The Mets’ biggest concern in the offseason (after securing the futures of David Wright and R.A. Dickey… or trading them) is making something out of the nothing that is the New York Met outfield. Filled with vaunted names like Jason Bay, Lucas Duda, Mike Baxter, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Jordany Valdespin, the outfield leaves quite a lot to be desired. The obvious solution (barring an investment of money) is to trade for outfield help… but that requires both and investment of money and an investment of prospects or solid controlled players. The obvious solution doesn’t really gel with the Met issues of not having the money to even keep David Wright on the team, so let’s just look at the names in the farm who could eventually come up to help.
Matt Den Dekker, 26 [L] (LF, CF, RF): Den Dekker is an interesting name on this list because he’s both so close and so far from helping the Mets. I’m betting on Den Dekker winning the starting CF job this spring (unless the Mets sign someone) because he’s simply got more potential and better defense than anyone else. His power is well above average for a centerfielder while his speed numbers are probably average to below average. The speed is more about base running smarts than his physical speed, which is pretty good. The big issue with Den Dekker is his TOTAL lack of patience at the plate which led to catastrophic strikeout numbers in AAA. (Due 2013)
Juan Lagares, 24 [R] (LF, RF): Lagares is not super intriguing as of yet but I’m betting he’s called pretty quickly for two important reasons. One: He’s a righty and the Met outfield only has one of those listed right now (Jason Bay). Two: He’s going to be hitting in Las Vegas and I think you will see a lot of power numbers become a little inflated over what we would see if the Met’s AAA affiliate were staying in Buffalo. Lagares has fair speed and below average power but does swing for contact. He’d be a solid #4 or #5 OF on most teams, being used as a right handed pinch hitter and pinch runner as the case was called for. I just don’t see a starting player in my crystal ball. (Due 2013)
Alonzo Harris, 24 [R] (LF, CF, RF): A dark horse to win a starting outfield job this spring, Harris (a converted second baseman) actually has the ability to help the Mets right away. The Mets have been hard at work with Harris for the past couple of years and the results are evident. In 2010: Harris had 90 Ks and 20 BBs, in 2011: Harris had 65 Ks and 28 BBs and in 2012: Harris had 66 Ks and 44 BBs. All of this begins to round Harris into a leadoff hitter. Perhaps even a leadoff hitter with a little power: 23 2Bs, 7 3Bs and 8 HRs. The question is, How quickly can a player who has not played above High A be ready for the majors. At 24 I would actually argue that the Mets might behoove themselves to give him a real shot as early as Spring Training. (Due 2014)
Cesar Puello, 22 [R] (LF, CF, RF): People love what they see physically but Puello has yet to put everything together for an entire season. He’s got speed (Stole 45 bases in 2010), power (Slugged: .423 in 2012) and people like his work in the field. His issue is less definable than Den Dekker’s, he strikes out too much but not on the same level of craziness. Puello’s issue is that he does not walk… almost at all. In 66 games he only walked 7 times and there are jokes on Met Blogs about him not being likely to take a single walk in the entire AFL. All and all he needs 1-2 more seasons in the minors before he becomes a thought for the majors. (Due 2015)
Cory Vaughn, 24 [R] (LF, CF, RF): The son of former great, Greg Vaughn is up in most power rankings, but the Grand Slam hitter we saw in 2010 just isn’t there. Vaughn is one of the most powerful Mets in the minor leagues and he notched 23 homers in 2012. He also managed 21 stolen bases (only caught 3 times). The issue with him is in two parts. Part A: Vaughn swings for the fences. This leads to a less than spotless average and a high strikeout rate. Part B: Vaughn is either REALLY hot or REALLY cold. He’ll go weeks where his OPS is well over 1.000 but he’ll also go months where his batting average is beneath the Mendoza line (See June 2012). He’s a touch old and needs to get in gear but the Mets might actually be wise to give him a full year in AA and AAA without even considering the majors and option. (Due 2014)
Brandon Nimmo, 20 [L] (LF, CF, RF): Nimmo only just graduated from the NYP short-season A-Ball league but he’s on the radar for the Met outfield ahead of many other names. Because he’s only had limited experience it’s hard to say too much or project Nimmo anywhere, but we can see that Nimmo was ready for the challenge of Brooklyn, which is a step in the right direction. Some of us bloggers suggest that the Mets would be well served by advancing Nimmo past Low-A and directly into Port St. Lucie. I’m in this camp and I’ll give you a few reasons why. One: Savannah is a BAD place for power. Nimmo could suffer a very discouraging year if the Mets send him to Savannah and he continues to approach the game as a power hitter. Two: The Mets need him ready sooner than later. I’m not so sure that the pitching in High-A vastly exceeds that seen in Low-A and we see other players skipped from Short Season A to High-A all the time. If the Mets want Nimmo in the Met outfield before 2016 they need him in Port St. Lucie in 2013. Three: Port St. Lucie is the “Home Base” of the Met system. It’s the place where Nimmo can get a taste of true pro camp and also the place where Met regulars will go to rehab injury. It seems like a good nest for the Met prospect. I’d like to see Nimmo run… a little. I just want to see 10 or more stolen bases in 2013 to prove he can do it. Otherwise… Nimmo is still 2-3 seasons away from being in Queens. (Due 2015)
Vicente Lupo, 20 [R] (LF, RF): Can we trust numbers from the DSL? Not really. Can we get excited about .343/.500/.608/1.108? I don’t know about you… but I certainly am. Lupo will be placed in either Brooklyn or Kingsport and will need to stay strong or risk being quickly forgotten but those are the only offensive SUPERSTAR numbers that I can see in the Met farm system. If he manages to put up those numbers state-side… he’s in the top 5 prospects to start 2014. (Due 2016)