Postseason Farm Report: Mets Top 60 Prospects

Steve Phillips 1997-2003 tumultuous tenure as the Mets General Manager had two positive legacies: (a) two post-season teams that included a trip to the World Series; and (b) a farm system is in better shape June 2003 than he found it June 1997. Nonetheless, I began to criticize his win-now approach* as strategically flawed as early as August 1999. Here's the top 60 list.

I assumed that Jeff Duncan would get enough ABs so that he would no longer be a rookie. I also didn't include likely minor league free agents would have to be re-signed such as Ronald Acuna.

1. Scott Kazmir (LHP) - perhaps among the top 5 prospects in the game. He's the top LHP prospect. The Mets are correctly focussing him on developing his CU.

2. Justin Huber (C) - established himself as the top position prospect (edging out David Wright) in the system now that the Jose Reyes is in the majors.

3. Matthew Peterson (RHP) - had a stellar 2003 season after a breakthrough season in 2002. He was outstanding in post-season game for St. Lucie. Struggled with his command at AA. Attempting to improve his CU the likely cause of his poor command at Binghamton.

4. David Wright (3B) - despite BA remains among MLB top minor league prospects. Peripheral ratios indicate Wright had a monster season in 2003 despite his BA.

5. Bob Keppel (RHP) - had a very good season, but low K-rate is a concern. Should be allowed to reintroduce his split-fingered fastball in 2004. The idea of having Keppel put his split-fingered FB in his back pocket is a good idea. At age 22, Keppel needs to take it out of his back pocket next June.

6. Craig Brazell (1B) - made some strides and remains the Mets top power prospect. Discipline is improving at a slow pace, but improving.

7. Aaron Baldiris (3B/1B) - contends with Wright as the top prospect at 3B. He had a fine season at Columbia and was a major factor in the Cyclones late season surge to the NYPenn League playoffs.

8. Jeremy Griffiths (RHP) - struggled with the Mets early, but found himself in a couple of starts. Improvement of CB and addition of 2-seamer should be enough for him to remain a SP.

9. Bobby Malek (RF) - still recovering from elbow surgery, but showed enough to gain a high ranking. He began to drive the ball very late in the season at St. Lucie.

10. Royce Ring (LHP) - key acquisition in the Alomar trade, should develop into solid lefty setup and quite possibly a closer. Low 90s FB has nasty movement complemented with nasty breaking pitch and solid CU. The Mets like his make up and believe he'll eventually be the closer.

11. David Mattox (RHP) - needs to improve control, but has solid 5-pitch repertoire featuring 4-seam and 2-seam FB that both possess good movement.

12. Victor Diaz (2B) - needs to lose 20 lbs. and improve his defense, if he's going to remain a middle infielder. Diaz was Duquette's top acquisition in the Burnitz deal.

13. Michael Jacobs (C) - emerged as a solid prospect with a solid 2003 season. Power hitting catchers are few, but those who are left-handed hitters are rare. Can play both 1B and 3B. Should make a great back up.

14. Danny Garcia (2B) - remains a solid middle infield prospect. Intends to add 8-10 lbs. During the off-season. Good defense and does all the little things that helps a team win.

15. Orber Moreno (RHP) - former Royals closer of the future returned with a bang after elbow and shoulder surgery and might be the Mets closer in 2004.

16. Prentic Redman (OF) - finished strong at AAA, but still remains more of a 4th or 5th OF. Could platoon in CF.

17. Neal Musser (LHP) - had a solid season, but durability remains an issue. Whether he possesses the durability to be a SP is a real issue as he's been plagued with a plethora of minor and not so minor injuries.

18. Miguel Pinango (RHP) - slow finish in his first season of long-season baseball hurt his final stats. But was very solid. He should move up in the rankings after 2004.

19. Alhaji Turay (OF) - remains the OF prospect with the highest ceiling among the long-season leagues. His strong start to the 2003 season was hurt by an injuries.

20. Lastings Milledge (CF) - possesses the highest ceiling of any position prospect in the system. His tools are second only to Darryl Strawberry. Emphasis on tools and problems led many to overlook how polished he is.

21. Tyler Yates (RHP) - rates much higher as a closer than as a starter, but the Mets are looking for another hard thrower. He'd be the top closer prospect if the Mets left him in the bullpen.

22. Wayne Ough (RHP) - had solid breakthrough season that include a no-hitter He has great stuff, addition of improved CU makes his repertoire second only to Chenard's repertoire, but might lack the durability to remain a SP.

23. Kevin Deaton (RHP) - a former offensive lineman, had a solid season at Columbia. Could get lost in the number of solid SP pitching prospects.

24. Kole Strayhorn (RHP) - is another solid RP, who could be a good setup. He was acquired from the Dodgers in the Burnitz deal.

25. Lenny DiNardo (LHP) - had a very good season, but failed to regain velocity on his FB. Without the velocity, he projects to a back-end SP.

26. Anderson Garcia (RHP) - key acquisition in the Benitez trade. Throws in the mid-90s, but needs to improve command and secondary pitches.

27. Joselo Diaz (RHP) - hard-throwing pitcher converted from a catcher. Possesses solid CU. Needs quality SL to remain an SP. Also, acquired from the Dodgers.

28. Yusemeiro Petit (RHP) - had stellar season and should look to move up the ladder very quickly. The Mets like his makeup and his stuff (FB, CB, CU) is behind only Kazmir, Peterson, and Elliott. He should shoot up the rankings if he remains healthy. The top pitching prospect from the Latin countries since Octavio Dotel.

29. Adam Elliott (RHP) - possesses the best ceiling of any pitcher after Peterson and Kazmir. His progress was delayed by injuries, but FB, CB, SL and CU are excellent.

