Preseason: The Top 40 Mets' Prospects

The Mets' farm system has come a long way, baby. This improvement was predicted here before the 2002 season. Since the Mets were coming off back-to-back quality drafts when combined with improvement in their Latin program, it was an easy improvement to predict. As most analysts rank farm systems based upon long season talent that had not made an impact in 2001. Thus, the Mets farm system was generally ranked in the 27 to 29 range before 2002 when generally ranked in the 12-14 range after.

As more of the 2000 and 2001 draftees move to long season leagues and some long-season minor league veterans emerge in 2003, the farm system should be ranked a little higher after the 2003 season. But, after 2004, the ranking is likely probably decline as the lost draft picks in 2002 and 2003 catch up with the system. After Kazmir, Adam Elliott, Bob Malek, and Jon Slack, the Mets took many high ceiling projects (Jim Anderson, Ty Davidson, Matt Lindstrom, Shawn Bowman, Kelvin Garay, Zachary Clements, LaRon Wilson, and Ivan Maldonado) most of whom should develop slowly if at all.

With numerous additions to the development staff over the past 3 seasons, the farm system is in better hands than perhaps at any time in Mets history. With Mets looking for a permanent facility in the Dominican Republic - the Mets farm system could be in solid shape for years to come. The additions of Carter, B. Butler, Chambliss and Ojeda were most welcome to this writer. David Cone would represent a nice addition, since the system lacks anyone who used a splitter successfully at the MLB level. I am not a big proponent of teaching the split-fingered fastball to anyone under 23 years old. In time, several prospects might benefit from being taught that pitch. The instruction he received from Mel Stottlemyre on the 2-seam fastball might be useful for several pitching prospects. Heilman's and Strange's repertoires might benefit from the addition of a right-to-left moving 2-seamer.

The number right after the prospects' position is his age as of 4/3/03.

1. Jose Reyes (SS) - 19 (.287, 8, 62 RBI)&
Performed well in Dominican Winter League BB/AB+0.101, K/AB=0.157, XBA=0.112 and SLG=0.466 were all above league average. He led the league in SB with 20. At Binghamton, his K-rate and XBA were both above league average suggesting he adjusted to AA despite a decline in BB-rate. Reyes' power projection is difficult to assess, as it doesn't appear the Mets are stressing it. Still moderate peak power projection of 18-22 HR is reasonable.

2. Scott Kazmir (LHP) - 19 (0-1, 0.50, 18 IP)
Spectacular debut at Brooklyn with 34 K in 18 IP. Issued only 7 BB for dominant K/BB ratio (34/7) Receiving Baseball America's highest ranking for a 1st year player at # 11. Possesses potentially dominant repertoire (4-FB, CB, SL, CU). FB ranged from 93-96 mph topping off at 97 mph with good movement. Rumored to have reached 99 mph in Mets F/IL. SL is potentially dominant as well, and he can change speeds on somewhat slurvy pitch. CB is solid and CU could also be a plus pitch.

3. Aaron Heilman (RHP) - 24 (6-7, 3.64, 145 IP)&
Possesses good repertoire (4-FB, SL, spl. FB, CU). Heilman has made strides with both his CU and spl. FB. 4-FB sits at 92-93 mph with excellent sinking action that bores in on RHH, can also make 4-FB move right-to-left like a SL. SL breaks straight down. Should be a solid #2 SP/very good #3 SP. Demonstrated great K/BB ratio (132/44).

4. Justin Huber (C) - 20 (.286, 14, 93 RBI)&
Top prospect. Has no weaknesses with the bat, just needs repetitions. His body is projectible. Potentially, a 25 HR plus type hitter with decent BA and good OBP (XBA was 0.095). Only weakness behind the plate is throwing the ball, has athleticism to improve to improve footwork.

