Fernando Martinez: As has been the case every year he has been in the system, Fernando Martinez enters the new season entrenched in this category and unquestionably possesses the highest ceiling. Injuries and a checkered health history still raise flags as does the premise that he has yet to fully dominate over the course of a full season, but Fernando's tools go unmatched by any other outfield prospect.
Yet the signs really started to show over the final six weeks of the season as he underwent a noticeable power surge thanks to the most balanced swing he showed all year. He followed that up with a very impressive showing in the Dominican Winter League. Now the new headline into the spring will be how he handles the likely move to Triple-A after 611 at-bats in Double-A over the past two seasons, and whether there is a possibility for him to make his big league debut sometime this summer.
Fernando's defensive projection appears fairly set as he faces a near certain shift to a corner spot coupled with a slightly above-average arm, but scouts, coaches and everyone else wants to see if his bat can fulfill the projection and promise of a unique, middle of the order power hitter.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis: Take one look at the 21-year-old outfielder and it is easy to see that the Mets have a pure athlete in their midst who is already one of the most naturally gifted prospects in the system. He still needs some refinement in his defense, but he has the range, speed and instincts to be a big league centerfielder and the arm strength to hold down a spot in right field.
At the plate, Nieuwenhuis possesses very good strike zone awareness and discipline as he shows no fear to work deep into counts and hit with two-strikes. However, added aggressiveness would probably benefit him as his patience sometimes backfires by putting him in a hole early into at-bats. Nonetheless, he has the established gap power, power potential, and speed to be a valuable number two hitter and/or reliable fourth outfielder.
Cesar Puello: The 17-year-old outfielder, and notable signing of the 2007 international free agent class, tallied 151 at-bats as he jumped right into the Gulf Coast League last summer where he made quite an impression. He knocked just one home run, but hit .305 while demonstrating a very mature, fluid but swing that has scouts believing much more power will emerge in the future.
He can drive the ball to the opposite with authority, drive the ball out of the yard, has some of the best speed in the system, can chase down almost anything hit his direction and one of the strongest arms, all of which make him a budding five-tool player. He still has years to go in his development and will have all those tools tested along the way, but he will have the opportunity to move fairly quickly up the ranks.
Closest to the Majors:
Jesus Feliciano: As the big league club has sought outfield help during the last two seasons, there is one player on the farm who has shown tremendous efficiency during that time. Time is no longer on the soon to be 30-year-old's side, but Feliciano was a vital piece atop the Triple-A order in 2007 in 2008, his only two years with the Mets organization. Last season, he appeared in 139 games and .308 with three home runs and 55 RBI.
Yet more impressive is his tremendous plate awareness, discipline and ability to make contact. He struck out just 57 times and walked 41 times in 509 at-bats. That comes after a 2007 season in which he totaled a 24/21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 235 at-bats. Feliciano has appeared solely in centerfield over the past two seasons and is surpassed by other alternatives in the corners, so it may take prolonged need up the middle for him to get a shot at the big leagues.
Ambiorix Concepcion: A once highly-touted prospect in the system during his younger years, Concepcion has seen his career stall and his stock slide at the higher levels. His raw talent drew attention after a very productive 2005 season, but he never established the plate discipline needed to allow the full scope of his offensive tools to develop.
However, he finally showed off some of the power expected from him as he clubbed 12 home runs in 126 games last season while hitting .241 with Binghamton. That should be enough to get him a spot in Triple-A, finally putting him one step closer to New York after years of inconsistency.
Caleb Stewart: Stewart struggled to overcome a Double-A ceiling last season, but roster position should leave him in Triple-A for the entire 2009 season. The 2004 22nd round pick started last season in Triple-A but hit just .221 with nine RBI in 20 games before returning to Binghamton. There, he hit .279, swatted 13 home runs and notched 29 doubles.
The 230-pound power hitter has always been lethal against fastballs but finally improved his eye and consistency against secondary pitches. He does not have the tools to be an everyday player at the highest level, but could provide power off the bench. A strong, full season in Triple-A combined with his excellent makeup could gain him more concrete looks.
Breaking Down the Outfielders – Part One
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