Who will Mets take in 2011 MLB Draft?

The Mets have homegrown players Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Mike Pelfrey, Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee playing key roles on the 2011 team but you constantly hear about their need to build a stronger farm system.

Sandy Alderson gets to oversee his first draft for the club when the 2011 MLB Draft begins on June 6th. The Mets have seven picks in the top 200, a normal amount, including the 13th overall pick. New York picked up one extra pick this year, a supplemental pick for the loss of free agent Pedro Feliciano, which is the 44th overall selection.

Omar Minaya is unfairly criticized for the drafts on his watch, but one thing no one should complain about is how he did the times he had a first-round pick. Minaya oversaw six drafts and in the three years that the Mets picked in the first round, they came away with Mike Pelfrey (2005), Ike Davis (2008) and Matt Harvey (2010). The Mets also grabbed Reese Havens and Brad Holt in the first round of 2008.

Will Alderson experience the same success that Minaya did? We can only hope. One thing that is clear is that there is no consensus among the experts who the Mets are going to take at 13. There have been at least 11 names attached to the Mets and four of the leading draft experts each have a different take on who the club will take. Let’s take a look at these four:

Jim Callis (Baseball America) – In his second mock, dated May 27th, Callis has the Mets taking Louisiana State outfielder Mikie Mahtook. Currently a center fielder, there are concerns he may wind up in left field. But Mahtook is much more interesting due to his bat. He finished the regular season with 14 HR in 196 ABs and had a .383/.496/.709 slash line. Mahtook is one of 30 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given annually to the nation’s top amateur baseball player.

Keith Law (ESPN) – In his second mock, dated May 30th, Law has the Mets taking North Carolina shortstop Levi Michael. There are some concerns that Michael may not stick at shortstop (he also played 2B and 3B at UNC) due to questionable range. But scouts like his arm and think his bat will play. Michael has a .313/.459/.476 slash line and has 14 SB in 15 attempts.

Jonathan Mayo (MLB.com) – In his first mock, dated May 20th, Mayo has the Mets taking Kentucky RHP Alex Meyer. The first thing that stands out about Meyer is his height, as he’s 6-foot-9. In 14 games this year, Meyer was 7-5 with a 2.94 ERA. He struck out 110 batters in 101 innings and walked 46. Meyer throws in the mid-90s and also has a slider and changeup. He was drafted out of high school by the Red Sox, but turned down a $2 million offer to go to college.

John Sickels (Minor League Ball) – In his second mock, dated May 30th, Sickels has the Mets taking Connecticut outfielder George Springer. The number-two prospect in the Cape Cod League last summer, Springer is always mentioned whenever scouts talk about players with the best tools. A center fielder, he has a .361/.462/.644 slash line, with 12 HR and 31 SB. Like Mahtook, he is a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award.

Other players linked to the Mets include pitchers Danny Hultzen (UVA), Taylor Jungmann (Texas), Taylor Guerrieri (HS/South Carolina), Jed Bradley (Ga. Tech) and Josh Stilson (Texas A&M). Other hitters mentioned in conjunction with the Mets are Javier Baez (HS/Florida) and Brandon Nimmo (HS/Wyoming).

Mets Minors: Updated Top 10 list

With the Mets seemingly on the verge of a salary purge over the next few months and going to have to rely on the farm system more over the next several years, let’s look at an updated top-10 prospect list for the embattled organization.

The farm system lacks top-end talent and depth. Injuries this season have thwarted the progress of top pitcher Jenrry Mejia, infielders Zach Lutz and Reese Havens and outfielders Darrell Ceciliani and Fernando Martinez, who hasn’t been able to stay healthy or reach his potential. Havens has just returned from his latest injury, but he has to be considered more suspect than prospect at this point.

Slow starts have also impacted outfielders Cesar Puello and Lucas Duda, third baseman Aderlin Rodriguez and pitchers Brad Holt, Robert Carson and Kyle Allen. The Mets don’t have a legitimate catching prospect in the system, and, if Wilmer Flores moves from shortstop, the organization doesn’t have a legit everyday prospect in the middle of the infield, just several utility types: Havens, Justin Turner, Michael Fisher, Josh Satin, Jordany Valdespin and Robbie Shields.

On the positive side, Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia have established themselves as top prospects, Kirk Nieuwenhuis has shown he’s an everyday player in the big leagues and youngster Cory Vaughn continues to hit. Class AA first baseman Allan Dykstra has been a pleasant surprise along with Class A center fielder Matt den Dekker.

“Sleeper” pitchers include AAA hurlers Chris Schwinden and recently-promoted Dale Thayer, high Class A lefthander Darin Gorski and low Class A righthander Gregory Peavey.

Below are the top-10 prospects in the Mets’ organization. Qualifications: Fewer than 100 plate appearances or 50 innings pitched in the major leagues prior to this season.

1. Matt Harvey

Other than two shaky outings, Harvey has been sensational in his pro debut season, and with the injury to Mejia, he has taken over the top spot on the mound.

The 2010 first-round pick from North Carolina is 6-2, with a 2.50 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in his first 10 starts. He’s allowed 45 hits and 18 walks in 54 innings with 62 strikeouts. The righthander has allowed no earned runs in seven of his 10 outings.

Harvey’s got the heat, command, pedigree, projectable body and offspeed stuff to be a staff ace.

2. Kirk Nieuwenhuis

There is very little doubt Nieuwenhuis will find himself playing regularly in New York once the financially strapped Mets start dumping salary.

Nieuwenhuis began the season with a 16-game hitting streak and has showed signs of making adjustments. The 23-year-old is batting .302/.407/.521 after a .225 average in 30 games for Buffalo last season. He has 15 doubles, two triples, six homers, 14 RBI, 29 walks and five steals in 47 games.

Nieuwenhuis is making strides against fellow lefthanders – .235 but 11 walks in 51 AB – but still needs to cut down on his strikeouts – 51 in 169 at-bats – and is batting just .182 with runners in scoring position. The center fielder is the only player in the International League to play in every game, and he is getting time in right field as well.