5. David Wright (3B) - 20 (.266, 11, 93 RBI)
Heads a solid group of very young 3B prospects. A good all-around player who takes full advantage of somewhat above average tools. Tremendous work ethic. Fundamentally sound defensively and on the base paths. Can hit behind runners. Great bat speed. He has limited projectibility, but should be 25 HR plus hitter with a lot of extra-base hits (XBA of 0.087). Still has work to do with the bat on breaking pitches, pulling the ball and hitting to the opposite field.

6. Matthew Peterson (RHP) -21 (9-10, 3.77, 144 IP)&
Possesses as high a ceiling as any RHP in system. Repertoire (4-FB, CB, CU). FB ranges from 92-95 mph and topped off at 97 mph. FB has solid riding action up and into RHH, CB has sharp break. Needs to improve command and CU. Needs to improve focus.

7. Craig Brazell (1B) - 22 (.276, 22, 102 RBI)&
Has the bat speed and sufficient pitch recognition to improve his plate discipline although it's likely to take 2 or more seasons to do so. He is not the wild hacker his lack of walks might suggest he is. His frame has room to add another 15 lbs.

8. Bob Keppel (RHP) - 20 (9-7, 4.32, 152 IP)
Despite #s, Keppel is highly regarded by Mets due to command, extensive repertoire (4-FB, 2-FB, spl. FB, ct SL, K-CB, CU) and mental focus. Struggles attributed to flatness of cut SL and CU, and loss of velocity. Best pitch is a 2-seam FB that sits at 88-89 mph tops off at 91-92 mph with good sinking action. 4-seam FB sits at 94-95 mph. Has good projectiblity on 6'5", 185 lbs frame. Knuckle CB and splitter are K-pitches. Good K/BB ratio (109/43). Needs to bulk up.

9. Patrick Strange (RHP) - 22 (10-10, 3.82, 165 IP)
Due to surgery, Strange will likely struggle w. command early. Repertoire features FB and CU. FB ranges from 91-94 mph topping off at 95-96 mph w. good sinking action. He can also make it move left-to-right. He throws circle CU (down and away from LHH) and cut CU (in and down on LHH) with 2 very different movements. SL is at best MLB adequate. Needs to reintroduce spl. FB into repertoire. Minor surgery may delay the necessary spl. FB.

10. Jeremy Griffiths (RHP) - 25 (8-6, 3.89, 153 IP)
Sports 92-94 mph 4-seamer with late sinking action. Repeats FB arm action and slotting for SL and CU making them deceptive pitches. Can change speeds on slurvy SL. CB needs a lot of work. Struggled early in 2002, but finished strong w. solid K/BB ratio (126/54). His AFL performance was solid (0-1, 1.91, 33) and continued late performance with ratio (25/5).

11. Lenny DiNardo (LHP) - 23 (5-5, 4.35, 101 IP)
Primed for breakout season. Plagued by injuries, blisters, and tired arm in 2002. Should he regain 90-91 mph 4-seam FB, should figure prominently in the top 10. Extensive repetoire (4-FB, 2-FB, CB, SL, CU). Has good command of CB and CU both plus pitches. K/BB ratio (103/56) suggests need to challenge hitters with more FB. Serious ground ball pitcher GB/FO ratio (135/42).

12. Jeff Duncan (CF) -23 (.373, 6, 27 RBI)&
Late bloomer, good patience K/BB ratio (49/44), XBA of .107, defense, base runner and base stealer -- SB/SBA ratio (25/29). Only had 252 AB due to injuries and playing behind Forrest Lawson at Columbia.

13. Phil Seibel (LHP) -24 (10-8, 3.97, 150 IP)
Repertoire (4-FB, 2-FB, CB, SL, CU) works nicely together. 87-88 mph 4-seam FB has good sinking action while 2-seam FB has good right-to-left movement. CB, SL and CU have a chance to be plus pitches. After struggling mightily early, Seibel finished strong and had a good ratio (114/49). Was effective RP in AFL.

