Many eyes will be fixed on 2008 first round picks Ike Davis, Brad Holt and Reese Havens, and Jenrry Mejia, who are nudging closer to New York. Josh Thole had a sharp September with the Mets in 2009 and fans undoubtedly want to see him play a role this season. Finally, there is the case of Fernando Martinez, his battles with injuries and the desire to see him spend the entire season on the field.
The graduation of top talent is likely one season away, but 2010 will be a year of important development. Almost all of the organization's top ten prospects are coming off career seasons, and keeping that momentum will provide added strength to a farm system headed in the right direction.
BUFFALO BISONS (AAA)
The Mets and their affiliate hope the second season in Buffalo will be a much more successful campaign than the first. The Bisons come off a 56-87 season in 2009, but there is optimism to be had on the shores of Lake Erie. A number of leading prospects, including many in the top 30 in the system, will be off to the Triple-A affiliate in 2010. Manager Ken Oberkfell returns to skipper the Bisons. He will be aided by pitching coach Ricky Bones who returns to Buffalo for the second straight year. Hitting coach Jack Voigt makes the jump from Brooklyn to Buffalo this season.
Last year the Bisons roster was riddled with former big leaguers, career minor leaguers and older 4-A players. It may not be entirely fair to say whether such a roster led to the Bisons prolonged struggles, but it was obvious to see the club's lack of collective initiative upon multiple observations in 2009.
Like most Triple-A affiliates, the organization needed to fill out the roster with veterans of big league and minor league experience, but Bisons ticket buyers will have the chance to see a number of prospects in 2010.
Top prospect Fernando Martinez will return to Buffalo after arguably his strongest minor league season with the Bisons in 2009. Martinez underwent knee surgery last summer and had an strong finish in the Dominican Winter League, but the spotlight will again be on him come April.
With Carlos Beltran missing at least the season's opening month, observers and fans alike want to see if Martinez can step up and give the Mets something to think about early in the season. However, the top priority will be the health of the Mets top prospect after successive years cut short by various injuries.
Josh Thole made the jump straight for Binghamton to New York in 2009. Now the 23-year-old catcher assumes the everyday job in Triple-A. Thole will receive his share of playing time with the big league club during Spring Training, but signals point to Thole spending most of, if not all of, the season in Triple-A unless a need arises in New York. Thole could alter those plans by continuing his success at the plate.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN 2010
Ike Davis is expected to make his Triple-A debut in 2010. The first baseman comes off a monstrous sophomore season in which he raked his way through High-A and Double-A, plus a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. Davis will be the Bisons starting first baseman and will be afforded the time to further develop while many look him to as the Mets' first baseman of the future. The 2008 top pick will likely remain in Triple-A until late in the season, but a strong first two months could increase the drumbeat to get him to New York.
Dillon Gee returns from a labrum injury to assume a spot in the Bisons rotation. Gee made just nine starts with the club last year before his season ended in late May. A good start and turmoil at the back of the Mets rotation could provide a look in New York for the right-hander.
Shortstop Ruben Tejada, third baseman Shawn Bowman and possibly first baseman/outfielder Lucas Duda make a trio of prospects that will also join the Bisons, adding system value to the Triple-A roster.
BINGHAMTON METS (AA)
Double-A is often the launching point for prospects, and that has never been more the case in recent history for the Mets than it will be in 2010. Top pitching and position player prospects will litter a roster orchestrated by new manager Tim Teufel. Teufel makes the jump to Double-A after managing in St. Lucie for six seasons.
The ascension of many from the 2009 B-Mets to Buffalo, however, does not leave the cupboards completely bare. There are a few names to return from last season's squad, but the rise of talent from St. Lucie should make the 2010 B-Mets a robust roster with prospects ready to make an impact. The Eastern League has a knack of differentiating prospects, and with a number of Mets farmhands coming off strong seasons in St. Lucie, Binghamton will be a place worth watching.
The spotlight will be on many on the B-Mets roster. Both on the mound and in the field, Binghamton will host a number of leading prospects and projects that are showing their potential. The starting rotation will offer depth and the lineup will have dynamic hitters that should make for a very productive lineup.
Brad Holt and Jenrry Mejia should return to Double-A where both will aim to put shaky 2009 performances behind them. Although their 2009 seasons were marred by injury or ineffectiveness, or both, the two right-handers will hold down the front of the Binghamton rotation and pitch under constant observation. They are unquestionably the two best pitching prospects in the organization, but it remains to be seen how they handle a full year at Double-A. Pay attention.
2008 first round pick Reese Havens is off to Binghamton where, despite an opening at shortstop, he figures to see significant time at second base. Havens' first two seasons on the farm have been checkered by injuries, but he has a potentially special bat that should come to fruition with consistent playing time. Defense is the biggest question mark surrounding Havens. 2010 will provide a lot of answers.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN 2010
Coming off a huge 2009 season, Kirk Nieuwenhuis will lock down centerfield. Scouts and fans alike want to see if he can continue his machine-like ability to register extra base hits like he did in St. Lucie last season. The 2009 Sterling Award Winner from St. Lucie has played his way into a top ten spot in the organization.
Zach Lutz showed his talents with the bat in 2009, hitting .284 with 11 home runs in St. Lucie. The third baseman was finally healthy in 2009 and could be an X-factor in the Binghamton lineup this season. With just 74 at-bats in his first two seasons in Brooklyn, Lutz career essentially started in High-A last season and he responded in a big way.
Brant Rustich's prolonged battles with injury may prevent him from starting the season in Binghamton. Health has always been the big question mark hanging over the hard-throwing right-hander, but the organization knows it has big league potential (and quickly) in Rustich. He can be a very fast riser out of the bullpen, but may start the year in St. Lucie before moving up when the weather of Upstate New York improves.
Scott Shaw and Scott Moviel are two right-handers who will face challenges in Double-A. Their repertoires profile similarly, each lacking an overpowering fastball and relying on movement, and both feature strong pitchability. They will rely on their ability to mix it up and pitch confidently with the fastball to find success in Double-A.
Check In Tomorrow For Part Two