Breaking Down the Top Outfielders

Rather than "analyze the outfielders", here is a simple look at the top collection of outfield talent that is shaping the Mets farm system. If there is one area of the farm system that has become much, much stronger in recent years, it is in the outfield. So how does the depth chart stack up? Look inside to find out.

The All-Around Guys
In this short list, these guys project as the players who may not have the best single tool, but will offer the best across-the-board talent

Kirk Nieuwenhuis: There isn't much else to say about Nieuwenhuis. He is the Mets #3 prospect and now it is time for him to go out and play like it, while making the organization true believers in him. Improving against left-handed pitching will be a big step for him because that could determine just how much success he has at the highest level. He can hit for contact, run and he can play the outfield. If he can cut down the strikeouts and improve versus out southpaws, he'll have all the tools of at least a big league regular.

Cesar Puello: As I've said in other recent posts, there is a shot Puello is the Mets' top prospect this time next year. And as I've said, it's all about the emergence of his game power. Scouts, as I have, believe his stolen base totals will decrease from the surprising 45 bags he stole this season. Yet, even if he continues to add size (to an already impressive frame), he should maintain his above-average speed that will allow to steal bags, play near-plus defense in addition to his offense.

Gilbert Gomez: This one is still a bit of a long shot, but Gomez has a chance to another multi-dimensional player. The 19-year-old outfielder already has impressive ball-striking skills and moves very well. Now he doesn't have the pure speed of others on this list or the pure power, but he has shown early compliment of tools that make him one to watch in 2011 and beyond.

The Power Hitter:
This group of players has other solid tools, but their games are predicated on their ability to hit for power and hit the ball out of the yard

Sean Ratliff: Ratliff took big strides last summer when he hit over .300 in Double-A, his home runs jumped and he became an extra base machine over the course of the season. Now, the onus will be on him to continue that production and development with a second tour through the Eastern League and an eventual move into Triple-A. Yes, Ratliff strikes out more than 100 times per season, but at this best, Ratliff could be a guy that gives a big league club a .275 average and 20-plus home runs per year and there are plenty of those guys bouncing around baseball.

Cory Vaughn: Vaughn bombed his way 14 home runs and without being too repetitive from the Over/Unders piece, it will be on Vaughn to show that he can adjust to higher level pitching because his athleticism and defense are enough to play at higher levels.

Fernando Martinez: Martinez's power has never been debated nor should be going forward. Unfortunately, he slipped into this category after years of injuries that have taken away a measure of his speed and agility. He has yet to regain the contact stroke he showed at lower levels, but that could also be attributed, in part, to the speed with which he has ascended the ranks. Nevertheless, I'm still confident that if Martinez is healthy and on the field, his production will recapture everyone's attention.

Lucas Duda: Duda showed his raw power and his contact ability during his Triple-A stint and at times with the big league club last year. That could be enough to get him in the everyday starting lineup should Carlos Beltran begin the year on the disabled list. Duda has a track record of showing greater productivity during his second tour of a location. That should bode well for the Mets early this season.

Raul Reyes: Reyes was on his way to becoming a legit prospect in this system (he was my #33 prospect after the 2007 season), but an awfully-timed broken ankle in 2008 derailed his trajectory. Instead, he has been trying to recover the momentum he had. Nevertheless, he continues to show plus power when he does connect, but that production has not been consistent. He comes off a 2010 season in which he hit a combined .226 with 12 home runs, 37 RBI and a .651 OPS in 385 at-bats split between St. Lucie and Binghamton last year.

The Weapons
These players do not have the power or the full package as other players on the list, but they fit the most of the agile, athletic, rangy outfielders the system has accumulated in recent years

Darrell Ceciliani: Ceciliani is the player that currently has the lead in this category. His plus outfield defense, plus speed, plus stolen base ability and good contact stroke make him a multi-faceted weapon. It sounds like he's off to Savannah, which is probably the right approach given his youth. Let him show he can work over the South Atlantic League and then consider moving him up. No reason to push the 2009 4th round pick at this point.

Rafael Fernandez: As I mentioned in his scouting report, Fernandez was never the stand out prospect like a Ceciliani, but slowly and surely he is starting to find his rhythm. He has a good, athletic body though his stolen base numbers never took off as expected. He can play three outfield positions and has a strong throwing arm. Never say never, but he could figure out and becoming a later option as a fourth outfielder.

Pedro Zapata: Zapata has long been supported internally, though I never found reasoning why (he's never appeared in the Top 50). Now, Zapata will have a new regime to impress. The outfielder finally added weight to his previous lengthy frame, but slower bat speed has never made him much of a power hitter. However, he does have the speed to extra bases nearly at will when he gets underway. If he can increasingly find the gaps, he will elevate his status. He enters the season at 23 years old and appears ticketed for St. Lucie. In my opinion, this is the make or break year for Zapata, who was a slow developer after not becoming a full-time ball player until his teenage years.

Matt Den Dekker: If you looked in the subscribers forum over the weekend, you will see that Den Dekker has reportedly made an adjustment to his swing and is striking the ball with more authority. That is good news for a player who does not have the raw speed like others on the list, but is a sound contact hitter who could be on his way if he has a stronger year in Binghamton (where it sounds like he is headed).

Chase Greene: Greene lost much of his 2010 season with a shoulder injury, but even with a rather limited ceiling, Greene could carve a niche for himself if he can stay healthy, hit for an average and use his plus speed to his advantage on the base paths.

Tillman Pugh: The 2010 15th round pick is perhaps getting hit in the face by a pitch in his first professional at-bat. He made it back for 61 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League. Pugh could find a spot in the Savannah roster, but it would be too early to give up on him because he has excellent athleticism, is a plus a defender and boasted the best speed in the Mets' 2010 draft class.

Must Find a Spot
This short list is a group that may be boxed out by players emerging behind them and need to prove their value at their current level

Juan Lagares: Lagares, who enter his sixth season on the farm, is still just 22 years old. After fighting off injuries, he finally put together a strong stint in the Sally League last year, with a .300 average, five home runs, 39 RBI, 18 steals and a .777 OPS. Lagares is never going to a be power hitter, he may not be a .300 hitter, but he is another example of a player who is finding his way and could develop into a useful, fourth outfielder with good fringe tools.

Julio Concepcion: The 21-year-old outfielder put together a solid year in the Gulf Coast League, registering a .792 OPS. However, he did that as a 20-year-old. Now it is time for him to go to Savannah (likely) and show that he can withstand all of the talent the system has accumulated in recent years.

Eric Campbell: Campbell too is in a position where he will have withstand emerging talent around him. He may in a position where he loses his job in Double-A to start the season out of the sheer talent around him. Now, chances are he starts the year in one of the Binghamton corners, but he'll have talent to fend off coming up behind him.

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