14. Adam Elliot (RHP) - 20 (2-3, 3.69, 54 IP)&
Great stuff (4-FB, CB, SL, CU). Needs to improve command. Solid ratio (51/16). Strong, athletic body, but has limited projectibility. FB sits at 87-90 mph with riding action similar to Peterson's FB. CB close to plus pitch, CU is effective and potentially nasty SL. The athletic Elliott was considered a draftable prospect at OF, 3B and C.

15. Tyler Yates (RHP) - 25 (2-2, 1.32, 34 IP)
Recovery quickly from TJ surgery. 94-97 mph FB w. solid SL. Setup likely remains likely. Being remains closer apossibility, if he improves break on SL or adds a 3rd effective pitch. Good ratio (34K/13BB).

16. Prentice Redman (LF) - 23 (.283, 11, 63 RBI)
Potential late bloomer, if he develops moderate power. He's filled out a bit. Good XBA of 0.98, an exceptional SB/SBA (43/52). He's a terrific fielder. 112 K in 491 is not good for a non-30 HR plus hitter. Needs to make better contact.

17. Jason Phillips (C) - 26 (.282, 13, 65 RBI)
Blocked by V. Wilson and Piazza. Definitely MLB ready projects to starting or platoon player. Hit well with Mets in limited AB: (.368, 1, 3). Excellent XBA of 0.111 though he has limited power projection and great bat control (29K/24BB) in 323 AB.

18. David Mattox (RHP) - 22 (12-6, 3.29, 142 IP)&
Extensive repertoire (4-FB, 2-FB, CB, SL, CU) with all pitches having at least solid movement. Command will determine how good he is. 2-seam FB, which sits at 88-89 mph, and CB are his best pitches so the solid GB/FO ratio (105/58) is not surprising. 4-seam FB sits at 92-93 mph.

19. Alhaji Turay (RF) - 20 (.327, 4, 19 RBI)
Remains the OF prospect with the highest ceiling despite disciplining and lack of discipline (48K/11BB) in 153 AB. Lack of discipline not surprising for a player who spent his time playing football, but already hits breaking pitches well. His (K/BB) (K/AB), (BB/AB) must improve if he is to succeed at higher levels (AA and above.) Solid XBA of 0.98, and SB/SBA (7/10).

20. Neal Musser (LHP) - 22 (2-0, 1.09, 32 IP)&
Struggled with nagging non-arm related injuries, since being drafted in 1999. Lack of durability and inconsistent velocity on FB is the reason for the low ranking. Needs to demonstrate durability to regain ranking. Good repertoire (4-FB, CB, SL, CU). 4-seamer has good sinking action that at times has topped off at 89-90 mph and other times at 92-93 mph. CB and CU are plus pitches w. slight improvement in command. If w. the Mets, future might be as RP.

21. Bobby Malek (RF) - 21 (207, 0, 10 RBI)
Had TJ surgery. 2-time collegiate All-American, and also a freshman All-American.

22. Angel Pagan (CF) - 21 (.288, 2, 43 RBI)&
Excellent tools. Has yet to show projected power - XBA of 0.46 which improved to 0.58 in Puerto Rico. Excellent speed and defense. Needs to improve base stealing skills -- SB/SBA (62/85) and (5/7) in PR. In 522 AB, his K/BB ratio (96/39) leading to barely acceptable BB/AB and K/AB ratios. In 104 AB in Puerto Rico, his K/BB ratio improved to (20/8). Bats better from right side. Lower ranking because the Mets appear to be content not to develop his power potential.

23. Danny Garcia (2B) - 23 (.273, 4, 52 RBI)
Solid prospect at 2B. Should be eventually start at 2B, but will begin career as an utility player. Hard worker with good fundamentals. XBA of .099. Great plate discipline (77K/53BB). Will take a BB and HP for good OBP.

