In addition to the top ranked players, the St. Lucie Mets feature solid prospects both in the rotation and at most of the everyday positions, with very few roster spots being used on veteran minor leaguers. Manager Ken Oberkfell will employ lessons learned from Whitey Herzog during his own Major League career, and the organization has given him the perfect guys to do that with. Speedsters Wayne Lydon (87 SB) and Ender Chavez (18 SB) top a batting order that features decent speed throughout, including Wright's 21 SB last year, and Angel Pagan (52 SB) has joined the outfield and the top of the order since coming off the DL.
The real depth in the Mets system is pitching strength as a number of legitimate blue-chip phenoms top a list of quality pitching prospects and the St. Lucie staff is no exception. This year's rotation is anchored by Matthew Peterson ,who enjoyed tremendous success last year in Cap City (low-A), and Neal Musser who struggled through last season with injuries. The number of legitimate prospects in Binghamton (AA) and Norfolk (AAA) should keep most of the St. Lucie pitchers at this level for the bulk of the season. St. Lucie fans can expect Kevin Deaton and Scott Kazmir to join the St. Lucie rotation at some point during the season. In the meantime Ross Peeples, Luz Portobanco, and Lenny Dinardo round out the rotation and look to elevate their status as prospects.
1B/DH - Frank Corr/Josh Pressley
Frank Corr turned 23 during the offseason and is entering his third season in the Mets system since being drafted in 2001. Corr is a Wigginton-esque prospect. He is small (generously listed at 5'9") and doesn't have a particular defensive position. However, he hits the ball wherever he goes. Corr has hit over .300 with power each of the last two years in Brooklyn and Cap City. Additionally, Corr brings his run-through-a-wall-for-you style of play to the table, which generally endears him to coaches and fans alike. Manager Ken Oberkfell has already taken a liking to Corr's "Team First" style of play. "Whether it be moving a guy over from second or bunting a guy in from third, whatever they want me to do I'll get it done for the team," Corr said. Josh Pressley was the minor leaguer included with Russ Johnson in the Rey Ordonez trade. Pressley is taking a step down to St. Lucie in order to get ABs as the Mets are stocked at Norfolk and Binghamton with Jorge Toca showcasing for the Tides and Craig Brazell covering first for the B-Mets.
2B - Joe Jiannetti
After hitting .260 at Brooklyn last season, 21 year old Joe Jiannetti is being asked to make the difficult leap to full season high A ball this year. Jiannetti showed an interesting mix of speed and pop last season. A converted 3rd baseman, this is only his second year playing at second base, due to the Mets depth at third base with Wright and Aaron Baldiris. Jiannetti may have found a place to play at second as he continues to show patience and developing power at the plate.
SS - Chase Lambin
Drafted in the 34th round last year, Chase Lambin made an immediate impression for the Cyclones in 2002, displaying the power that saw him lead the Louisiana-Lafayette Cajuns in HRs his senior year. Lambin poked 6 HRs and 15 extra base hits in his first 179 pro ABs. Lambin struggled adjusting to pro pitching some early on, and will have to improve on his patience as he struck out 50 times and drew only 8 walks. Lambin has shown good range and a decent arm at short.
3B - David Wright
David Wright, 20, is clearly one of two primary reasons to send a scout to a St. Lucie Mets game (Justin Huber being the other). Wright's continued development has placed him on many top prospect lists and his power potential (11 HRs and 30 2Bs in 2002) and defensive ability have drawn comparisons to Cardinals third sacker Scott Rolen. Though Wright displayed excellent patience walking 76 times in 2002, he is still adjusting to pro ball breaking pitches, striking out 114 times in 496 ABs last year. "There's a significant difference in the curveballs and sliders you see in high school and the ones you see in pro baseball," said Wright.
INF - Rob McIntyre
The 21-year-old McIntyre is getting plenty of ABs subbing at both short and second. Drafted in 1999, McIntyre is a slap hitter with good patience. He has hit for average and a high OBP in his trip through the system. McIntyre has been moved around the middle infield at every level to accommodate other prospects, notably Jose Reyes, and now to find at bats for Chase Lambin and Joe Jiannetti.