3. Wilmer Flores
Although Flores will probably outgrow shortstop, the 6-foot-3 righthanded batter is a potential hitting machine.

A recent slump has dropped his average to .267/.305/.381with 11 doubles, four homers and 35 RBI in the pitcher-friendly Class A Florida State League, but he has just 10 walks in 202 at-bats. But Flores won’t turn 20 until August and is playing against players 22 to 24 years of age.

His range is suspect at shortstop, so third base or a corner outfield spot probably awaits, but Flores has committed just six errors in 50 games.

4. Cory Vaughn

Vaughn is looking like the complete offensive package at low Class-A Savannah, batting .335/.466/.483 in 50 games with 14 doubles, four homers and 26 RBI.

The just turned 22-year-old also has 31 walks and 43 strikeouts in 176 at-bats, and he has stolen eight bases. Vaughn was a New York- Penn League All-Star last season and posted a .953 OPS so look for the righthanded hitter to move on to St. Lucie for the second half of the season.

5. Jenrry Mejia

Mejia unquestionably has the biggest upside of any Mets hurler with a “plus-plus” fastball that could either front a rotation or close out a game at the back. But the 21-year-old has just lost a second straight year of development when he blew out his elbow in late April after going 1-2 with a 2.86 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in five starts.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery, Mejia now faces a long rehabilitation stint – nine to 12 months. Prior to the season, Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen questioned whether Mejia and his all-out delivery would hold up as a starter.

6. Jeurys Familia

Along with Harvey, the 21-year-old Familia has been the best pitcher in the organization this season.

Familia is 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in four starts for offensively-challenged Binghamton after going 1-1 with a 1.49 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP at St. Lucie.

The 6-foot-3 righthander with a mid-90s heater is no doubt the best one-win hurler in the minors, allowing 39 hits and 17 walks with 57 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings. An off-the-charts improvement in command is the biggest reason Familia has been able to bounce back from 5.58 ERA at St. Lucie a season ago.

7. Pedro Beato

The 24-year-old has been a pleasant surprise in the middle of the bullpen.

Beato began the season without allowing an earned run in his first 12 outings covering 18 2/3 innings. Only Oakland reliever Brad Ziegler’s career-opening streak of 38 innings in 2008 is longer to start a career than Beato’s since 2000. The Brooklyn product yielded just nine hits, three walks and four unearned runs during that span with 11 strikeouts.

A bout with elbow tendinitis landed the Rule V pick from the Baltimore Orioles on the DL the first three weeks of May, and the righthander has been tagged for seven runs and eight hits in four innings over his last four outings.

The 6-6 Beato was a mediocre starter his first four years in the minors before switching to the pen, posting a 2.11 ERA and 16 saves at Class AA Bowie last season, walking 19 and striking out 50 in 60 innings. He doesn’t have overpowering heat and his offspeed pitches are still developing.

8. Matt Den Dekker

Already a major league-ready center fielder, Den Dekker has impressed the brass with a .315/.359/.502 out of the leadoff spot for St. Lucie.

The 23-year-old can run as his 16 doubles, eight triples and nine steals would indicate, and he’s added two homers and 27 RBI in 49 games. The 2010 fifth-rounder from the Univeristy of Florida is batting .328 against fellow lefthanders but will need to improve upon his 13/46 BB/SO ratio over 203 at-bats to play every day.

9. Dillon Gee

Does anybody believe in Dillon Gee yet?

Nobody did after the velocity-challenged righthander went 2-2 with a 2.18 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in five major league starts last season, but Gee is 5-0 with 3.83 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 10 games – seven starts – for New York this season.

His lack of velocity and past results suggest the 25-year-old may be using smoke and mirrors, but its time Gee gets the props he deserves.

10. Cesar Puello

The 20-year-old is a “tools” player who is more potential than productivity at this point, but scouts can’t ignore his 6-3, 200-pound athletic frame, outstanding speed and power potential.

The Dominican is struggling against more-seasoned players in the Florida State League, batting .234/.288/.328 with two homers, 11 RBI and 10 steals in 46 games. His nine walks and 43 strikeouts in 192 at-bats will have to improve.

*****

Here is our preseason Top 10

Enjoy this post? Please follow us on Networked Blogs, which Facebook users can do by clicking “follow my blog” on the badge located in the bottom right sidebar.

Who replaces Beltran in RF for the Mets?

It’s no fun to contemplate the Mets without Carlos Beltran but as John Wooden once reminded us, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” Plus with the recent revelations that owner Fred Wilpon thinks Beltran is “65 to 70 percent of what he was” when he signed him, there’s really only one conclusion to be drawn.

So, who replaces Beltran?

Lucas Duda has so far failed to build on his 2010 season, so the main two candidates seem to be Fernando Martinez and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Martinez has come full circle in prospectdom. He started out as a can’t miss, became overrated due to non-stop injuries, is now an afterthought by many and can be accurately described as underrated. Nieuwenhuis was an unheralded prospect from an NAIA school but has done nothing but perform well in his time in the minors to force his way into the team’s plans.

Martinez came to the Mets billed as a five-tool center field prospect. But injuries have robbed his speed and center is no longer a viable option, nor is big SB totals. But Martinez still offers the club some power potential. While injuries have kept him from playing a full season, he essentially has a full year of time at Triple-A under his belt. Here are his career numbers at Buffalo:

.271/.330/.488 in 550 PA

He has 35 2B, 2 3B and 23 HR in 498 ABs at the top minor league level. Martinez is now on his third stint in the majors but for the first time he is actually hitting. Here are his career numbers with the Mets and what he is doing so far this season:

Career – .189/.257/.299 in 141 PA
2011 — .278/.316/.556 in 19 PA

This year Martinez has two doubles and a home run in 18 ABs.