24. Heath Bell (RHP) - 25 (4-4, 2.58, 70 IP)&
92-94 mph FB, solid SL. Improved command. Solid setup RP prospect. Outstanding ratio (77K/15BB). Outstanding ratio continued in Venezuela (18K/3BB) in 12 IP.

25. Michael Jacobs (C) - 22 (.251, 11, 64 RBI)
Potentially nice lefty hitting bench player. Likely to play some 1B. Excellent power potential for lefty hitting catcher is the reason for the ranking.

26. Aaron Baldiris (3B) - 20 (.324, 3, 26 RBI)&
Progressed delayed 2 years by elbow surgery. Early season shoulder injury robbed him of power. Showed better discipline and power late in the season, but not up to his 2000 Venezuelan Summer League performance. Nonetheless, his K/BB ratio was solid (26/15). In 250 AB, his BB-rate needs improvement, but his K-rate was above league averages. His XBA was an anemic 0.58. His SB/SBA was ok (11/16).

27. Miguel Pinango (RHP) - 20 (2-7, 3.59, 80 IP)
Great command of extensive repertoire (4-FB, 2-FB, CB, SL, CU). Unbelievable ratio (64 K/14 BB). Pitched well in Winter League (3-4, 2.43, 56 IP) with good ratio (28 K/4 BB). GB pitcher allowing only 2 HR. Strike throwing machine. Best pitches are low 90s FB and CU. Has some projectibility, but needs K-pitch.

28. Jamar Hill (LF) - 20 (.295, 8, 31 RBI)
Came on late in season. Very good tools. Exhibited good eye with 22 BB in 200 AB. (K/BB) ratio could be improved at (22/48). He had a good XBA of .111.

29. Tim LaVigne (RHP) - 24 (2-5, 3,24, 61 IP)&
Big breaking CB complemented by low 90s FB. Middle RP is likely. Adequate ratio (50K/24BB).

30. Paul-Jon Bevis (RHP) - 22 (5-5, 2.54, 71 IP)&
Throws 2 CB, the best is a 67-68 mph CB. FB in 92-95 mph range. Solid ratio (76/32). Needs to reduce BB.

31. Blake McGinley (LHP) - 24 (2-2, 3.78, 67 IP)&
Low 90s FB with good breaking pitch. Good stuff. Lefty setup. Great ratio (75K/19BB) although he struggled at St. Lucie in 2002.

32. Kenneth Chenard (RHP) - 24 (3-5, 3.62, 70 IP)&
Plagued by elbow and shoulder problems even in HS. Possesses stuff (4-FB, 2-FB, CB, CU) to be in the top 10. Lacks durability to be a SP and is questionable even as a RP. After showing good command in both 1999 and 2000, he has struggled with it in 2001 and 2002. In 70 IP, 46 K and 29 BB leads to poor ratios K/IP, BB/IP, K/BB across the board.

33. Luz Portobanco (RHP) - 23 (4-8, 5.93, 99 IP)&
Struggled with shoulder problems and command of CB and CU. 2-seam-FB is best pitch with great sinking action and also left-to-right movement. 4-seam FB is straight but tops off at 94-95 mph. CB and CU would be plus pitches if Luz could throw them for strikes. His poor ratio (61/41) reflects his inability to throw his CB and CU for strikes.

34. Derran Watts (CF)- 22 (.257, 2, 20 RBI)
Toolsy player with excellent gap power - XBA 0.102 and potential as a leadoff hitter. Acceptable K/BB ratio (64/32) in 205 AB for solid BB/AB. K/AB could be improved. Solid base stealer - SB/SBA (18/25). Could be a late bloomer.

35. Roberto Solano (CF) - 19 (.276, 4, 31 RBI)
Perhaps, he has the best tools of the OF prospects. All HR were 400 ft + drives to straight away CF. XBA of 0.092. Discipline is poor (51K/7BB).