30. Matthew Lindstrom (RHP) - performed well at both Brooklyn and Columbia. Improved velocity on FB topping at 96 mph and added solid CU. CB remains best pitch. Faltered late at Brooklyn, but given limited experience that wasn't surpising – it's normal for pitchers to decline in their first season as a full-season SP.

31. Matt Watson (LF) - had solid season but is most likely a 4th or 5th OF. Showed improved power in 2003, but defense and speed remain issues. With the depth the Mets now possess, it's difficult to rank him higher despite a very good season.

32. Jason Anderson (RHP) - solid RP should be ready in 2004. Provides the Mets with a needed power arm. Acquired in the Benitez trade from the Yankees.

33. Paul-Jon Bevis (RHP) - is a solid RP, who can be a good setup. ERA was high but peripheral ratios were solid.

34. Patrick Strange (RHP) - struggled in his MLB debut and then faltered at AAA accounts for the fall in ranking. Strange needs to have his quality split-fingered FB taken out of his back pocket if he is to make it in the majors.

35. Phil Seibel (LHP) - versatile crafty lefty. can both start and relieve. Repertoire works well together.

36. Ken Chenard (RHP) - had a solid season, but age and lack of durability keeps him out of the top 10 – has as good a repertoire at this point as anyone in the system.

37. Shane Hawks (RHP) - had solid debut in limited opportunities, due to tired arm.

38. Chris Basak (SS) - is a solid defensive player who needs some improvement with the bat. He should become a solid reserve infielder as he can play 2B and 3B.

39. Ian Bladergroen (1B) - had an excellent debut at Brooklyn, but showed some signs of problems adjusting to a wooden bat. He's the second best 1B prospect behind Brazell.

40. Angel Pagan (CF) - has yet to show the power projected of him. He struggled for the first time at St. Lucie.

41. Wayne Lydon (CF) - continues to strike out and failed to sufficient XBH to be rated higher.

42. Roberto Solano (OF) - remains a high ceiling prospect, but struggled while repeating Kingsport.

43. Jamar Hill (LF) - despite demonstrating in limited AB that he might have been able to handle low A, he was returned to Kingsport and his performance suffered.

44.Tyler Davidson (RF) - has tools second only to Milledge. Power is his best tool, but Davidson's age limits his projection and ranking.

45. Jake Joseph (RHP) - struggled, but he remains a solid RP prospect whenever the Mets convert him to the bullpen.

46. Ryan Danly (LHP) - has the best power arm among LHPs after Kazmir (not including the Latin league teams.) He's likely to be converted to the bullpen.

47. Chase Lambin (2B) - surprised with his debut at St. Lucie with very solid season. He has a solid bat, but needs to show it at AA before moving up the rankings. Poor defense caused the Mets to move Lamblin from SS to 2B where he thrived.

48. Jason Scobie (RHP) - had solid season and still projects to middle/long relief.

49. Andrew Sides (RHP) - had solid debut at Kingsport. He has good size, but isn't a hard thrower.

50. Brian Bannister (LHP) - had a solid debut at Brooklyn. Finesse pitcher.

51. Carlos Muniz (RHP) - had a solid debut at Brooklyn. Projects to be a setup or a middle RP.

52. Shawn Bowman (3B) - struggled at Brooklyn, but 18-year old remains a solid prospect.

53. Jim Anderson (C) - is a solid catch and thrower. He hit well at Columbia while sharing the position with Brandon Wilson and Zachary Clements.

54. Rafael Lopez (RHP) - had solid season out of the bullpen, surpisingly still struggled with control.

55. Jose Gomez (RHP) - recovering from TJ surgery. He's among the hardest throwers in the organization.

56. Marcos Cabral (SS) - struggled in his debut at Kingsport. He possesses good tools and potential.

57. Javier Perdomo (RHP) - was dominant in the Venezuela Summer League.

58. Herberto Peralta (LHP) - was dominant in the Dominican Summer League.

59. Jesus Sanchez (RHP) - was not quite as dominant with the VZL Mets as Perdomo.

60. Edgar Bruzal (SS) - had the best season of any of the Mets' 2002 Latin signees.

I criticized Phillips' win-now approach as being inherently flawed for the following reasons.

· First, relying upon a core of players all of whom are over 30 means that the team will almost certainly decline. While I had the idea well before John Sickel's article appearing sometime in 2001, Sickel expressed the concept that with players over 30 "some will improve, some will get worse, but on average they will collectively decline." Thus, a team that wants to win year in and year out must have a core that includes players both under and over 30.

· Second, the Mets don't have the financial resources to build around only market rate players. The Mets need cheap young talent like all of the teams (perhaps save the Yankees).

· Third, all teams make mistakes and have bad contracts. You can't plan to build to a winning team with a budget of $90 million by spending $90 million. A team must have contingency funds to assist in extricating itself from poor contracts like the Mets did when they dealt Rey Ordonez rather than deal 1 bad contract for a worse contract in the Appier for Vaughn trade. You have to succeed in spite of mistakes and not make excuses about they were veterans who should perform. Every GM makes mistakes no matter how good they are.

· Fourth, fear of playing unproven players. Means little or no cheap talent. If the As can build a consistent winner with a $50 million budget then the Mets should be able to do so with a $117 million budget.

· Fifth, as Billy Beane often points out you can't win by making moves in December. You can't properly assess what you actually need until players perform in April and May, then you can determine what you need in a specific season.

· Finally, a general failure to consider the implications of every move beyond one season. He had a win-now philosophy. The Braves and Yankees pursue a win-forever philosophy by considering the future implications of current decisions.

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