Players in Savannah, St. Lucie, Binghamton and New Orleans are a week into a season they hope will lead to league titles and prosperity. Inside Pitch Magazine offers news on new faces in new places, roster veterans, and players on the cusp.
New Orleans Zephyrs
Manager: Ken Oberkfell
Hitting Coach: Jack Voight
Pitching Coach Mark Brewer
Philip Humber: The 24-year-old received a promotion to New Orleans after split time in St. Lucie and Binghamton for the second straight year. In 2006, he made his Major League debut and pitched two innings. Fully healed from elbow surgery, Humber could see extended action with the big league team. For now, he will be relied upon to anchor the Zephyrs rotation.
Carlos Gomez: The outfielder is a developing five-tool player. His offense is gaining consistency and beginning to the match the rest of his game. He blazes the base paths - he's totaled 105 stolen bases the last two seasons - and his speed makes him a security blanket in the outfield. The 21-year-old has rocketed through the system. His frame will continue to build muscle and his power numbers will see a sharp increase.
Anderson Hernandez: Hernandez, a terrific fielder at both second base and shortstop, began 2006 at Shea. Ten games and a back injury later, he returned to Norfolk. His Major League glove should give him a return ticket to the bigs at some point. However, he needs to increase his offensive production to earn a prolonged stay.
Manager: Mako Oliveras
Hitting Coach: Nelson Silverio
Pitching Coach: Ricky Bones
Michael Devaney: He boasts a career .750 winning percentage and a strong repertoire that could earn him a spot in New Orleans sometime in 2007. He throws a strong, consistent hook and his cutter will improve his ability to get lefties out. No longer a two-pitch hurler, Devaney should lead the Binghamton staff.
Mike Carp: The winner of the 2006 Sterling Award for his MVP performance in St. Lucie, Carp should continue to excel in his first year in Double-A. His at-bats have increased each year as has his production. Carp is refining his defense making him more of a complete prospect. As one of the youngest guys on the roster, he stands to be one of the most productive in the order.
Fernando Martinez: While his peers graduate from high school this spring, Martinez will make his first tour of the Eastern League. His oozes talent from the batters box and has plus tools in the field and on the bases. The organization put down a challenge to him with an opening day slot in Binghamton. If lights up the league in the spring, the organization could consider a bump to New Orleans to test him further.
St. Lucie Mets
Manager: Frank Cacciatore
Sean Henry: Fully adapted to centerfield after the move from second base, Henry looks to have a strong season. His hitting needs more work, but his speed and defense makes him a high value player to his squad. He is a fiery competitor who sets the bar high. He is still young and could stand to add muscle to increase his power and bat speed.
Daniel Murphy: He possesses perhaps the most fluid swing at St. Lucie. He saw limited time last year in 3 locations as he fought through injuries. However, his patience and ability to hit to all fields could boost his stock significantly this season. Health is a big issue for him. As long as he stays on the field, he has the potential to rake for a strong average.
Savannah Sand Gnats
Manager: Tim Teufel
Hitting Coach: Jonathan Hurst
Pitching Coach Mike Hart
Josh Stinson: The righthander went right to work in 2006 and pitched for Hagerstown straight from the draft. He too was a Sterling Award Winner. At just 19, Stinson goes five-deep in his arsenal which includes a strong changeup and a diving sinker. He uses both to induce groundballs as he does not accumulate many strikeouts. Stinson, currently ranked #17 in the Mets system, faces a bright future.
Francisco Pena: He is still wet behind the ears at just 17-years-old, but Pena has a spring in his step and confidence behind the plate. The son of Yankees' first base coach Tony Pena, he has strong catching genes and a presence even at his age. His future is still too far off to estimate, but observers believe he is something special.
Tobi Stoner: Stoner has produced ahead of expectations since his 16th round selection in the 2006 MLB Draft. He commanded opposition while in Brooklyn to the tune of a 6-2 record and a 2.15 ERA in 83 2/3 innings pitched. He has five pitches, all of with which he demonstrates great control. He is ranked #22 in the Mets system and anticipates moving further up the ladder in 2007.