Meanwhile, Nieuwenhuis is putting up strong numbers this year in Buffalo after struggling upon his promotion to Triple-A last year. The Asuza Pacific product is doing a little bit of everything. Here are his 2010 and 2011 numbers at Buffalo:

2010 – .225/.295/.358 in 133 PA
2011 – .303/.410/.527 in 195 PA

Nieuwenhuis has 23 extra-base hits in 165 ABs, including 6 HR. Additionally, he has been successful on five of his six stolen base attempts. The 23-year old is also doing his best to show he would fit in with the Mets by having just a .662 OPS with RISP.

Both Martinez and Nieuwenhuis are LHB. Nieuwenhuis is currently playing CF for Buffalo but is somewhat stretched there and probably profiles defensively as a corner outfielder. There were concerns if his bat would play in a corner position but his performance so far in 2011 is a nice sign that it could.

The wild card in this situation is that we are assuming that these two players will battle for the right field position. But if Angel Pagan does not hit better when he returns, Nieuwenhuis could be a contender for the 2012 starting center field job, as well.

But assuming that Pagan is the team’s center fielder next year, right field will offer a nice choice between two different prospects. Martinez is the tools guy, one who is starting to put it together offensively. Nieuwenhuis is the one who has gotten this far on results. This is not to say that he does not have good tools, but that his main draw has been his actual production.

Great tools will get a prospect multiple chances and free passes in the minors but it’s a different story in the majors. Here the only thing that counts is production. Nieuwenhuis would seem to have a leg up here, but it is Martinez who is in the majors right now.

While that has plenty to do with Martinez being on the 40-man roster while Nieuwenhuis is not, we should not disregard the ability to work with major league coaches as a point in Martinez’ favor right now. Next spring, Terry Collins, Dave Hudgens and others will have a comfort level established with Martinez. Perhaps they will get a chance in September to do the same with Nieuwenhuis.

It’s too soon to tell right now who has the inner track to replace Beltran in RF next year. But the Mets have two viable internal candidates, which is a nice thing for a farm system that is allegedly below average (plus an owner who is allegedly broke) to have.

Mets Minors: Robbie Shields starts to hit

A third-round pick in 2009 out of Division II Florida Southern, shortstop Robbie Shields came back from Tommy John surgery to hit .290/.331/.457 with five homers and 26 RBI in 39 games for the Sand Gnats last season. The 23-year-old, who has lost a year of development, returned to Savannah this season and after a slow start has started to hit.

The righthanded hitter, rated No. 20 by Baseball America heading into the season, went 2-for-4 Sunday to extend his hitting streak to 12 games – tied for the longest active hitting streak in the South Atlantic League. Shields is 24-for-50 during the streak with seven doubles and two triples. For the season, he is batting .297/.385/.483 for the league’s worst-hitting team. He has two homers, 17 RBI and seven stolen bases.

After being drafted, Shields hit just .178 at Class A Brooklyn in ’08, partially explained by his elbow injury.

According to scouts, Shields’ tools across the board grade out as average. Many feel that his future position is second best due to a suspect arm. He played his first professional game there Sunday. Shields has made eight errors in 39 games at shortstop.

Long term, Shields probably falls into the category of major league utility player. That will put him in a group with every other middle infielder in the organization except for St. Lucie’s Wilmer Flores.

HIGHLY TOUTED PITCHING STAFF FALTERS: At the beginning of the season, the Class AA Binghamton Mets starting pitchers were outstanding. But the B-Mets have lost six straight and nine of 10 and are 13-26 for the season – 12.5 games out of first place in the Eastern Division. The rotation is scuffling and hasn’t been helped by the league’s worst defense.

Talented righthander Jeurys Familia, who had allowed just two runs – one earned – in his first two starts since being promoted from Class A St. Lucie, was the latest starter to go down, allowing three runs, five hits and four walks over five innings in the 4-1 loss to Harrisburg on Sunday.

Other not so spectacular starts during the week were logged by Brad Holt (9 R, 5 H, 13 BB in 7 1/3 IP over 2 starts); Mark Cohoon (11 runs, 11 hits in 3 2/3 IP); Robert Carson (5 R, 7 H, 3 BB in 4 2/3 IP); and Brandon Moore (16 R, 16 H, 6 1/3 IP over 2 starts).

Times were bad off the field as well. Righthander Edgar Ramirez was suspended for 50 games by minor league baseball after a positive drug test. The 6-foot-4 250-pound Ramirez is 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA in nine appearances – two starts.

However, help is on the way for the club that ranks 10th of 12 in ERA (4.21). Reportedly, 2010 first-round pick Matt Harvey is expected to join the club from St. Lucie around June 1. The righthander is 5-2 with a 2.87 ERA in nine starts with 52 strikeouts in 47 innings.

The B-Mets defense hasn’t helped out the pitching, having allowed more unearned runs (37) than any team in the Eastern League. They had four errors on Friday against Harrisburg, six on Saturday, including three by third baseman Eric Campbell, and two on Sunday. Shortstop Jordany Valdespin has 12 errors – one more than his RBI total – in 38 games this season and Campbell has 10 in 36 contests.

*****

Class AAA Buffalo has its own troubles. The Bisons were outscored 19-2 in the opening inning of their eight-game road trip that ended Friday in Indianapolis – including 19-0 in the first six games.

With all the injuries in the major leagues resulting in callups, the Bisons have a lot of new faces as well: outfielder Jason Botts (signed from the Atlantic League), infielders Chin-lung Hu (down from New York) and Luis Figueroa (free agent) and outfielder Bubba Bell (trade with Cleveland) all joined the team on its road trip.

One newcomer continuing to impress is 26-year-old infielder Michael Fisher, batting .378/.410/.514 in 10 games with a homer and six RBI. Fisher, who had four consecutive multi-hit games on the road trip, hit .281 with a .821 OPS in 23 games at Binghamton.