C - Justin Huber
Huber showed excellent power and patience last season, splitting time between Cap City and St. Lucie, hitting 14 HRs and delivering a .390 OBP in 430 ABs. Though he appeared to tire towards the end of the season in his first full-season league work, he also that he has all the tools to be a top-flight major league catcher. A big focus of Huber's regimen this year will be improving his physical stature. Just 20, he is relatively slight. He doesn't possess the large lower body base that is typical of most catchers. His hands and forearms are still thin and he will need to put considerable time in the weight room to build the strength and stamina to catch year round. These are fairly typical things that young catchers need to develop however. Huber's natural abilities and highly rated skills at throwing out baserunners and hitting the baseball for average and power, should help catapult him through the Mets system as he develops the physical strength to perform at the higher levels.
LF - Wayne Lydon
21-year-old Wayne Lydon brings his unique speed-based game to the Florida State League this year after terrorizing Sally league catchers by hitting .294 and stealing 87 bases. Though Lydon walked 54 times in 2002, he needs to improve his K-ratios (104 Ks) and develop some extra base hit capabilities (14 XBH in 473 ABs) to upgrade his status to legitimate prospect. The huge alleys and Major League dimensions of FSL parks should help, however, Lydon's slap hitting style will hinder his ability to drive the ball into the gaps where he can take advantage of his speed.
CF - Ender Chavez / Angel Pagan
Ender Chavez (seen in the photo to the left) starts the season roaming CF for the Mets, though it's likely the 22 year old younger brother of Expos and former St. Lucie Mets OF Endy Chavez will head back to Cap City once Angel Pagan comes off the DL. Chavez showed power, speed and tremendous BB/K ratios at Brooklyn last season. Pagan, 21, hit .279 with 52 SBs at Cap City last year, though he faces many of the same challenges as Lydon. Pagan, however, projects to having more eventual power and his attempt to become more of a slap hitter was somewhat by design.
RF - Forrest Lawson
An 8th round pick out of high school in the 1999 draft, the 22-year-old Lawson has size and potential that he has yet to begin to realize. Despite his 6'2, 200lbs+ frame, Lawson has not shown any power at lower A levels. He will need to begin to develop the power his size indicates in order to continue progressing through the system.
The Mets pitching staff has been in early season disarray as Pedro Astacio and Tyler Yates have been eating innings in rehab assignments.
A second round pick in the 2000 draft, Peterson is only 21 years old. He fits the mold of recent Mets pitching picks, as he has "classic" pitching size at 6'5". Peterson is, however, disturbingly thin and lanky. He suffered an injury his senior year, which had him fall on most teams draft lists. Peterson has a huge breaking curve, which neutralizes a lot of lower level hitters. His fastball is inconsistent, though. He can be very wild when his mechanics get off, which isn't unusual for a kid at 6'5" who's all arms and legs.
Jason Scobie was a 2001 pick out of LSU. He pitched primarily as a reliever last season, but is starting the 2003 campaign as a starter in the St. Lucie rotation. Scobie has shown excellent breaking pitches and good control. He has had some durability issues, which led to his conversion to a short reliever last year.
Len Dinardo was drafted out of Stetson in 2001 in the third round. He struggled with his control last year at Cap City. Dinardo has a funky, sidewinding, lefty delivery that boggles lefthanded hitters. His control struggles last season were a disappointment as many had projected him as a first round pick, however, a loss of velocity left him on the board until the third round. If Dinardo can regain some of his velocity and develop better command and control, his bizarre delivery could make him a seriously effectively lefty specialist.
This is Neal Musser's second year starting at St. Lucie. The 22-year-old Musser has struggled to stay healthy and it has retarded his development. A touch and feel pitcher, Musser can be unhittable when his breaking and offspeed repertoire is working, but gets slapped around when his location is less than perfect. The Mets have a number of soft-tossing lefthanders in the organization, including Phil Seibel, ahead of Musser. Musser has been inconsistent with his velocity, sometimes reaching low-mid 90's, but often topping out in the high 80's. His key is getting ahead by throwing his offspeed stuff for strikes. If he has to come in with a fastball late in the count, he generally pays for it.
Ross Peeples, like Musser, is a "crafty" lefthander. He enjoyed a terrific season last year in Cap City, however, struggled in a brief call up to St. Lucie in the Florida State League. Peeples is older and doesn't have the same kind of "stuff" as Musser, though he is more consistent with his command and control. Peeples' age and lack of overpowering pitches have relegated him to the second tier of pitching prospects, despite the success he has enjoyed the last two seasons at low-A ball.
Ed Tsunoda operates his own Mets' fan site at MetsWiki and will be our St. Lucie Mets' correspondent for the 2003 season. He also supplied all of the photos for this article.