36. Jake Joseph (RHP) - 24 (9-8, 3.42, 163 IP)&
Has been plagued with non-arm related injuries. Would be better in as RP. His best pitch - a slurvey SL - is easily fouled off the 2nd time thru the order leading to poor K/IP ratio as a SP, but that wouldn't be a problem as a RP. Solid repertoire (2-FB, SL, CU), and changes speeds on SL.

37. Joseph Jiannetti (2B) - 21 (.254, 9, 36 RBI)&
Solid prospect. Converted in 2002 to 2B. Plagued by minor injuries. Tough hard nosed player. Had combined XBA of 0.72 but good K/BB ratio (38/23). SB/SBA (21/29).

38. Shawn Bowman (3B) - 18 (DNP)
He performed well during Junior World Championship for Canada. Bowman plays good defense and projects to hit for power. He's a bit raw and may take some time to demonstrate his talent.

39. Corey Ragsdale (SS) - 20 (.181, 3, 31)&
Struggled mightily at the plate K/BB ratio of (117/38). Although 38 BB in 348 AB shows a willingness to draw walks. Being converted to a switch hitter to take advantage of speed. Ragsdale is a polished defender. His SB/SBA ratio was (34/42).

40. Harold Eckert (RHP) - 25 (13-7, 3.88, 139 IP)
Despite record, he's at an age where any future rests in the bullpen. Nasty SL, led to great ratio (149/51). Decent repertoire (4-FB, SL, CU).

Abbreviation Key:

· & composite stats from 2 or more teams
· age as of 4/3/03
· BB - walks or bases on balls
· K - strike outs
· SB - stolen bases
· SBA - stolen base attempts
· AFL - Arizona Fall League
· F/IL - Florida Instructional League
· AB - at bats
· 4-FB - 4-seam fastball
· 2-FB - 2-seam fastball
· ct-FB - cut fastball
· spl FB - split-fingered fastball
· CB - curve
· K-CB - knuckle curve
· SL - slider
· sl SL - slurvy slider
· ct SL - cut slider
· CU - change up
· C-CU - circle change up
· ct-CU - cut change up
· GB ground ball outs
· FO fly ball outs

Evaluation Notes

From a statistical point of view, I consider (K/BB), (K/IP) and (BB/IP) to be the most important statistics for pitchers. And, for hitters, I consider (K/BB), (K/AB), (BB/AB), (XBA - extra-base batting average), (SB/SBA), and SLG to be most important. I also consider age-level for the long season leagues to be important. The use of these ratios are always supported by qualitative information and often judgments are made to overlook ratios for a season or two when considering a very raw talent or someone recovering from injuries.

For pitchers, an understanding of repertoires and hitters tendencies at each level is important. For instance, at low A, most young hitters have trouble with CBs in terms of hitting it, fouling it off and strike zone determination. Thus, a pitcher who can throw a decent low A CB (not a decent MLB CB) for strikes will have an exceptional K-rate (K/IP). Thus, this raises the question of whether the pitching prospect with otherwise ordinary stuff can sustain that K-rate at higher levels when hitters have better strike zone recognition of CB, and can hit or foul off CBs. For this reason, Ross Peeples (LHP) doesn't appear in the top 40. I want to wait and see how he performs at AA first. On the other hand, Luz Portabanco is included because he has good stuff and is at an age where the necessary improvement in command is possible.

For a pitcher, an acceptable K/BB ratio is 2.0 or above, 2.5 is good, 3.0 or better is outstanding. Your always looking for BB/IP ratios of 3.5 or less, with BB/IP of 2.5 being excellent. K-rates are going to be very high at A- or A+ and much lower at AA and AAA. A K/IP ratio of 7.5 or better is acceptable at A or A+, and 6.5 or better at AA and AAA. K-rates less than that raises substantial concerns about a prospect's ability to pitch successfully at the MLB level although exceptions like Greg Maddux exist. If K-rates are unacceptable, then an exceptional K/BB ratio especially for a young pitcher for that level allows the pitching prospect to retain at least a marginal prospect status. Since IPs are given among the stats, I just discuss K/BB ratios in the comments section.

