Chris Basak (SS), Jason Phillips (C), Prentice Redman (OF), and Brian Shipp (2B) might develop into starting positional players. Realistically, Basak, Phillips, Redman and Shipp project to become average to below average offensive players. Phillips and Redman lack the power to be above average offensive players at their respective positions. Although Redman does have some projection, he needs to fill out. The Mets top positional prospect Jose Reyes was just promoted to Binghamton.
Aaron McNeal (1B), Robert Stratton (OF), and Ty Wigginton (3B) remain reserve/marginal prospects. Wigginton has no position but could develop into a terrific pinch hitter. I'll reserve judgment on McNeal and Stratton before assigning non-prospect status to them. McNeal now possesses intriguing opposite field power, after being primarily a pull hitter in the Astros organization. At his age, McNeal must demonstrate his improved hitting at AAA. Stratton should have repeated AA, however, his minor league free agent status at the end of 2002 might have effected his assignment in 2002.
Someone please explain the mystery of why Jorge Toca remains on the Mets' 40-man roster. Oh, I forgot win-now strategy requires the Mets to keep players who might help in some miniscule fashion, while exposing better prospects to the waiver process and the Rule 5 draft.
Analysts underrated the Mets' pitching due in part to poor performances in 2001 by Nick Maness, Patrick Strange and Tyler Walker. Mechanical adjustments caused Strange's poor performance in 2001. Injuries plagued Walker in 2001. Maness' poor performance is more difficult to explain. Nonetheless, Maness and Kenneth Chenard possess the best stuff of any pitcher in the organization. Parenthetically, should Scott Kazmir sign, he would challenge Chenard and Maness for the best stuff.
Mike Bascik, Jeremy Griffiths, Aaron Heilman, Maness, Jae Weong Seo, Strange, T. Walker provide the Mets with a solid starting pitching core. Walker and Seo appear to be MLB ready and should be promoted if a starter is necessary. Bascik, Heilman and Strange are close to being ready and should be ready in 2003. Beyond a doubt, Maness' repetoire projects him to ace potential, however, issues regarding command, control and the mysterious loss of velocity in 2001 raises serious doubts about whether he will develop the consistency to realize his potential. Bascik is an end of the rotation left-handed pitcher. Griffiths has some potential, but has been plagued with command issues especially leaving pitches up in the strike zone.
Alas, the injury bug strikes again. Tyler Yates, the top relief pitcher prospect, needs Tommy John surgery. Jaime Cerda, a lefty, is the best the Mets have to offer. Despite his statistics, Mark Corey projects to a nice middle reliever. Heath Bell, Eric Cammack, and Saul Rivera bear watching. Rivera has the best upside. Cammack will be out of options in 2003.
Ranking Minor Leaguers
When ranking players, I ask myself the following 5 questions:
1. What ceiling does the prospect have?
2. How good is a prospect likely to be? (Since most players don't reach their ceiling.)
3. When will a prospect be ready?
4. How good will the prospect be early in their MLB careers?
5. How long will it take for the prospect to be as good as projected (i.e., how long after reaching the majors will it take the prospect to be as good as they're likely to be?)?
This obviously leads to subjective evaluation on each prospect. It's unavoidable. Nonetheless, each prospect should produce well enough to support the subject evaluation. Circumstances exist when I might ignore poor performances that do not support subjective evaluations. I'll give three examples:
a. When a pitching prospects undergoes substantial mechanical adjustments. I tend to ignore that year's statistical performance. Bobby Jones in the 1st half of 2000, Pedro Martinez in the 1st half of 2002, and Rick Ankiel late in 2000 all had trouble due to substantial adjustments in their mechanics. Why not give a prospect the benefit of the doubt? So, in 2001, I ignored Strange's statistics due to substantial mechanical adjustments that the Mets had him undergo. He's performing well in 2002, so all that 2001 measured is his struggles to learn his new mechanics, which quite frankly is irrelevant to predicting how good he might be.
b. The Mets wanted Reyes to focus on making mechanical adjustments to his swing, stealing more bases, drawing more walks, and bunting for base hits. With Reyes' attention elsewhere, it's hardly surprising that he got off to a slow start.
c. Joseph Jiannetti is changing his position from 3rd base to 2nd base. So, in ranking him in 2002, to a certain extent, I won't use his stats as much in ranking him, and see if I am justified in doing so in 2003.
