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Key Prospects to Watch in 2010

By: Bryan Zarpentine

As April approaches, not only do we get closer to the start of the Major League Baseball season, we also draw nearer to the start of the season for the upper levels of the minor leagues. To prepare for the minor league season, I’d like to take a look at a few Mets prospects for whom 2010 is a critical and career changing year. Obviously when you’re a minor league player, every year is an important year towards your development, your advancement in the system, and reaching the ultimate goal of playing the major leagues. However, the players I’d like to highlight not only have important years with regards to their own career, but whose performance and development in 2010 will have a significant impact on the Mets as an organization for years to come.

The first player I’d like to highlight is an obvious one: First Baseman Ike Davis. After making big strides in 2009, Davis will now have the opportunity to show that he can be the Mets first basemen of the future. While he has turned some heads in camp this spring, Davis will likely be the everyday first baseman at AAA Buffalo. If Davis can continue to display his power, prove he can hit lefties and breaking pitches, while getting more seasoning Davis can prove without a doubt that he should be the guy at first base for the Mets in 2011 and for many years after that. While some see Davis as a serious candidate to be the Mets starting first baseman this year, such thinking is far from reasonable. There’s no denying how well he has hit the ball thus far this spring, but it is just a small sample that is difficult to extrapolate across 162 games facing major league pitching. Furthermore, Davis has barely 200 at bats at the AA level, and even with his time in the Arizona Fall League, making the jump to full-time duty at the big league level is asking too much of a young player, especially with the pressure to win that will be on the Mets in the early part of the season. The key to long-term success in the major leagues for Davis will be a year of continued growth and development at AAA, so he can be best prepared to take over at first in 2011. That’s not to say a mid-season call up is out of the question, but for Ike Davis, 2010 is his year to improve and prepare, while 2011 will be his year to make an impact.

The second player who needs mentioning is Second Baseman Reese Havens. After missing a significant portion of 2009 with a quad injury, Havens needs to play a full season of baseball in 2010. It’s too early to label Havens as “injury-prone”, but it will be important to stay healthy this year not only to avoid such labels but also for his development as a player. Havens is also in the midst of a position change, beginning the transition from shortstop to second base during the Arizona Fall League, but the 2010 season will be crucial to him making this transition, and staying healthy will allow him as many reps as possible at his new position. Also important for Havens is that he will likely begin 2010 in Binghamton at the AA level. For many players, this is the level where it becomes apparent whether or not they can play in the big leagues, which should be the case for Havens as well. If Havens can prove that he can play at this level he can earn a mid-season promotion to AAA Buffalo and put himself in competition to be the Mets starting second baseman in 2011, assuming the Mets spend another off season trying to trade Luis Castillo. So, in 2010 Reese Havens will have the chance to prove on the field that he can be the Mets second basemen of the future; but if he falters or is plagued by injuries again the Mets will need to look elsewhere to find a second basemen, while Havens will have to spend more time in the minors or settle for being a bench player.

The final player I’d like to mention is also an obvious choice: Outfielder Fernando Martinez. No Mets prospect has been talked about more in the past few years than Martinez, usually in one of two contexts: his undeniable talent or the injuries that have slowed his progress and put his future in doubt. There’s no denying the problems his injuries have caused him, preventing Martinez from completing a full season in any year of his career. If not for his injuries last year, Martinez would have been given a golden opportunity to play everyday in the big leagues throughout August and September, after he struggled in the short period of time he played at Citi Field earlier in the year. However, 2010 has already showed signs of being different. In February, Martinez was MVP of the Caribbean Series hitting .316 with two home runs, and he has continued that great play into spring training. While he is still just 21 years old, 2010 seems to be a make or break year for Fernando Martinez because of the “injury-prone” label that has followed him around throughout his career. Another injury this year could solidify suspicion that he will never be healthy enough to be an every-day major league player, much less a star. This makes staying healthy the most important part of 2010 for Fernando Martinez. Whether he spends 2010 at AAA Buffalo or gets a call up to the Mets is less important than simply staying healthy. If Martinez can avoid the disabled list in 2010 there is no doubt he will be starting somewhere in the Mets outfield in 2011. But if he can’t stay healthy, the Mets may have to forge ahead without their long-time prized prospect a part of their plans.

While there are other promising prospects to keep track of in the Mets farm system, these three players should garner a little closer attention when the season begins. A significant amount of the talent in the Mets system remains in the lower levels, but Davis, Havens, and Martinez are all on the cusp of the major leagues, with Martinez already on the 40-man roster. All three have the potential to be important parts of the franchise for years to come, have the talent to be above average or better major league players, and could possibly be in the Mets starting lineup on opening day in 2011. But first, their play, as well as their health, in 2010 will go a long way in determining the kind of major leaguers they will be and how important they will be to the Mets franchise for years to come.

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