A look at the Mets’ organizational depth

Keith Law recently ranked the Mets farm system 26th out of 30 teams in MLB. That seems extreme to me. While the system does not have much top-shelf talent, there is an impressive amount of depth. Also, with catcher, first base, third base and two outfield spots already with their long-term answer on the major league level, the farm system does not need to crank out a bunch of starters over the next few years.

Let’s go position by position and see where the Mets are.

Catcher – This is a classic good news/bad news situation. The good news is that our 23-year-old backstop just put up a .750 OPS in his rookie season with the Mets. The bad news is that nobody stands out as a likely challenger for his job. The top catcher in the minors is likely Kai Gronaeur, who hit .291 between two Class-A clubs last year and got an invitation to Spring Training. Bur at age 23 last year, Gronaeur is old for his level and he shows little power.

Other names to keep an eye out on include Juan Centeno, who had a .932 OPS while repeating at Class-A Brooklyn last year as a 20-year old and Camden Maron, who repeated the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League as a 19-year old in 2010, but who put up an .848 OPS. And who knows, maybe this is the year that Francisco Pena puts it all together. He was supposed to have the glove of Pena and the bat of Piazza but so far it’s been the other way around.

First base – Like catcher, the Mets have a promising youngster in the majors at first base without much to challenge him. First base is probably the better position for Lucas Duda, as he seemed stretched in the outfield last year. Nick Evans is still around as is Daniel Murphy, but we’re all hoping he wins the job at second base. Basically, there’s nothing else to see here, so move along, move along.

Second base – Here we have some more interesting prospects in the pipeline. Maybe this is the year that Reese Havens stays healthy and removes all doubt as the long-term solution at second. If Reyes re-ups with the Mets, Ruben Tejada switches over to second base and at the very least gives a strong glove. Justin Turner has his supporters and looks like he can do a bit of everything and not embarrass anyone in the process. Jordanny Valdespin did well in the Florida State League last year but was overmatched in his brief trial at Double-A. But he rebounded to post an .848 OPS in the Arizona Fall League. Second base is a position of need in the majors but there seems to be some options in the minors. And let me say it again – hopefully Murphy wins the position in Spring Training.

Third base – As Murphy can tell you, this is not a good organization to be a third baseman in. The Mets have some interesting options at the position, who may end up at other spots or other organizations due to Mr. Wright. Zach Lutz had a monster year last year with a .951 OPS at four different levels, mostly in Double-A. He hit reasonably well at St. Lucie the year before but he is an older prospect and has some severe splits to overcome. Aderlin Rodriguez is one of the top prospects in the system and he hit for both average and power last year as an 18-year old in the Class-A Appalachian League. But there are questions about his attitude and his ability to field the position.

After being drafted on the 19th round out of Furman University, Brian Harrison raked in the New York-Penn League and is a name to keep in mind. Also worth following is Jefry Marte, who repeated the South Atlantic League last year, but at age 19. And most people expect that Wilmer Flores will move off shortstop to a corner position.

Shortstop – Tejada saw lots of time in the majors last year at second base but the plan is for him to play 2011 in Triple-A at shortstop and take over for Reyes if he is not re-signed. Robbie Shields shook off a disappointing rookie season and performed well in the SAL last year. But the former third-round pick was old for the league and will need to move quick. Flores is still a shortstop for now and catches whatever he gets to, which is a nice way to say his range is not that great. One other name to keep tabs on is Rylan Sandoval, who the Mets signed as a free agent after being unable to come to terms with him when they drafted him back in 2007. Sandoval raked at Brooklyn last year as an older prospect but struggled after his promotion.

Outfield – Duda really took off last year and many view him as the club’s next outfield starter. Fernando Martinez is still around, still hoping for a healthy season. The Mets have three similar prospects in Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Darrell Ceciliani and Matt Den Dekker, three guys who look like they have a shot if they can stay in center field. Nieuwenhis is the closest to the majors and he has an invitation to Spring Training. Cory Vaughn hit for average and power last year at Brooklyn but many remain unconvinced.

After two disappointing years in the Gulf Coast League, Javier Rodriguez, a second-round pick out of Puerto Rico, put up a nice year in the Appy last season, with an .865 OPS as a 20-year old. Scouts are high on Cesar Puello, who stole 45 bases as a 19-year old last season. They expect he will add power as he matures. One name to keep in mind is Pedro Rondon. The 18-year old from Venezuela stole 26 bases in 64 games in the DSL last year.

Pitchers – The insane experiment of using Jenrry Mejia as a reliever is officially over. He did quite well in his handful of starts in the minors and now just needs experience. Brad Holt hopes his career is back on track after a successful stint in the AFL. Jeurys Familia had a 10.19 K/9, which is outstanding, and a 5.58 ERA, which is not. Mark Cohoon came out of nowhere to win the organization’s Pitcher of the Year Award last year and as a lefty will get a long leash, even if he does not have overpowering stuff. Dillon Gee is likely to contribute at the major league level this season.