Generally, I tend to rank players deep in the farm system lower than those who are in the upper levels of the farm system. The answers to the aforementioned questions are less definitive the younger and the further from AAA and AA a prospect is playing. So to rank Jose Reyes the top prospect is both a function of the lack of talent at AAA and AA, and his extraordinary ability. I would have preferred not to rank Reyes first.
The Mets had at least 5 teenagers in 2001 whose work ethic, confidence and coachability impressed: Justin Huber(C); Joseph Jiannetti (2B); Angel Pagan (CF); Jose Reyes (SS); and David Wright (3B). Their due diligences allows me to project that they are likely to be good players, perhaps very good players. The Mets had several other good teenage prospects in 2001: Aaron Baldiris (1B/3B); Enrique Cruz (3B); Wayne Lydon (CF); Corey Ragsdale (SS); Alhaji Turay (CF); and Brandon Wilson (C).
Player Rankings 1 through 25
1. Jose Reyes (SS) burst on the Mets scene in 2001. Good hitting shortstops with gold glove potential are hard to find. Might be the Mets' top-rated prospect after 2002. Reyes continues to hit well (.288 BA; 6 HR, 38 RBI) in 288 AB. Reyes'11 triples and 31 stolen bases leads the Florida State League (FSL). Reyes OPS is .815. Reyes turned 19 in June and is the youngest player in the FSL.
2. Aaron Heilman (RHP) has 4 major league ready pitches (4-seam FB, spl. FB, SL, circle CU). He's not been as dominant as expected (2-4 W-L, 4.29 ERA, 77.7 IP). While he has 80 K and 26 BB, Heilman has allowed an unexpected 9 HRs. Heilman projects to eventually become a #2 SP with improvement in circle CU and better use of FB that runs. He could develop into an ace with improvement in his spl. FB that he began throwing in 2001.
3. Patrick Strange (RHP) is off to a fine start in 2002 (6-3, 3.44, 81.3). Strange's 60 K and 30 BB are solid numbers at AAA. He easily projects to a solid #3. The reintroduction of his spl FB and improvement in his slider. Unusual repetoire (4-seam FB, SL, cut CU, and circle CU) may help Strange early in his MLB career.
4. Tyler Walker's (RHP) loss of 30 lbs. triggered improvements in his FB and CB in 2002 (6-2, 2.89, 84). Walker's 4-seam FB has the heaviest sink in the organization. He's struck out 71 batters while allowing only 19 walks. Walker may need to add a cut FB to his repetoire that also includes a CU.
5. Bob Keppel (RHP) extensive repetoire (4-seam FB, 2-seam FB, cut SL, spl FB, and CU), pitching smarts and upside should move him through the Mets system quickly. His best pitch is an 89-90 mph FB. Keppel's solid season.(4-4, 3.77, 74.0) should lead to a promotion to AA later this season. Keppel has 48 K and issued 19 BB.
6. Justin Huber (C), the Mets' best long-term catching prospect (.331, 13, 67), made the South Atlantic League's all-star team as an unanimous selection. Huber is still raw both as a hitter and a fielder, but is making solid progress in both areas.
7. Josh Reynolds (RHP) is a bit raw but has great upside. His solid season reflects improvement in command (8-3, 3.26, 77.3). His fastball sits in the low 90s and slider is a potentially dominant pitch. He needs to improve his CU to remain a starter.
8. Neal Musser's (LHP) solid repetoire (FB, CB, SL, CU), control and poise will allow him to move through the system. His 2002 season (2-0, 1.20, 15.0 IP) has been curtailed by a stress fracture in his foot.
9. David Wright (3B) is a very advanced as a hitter (.280, 8, 62), however, Enrique Cruz may block his progress. Wright projects to provide 25 –30 HR. He sports a .846 OPS. Wright should also develop into a solid defender. His 11 SB indicates he's a good base runner, despite his average speed.
10. Jae Weong Seo (RHP) plagued in 2002 with a sore shoulder that reflects in his poor season (4-5, 4.48, 66.3). He's allowed 78 hits in less than 67 IP.
