Yesterday’s walkthrough of one possible route of roster reduction left the Mets’ 40-man roster looking like this:
C (3) – Mike Nickeas, Ronny Paulino, Josh Thole
IF (9) – Ike Davis, Nick Evans, Zach Lutz, Daniel Murphy, Josh Satin, Ruben Tejada, Justin Turner, Jordany Valdespin, David Wright
OF (5) – Mike Baxter, Jason Bay, Lucas Duda, Fernando Martinez, Angel Pagan
SP (7) – RA Dickey, Dillon Gee, Jenrry Mejia, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey, Johan Santana, Chris Schwinden
RP (6) – Manny Acosta, Pedro Beato, Tim Byrdak, DJ Carrasco, Bobby Parnell, Josh Stinson
A total of 30 of the 40 spots would be occupied. If the Mets were to re-sign Jose Reyes before he hits the open market (which I, for one, hope they can do), that would move the count to 31, leaving 9 spots for November call-ups, the Rule 5 draft, and the rest of the offseason. That number could shrink if the Mets hang onto borderline guys like Herrera and Pridie or untested guys like Alvarez and Rodriguez. Or that number could grow if I’m wrong about the Mets hanging onto Carrasco or any of the arbitration eligible guys. A lot remains to be seen. But settling on 9 open spots gives us at least some idea of who the Mets might add to the 40-man in November ahead of the Rule 5 draft.
The Virtual Locks
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF (2012 age: 24) – Selected in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft, Captain Kirk was raking against AAA pitching when a shoulder injury sustained in early June sent him to the DL for the remainder of the season. He’s probably the position player not on the 40-man who is currently closest to being a big leaguer. He’ll be added.
Jeurys Familia, SP (2012 age: 22) – The Mets signed Familia as an international free agent our of the Dominican Republic in July of 2007. After struggling with his control in 2010, he put together an excellent 2011 campaign. Some speculate he’ll be a reliever in the big leagues, not a starter, but either way he’s one of the Mets’ top pitching prospects and as safe a bet as any to be added to the 40-man this November.
Reese Havens, 2B (2012 age: 25) – Selected in the 1st round of the 2008 draft, Havens has been productive when he’s been on the field, which hasn’t been very often. Still, the power he delivers from the 2B position is too much to leave exposed.
The Other Options
Robert Carson, SP (2012 age: 23) – Selected out of High School in the 14th round of the 2007 draft, the left-handed Carson has struggled since reaching AA in the middle of the 2010 season. However he’s talented, he’s still young and he’s left-handed. He’s headed to the Arizona Fall League, so he may still be auditioning for a spot, but I think the Mets will probably protect him.
Collin McHugh, SP (2012 age: 24) – A few months ago, the Mets’ 2008 18th rounder wasn’t in this conversation. But ever since roster needs bumped him up into the AA rotation, he’s been excellent. And as if to put an exclamation point on his charge into 40-man roster consideration, in his last start of the year he threw a complete game, 1-run, 5-hitter in which he issued 1 unintentional walk while striking out 11. He’s also headed to the Arizona Fall League, possibly for further evaluation, but I’d be surprised if he wasn’t awarded a spot on the 40-man.
Brad Holt, RP (2012 age: 25) – Just when it seemed okay to finally write the formerly impressive 2008 supplemental 1st rounder off, he gives you a reason to take a second look. His performance out of the pen after being removed from the AA rotation, while nothing to write home about, was markedly better than he’s been as a start since mid-2009. And he seemed to get better in the role as the season went on. It’s tough to say whether that blip of success is enough to recover some of that 1st rounder sheen. I’d probably take my chances and leave him exposed, but it wouldn’t shock me to see him get protected, or if not, selected.