AROUND THE MINORS: Savannah OF Cory Vaughn just keeps hitting. The just-turned 21-year-old had two doubles and three RBI Sunday to lift his average to .324/.463/.473 with 27 walks, 13 doubles, three homers and 24 RBI in 43 games. He’s the only player in the league to play in every game, and he’s among the top-10 in the entire minor leagues in on-base percentage. … 2B Reese Havens made his season debut Sunday for St. Lucie, going 2-for-3 with a double, two RBI and two walks. The 2008 first-rounder, who has spent more time on the DL than the playing field since being drafted, is coming back from his latest setback, a back injury. When healthy, the former shortstop profiles as an offensive second baseman with 20-homer power. … The Kirk Nieuwenhuis watch continues. The Class AAA CFder is batting .305/.406/.530 with 15 doubles, six homers and 27 walks in 164 at-bats. The 23-year-old has struggled of late against fellow lefthanders and is down to .235 with a .724 OPS with 14 strikeouts in 51 at-bats on the season. Before the Mets call him up, the organization wanted him to cut down on strikeouts (49 in 191 TPA) and improve against lefthanders.

Mets Minors: Familia is best pitching prospect

The New York Mets player development department made its first significant move last week. New York promoted righthander Jeurys Familia from Class A St. Lucie to Class AA Binghamton.

Familia, just 21, dominated in the Florida State League, going 1-1 with a 1.49 ERA. He yielded just 21 hits and eight walks with 36 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings, teaming with 2010 first-rounder Matt Harvey for a solid 1-2 punch.

The righthander was superb Sunday against Yankees affiliate Trenton in the Eastern League, allowing three hits and three walks over seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts. His only trouble came in the third when he loaded the bases with no outs but got a double play and a popout to escape.

Familia didn’t get a decision, since the bullpen couldn’t hold the 2-0 lead, allowing three ninth-inning runs in the loss.

In his Class AA debut last Tuesday against New Britain, Familia allowed two runs – one earned – and five hits with no walks and six strikeouts in another no-decision for the B-Mets, who have struggled all season to score runs.

“I didn’t feel pressure, I felt all right,” Familia told the Binghamton Press after his AA debut. “I got excited when I got on the mound. I tried to control my emotions and throw strikes.”

His fastball touched 96 and his 80 mph changeup fooled several hitters.

“Everything was there for him tonight,” B-Mets manager Wally Backman said. “His velocity was good. He threw some real good changeups. He threw a few too many breaking balls at times, but I like the mound presence that he showed as a young kid.

“I think this kid is a big leaguer. He’s young. He’s still got to learn, but if he stays healthy and does some of the things he showed here tonight, he’s going to be a pretty good pitcher one day.”

With Jenrry Mejia out for the season with elbow surgery, Familia now must be considered the top pitching prospect closest to the major leagues. He was 6-9, 5.58 ERA for St. Lucie last season so his start there in 2011 needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but he’s cut his 5.50 BB/9 IP ratio down to 1.97.

With the ability to hit the mid-90s and above with his heater and improved command on a slider that hitters chase out of the zone, the Dominican is averaging nearly a strikeout per inning after fanning 10.2/9 IP last season, and he has yielded just one home run.

Harvey, his running mate in the FSL, has cooled off after a great start, now at 5-2 with a 2.61 ERA after not yielding an earned run in his first four starts. However, the 22-year-old tossed five scoreless innings Sunday in a win at Brevard County and should re-join Familia in the near future.

****

Low Class A Savannah has won three straight, six of seven and eight of 10 to improve to 18-18 and a first place division tie in the South Atlantic League. Darrell Cecilliani went 5-for-5 in a Saturday night win and Cory Vaughn has pushed his average to .344 and on-base percentage to .477 by hitting .471/.617/.559 in his last 10 contests. Shortstop Robbie Shileds, 23, who projects as a utility player at the big league level, had eight hits over a three-game span to lift his average to .264 with 16 RBI and six steals in 33 games.

INTRODUCING Jefry Marte: David Wright seems to have lost his “favorite son” status with folks at Citi Field, but New York has some prospects in the pipeline, especially at the Class A level.

Young 19-year-old Aderlin Rodriguez, perhaps the top power prospect in the organization, is manning the hot corner at Savannah, and another 19-year-old, Jefry Marte, is more than holding his own in the pitcher-friendly advanced Class A Florida State League.

Despite batting .189 in his last 10 games, Marte is batting .285/.365/.469 with five homers and 21 RBI in 35 games for St. Lucie. The righthanded hitter has 15 walks, 29 strikeouts and four steals among his 130 at-bats.

Marte hit .264/.333/.401 in 84 games in a repeat season at Savannah last season with six homers and 44 RBI in 82 games, beginning and finishing the season on the DL with a hamstring injury.

The 6-1, 195-pounder is not overly athletic or a fast runner and is still a work in progress defensively. He has fielded sub-.900 in each of his first thee seasons, including a minor league-leading 49 errors in 2009. He’s showed some improvement this season with seven errors in 34 games for a .927 fielding percentage.

New York liked the Dominican as a teenager, signing him in 2007 at age 16 for a half million dollars

AROUND THE MINORS: Allan Dykstra, a former first-round pick of the San Diego Padres acquired this winter in a minor league trade, hit a two-run homer in the ninth Saturday to provide Binghamton a 3-2 win over Trenton. The 23-year-old first baseman is batting .287/.418/.472 with three homers and nine RBI in 24 games. … RHP Pedro Beato, on injury rehab assignment, allowed two hits and no runs in 1 1/3 innings Sunday for Buffalo, getting credited with a win when newly-acquired 28-year-old Bubba Bell delivered a two-run single in the ninth to beat Louisville. … New York may have to give a look at 25-year-old Chris Schwinden, who is 2-1 with a 2.20 ERA in six starts for Buffalo after starting the season at Binghamton. He’s allowed 21 hits and 12 walks with 31 strikeouts in 32 2/3 frames. He was a 22nd-round draft pick in 2008 and could be the next Pat Misch or Dillon Gee.

Mets Minors: Brandon Moore flies under the radar

INTRODUCING Brandon Moore

Recently, Mets GM Sandy Alderson bemoaned the lack of starting pitching depth in the farm system. Meanwhile, the unheralded Moore is 3-0 with a 2.76 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP in five starts in Double-A.

