A blog dedicated to the New York Mets with some other baseball thrown in.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Farm Daze

One unspoken benefit of re-signing Leiter is that if the Mets aren't contending at the trading deadline next season, he could be dealt to bulk up an over-hyped farm system that has been exposed as injuries mounted and quality replacements weren't available. NYDaily News, September 21st

That comment got me to thinking. Are things as bad as most people think after Black Friday?

The Mets did do some damage when they traded off Justin Huber, Scott Kazmir, Matt Peterson, and Jose Diaz, but they still have a lot of value down there. The point about an over-hyped farm system not having the resources to fill in with quality replacements is just not completely right. The Mets had a weak farm system up until 2002 really. That is the year that they drafted Aaron Heilman and David Wright and it really was the year that it seemingly turned things around.

BA Top 10 for the Mets in 2001

1) Alex Escobar, of
2) Pat Strange, rhp
3) Brian Cole, of
4) Timo Perez, of
5) Grant Roberts, rhp
6) Enrique Cruz, 3b/ss
7) Nick Maness, rhp
8) Billy Traber, lhp
9) Tsuyoshi Shinjo, of
10) Dicky Gonzalez, rhp

Try not too laugh at that one.

Now for 2002

1) Aaron Heilman, rhp
2) Alex Escobar, of
3) Jose Reyes, ss
4) Pat Strange, rhp
5) Billy Traber, lhp
6) Jae Weong Seo, rhp
7) David Wright, 3b
8) Grant Roberts, rhp
9) Jaime Cerda, lhp
10) Neal Musser, lhp

Now we are getting somewhere. There are few guys who may be superstars in Reyes, Wright, and Kazmir along with guys like Seo, Roberts, and Cerda who proved they can be productive major leaguers. Then you also have Heilman, Strange, Traber, and Musser who are all still in mix for future spots in the major leagues.

2003

1) Jose Reyes, ss
2) Scott Kazmir, lhp
3) Aaron Heilman, rhp
4) David Wright, 3b
5) Justin Huber, c
6) Matt Peterson, rhp
7) Pat Strange, rhp
8) Jaime Cerda, lhp
9) Bob Keppel, rhp
10)Craig Brazell, 1b

This top ten was good enough to make most GMs drool.

2004

1) Kazuo Matsui, ss
2) Scott Kazmir, lhp
3) David Wright, 3b
4) Matt Peterson, rhp
5) Lasttings Milledge, of
6) Justin Huber, c
7) Bob Keppel, rhp
8) Jeremy Griffiths, rhp
9) Victor Diaz, of
10 Craig Brazell, 1b

This top ten is just full blown top prospects all over.

The Mets rebuilt their farm system starting in 2002 basically. So the obvious problem is that the prospects they were stocking up with were all young. The comment should have been their upper level has been exposed, because the lower levels seemingly have a treasure trove of talent and things are going to start translating in 2005 to top tier talent into higher levels. The Mets have a farm system that should allow them keep infusing youngsters into the big club for years to come.

In the outfield their three most promising prospects are Lastings Milledge, Ambiorix Concepcion, and Victor Diaz. Both Lastings and Ambiorix are tool laden guys that can do it all but a still a few years away. Lastings is the clear cream of the crop when it comes to all Met position players in the minor leagues and Ambiorix made a name for himself with his 2004 campaign. In 2005 Lastings should start at St. Lucie with a possible promotion to Binghamton at some point in the year if he keeps steadily improving. Ambiorix should start at Hagerstown next season. Victor Diaz may very well be the most accomplished and best bat in all of the Met minor league system. His low walk rate is cause for some concern, but his two batting titles and 24 homeruns at AAA make me overlook that. Victor would most likely be vying for a major league job in 2005 for most teams since he is major league ready by many accounts. However, for the 'win now' and zero tolerance for rookie stance the Mets have adopted combined with their veteran oriented preference, he will most likely be in Norfolk in 2005.

There is also a next tier of outfield prospects. Jamar Hill, who is rather old for low A ball, but he still smashed 26 homeruns and knocked in 89 RBIs, Wayne Lydon, Angel Pagan, Ron Acuna, who a career .300 hitter, Jeff Duncan, Jesus Gamero, Ryan Harvey, Caleb Stewart, Seth Pietsch, and Carlos Gomez, who just just named a the 18th most promising prospect in the GCL by Baseball America because he oozes tools.

