Down on the Farm
Who does #2 work for?
With yesterday being an off-day, this is a good as time as any to take a look at some minor league players, more specifically, the pitching. With recent drafts and trades the Mets minor league pitching depth is as good as it's been in years and one of the deepest talent pools around the league today. I am going to run down my list of the top 8 pitchers the Mets system.
- Maverick, I'm going down!
1) Matt Peterson gets the nod as the #1 pitching prospect in the system. He has done nothing but pitch lights out every step of his minor league career. He possess a mid 90's fastball and a excellent curveball. His curve is his bread and butter and may be the best in the entire system. In 2003, he pitched to the tune of a 1.71 ERA, almost a 3 to 1 K/BB ratio, and struck out more people (73) than he allowed hits (65) in St. Lucie. He earned a late season call up to AA where he got a taste of the competition he was to face this year. He held his own there as a 21 year old and was 1-2 with a 3.45 ERA. Since the '04 season began, he has pretty much dominated again. He appears to have the AA competition figured out. He is 3-0 with a 2.35 ERA and has increased his K/BB ratio to 4 to 1. At only 22 years old, he is definitely a very advanced pitching prospect. He has not gone unnoticed either. In an online chat with Baseball America staffers, they had stated that if Peterson continued his dominating numbers this year, he would have to be considered one of the best right handed prospects of the game. He has continued that trend and is has no doubt emerged as one of the top righties without a doubt.
2) Scott Kazmir stops in at #2 on my list. Consensus would be that Scott is the best prospect in the system and I have no idea what I'm talking about. Maybe I do not have a clue, but it is my page. I do have reasoning behind my thought process as well. Kazmir is a guy that can register in the high 90's on the radar gun, has a devastating slider, and is developing an off speed pitch that would make this guy near un-hittable with three potential out-pitches. Problem is that if he has a long successful career as major leaguer starter, he would be the exception to the rule. He is listed at 6-1, but that seems to be a bit generous. He reminds people of Billy Wagner being from Texas, short for a pitchers able to throw close to 100 mph, and the fact that they are both lefties. Kazmir likes to reference Roy Oswalt (6'-0" 185 pounds) and Pedro Martinez (5'11" 180 pounds) when drawing comparisons. Those are two guys (Pedro not so much anymore) that could bring the heat mid to high 90's and are able to have sustained success in the majors. If Kazmir turns out even close to one of those two, the Mets would be in great shape. Problem is, he has not really gotten past 93 mph from spring to the limited playing time he has seen so far. There are whispers that he may have some elbow issues already. Lots of people still project him to be a closer, and anything is still possible. The plan for now is to have in start, which I agree with. In my opinion, there are more question marks surrounding Kazmir then with Peterson, hence my choice to flop the two of them. Also, if Kazmir does have an elbow injury, who knows what path that will lead him down. It could all be rumors, but he has had the abdominal pull for quite a bit now. I hope they are only being pre-cautionary, but it is still something worth noting on how gingerly the are treating him. Until he comes back and proves that getting shelled at St. Lucie (where is held his own last year) is an aberration, the jury is still out in my book in terms of his arms holding up.
3) Bob Keppel is the 3rd guy on the list. Keppel is a 22 year old (soon to be 23) and is moving through the system very well. He is not as overpowering as the 1st two on the list, but has a low 90's fastball and does not necessarily have one overpowering pitch. He projects as more of middle of the rotation guy, which should fit in nicely behind the aforementioned two. He was 7-2 with a 3.04 ERA in Binghamton. He needs to work on this K/BB ration as it was less than 2-1 for the B-Mets. In 94 innings he walked 27 batters and striking out 46. He started '04 off with an injury but has pitched very well in two re-hab starts going 10 innings and only surrendering 1 run for St. Lucie. He should be at AAA shortly and may very well have an opportunity this year to pitch for the big club at some point with the 5th starter spot still up for grabs and Leiter having some tendonitis early on.