The 25-year-old, who is the B-Mets No. 5 starter, has won his last two starts, allowing one unearned run and seven hits in 15 1/3 innings.

Moore was two outs away from the B-Mets first complete game of the season in Thursday’s 7-1 win against Erie. It was the longest outing of his four-year career.

Moore, a 6-3, 190 pound righthander selected in the 14th round of the 2008 draft out of Wesleyan University, is 3-0 with a 2.76 ERA in five starts this season. He’s yielded 25 hits and four walks with 24 strikeouts in 29 1/3 frames. However, his outstanding command and pitch-ability will have to overcome a fastball that tops at 90 miles per hour.

Moore was a combined 5-9 with a 3.56 ERA in 27 games – 25 starts – with 41 walks and 165 strikeouts in 149 innings. He was 6-3 with a 2.09 ERA at Brooklyn in the New York – Penn in ’09 and 5-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 14 games in rookie ball in 2008.

SECOND BASE OPTIONS: Second base is a mess in New York. The Brad Emaus experiment didn’t work and now defensively-challenged Daniel Murphy and offensively-challenged Justin Turner are getting their chance.

One possible solution in the future is playing shortstop at Class AA Binghamton (11-16), where Jordany Valdespin is riding an eight-game hitting streak.

The lefthanded hitter is 13-for-33 during the streak, raising his average to .277/.321/.396. He has seven doubles, a triple, homer, eight RBI and a team-high seven steals in nine attempts on a team that only has two other regulars batting over .250: middle infielders Mike Fisher and Joshua Satin.

However, the 23-year-old has just seven walks against 22 strikeouts in 101 at-bats and he’s only 2-for-15 with four strikeouts against fellow southpaws.

Valdespin hit .277/.328/.406 in his four years and prior to last season had shown very little extra-base potential. He had 25 extra-base hits (16 doubles, 3 triples, 6 homers) in 270 at-bats in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League last season and chipped in 13 steals.

Valdespin, who was added to the 40-man roster over the winter, followed that by hitting .355 with a .848 on-base percentage in the Arizona Fall League with five extra-base hits and four walks in 76 at-bats. He was 7-for-7 in stolen base attempts.

He’s split time between shortstop and second base but looks like he’ll settle on the right side of the bag.

****

Class AAA Buffalo shortstop Ruben Tejada seems to be making strides at the plate.

The 21-year-old is batting .283/.348/.433 – his best OPS mark since 2007 in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He’s already cracked three homers – two shy of his career high – and he’s driven in 18 runs in 31 games with a .357 average with runners in scoring position.

He put together four consecutive multi-hit games last week to push his average over .300 before going 0-for-7 to end the week.

AROUND THE MINORS: St. Lucie (20-10), which just a few weeks ago had the best record in the minor leagues, snapped a six-game losing streak Sunday. … Savannah OF Darrell Ceciliani, the 2010 New York – Penn batting leader, returned to the lineup after missing nearly a month with a hamstring injury. He went 3-for-15 in his first four games and is batting .200 in nine games this season. Teammate Cory Vaughn continues to take after his father Greg Vaughn, going 3-for-4 Sunday to push his average to .327/.442/.449. He has one homer and 13 RBI in 29 games and is batting .378 with runners in scoring position.

Jenrry Mejia to have TJ surgery

Top pitching prospect Jenrry Mejia appears headed for Tommy John surgery. Here’s the team’s release:

Righthanded pitcher Jenrry Mejia was examined today by Mets Medical Director Dr. David Altchek and was found to have a complete MCL tear of the right elbow. Mejia underwent an MRI at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. Surgical treatment has been recommended, but Mejia is expected to seek a second opinion.

In his last start for Buffalo (AAA) of the International League on April 29, he left after 4.0 innings with discomfort and was flown to New York to be examined. In five starts for the Bisons, Mejia was 1-2 with a 2.86 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 28.1 innings. Mejia went 0-4 with a 4.62 ERA in 33 games, three starts for New York in 2010.

Mets Minors: Matt den Dekker opens eyes

For the past few years, New York thought Fernando Martinez was the center fielder of the future. Now it appears to be Kirk Nieuwenhuis, but there’s a new competitor for the spot currently owned by Angel Pagan.

Class-A St. Lucie’s Matt den Dekker is opening eyes throughout the organization. The fleet-footed 23-year-old was drafted in the fifth round out of the University of Florida last season and heading into the season was viewed as the best defensive outfielder in the system.

However scouts feel he projects as an extra outfielder at the big league level because of a questionable bat, lack of power and strike-zone judgment. But the left-handed hitter is doing his best to change those views.

He’s batting .371/.398/.598 with 13 doubles, three triples, a homer, 16 RBI and three stolen bases in his first 23 games at St. Lucie. His average is tied for fourth highest in the Florida State league. Furthermore, he’s hitting fellow left-handers at a .436 clip (17-for-39), is batting .440 with runners in scoring position (11-for-25) and hitting well both at home and on the road.

However, his four walks against 21 strikeouts over 97 at-bats is still worrisome, especially for a speed player who will be expected to hit at the top of the order in the big leagues.

Den Dekker broke out for the Gators during an outstanding senior season, batting .352 with 13 homers and 23 steals in 62 games before getting drafted. He hit a combined .336 with a .855 OPS in 21 games between the Gulf Coast League and Savannah last season.

With his limited power, den Dekker will have to improve in that area to be considered an everyday outfielder for the Mets one day. But for now he can join the ranks of Nieuwenhuis, Cesar Puello, Darrell Ceciliani and Cory Vaughn has exciting young outfield prospects to keep an eye on.

*****

Matt Harvey, the Mets’ first-round pick last season from North Carolina, had his professional bubble burst last Tuesday.

The St. Lucie Met, who entered with a perfect 4-0, 0.00 ERA, was tagged for six runs – four earned – and nine hits with a walk and three strikeouts in just 4 1/3 innings of a 6-4 loss to Bradenton. He allowed just 14 hits in his first 22 innings.