The infield has two top tier talents in Aarom Baldiris and Ian Bladergoen. Baldiris is a third baseman right now, but he projects to move over to second base eventually due to his lack of power. Baldiris has managed to hit over .300 at every minor league stop with the exception of his short sint at AA to finish the season. Aarom also has very good discipline as evidenced by his .383 career OBP. Aarom will start 2005 with Binghamton. Ian became an offense monster in 2004. He hit for power, average, and had a strong OBP. He certainly may be the Mets first baseman of the future, unfortunately, not the near future. He got injured before he could finish the year but should start in St. Lucie in 2005 and is most likely going to be moved through the system quickly if he keeps terrorizing pitching. I'm not incredibly concerned about a lack of infield prospects since the Mets have Wright and Reyes manning the left side of the infield for the forseable future and they are looking to add Kendry Morales if they can.

The infield also includes some second tier prospects in Brett Harper, Craig Brazell, Nicholas Evans, Shawn Bowman, Blake Whealy, and Tyler Davidson. Also let us not forget that Danny Garcia and Jeff Keppinger are showing some worth for future utility and back roles coming out of the system and the system has just produced two superstars on the left side in Jose Reyes and David Wright.

As for catchers, only one is close to major league ready and he is not held in high regard as a defensive catcher. Mike Jacobs, who missed most of 2004 with an injury is more of an offensive oriented catcher that owns a smooth lefty stroke. The rest of the catching prospects are more defense oriented. Yunir Garcia, who still hit over .300 this year, Aaron Hathaway, and 19 year old Jesus Flores, who was named as the 16th best prospect in the GCL and according to BA he is already regarded as the best defensive catcher in the Mets System, round out the Mets top catching prospects and all of them are solid catching prospects.

The Pitching took a hit with the losses of Diaz, Kazmir, and Peterson, but between the Mets drafting heavy on pitching in 2004, signing Alay Soler, and the emergence of Yusmeiro Petit as an uber prospect helped to pad those losses. Starting pitching is still the organization's deepest pool of talent. Humber, who according to himself owns a curveball that is "the best in the country", may be the best prospect the Mets have once he inks and may not be far off Scott Kazmir's talent level. He can throw four pitches and has his fastball sit in the 90-94 range and it can touch 97. Soler's power arm sounds promising and nicely fills a need for more power starters in the system. Both of them should start at either St. Lucie or possibly even Binghamton for 2005 and both Soler and Humber will most likely rocket through the system like Tim Stauffer barring any injuries. Matt Durkin, Gabby Hernandez, and Scott Hyde were other promising pitchers signed in the 2004 draft. Gabby had a stellar performance in the Gulf Coast League and was named by BA as the 2nd best prospect in the GCL. Gabby should be reporting to Brooklyn for the opening of the 2005 season. Hyde pitched at Brooklyn this year and may get a few more starts there before getting placed into Hagerstown. Durkin will most likely start off at Brooklyn for his first taste of pro ball. That leaves us with the already in house pitching talents Yusmeiro Petit and Bobby Keppel. Petit is going to get a chance to dominate AA for about 10 starts before getting promoted to AAA. Keppel is going to have an entire off season to get healthy for his 2005 AAA campaign so he can re-establish himself as a solid pitching prospect. He will still be only 23 in the 2005 season and is well on track despite have an injury riddled 2004.

After that group of top tier talents, there is my dark horse pick Matt Lindstrom, who owns a mid to high 90's fastball that can touch 100 mph. He is still trolling around in A ball, but he could possibly make an appearance in Binghamton in 2005. Lindstrom has a lot of control for a guy who throws as hard as he does as his 2.00 W/9 indicates. That is a number that has been getting better and has vastly improved since 2003. After his promotion from Cap City to St. Lucie, his K/9 dropped from 10.29 to 5.65, which is cause for concern, but not enough body of work to really focus too much on it. He is currently a starter, but with an arm like that and being able to harness it, his fastest track to the majors may be through the bullpen. When a player has that type of stuff, he has the ability to be very successful in short stints while making it to the majors very quickly.