4) Tyler Yates has stated his case for some more attention this year, so I guess I will listen and go ahead and put him 4th. His major league stint may have been short, but he showed flashes of what could be. He has four pitches, and two of which look like they can be above average. His fastball gets up to the mid 90's and this power slider is a tough pitch to hit when he is on. He began mixing in an off speed pitch at times, which can just confuse hitters when he gets control of his repertoire. My biggest issue with him is that he has hovered around a 4.00 ERA at all his stops in the minors. He is now 26 and is pretty old for a prospect. I do understand he lost a bout 1 1/2 years due to TJ surgery, but even before that he never posted a stellar ERA. That being said, he has the tools to pitch at a major league level. The hope is that he just has not put it all together yet. The Mets transformed him from reliever to starter and maybe thinking about making him a reliever again. Where he will end up will be based more on whether Keppel and Peterson move up the food chain fast enough that they are ready majors by 2005. In my opinion, having a guy come out of the pen that has plus stuff with 4 pitches could be tremendous (see Eric Gagne). The thought of 2005 Met games ending something like Moreno in the 7th, Yates in the 8th, and Looper in the 9th could esentially end the game in the 6th when we have the lead. That is something that I believe can be like Lidge, Dotel, and Wagner last year for the Astros. Just a devastating display of power arms out of the pen.
5) Aaron Heilmann begrudgingly makes my list at #5. The thing that Aaron Heilmann does best is frustrate the organization. He looks like a guy that can be a good back end of the rotation guy that will eat a lot of innings and anchor the back end of the staff with some stability. He has a very good career at Notre Dame, but has failed to show that same dominance at the minor league level. While he had a decent season at AAA last year, it was just that, decent. He exhibited nothing special. He can get his fastball in the low 90's but just does not have that killer instinct. In his stint in the majors last year, he got into 3-2 counts like he was actually getting paid to throw full counts. He continuously fell behind hitters and tried to pitch around people like they were all Barry Bonds. In '04, his ERA is over 4 at AAA. Not what you want out of a guy that is now getting rather old to be of a prospect status. Batters are also hitting over .300 against him, and his time is running out. He needs to figure it out soon, before he is cast off into no mans land.
6) Jeremy Griffiths stops in at #6. He and Heilmann pretty much figure to be the same type of pitcher, end of the rotation guy. He is not as highly regarded as Heilmann but has put up better numbers in the last two years. He has a low 90's fastball with a curve that drops into the high 60's. Griffiths is going to be 27 when the 2005 season starts. That is the age when a player generally hits his prime. He had a nice season at AAA last year posting a 2.74 ERA and really was the best the Mets had in AAA. This year, he is doing slightly worse, but putting up decent numbers nonetheless. He is another one that is under the gun. He is not getting any younger and should be dominating AAA. Heck, Baldwin pitched better in AAA and we all know how good he is. With Keppel coming to AAA shortly, Yates' status with the team, and Peterson knocking on the door, Griffiths' relevance in with the major league club just keeps getting smaller. I think he may be a Jeff D'Amico guy in the long run if he can get a shot with someone, but getting the shot is going to prove to be his biggest obstacle.
7) Yusmeiro Petit is a guy who at #7 who will not be there long. I am sure I will be able to move him past up past frick and frack to #5 very shortly. He is guy who does not have overpowering stuff, but keeps the ball in the stikezone and thows hard enough to be successful. He is only 19 years old and is having no problem handling the low A-ball completition. He is 4-1, with a 1.88 ERA, 48k's in 38.1 innings, 4-1 K/BB ratio, and a .163 BAA. He is knocking on the door for a bump up to St. Lucie. He is just flat out dominating so far this year and was named by Baseball America's analyst as a guy who is the sleeper in the entire organization. He has tremendous upside, and is going to start to become a more common name around the Mets organization this year.
8) Jose Diaz is #8 on the list. He just has a cannon for an arm. A converted catcher acquired in the Jeromy Burnitz deal last year has as much upside and ability as anyone in the system. If he could actually harness his power and exhibit more control, he would be near unhittable. Even with walking about 1 guy per inning, he still manages to more than hold his own. With the exception of 1 bad start out of 7, he has just confused hitters. He has only allowed 14 hits in total, which is spectacular, and held opposing batters to .152 batting average so far. He was a reliever until this spring, when he impressed the coaches so much, they decided to give him a shot at starting. I'll give him the benefit of doubt. He has not been pitching for that long, and his control should get better. However, there are some people that just cannot figure out how to throw the ball over the plate consistently. If everyone could figure it out, we would have a bunch of Tom Glavine's out there, which is clearly not the case. His control could do him in. In no capacity, short relief, starting, or closing can a pitcher average 9 walks per 9 innings and be successful. We will just have to see how he develops over the course of the year and hope he starts to gain more accuracy.
Matt Lindstom, Floyd Bannister, and Royce Ring