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My Top 10 Mets Prospects

By Bryan Zarpentine

Here is my list of the top 10 Mets prospects heading into the 2010 off-season. My list tends to favor guys in the higher levels of the system who have been in the organization for at least two years. In addition to my assessment of each prospect, I will comment on whether or not it would be wise to trade them this off-season.

1. Jenry Mejia

Mejia split 2009 between St. Lucie where his ERA was under 2, and Binghamton where he failed to win a game but managed to average over a strike out per inning. He did this at age 19, which is a big reason as to why he’s number one on my list. Another reason is that his ceiling is that of a number 1 or 2 starter. However, he has had well-documented struggles thus far in the Arizona Fall League. But despite these struggles, he’s still young and there’s no need to rush him to the major leagues. The Mets may consider giving him a chance in the bullpen in 2010 if they think he can contribute there. However, because of his ceiling, the Mets may be wise to wait and let him develop, even if they have to wait until 2011 or beyond. They would also be wise to avoid trading him, unless they can get a front line starter in return.

2. Ike Davis

Many of labeled Davis as the heir apparent at first base, which is hard to disagree with. He was the first player the Mets selected in the 2008 draft, and after having a sub-par first season, he hit 20 home runs in 2009, splitting time between St. Lucie and Binghamton. His numbers were better than any other minor league first basemen drafted in 2008. The Mets may go through the off-season thinking that Davis could be the starter at first base on opening day 2011, but it is unlikely we’ll see him there before next September. Even if Daniel Murphy proves that he can be an every day first basemen, there’s still no reason to consider trading Davis unless they somehow acquire a young and already established power hitting first basemen and lock him up long term (i.e. Adrian Gonzalez or Prince Fielder, which is probably not going to happen).

3. Wilmer Flores

At age 18, Flores already has two years of minor league baseball under his belt. His athleticism, his tools, and his numbers are not eye-catching, but they’re pretty good for a kid of that age playing at the level he played at in 2009, which is why many consider him to be a top prospect. Flores has great bat control, and as he gets older and his body matures, many believe he will be able to hit for power. At 18, time is on his side, and so the Mets do not need to rush him. His defense is not great, but of course there is time for that to improve as well; and while he has played shortstop thus far, it is not a given he will stay there. The Mets seem like they want to keep him, even though he is at least two or three years away from sniffing Citi Field. But a lot can happen in that time, so if the Mets have a blockbuster trade that would bring in a franchise changing player (a la the Johan Santana trade) they should not be afraid to relinquish Flores.

4. Fernando Martinez

Martinez has long been the Mets prized prospect, but deserves to drop a little because of injuries. Each year he seems to be hit with a new injury, which has prevented him from being able to play a full season, including 2009 when he had the chance to make his promotion to the big leagues permanent before being derailed by another injury. The talent and potential are still there, but he’s never going to help the Mets win games if he can’t stay healthy. However, he will be only 21 for the duration of the 2010 season, which means he still has time to grow into the player the Mets think he can be, if he can stay healthy. While you hate to let go of a guy with his talent who is still young, if there is a team that covets Martinez like the Mets do, they should not be too hesitant to trade him if they can add a quality player. It would be a risky move, but if his injuries persist then not only will he be of no use to the team, but his trade value will diminish, so it may be wise to trade him while his value remains high.

5. Brad Holt

Holt was the top pitcher the Mets selected in the 2008 draft. He moved through the minor league system as a starter, ending 2009 in AA Binghamton, where an injury soon after his promotion held him back. When spring training starts, he could start to draw a lot of comparisons to Bobby Parnell. Holt is a hard thrower and his fastball may be enough to be a bullpen contributor in 2010, much like Parnell in 2009. The Mets could also decide to give him time to develop and improve his secondary pitches, allowing him to one day become a major league starter or a top-flight reliever who has more than just a killer fastball to offer. Either way, the Mets should not be eager to trade him, although given a choice between him and Mejia, the Mets may be wise to trade Holt and hang onto Mejia.

6. Reese Havens

Havens, like Davis, was a first round pick of the Mets in 2008. He has a chance to be a good, well-rounded middle infielder, but so far has been slowed by injuries. He spent all of 2009 in St. Lucie, managing to finish 6th in the Florida State League in home runs despite playing in 20 fewer games than most of the guys ahead of him. Havens is also a more than capable fielder with a strong arm. Thus far he has played shortstop in his minor league career, but in the Arizona Fall League he has recently started a seemingly inevitable transition to second base. The key for Havens is to stay healthy so that he is able to play every day. If he can stay healthy, Havens may be ready to take over second base for the Mets around the time Luis Castillo’s contract runs out. His stock right now isn’t as high as it could be due to injuries so trading him might not be the best decision. Plus, he also fits a need the Mets are likely to have in a couple years.

