number five/swingman type.
Path to the Big Leagues: Niese is a finished product who is ready for a shot at the big leagues...
Timetable: ...and he'll be given that shot in spring training, with a good chance at winning the final rotation spot unless the Mets make further moves.

6. 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
2008 Stats: .247/.340/.471 at Short-season (23 G)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: His explosive junior year turned Havens into a first-round pick, but elbow and groin problems hampered him in his pro debut.
The Good: He's your classic polished college type whose average-to-above tools play up due to good fundamentals and effort. He has a patient approach at the plate, with gap power and the occasional ability to crush mistakes. While he was limited to DH duties as a pro, he's a decent shortstop thanks to good instincts, footwork, and an above-average arm.
The Bad: There are still questions about where Havens will end up afield. He lacks the speed generally associated with a shortstop, and there's even been some thought about seeing if he can catch. He doesn't have the tools to project for stardom, but the Mets do not rule that out based on his makeup alone.
Fun Fact: Havens is the second player in this decade to be drafted out of Bishop Englund high school and then turn into a first-round pick at South Carolina. The first, Drew Meyer (Rangers, 2002), played just five big-league games.
Perfect World Projection: He's a pesky number two hitter at a position to be determined later.
Glass Half Empty: He ends up as a nice utility player who can get on base and play all over the field.
Path to the Big Leagues: It's hard to say until we know what his position is. The Mets wanted him to play winter ball, but he decided to take the time off to ensure that he's 100 percent healthy for the spring.
Timetable: If the Mets keep Havens at shortstop, he'll likely jump to High-A in order to play every day. Even at second base, he's probably bound for the Florida State League due to the overall maturity of his game.

7. Jenrry Mejia, RHP
DOB: 10/11/89
Height/Weight: 6-0/162
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007
2008 Stats: 0.60 ERA at Rookie-level (15-9-3-15); 3.49 ERA at Short-season (56.2-42-23-52)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: A smallish Dominican right-hander, Mejia had no problem holding his own against much older hitters of the New York-Penn League, showing off what some scouts felt was the best fastball on the circuit.
The Good: He has the best pure arm in the system-even topping Holt at Brooklyn-with a fastball that sits at 94-97 mph consistently and touches 99. He made good progress with a split/changeup as an off-speed pitch, and he gets good spin at times on a slurvy breaking ball.
The Bad: Mejia is all arm right now. He overthrows his secondary offerings, has trouble commanding all of his pitches, and his mechanics are downright cringe-inducing.
Fun Fact: Batters leading off an inning against Mejia in the Gulf Coast League failed to reach base in 15 plate appearances.
Perfect World Projection: Perhaps an undersized power starter in the mold of Johnny Cueto?
Glass Half Empty: If his secondary stuff doesn't come around, he's just a little guy with a fastball who is far better suited to a relief role.
Path to the Big Leagues: He is not on a path yet.
Timetable: Mejia will be yet another high-ceiling Latin American talent on the squad at Low-A Savannah in 2009.

8. Ike Davis, 1B
DOB: 3/22/87
Height/Weight: 6-5/195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Arizona State University
2008 Stats: .256/.326/.326 at Short-season (58 G)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: The son of former Yankees and Twins reliever Ron Davis, Ike nearly matched first-round stud Brett Wallace at Arizona State with a .385/.457/.742 line during his junior year, but his pro debut was a flop as he failed to go deep in 215 at-bats.
The Good: Despite the poor numbers, Davis has considerable power when he gets his arms extended, especially from the pull side. He has a patient approach and is a solid first baseman, though his outstanding arm is a bit wasted there.
The Bad: Davis just never got on track after signing, and he began tinkering with his swing, showing clear signs of frustration throughout the year. He can be too patient at the plate, allowing pitchers to get ahead in the count by ignoring pitches that he can drive, and he's a below-average athlete who doesn't run well.
Fun Fact: A two-way player who tied for the team lead in saves this year, Davis had pro talent on the mound and went 23-0 with a school record 213 strikeouts at Chaparral High in Scottsdale.
Perfect World Projection: He's a power-hitting first baseman, believe it or not.
Glass Half Empty: The bat has to carry him, so it's either everyday player or bust.
Path to the Big Leagues: Let's see him hit a home run first, then we'll talk.
Timetable: The Mets drafted Davis with the hope that he'd be ready for the Florida State League in 2009. His pro struggles have raised doubts, and he'll have to earn that assignment with a strong spring.

9. Bobby Parnell, RHP
DOB: 9/8/84
Height/Weight: 6-4/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 9th round, 2005, Charleston Southern University
2008 Stats: 4.30 ERA at Double-A (127.2-126-57-91), 5.97 DERA; 6.64 ERA at Triple-A (20.1-25-9-23), 7.91 DERA; 5.40 ERA at MLB (5-3-2-3)
Last Year's Ranking: 8

Year in Review: Parnell is a slow-developing pitcher who took a big step forward with his late-season move to the bullpen, pitching well in his major league debut.
The Good: Out of the bullpen, he can focus on his two best pitches, and gains a few ticks on his fastball when working for short stints. The pitch features not only plus-plus velocity, going as high as 97 mph, but also has late sink that induces plenty of ground balls when players manage to make contact. His slider flashes as plus at times, and he became a quick favorite of manager Jerry Manuel, who used him in some key situations during the final week of the season.
The Bad: Parnell has a tendency to overthrow his slider, causing the pitch to flatten out and making him highly susceptible to left-handed hitters. His control is no more than average, and when it falls below that, he can easily get himself into trouble with walks.
Fun Fact: With his brief September showing, Parnell became the first player drafted out of Charleston Southern to reach the majors.
Perfect World Projection: He can go as high as set-up man.
Glass Half Empty: Without more strikes and a better slider, he's no more than an extra bullpen arm.
Path to the Big Leagues: His trip might already be complete.
Timetable: The Mets spent most of their time in Las Vegas shoring up their bullpen with the acquisitions of K-Rod and J.J. Putz, so Parnell will be part of a crowded spring competition for the remaining bullpen jobs.