Zach Dotson, Matt Harvey and Stephen Matz were all highly-touted but have little to no professional experience with which to judge them so far. Kyle Allen and Robert Carson pitched well previously but not so much last season.

*****

To me the farm system is middle of the pack. It’s been hurt by recent graduates to the Mets and down seasons in 2010 by guys who were on the top prospect lists previously. The players who had big years were not heavily regarded coming into the season. We should know a lot more this time next year. Can players like Holt, Familia, Havens and Martinez bounce back to reclaim their luster? Can guys like Duda, Lutz and Cohoon repeat their 2010 success? Can any of the high draft pick pitchers break out this year? Will any of the pseudo-CF show enough to stay at the position?

My feeling is that the answer to quite a few of these will be yes and this time next year people will look at the Mets farm system as much stronger than some analysts see it today.

6 comments for “A look at the Mets’ organizational depth

  1. Ryan
    February 12, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Great article. I agree with a lot of what you said. With a few other guys not mentioned like Juan Urbina, Erik Goedell, Brant Rustich, Nick Carr, Ryan Fraser, Gilbert Gomez, etc..etc, we have a few more guys that can move up the ladders with breakout seasons this year. We’ve had some unfortunate younger guys struggle with injuries i.e. Havens, Martinez, Mejia, but those three guys could be impact players at the major league level when/if they put everything together. I was trying to take a look at where the prospects will start out at each level and we don’t seem to have a lot of spots in our organization available, particularly at the higher levels. Look at the AAA infield, what do you do there? Lutz, Campbell, Satin, Havens, Tejada, Duda, Valdespin, Russ Adams & to add to them Turner, Hernandez & Nick Evans if they don’t make the ML team and clears waivers. Some of them are going to have to start at AA-Bing and wait for there opportunity. I’d like to see Havens start at AA personally and let him prepare himself to take over the 2B role full time next year if he can stay healthy all season long, which appears to be a long shot.

  2. max
    February 13, 2011 at 12:18 am

    I also think there are some names left off the list that we will be hearing about in the near future (btw, while I was working as a lowly intern for the cyclones I projected that Lucas Duda, Dillon Gee, Dylan Owen, Nick Carr and Raul Reyes would be major leaguers, so far I think im close on all of them- besides Reyes). Down in Brooklyn there was a SS Wilfredo Tovar whose bat is probably not special but his glove is. At his age, it is possible for him to improve at the plate enough to play some MLB ball, though it is probably doubtful. Eric Goedell and Akeel Morris on the other hand I think will become very very prominent names in the organization. Also, it is a sin to forget Juan Urbina at this point too. Lefties like that dont turn up everyday.

  3. DrDooby
    February 13, 2011 at 2:29 am

    Agree, the system is very much middle of the pack. Good depth & potential – lack of elite frontline prospects. Though that may change by not trading away those with potential, slowing down their development path instead of aggressively moving them through the system and two 1st round picks in the supposedly talent-rich 2011 June draft.
    The way this system is structured, there´s a pretty good chance that we´ll see 2-4 prospects help the major league club each year for the foreseeable future.

    One side-note on Kai Gronauer: Yes, he´s already 23 years old. However, keep in mind that he only signed 2 1/2 years ago and comes from Germany where there´s no Baseball before the age of 10 years or so, not a lot of instruction and the level of play is probably somewhere in the range of High School Baseball in Maine. Even in the top league, where Gronauer played and did very well for a couple of years, there are only two games per week (a doubleheader on the weekend)and merely 32 regular season games overall, plus 8-10 playoff games.

    In the Northwest German youth leagues, where Gronauer played until he was 16 or so, there are maybe 15 games per year. Not exactly a total that gives you the chance to refine your skills. Especially since half of those games probably were games where he was facing pitchers with 55 mph fastballs who threw a strike once every 3rd pitch and he´d go 2 for 2 with 5 BB in such games.

  4. Brian Joura
    February 13, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Ryan and Max – thanks for bringing up Urbina. I should definitely have mentioned him.

    DrDooby – thanks for the info on Gronauer.

  5. John
    February 13, 2011 at 10:53 am

    I agree with the premise that there are no real elite prospects but lots of major league propects….guys who who have a chance to become major league players, maybe start, maybe off the bench. And honestly you can win if you have enough of these guys AND you have elite pitching. That is where I see the problem here. Other than Mejia I am not sure there are any elite pitchers on the horizon. They have a couple of former number 1s who could develop but they really haven’t pitched any professional innings yet so we’ll see.
    I did see Cohoon pitch in Savannah last year right before he was promoted and he was dominate. He really knows how to pitch, changes speeds well and moves the ball around. However he was old for the SAL and clearly was light years ahead of the hitters in terms of experience. The key will be if he can do this against hitters with more experience. It wouldn’t surprise me if he did. But he will need to show it this year.

  6. Brian Joura
    February 13, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Thanks John – I agree with your assessment.

    Let’s say that one of Mejia, Harvey, Matz or Dotson develops into a #2 SP. The Mets already have Pelfrey as #3 and Niese as #4. Then they need to go trade/free agency for one elite hurler. And that’s something a large-market team should be able to do.

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