Outside of the above mentioned players, the Mets have Aaron Heilman, Pat Strange, Neal Musser, Jason Scobie, Miguel Pinango, Kevin Deaton, Brian Bannister, and Evan MacLane.

As for relief pitchers, I have a hard time getting excited about them unless they are of Huston Street's skill level. The Mets really do not have many top tier relievers to get too excited about anyway. Linstrom may actually end up being a devastating reliever in the long run due to the organizations depth in starting pitching and lack of depth in top flight relievers. I also know there are a lot of Blake McGinley fans out there, but the fact is that he is 26 and finally made is AAA debut this year. The one good thing that he has going for him is the fact that he uses his left hand to throw the ball. The Mets also have PJ Bevis, Kole Strayhorn, and Royce Ring who may end up being usefull major leaguers. Also, it cannot be overlooked that Mets still had guys like Tyler Yates, Heath Bell, Orber Moreno, and Jose Parra pitch and be successful out of the bullpen for the major league club in 2004. On top of that, Bartolome Fortunado has been added into the mix who has shown flashes of being a solid reliever. So the bullpen situation within the organization is not really in bad shape in terms of overall depth, but the system is lacking a dominator or two.

The Mets do still own a very good farm system. The loss of four of their top ten prospects via trade and two to the major league roster would have seemingly done more damage than has been done. The loss of Kazmir and Huber cannot be glossed over, but with a strong 2004 draft, the emergence of some players within the organization, and international signings, the Mets may actually have a deeper system than last year. After the top prospects in 2004, things got thin really quick. The Mets had the 10th highest ranked farm system based on the impact players that they possessed. Most of the impact players are gone and new ones have certainly emerged. Yusmeiro Petit has taken larger strides than anyone could have ever hoped for and should be considered a top ten prospect out of the entire minor leagues. Ian Bladergroen emerged as a triple crown threat in the minor leagues and Lastings Milledge has put up some numbers that are making people believe he is the real deal. The Mets had five players ranked in the top 100 for all of the minor leagues to begin 2004, and they should have four or five again next year. The Tides were not exactly full of productive players for a really long time, but they will start to show up in 2005. Guys like Humber, Soler, Petit, Danny Garica, Jacobs, Keppel, Baldiris, Brazell, Lydon, and Victor Diaz could all be on the Tides roster in 2005 providing some immediate help on the major league level should injuries arise. The rebuilding of a farm system does not happen over night and the results of all the work over the years to rebuild are finally showing. The Mets will have promising and talented players through every level of the organization and they have some as good as any around. Things are not as bad as one might think on the farm and the depth is probably better than it has been for as long time.

* * *

  • Hidalgo on next year's coaching situation:

    "I really want to know who it is," Hidalgo said. "If I'm here, it's important for me to know."

    Umm..take your .232 August batting average and your .141 September batting average and do not let the door hit you on the way out.

    Richard has hit .341 in April, .202 in May, .236 in June, .294 in July, .232 in August, and .141 in September so far. See a pattern? One good month that is followed by two bad months. Anyone that thinks he should be in right field next year is crazy. I'd rather see Diaz out there.

  • David Wright was named the Sterling Organizational Player of the Year, the top award for the Mets' minor-league system. Fellow Futures Game participant Yusmeiro Petit, who finished the year at Double-A Binghamton, was named Pitcher of the Year. CF Lastings Milledge, a first-round pick in 2003, won the rookie award.

  • Kaz and Reyes could be back this weekend vs. the Cubs at Shea.

  • Does anyone else think it is weird that after such a good year in Capital City, the team bolts to the Red Sox to switch club affiliation? I guess it really does not matter too much, but it is strange. I guess the Red Sox put up more cash. Anyway, welcome to your low A ball Hagerstown Suns.



    This guy will fit in just perfectly with Mr. Met. Dare I say this may be a match made in heaven?

    UPDATE: Baseball America has some more info on the reasoning behind the move.

  • Speaking of Mr. Met, he ended reserve duty at Guantanamo Bay almost two years ago.

    WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2002 -- "Mr. Met," the orb-headed icon of the New York Mets baseball team, used to be none other than an Army Reserve officer engaged in the global war against terrorism.

    I'd like someone to show me someone more American than Mr. Met...go ahead, try.

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