On occasion, I utilize HR/IP. For instance, Tyler Walker - a noted groundball pitcher - yielded a high number of HR for a player with his repertoire. Thus, a concern is raised about either a physical problem (his knee was scoped) or loss of stuff (lack of velocity or sink on his FB). He was left off the top 40 for this reason; before he was designated for assignment.

For hitters, an acceptable K/BB ratio is 2.5, a good K/BB ratio is 2.0, and an outstanding K/BB ratio of 1.5 or lower. An acceptable K-rate (K/AB) for a power hitter (30+ HR potential) is 0.27 while for a moderate power hitter (20 HR + potential) is 0.23 and 0.20 for everyone else. K-rates of about 0.17-0.18 will often be about league average so, less than 0.16 is very good. BB/AB ratio of 0.07 is acceptable, 0.10 is good, and 0.125 as very good. XBA of 0.07 is adequate, 0.095 is good, and 0.10 excellent. SB/SBA of 0.75 is necessary in the era of the big fly where an unnecessary out on the base paths is more critical. I use SLG (slugging percentage) mostly to compare progress of prospects from 1 level to the next.

The qualitative information used includes tools, bat speed, and work ethic. I also consider what pitches they can or can't hit at various levels. Additionally, I consider the level of development. If a player is very raw, I wait 2-3 seasons before passing judgment. Given Craig Brazell's consistent poor ratios, it took 2 seasons to consider Brazell a top prospect. Due to his great bat speed and the fact that he is not the wild hacker one envisions when looking at his ratios. The Mets are finally working with him on his approach to hitting although I feel it will be slow going. This is an area where the Mets have improved over the past season in focusing prospects on plate discipline (however one chooses define the concept).

Power is often the last tool that develops, so I look at projectibility, whether the player is in fact adding weight, and XBA to judge power potential. XBA demonstrates whether a hitter is consistently driving the ball.

For high average hitters, for those with excellent power potential (40 HR +), I just look at plate discipline (K/BB) ratio to see if they can sustain a high BA. For everyone else, I examine XBA, K-rate and speed. Now, Wayne Lydon is left off the list because he has an abysmal XBA (0.30) and an extremely high K-rate (0.22) for a non-power hitter. I just don't believe he'll be able to sustain his BA (0.294) or OBP (0.368) at higher levels without reducing Ks and learning to drive the ball. BTW, he had an exceptional SB/SBA of 0.87 (87/100). At 190 lbs, I am surprised that the former football standout (received scholarship offer from Penn St.) hasn't shown more power. Additionally, I've begun to lower Angel Pagan's ranking because the Mets don't seem inclined to develop his power potential.

On the other hand, J. Duncan's XBA of 0.107 and good contact K/AB (0.19) suggests that he might be able to sustain a high BA (say low .300s) at higher levels including the MLB level. He has good speed and base running skills as suggested by his SB/SBA (0.86). Incidently, it was over 0.90 in 2001 in over 60 attempts, but Duncan was plagued by hamstring pulls in 2002. The only issues are age and durability.


AAA - 24
AA -- 23
A+ -- 22
A --- 21

Generally, these are the ages you would expect players to be at, if they are to be good MLB everyday players or starters (if they are pitchers). Nonetheless, Warren Spahn and Wade Boggs were both in the minors at age 25 and still managed to make the Hall of Fame. Nonetheless, the successful older players aren't that plentiful. I tend to ignore age/levels if I have a good reason to. For instance, I knew Jeff Duncan was a project, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt in previous rankings before the 2002 break out season. Nevertheless, Duncan needs to get on track and perform very well at AA in 2003.

Jae Seo was left off the list because he will begin the season on the Mets roster. He'd be in the top 25.

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