7. Kirk Nieuwenhuis

In August Nieuwenhuis started hitting the cover off the ball in St. Lucie and continued to do so through the end of the season, including a promotion to Binghamton in which he hit .406 with five extra-base hits in just eight games. Nieuwenhuis has always had the frame and the tools, to become a big leaguer, so the month long tear he went on to finish 2009 is a great sign. Right now, he is still just a fourth outfielder, but if he can continue to develop and hit the way he did in the final weeks of 2009, then Nieuwenhuis can become an every day outfielder in the big leagues. Much like his batting average, his stock sky rocketed in the latter half of the season, so the Mets should at least consider trading him while his value is at or near its highest point, if they can find the right deal. But if they believe he’s the real deal, they can hold onto him if they think there will be an opening in their outfield in a year or two.

8. Ruben Tejada

Tejada spent 2009 at AA Binghamton at the age of 19, which is awfully young for that level. He gained some notoriety when Omar Minaya mentioned him by name, but Minaya was wise not to bring him up to the big leagues. Tejada is a solid fielder who will likely be able to play either middle infield spot in the future. He is a contact hitter who hit for a good average in Binghamton and seemed to improve and get stronger as the season progressed, not getting run down by the long season. He will not strike out a lot, but has little power; of course as he gets older he could add muscle and develop some power, but not too much. The Mets should be careful if they consider trading Tejada because of they may need a shortstop if Jose Reyes can’t come back healthy, although right now he is pretty far down the depth chart, and the Mets are hoping they will not need Tejada in 2010. Still, it would be wise to keep him since, also like Havens, he could be a candidate to play second base when Luis Castillo’s contract is up.

9. Josh Thole

Thole got his cup of coffee in the big leagues this past September, and showed some promise by hitting .321 and catching two complete game shutouts. Both feats are impressive, but it does not mean Thole should fill the Mets opening behind the plate in 2010. He hits only singles and he still has a ways to go as a catcher defensively. What’s best for Thole is to spend the year at AAA catching guys with major league experience in order to improve his receiving and game-calling skills. It might also afford him the chance to work on hitting for more power, instead of being content hitting only singles. Right now Thole is a contact hitter with less than stellar catching ability so he wouldn’t have too much value in a trade, but if the Mets give him more time in the minors to develop he could factor into their future plans behind the plate.

10. The Savannah Sand Gnats 2009 starting rotation: Jeurys Familia, Eric Beaulac, Kyle Allen, Robert Carson, and Chris Schwinden.

Familia by himself is on the cusp of my top 10, but I thought I’d mention the entire Savannah rotation, with all 5 guys having solid years, all with an ERA under 3.5. If it wasn’t for a poor defensive infield and an offense ranked in the bottom half of the league in most hitting statistics they probably would have been able to win more games. With his size, fastball, and youth Familia has the most promise, but is a few years away from pitching in Flushing. Allen and Carson are also young and a ways away, but both have time to develop. However, their ceilings are not as high as Familia’s, with Carson getting the slight advantage over Allen on potential because he’s a southpaw. Beaulac and Schwinden are a little older but have the chance to move through the system a little quicker, with Schwinden getting two starts in St. Lucie before the season ended while Beaulac probably deserved a chance to do so. Beaulac stands out with his high strike out rate, while Schwinden does so with low walk rate, but Beaulac has a better chance of getting to the big leagues with his MLB quality fastball. Since these guys are still young they won’t garner much value in a trade with the exception of Familia, whose value has risen over the past year and may garner some interest from potential trading partners.

Here are some others to keep an eye on. These aren’t necessarily the next on the list, just some players of interest, so in no particular order:

P Scott Moviel, Brant Rustich, Eduardo Aldama, and Brandon Moore

3B Jefry Marte, Zach Lutz, and Aderlin Rodriguez.

2B Alonzo Harris and Jordany Valdespin.

OF Cesar Puello, and Darrell Celiciani

Overall, I find that the Mets farm system lacks depth as well as guys who can make an impact in 2010. There are a few gems near the top, but even those guys are far from a sure thing, and are not quite ready to be major league contributors. A few could be September call-ups in 2010, but the Mets shouldn’t expect too much from this group before then; in fact, most guys will need a full year or two before a big league call-up is even a possibility. Injuries have held up a few guys, hurting their development as well as their potential value in a trade.

I do believe Omar Minaya did the right thing in hanging on to his prospects during the season and not making a desperate move in July to try and jump start a team that clearly was not going to be a contender in September. Minaya has said that he really likes the prospects the Mets have, so it will be interesting to see if he is willing to part with his prospects in a trade the way he has the past two off-seasons. Minaya may in fact like his prospects more than other general managers like them, which may cause a difference of opinions during trade negotiations and hold up potential deals.

On the other hand, Minaya could continue the stinginess he had during the summer and hold on to the guys he’s got, and focus on the long term. He can hope that the prospects he has today will turn into serviceable major leaguers in a year or two, while he tries to re-build the farm system from the bottom up, adding depth, while trying to develop some future stars.

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