His teammate, right-hander Jeurys Familia, followed suit the next day, allowing four runs and seven hits in four frames in a no-decision against Bradenton. He entered having allowed just one earned run in 25 2/3 innings.

*****

Class AA Binghamton (7-13) manager Wally Backman had seen enough after his club lost its fourth straight game, 10-1, against Akron on Saturday.

“I’m embarrassed,” Backman said. “The players should be embarrassed. I know my staff is embarrassed. I’m very disappointed. You’ve got to compete. There are a couple of things in baseball you don’t need any ability to do, that’s compete and hustle. I’m not seeing it out of everybody.”

Binghamton is last in the 12-team Eastern League in runs (65), doubles (28) and triples (1), and 11th in OPS (.635) and walks (62).

Infielder Mike Fisher, a 26-year-old organization type, leads the team with a .327 batting average. He had a seven-game hitting streak snapped Saturday. He hit .407 during that streak.

The B-Mets are not the only farm team struggling at the plate. Savannah (9-14) in the low Class-A South Atlantic League is last in batting (.235) and runs (88). The San Gnats had a seven-game losing streak snapped this weekend.

AROUND THE MINORS: Buffalo’s Nieuwenhuis had his hitting streak snapped at 16 games (21 of 55, .382) last Tuesday but went 4-for-5 Sunday against Lehigh Valley on Sunday. The 23-year-old has reached base in 24 of 25 games, batting .330/.438/.591 with nine doubles, a triple, four homers and seven RBI. However, he’s just 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, but has fared well when behind in the count, batting .345 in those situations. … RHP Manny Alvarez, added to the 40-man roster over the winter, was demoted from Buffalo to Binghamton. He was 0-2 with a 10.29 ERA in seven relief appearances. … Buffalo OF Fernando Martinez, who returned from a hamstring injury last week, went 0-for-11 with six strikeouts in his last three games. 3B Zach Lutz (.308, 1 HR, 5 RBI) went on the DL with a hamstring injury … Savannah 3B Aderlin Rodriguez has rallied nicely from a 3-for-35 start. He has hit in eight straight games and homered in five of seven games during that stretch. The 19-year-old is batting .237 with team highs of five home runs and 17 RBI … St. Lucie (19-6) lost two straight for the first time this season Saturday and Sunday to Jupiter.

Mets Minors: Jeurys Familia bounces back

The New York Mets may be starting to turn it around, but the St. Lucie Mets in the high Class-A Florida State League have been on fire all season. The Mets are a minor league-best 15-2 and their top two starters, Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia, have been getting most of the accolades.

The St. Luice Mets boast a league-leading 2.22 ERA — more than half a run better than the Daytona Cubs, who rank second. St. Lucie has surrendered only two homers over 154 innings and its starters are a combined 8-0.

“From top to bottom, this is one of the best pitching staffs I have worked with,” St. Lucie pitching coach Phil Regan told Milb.com. “We have good right-handed pitching, our starters have been doing very well and the bullpen has been great.

Harvey is 4-0 with a 0.00 ERA in his first four starts, while Familia, who follows Harvey in the Mets rotation, is 1-0 with a 0.35 ERA in four starts.

Harvey threw six scoreless frames Friday in a 7-2 road victory over Charlotte and has yielded one unearned run and 14 hits in 22 innings with eight walks and 27 strikeouts.

The 21-year-old Familia followed Saturday by scattering three hits while striking out eight over seven innings in a 7-0 blanking of the Jupiter Hammerheads. The right-hander has allowed just nine hits and seven walks with 25 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings.

He worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, set the Hammerheads down in order three times and retired 14 of the final 15 batters he faced.

Familia allowed just one hit in his first two outings.

“Familia is a young pitcher, but he is throwing the ball very well,” Regan said. “He has very good poise on the mound, he has a good fastball and breaking ball and he commands all of his pitches well.
“I don’t put ceilings on players, but he’s improving with every start and he’s making progress in everything he’s doing.”

Last year at the same level, Familia had a 5.58 ERA and a 1.579 WHIP in 121 IP. Additionally, his BB/9 of 5.50 was more than twice his current rate (2.45).

Meanwhile the Mets also have some potent hitters, as two young prospects are hitting over .300 in the pitcher-friendly league.

Twenty-three–year-old center fielder Matt den Dekker is batting .323/.362/.492 and 19-year-old third baseman Jefry Marte is at .305/.391/.492 and leads the team with three home runs, including two Thursday against Charlotte.

Den Dekker has seven doubles and two triples and had four multiple-hit games from April 18-21 (10-for19). Marte has 10 RBI in his last 10 games and is second on the club with 11 RBI.

******

Jenrry Mejia has finally fallen back to earth after two losses this past week. The 21-year-old allowed three runs – two earned – and three hits with four walks and six strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings of a loss against Rochester on Tuesday and then was charged with five runs on four hits with two walks and three strikeouts over six frames Sunday in a loss to Lehigh Valley.

On Sunday, Mejia was picked off and committed his third error of the season – his second botched pickoff attempt. He also allowed a leadoff walk in the third to the No. 8 hitter, which led to a four-run inning, three scoring on a home run by Jeff Larish, the first yielded this season.

“He’s going to grow from this experience,” Buffalo manager Tim Teufel said. “With that eighth hitter up and the pitcher coming up, you don’t want to walk that guy and have the 1-2-3 guys come up and start everything over again.

“Of course, the three-run homer, that ball was smoked to center field.”

After allowing no runs, seven hits and five walks over 12 2/3 innings in his first two starts, Mejia is now 1-2 with a 2.59 ERA.

INTRODUCING Jason Pridie: Pridie is a 27-year-old former second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays back in 2002.

Over 10 minor league seasons he’s hit .275/.319/.422 with 82 home runs. He was clocked from home-to-first in the 4.0-4.1 ranges in his earlier years, is known for his outstanding baseball instincts, solid play in the outfield and strong arm. He was compared to Johnny Damon when he entered pro ball and led all short-season players with 116 hits in 2002.