10. Eddie Kunz, RHP
DOB: 4/8/86
Height/Weight: 6-5/265
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, Oregon State University
2008 Stats: 2.79 ERA at Double-A (48.1-39-25-43), 4.66 DERA; 7.94 ERA at Triple-A (5.2-9-2-4), 7.94 DERA; 13.50 ERA at MLB (2.2-5-1-1), 11.57 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 3

Year in Review: The top pick from 2007 came on strong at Double-A, but faltered in the big leagues and has continued to struggle this winter.
The Good: Kunz has a low-90s sinker that is an absolute bowling ball and among the best in the minors; he had a ground-ball ratio of more than three and a half to one in the minors, and didn't give up a home run until his 57th pro game. His slider gives him a second plus pitch with good depth and tilt.
The Bad: The word "soft" is used quite a bit in relation to both Kunz' build and his makeup. Those 265 pounds are anything but all muscle, and he pitched scared during his big-league debut, a trend that continued to a disturbing degree in Arizona.
Fun Fact: Before moving up to the big leagues, Kunz reeled off 16 straight scoreless appearances at Double-A Birmingham, allowing just seven hits in 17 innings.
Perfect World Projection: He could become a ground-ball machine/set-up man.
Glass Half Empty: He may pan out as nothing more than a middle reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: Kunz had horrible numbers in the Arizona Fall League, with a 10.93 ERA in 14 games, allowing 36 baserunners in 14 innings. That leaves him on the outside looking in for now, and he'll begin the year at Triple-A.
Timetable: Kunz is a longshot to make the major league club out of spring training. He'll try to get things back on track by beginning the year at Triple-A.

11. Scott Moviel, RHP
DOB: 5/7/88
Height/Weight: 6-11/235
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2007, St. Edward HS (OH)
2008 Stats: 4.43 ERA at Low-A (120-128-36-82), 8.97 DERA; 0.00 ERA at High-A (5-2-1-2), 0.00 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 7

Year in Review: This raw, high-ceiling pitcher made steady progress throughout the year, and had a second-half ERA more than two runs lower than his first-half mark.
The Good: Because of his size and youth, Moviel's future screams high projection. His fastball was stuck in the 89-92 mph range during the year, and while it's not a sinker, it does generate a good number of ground balls due to the downward plane created by his height. During the season Mets coaches worked with him on his breaking pitches, and using new grips on both his curve and changeup, he made significant progress on both.
The Bad: Moviel is still quite rough around the edges. While he throws strikes, he's still learning how to throw good strikes that set up hitters. He doesn't have a put-away pitch yet, so the potential will have to show up at some point for him to project as a starting pitcher.
Fun Fact: An all-boys Catholic school in the Cleveland area, St. Edward's has produced professional athletes in numerous sports, as well as talk-show host Phil Donahue and Michael Symon from The Food Network.
Perfect World Projection: He could be outstanding, but it requires a ton of wishcasting, as Christina Kahrl likes to say.
Glass Half Empty: Not all of your wishes can come true.
Path to the Big Leagues: For now, he's just an exciting arm; nobody is clearing a way for him yet.
Timetable: Moviel remains a bit of a project and a one-step-at-a-time prospect who will likely spend all of 2009 in the High-A St. Lucie rotation.

The Sleeper: A fifth-round pick in 2007 who came back from a career-threatening ankle injury, first baseman Zach Lutz hit .333/.442/.514 in the New York-Penn League, and while the bat is his only tool, it's an awfully good one.

Top 10 Talents 25 and Under (as of Opening Day 2009)

1. Jose Reyes, SS
2. Fernando Martinez, CF
3. Wilmer Flores, SS
4. Mike Pelfrey, RHP
5. Daniel Murphy, LF
6. Jefry Marte, 3B
7. Brad Holt, RHP
8. Jon Niese, LHP
9. Reese Havens, SS
10. Jenrry Mejia, RHP

What's not to love about Jose Reyes? If you come up with something, you're nitpicking, and on a milestone note, he's going to get his 1,000th hit before his 26th birthday. As positive as I am on Reyes, it's difficult to find the same enthusiasm for Pelfrey or Murphy. Both were outstanding last year, but both come with huge red flags going forward. For Pelfrey, it's an inability to miss bats, as 110 strikeouts in 200 2/3 innings is not the best indicator for long-term success for a young starter. As for Murphy, it's not that he's a bad player as much as he was just playing over his head during his pro debut, and the offensive expectations are enormous for an everyday left fielder.

Summary: Once a consistent bottom-rung system, the Mets have taking a big step forward thanks to some much-improved drafting and one of the most successful Latin American scouting programs in the game. The system still lacks depth, but there is ceiling.


Up next: the Philadelphia Phillies

---

Kevin Goldstein breaks down a Mets system better known for projects than prospects as we continue following along with the Top 11 Prospect Lists at BPR.


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Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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