Juan Lagares, OF (2012 age: 23) – The corner outfielder from the Dominican Republic earned a mid-season promotion to AA after a very strong first half in St. Lucie, and then could do no wrong with the bat once he got to Binghamton. His 2011 come with a gigantic BABIP-related red flag, and the fact that he stopped walking almost entirely in AA is perhaps even more alarming, but he’s headed to the AFL anyway. He doesn’t hit for enough power to be a traditional corner OF, but given his scorching 2011, I could see a team taking a shot on him in the Rule 5 draft and trying to hide him on the bench.
It also wouldn’t surprise me to see him go unprotected and undrafted. His performance in fall ball may go a long way in deciding whether he’ll get the call.
Cesar Puello, CF (2012 age: 21) – Signed out of the DR in 2007, Puello is a toolsy, young prospect. The power that scouts saw despite his hitting just 1 HR in 469 PA in 2010 is starting to emerge (10 HR in 2011). The move from right to center (provided he can stick there defensively) is what makes him really interesting. He’s not big league-ready, but neither was Jesus Flores when he was left exposed and got claimed (and successfully retained) by the Nationals a few years ago. Sandy Alderson’s strategy with young, high-ceiling position players remains to be seen, but I think he’s the most likely A-ball hitter to be protected.
Wilmer Flores, SS (2012 age: 20) – The Mets signed the Venezuelan shortstop on the day he turned 16 back in 2007. His size and lack of speed make it unlikely he’ll be able to remain at SS, so the further he descends down the positional ladder, the more he’ll have to hit to remain relevant. He’s appeared on 3 straight BA Top 100 lists, so he’s been highly thought of for awhile. But I can’t see a team being able to hide him on a roster all year. My gut says they’ll leave him exposed, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they didn’t.
Jefry Marte, 3B (2012 age: 20) – The Dominican third baseman is headed to the Arizona Fall League, which is the only reason I’m mentioning him here. He strikes me as way too raw for any team to risk selecting. I’d be very surprised if he was protected this year.
Right now, my guess as to who will be called up to the 40-man roster in November would be Nieuwenhuis, Familia, Havens, Carson, McHugh, Holt, and Puello, which would bring the 40-man roster (which after my subtractions was at 31) back up to 38, leaving the Mets 2 open spots for free agents and/or the Rule 5 draft. Is that likely to be right on the money? Absolutely not. My own visceral reaction is that they’re going to have more room on the roster than that this winter. But that’s my specific take on how the next 3 months
or so might generally unfold., bringing the Mets’ 40-man roster to this:
C (3) – Mike Nickeas, Ronny Paulino, Josh Thole
IF (11) – Ike Davis, Nick Evans, Reese Havens, Zach Lutz, Daniel Murphy, Jose Reyes, Josh Satin, Ruben Tejada, Justin Turner, Jordany Valdespin, David Wright
OF (7) – Mike Baxter, Jason Bay, Lucas Duda, Fernando Martinez, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Angel Pagan, Cesar Puello
SP (10) – Robert Carson, RA Dickey, Jeurys Familia, Dillon Gee, Collin McHugh, Jenrry Mejia, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey, Johan Santana, Chris Schwinden
RP (7) – Manny Acosta, Pedro Beato, Tim Byrdak, DJ Carrasco, Brad Holt, Bobby Parnell, Josh Stinson
One last thing to keep in mind, especially with regard to trying to predict who will be protected and who might be selected in the Rule 5 draft, is that it’s not always obvious just by looking at the numbers or listening to the rumors. Last year, I expected Zach Lutz, Jordany Valdespin, and Josh Stinson to be added, but Armando Rodriguez was a big surprise (to me at least). As was Manny Alvarez, who wasn’t added to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, but to prevent him from leaving via minor league free agency. Additionally, up until a few days before the draft, I had no expectation that the Mets might lose a player. Then BAM, Elvin Ramirez is the 3rd player selected, after reports he was touching triple digits on the radar gun in winter ball. Point is, surprises happen and a lot can change between now and November 18th (the deadline for protecting players) and December 8th (the Rule 5 draft).
Click here to read Part I