11. Mike Bacsik (LHP) is a crafty soft tossing lefty acquired from Cleveland in the Alomar trade (5-4, 3.81, 78.0), Bascik's repetoire (FB, cut FB, knuckle SL, CU) requires him to have great command as his pitches have a small margin for error. The CU is his best pitch.
12. Enrique Cruz (3B) possesses great upside, t has yet to show it for St. Lucie (.284, 2, 20). His best tool is his projectible power based upon his ability to add 25-30 lbs. to his 6'1", 185 lbs. frame. Cruz who at times plays spectacular defense has become a steadier defender. He also is a good base stealer.
13. Angel Pagan (CF) is still raw, but his exceptional talent project him as an above average center fielder/lead off hitter (.305, 1, 21). Due to the Mets development program for Pagan, he has not demonstrated his true power projection. When the Mets allow him to selectively show his power, expect Pagan to hit at least 12-15 HR, perhaps more.
14. Jason Phillips' (C) improved offense (.269, 7, 42) projects him to becoming a starting catcher. Phillips is an outstanding defensive catcher.
15. Jaime Cerda (LHP), the top lefty RP, throws in the low 90s FB, with an inconsistent CB, and potentially baffling CU. He has excellent command. Cerda has performed well while performing at Norfolk (0-0, 0.53, 17.0) and Binghamton (5-1, 2.27, 31.7). He has struck out a combined 46 hitters in about 49 IP.
16. Lenny DiNardo (LHP) is on a severe pitch count restriction due to his tired arm developed in his last year at Stetson. Despite the severe pitch count restriction, DiNardo has been effective at Columbia (5-1, 3.71, 51.0). DiNardo's extensive repetoire (4-seam FB, 2-seam FB, CB, SL, CU), pitchability, and control should allow him to move quickly through the system in 2003.
17. Nick Maness (RHP) continues his struggles in 2002 (2-7, 4.59, 64.7) despite having the best repetoire in the system (4-seam FB, 2-seam FB, CB, SL, CU). Maness struggles with both his command (especially his 4-seamer) and his control. While he has struck out more about 1 hitter per inning, he's walking 4.6 batters per 9 IP.
18. Kenneth Chenard (RHP) challenges Maness for the best stuff in the system (4-seam FB, 2-seam FB, CB, SL and CU). Chenard's minor league career has been plagued with injuries. And, this season has been no exception (2-3, 4.31, 39.7). In 2002, his command has not been as good as it had previously been.
19. Prentice Redman (LF) solid season at Binghamton propels him into the top 20 (.283, 6, 24). At 6'3', 185 lbs., Redman is just beginning to fill out and as he does his power should reflect it. He's an outstanding defender and an excellent base stealer (17 SB).
20. Craig Brazell's (1B) lanky body at 6'4", 195 lbs. has room to fill out further. He continues to hit and hit for power at St. Lucie (.299, 13, 65). Brazell's poor plate discipline limits his ranking until he passes the AA test.
21. Jeremy Griffiths (RHP) is still a raw and inexperienced and for that reason he's slow to make adjustments. Despite the high ERA, Griffiths has begun to pitch well at Binghamton (1-3, 5.01, 64.7). His FB and SL are very effective when they are kept low in the strike zone. The development of his CB and CU determines whether he remains a SP or be converted to a RP.
22. Joseph Cole (RHP) is a big right-handed pitcher with a good FB and CB. s back logged behind a solid core of right-handed starters. He's having a fine season at St. Lucie (6-1, 2.81, 80.0).
23. Danny Garcia (2B) is a solid all-around second baseman whose work ethic and hard-playing style will make him a fan favorite and perhaps an overachiever. He began playing second in Alaska in 2000 where he made the conversion to 2nd base from CF. He also can break in as an utility player.
24. Heath Bell (RHP) projects to become a solid RP (FB, SL). He features low 90s FB and sharp SL. He's been solid at Binghamton (1-0, 1.47, 30.7). He's struck out 38 in about 31 IP.
25. Brian Shipp (2B) has nicely followed up a solid 2001 season at St. Lucie with a good season at Binghamton (.271, 6, 28). He's a solid defensive player with a strong arm and good range. He has gap power, good speed, and good base stealing ability (17), but needs to draw more BB.
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