However, the left-handed hitter hasn’t learned the strike zone, evidenced by his 231/772 BB/SO ratio over 3,748 minor league at-bats, but does run well. He has 163 career steals, has reached 20 steals four times, and 70 triples, including 16 in 2008 at Class AAA Rochester.

Pridie was a center fielder coming up through the Rays system and then with the Twins from 2008-09. He is in his second season with the Mets.

Pridie hit .186 (11-59) with three home runs and six RBI in 14 games for Buffalo. Prior to this season, Pridie was 0-for-4 in 11 major-league games with Minnesota in 2008-09.

AROUND THE MINORS: Buffalo center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis has hit in an International League-best 14 straight games, raising his average to .344. He has eight doubles, two homers, four RBI and a 1.026 OPS. He has reached base in all 18 games. … A trip to Class AAA hasn’t help Lucas Duda, who is batting .159 (7-of-44) with 12 strikeouts. … 26-year-old Joshua Satin, who is keeping second base warm for Reese Havens at Class AA Binghamton, has gone 14-for-29 with four doubles, two homers and five RBI in his last eight games to push his average to .354/.436/.563. Satin hit .311 with 39 doubles, 12 homers and 64 RBI with a .866 OPS combined between St. Lucie and Binghamton last season. … After starting 3-for-35, 19-year-old low Class-A Savannah 3B Aderlin Rodriguez, considered to have the most power in the organization, has gone 8-for-26 and slugged his first home run on Saturday.

Mark Cohoon impresses at Double-A

Mark Cohoon, the Mets Pitcher of the Year in 2010, going 12-5 with a 2.57 ERA combined at Savannah and Binghamton, has shown he’s not just a one-hit wonder despite lacking an overpowering heater that has kept him from soaring up the prospect lists.

The 23-year-old lefthander fanned a career-high 11 batters and allowed just two runs – both unearned – on five hits over seven innings in a 5-2 win over Portland on Wednesday night.

The 12th-round pick in 2008 retired the first eight batters before a double, single and two errors allowed the Sea Dogs to get on the board in the third.

Cohoon escaped a runners on the corner, two-out jam in the fifth to improve to 1-0 with a 0.47 ERA in three starts this season.  He’s yielded 16 hits and three walks with 20 strikeouts in 19 frames.

Cohoon struck out six straight batters between the first and third frames – four called strikeouts.

“I had good control tonight,” Cohoon told Milb.com. “I was able to command my fastball in to hitters and keep them honest at the plate. I was able to throw everything else on the other side of the plate. I would say last outing I didn’t have my curveball; this outing, I did and it helped me a lot. No. 1 was command, I was able to command my pitches.”

The Texas native tied a South Atlantic League record last June by pitching three straight shutouts.

“It was probably the biggest thrill I’ve had in my career,” Cohoon said. “We have a lot of good pitchers in this organization and one guy I thought would receive the award was Dillon Gee. Just to be the one chosen was one of the cooler things that has happened to me.”

Cohoon, whose previous high was 10 strikeouts for Class A Savannah last June 4, has a fastball that registers in just the high 80s, thus was listed as an honorable mention by Mets360, the No. 22 Mets prospect by Baseball America and nowhere to be found among ESPNs Keith Law’s top-10 organizational rankings.

But his 21-7, 2.42 ERA combined in his first three years, a 1.87 ERA over his last six starts last season at Binghamton and a fantastic start to the 2011 campaign at the Class AA level, will have talent evaluators doing a double take.

Mets Minors: Jenrry Mejia mixes his pitches

Mets de-facto ace Mike Pelfrey is struggling, but the farm system continues to get excellent outings from its most highly regarded prospects.

Jenrry Mejia allowed no runs and three hits with three walks and five strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings in a win for Class AAA Buffalo at Scranton-Wilkes Barre last Wednesday.

The righthander was his worst enemy, committing two errors, one on a dropped throw while covering first base in the fifth and the other on a throwing error in the sixth.

After allowing just one runner to reach second in the first four innings, he got the final out of the fifth with runners on the corner and left the bases loaded in the sixth. Mejia departed with a runner on first and two out in the seventh.

“I was able to throw all of my pitches for a strike,” Mejia told MILB.com. “I was able to pitch ahead and change speeds. My changeup was my most consistent pitch in any count.”

The 21-year-old is 2-0 with no runs, seven hits and five walks allowed and 11 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings in his first two starts this season.

“I’ve been able to recognize the importance of being a pitcher and not a thrower,” Mejia said. “I’ve been able to mix the changeup with the curveball, and that’s been key. The key has been able to mix my pitches and throw them for a strikes.”

Mejia loved his time with the Mets last season but admitted he feels more comfortable as a starter and is waiting for his next chance to start in the big leagues.

“For sure, I’ve prepared myself and I can’t wait for it to happen,” he said. “But I want to be 100 percent ready for when that happens.”

Further down the chain, Matt Harvey finally allowed a run – albeit an unearned run – in his third start of the season Sunday at Class A St. Lucie. The 2010 first-rounder allowed just two hits with two walks and three strikeouts over five innings for a 4-1 win against Fort Myers.

The 6-4, 210 pound product of North Carolina followed five scoreless innings on Opening Day with six scoreless frames last Wednesday in a 3-1 win at Fort Myers. He allowed three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts. He retired the first 10 and got a double play to escape a bases-loaded jam in the fifth.

The righthander is 3-0, 0.00 ERA in his first three starts, yielding 10 hits and six walks with 20 strikeouts in 16 innings. He is one of three minor leaguers with three wins.

Harvey’s teammate Jeurys Familia has been just as impressive in two starts.

The 21-year-old allowed a run and a hit with two walks and six strikeouts Wednesday in a no-decision at Fort Myers. The right-hander walked the leadoff hitter in the first but retired him on a double play, and no other Miracle player reached until a leadoff walk in the sixth . A double and a ground out produced the run.

Familia opened his season allowing one hit over seven scoreless innings April 8 against West Palm Beach. He allowed just a third-inning single but the next batter hit into a double play. The 21-year-old struck out seven and faced the minimum during his first outing.

