Three of the things that are quite obvious about the 2013 version of the New York Mets are that the outfield situation is not ideal (to put it nicely), they lack a true leadoff hitter, and they lack speed. As an extension of their lack of speed, they lack a real base-stealing threat. The Mets were 14th in the National League and 27th in the MLB in stolen bases last year.
This spring, the Mets have invited 42 players to their STEP program, an early camp for their bigger name/more advanced minor leaguers. Among those players were 7 outfielders: Darrell Ceciliani, Gilbert Gomez, Dustin Lawley, Brandon Nimmo, Travis Taijeron, Cory Vaughn, and Alonzo Harris. There is only one player on that list who has the potential to alleviate all three of the aforementioned shortcomings and could do so relatively soon: Harris.
The 23-year-old Harris, drafted by the Mets in the 39th round of the 2007 draft, is a converted second baseman who saw most of his time last year in the outfield in A+ St. Lucie. He split time between center field and left field, but played 77 of his 116 games in center. He didn’t start really playing the outfield until 2011 but, defensively, so far so good.
Harris had an excellent 2012 season in St. Lucie and won the Mets 2012 Florida State League (FSL) Sterling Award. He hit .287/.354/.424 with 8 home runs and seven triples. He ranked third in stolen bases (40) and tenth in hits (127) in the FSL. In the second half of 2012 he really turned it up, hitting .306/.368/.433 with 5 home runs and 28 stolen bases.
Of particular note are his improvements in strikeouts (SO) and walks (BB) over the course of his five seasons in the system, especially in the last three seasons.
These improvements are very encouraging. He’s also a right-handed hitter, something the Mets could use more of in the outfield. His splits in 2012 were a bit stark, but not too bad. He hit .253/.326/.379 against righties and .353/.409/.513 against lefties.
Right-handed hitting outfielder? Check. Speed? Check. Capable lead-off hitter? Check. If he can bring his production up a tick against righties then he has a chance to be a good starting centerfielder with a bit of pop. If not, he could still be a good 4th outfielder with speed off the bench or a very capable platoon player.
In reality the Mets have plenty of 4th outfielder types, so this is an important year for Harris as he’s teetering on the edge of becoming a non-prospect. He should be pegged to start the year at AA Binghamton but continued improvement and a big year could help him force his way onto the big league team, especially if the outfield ends up being as atrocious as everyone says it will. He’s one to keep an eye on in 2013.