That pitching tandem has led St. Lucie to a 10-1 record, best in the minor leagues, including its last nine straight

INTRODUCING Sam Honeck: The first baseman at low Class A Savannah, Honeck is batting a South Atlantic League-best .500 (19-for-38) with a homer and 11 RBI in 10 games. He is an amazing 9-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

In his last two games against Greenville, Honeck went 6-of-9 with four doubles, a homer and six RBI.

Honeck played just six games last season due to a compound fracture in his right tibia and fibula suffered in a collision at home plate last May 5 while playing for Savannah. That cost Honeck, already 23 and old for the South Atlantic League, a year of development, but he’s doing his best to play catch-up.

The 6-2, lefthanded hitter was an 11th-round draft pick out of Tulane in 2009 and hit .250 with a homer and 29 RBI at Brooklyn of the New York Penn League that summer.

AROUND THE MINORS: Two Mets prospects were taken down by right hamstring injuries and placed on the disabled list last week: Savannah OF Darrell Ceciliani and Buffalo OF Fernando Martinez. … Savannah 3B Aderlin Rodriguez, a 19-year-old prospect, is off to a 3-for-35 start with 10 strikeouts. Rodriguez hit .312 with 13 homers and 48 RBI at rookie level Kingsport last season. … Buffalo 3B Zach Lutz, who opened the campaign 2-for-13, has gone 9-for-19 since with five doubles, a homer and four RBI in five games. The 24-year-old right-handed hitter has a 1.417 OPS in 12 at-bats against lefthanded pitchers. Teammate CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis has hit in seven straight, going 10-for-25 with four doubles and two RBI. … Binghamton has just two everyday players hitting over .200 and nobody hitting over .250 through nine games. Allan Dykstra, the former Padres first-round pick acquired just prior to the season, is 0-for-7. However, starting pitchers Mark Cohoon, Brad Holt and Robert Carson have ERAs under 1.00 in two starts apiece.

Mets Minors: Matt Harvey shines in debut

Opening weekend was good for Mets minor league starting pitchers. Three of the four starters on Opening Day pitched five scoreless innings apiece, including an outstanding outing by 2010 first-rounder Matt Harvey.

Top prospect Jenrry Mejia tossed six scoreless innings in his AAA season debut at Buffalo, the Class AA Binghamton Mets’ first four starters combined to allow just one earned run in 20 innings, but the best piece of pitching was authored by Class A St. Lucie Mets righthander Jeurys Familia, who faced the minimum through seven innings Friday against West Palm Beach.

Familia allowed just a one-out, third-inning single but the next batter hit into a double play. The 21-year-old struck out seven.

Mejia pitched six scoreless innings Saturday against Pawtucket, giving up just three hits with two walks and six strikeouts. He threw 88 pitches, 49 for strikes.

“They weren’t just six innings, they were quality,” manager Tim Teufel told the Buffalo News. “He had a very good curve ball today. He showed that several times in key spots where he struck out a guy, and that’s part of his development. He had good feel tonight. He worked all his pitches in. He had a good balance of pitches and what jumped out for me was his curve ball. We’re waiting to see that on a consistent basis.”

Harvey couldn’t have had a better pro debut, pitching five scoreless innings with five hits, two walks and nine strikeouts on Opening Day at St. Lucie.

“It was good to get out there and finally throw, professionally that is,” Harvey told TCPalmBeach.com. “I had some adrenaline going. My body felt good, but I felt I over-thought it a bit early and tried to do a little bit too much in the first inning, I was just rushing my body a little bit. Sometimes when I feel good, I kind of rush my body out there and not let my arm catch up.”

Harvey allowed the first two batters of the game to reach, but picked one off. He loaded the bases with one out in the second before striking out the next two. He struck out five straight in one stretch.

“I thought he threw the ball extremely well,” said St. Lucie manager Pedro Lopez. “He got into a little trouble and didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but he pitched through tough situations. He’s a true professional who knows how to carry himself on and off the field.”

Gregory Peavey allowed just two hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in an Opening Day win at low Class A Savannah, and Josh Stinson also went five scoreless at Binghamton, yielding two hits and a walk with three strikeouts in a win at Akron. He was followed by Mark Cohoon, Brad Holt and Robert Carson, who all combined to yield two runs in 20 innings. The Mets split the first four games, however, because the offense could only muster 11 runs, a .177 average and no home runs.

OTHER WEEKEND NOTES FROM THE MINORS

Darrell Ceciliani, the New York Penn League batting champ in 2010, doubled and homered out of the leadoff spot Opening Day for Savannah and Cory Vaughn went 2-for-3 hitting third.

“As long as I’m moving up a level a year, I’m doing all right,” Ceciliani told Savannahnow.com

Ceciliani was 3-for-12 in the first three games and Vaughn 3-for-8.

“I haven’t been around (Ceciliani) a lot but I’ve been at several instructional camps with him. He’s a very good hitter, said Savannah manager Ryan Ellis. “He has a very good feel for the game, and he covers a lot of ground in center.”

“Obviously, (Single) A ball is not where I want to finish my career,” he said. “To get where I want to get, which is the major leagues, I’m going to have to work on my whole game. The two biggest things I want to put in effect this year are putting pressure on the defense, (with) bunting and base running.”

Center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit fifth Opening Night for Class Buffalo and homered in an 8-5 loss. Fernando Martinez went 4-for-5 batting third and playing center field. Nieuwenhuis has started 2-for-12 through four games, while Martinez went 0-for-9 after Opening Day.

Jordany Valdespin was the Opening Day shortstop at Class AA Binghamton. He went 3-for-15 in the first four games with two doubles and three steals.

Wilmer Flores played shortstop and hit third in the order for St. Lucie in the opener and Carlos Puello led off and played right field. Flores started 3-for-14 with six strikeouts and Puello is 2-for-18.

Second base prospect Reese Havens, on the Binghamton roster, is still not fully recovered from back surgery from the offseason and has not played.