The New York Mets minor league system sits in the middle-of-the-pack talent wise. There is some depth, but there are a limited number of high-ceiling players. A lot of the top-level talent comes from players acquired during the 2008 draft.
Jonathon Niese was drafted out of high school in the seventh round of the 2005 draft by the Mets and it looks like the move is about ready to pay off for the organization. The southpaw split the 2008 season between Double-A and Triple-A, while also making a three-game appearance at the Major League level. Niese spent most of the year in Double-A where he allowed 118 hits in 124.1 innings of work and posted rates of 3.18 BB/9 and 8.11 K/9. This spring, Niese has struggled with his command and control but he should be one of the first pitchers recalled if an injury strikes the starting rotation. He has an 87-91 mph fastball, plus curveball and change-up.
Bobby Parnell is another young pitcher who has a chance of impacting the Mets’ big-league roster in 2009. Parnell, though, is likely headed to the bullpen despite spending most of his pro career in the rotation. Like Niese, Parnell spent time at three levels in 2008 but spent the majority of his season in Double-A. The right-hander allowed 126 hits in 127.2 innings of work and posted rates of 4.02 BB/9 and 6.52 K/9. He made six appearances out of the bullpen for the Mets and posted a 5.40 ERA despite allowing just three hits in five innings. He is being considered for a bullpen spot this spring, even though his control has been below average. Parnell’s repertoire includes a fastball that can hit the upper 90s, a good slider and a change-up.
Eddie Kunz was nabbed by the Mets in the supplemental first round of the 2007 draft out of Oregon State University. Kunz was a desirable commodity because he was expected to be near-MLB ready after his college career but he has been inconsistent so far in pro ball, thanks in part to poor control. He did have a solid time in Double-A in 2008, though, and allowed just 39 hits in 48.1 innings. Kunz also posted rates of 4.66 BB/9 and 8.01 K/9. He struggled in brief stints at both Triple-A and the Majors and will continue to work on his control in the minors in 2009.
If you don’t know who Fernando Martinez is, then you haven’t been following the Mets’ minor league system for very long. The Dominican outfielder has been among the system’s top prospects since he came to North America in 2006 as a 17 year old. Martinez rose as high as Double-A at the age of 18 and has spent the last two (injury-filled) seasons at that level. He has just 588 at-bats at Double-A in two years. In 2008, Martinez hit .287/.340/.432 with eight home runs and six stolen bases. For his value to really skyrocket, he’ll need to add more power to his game, but he is still young. Defensively, if he continues fills out and lose a step or two, Martinez will likely move from center to left field. He should spend most of the year in Triple-A.
Nick Evans will be familiar to most Mets fans because he appeared in 50 games for the club in 2008, but retains his rookie eligibility because he had just 109 at-bats. He hit .257/.303/.404 with just two home runs. Evans, 23, played in the Majors earlier than anyone thought he would be after injuries struck the big league club. He’s likely headed back down to the minors to continue developing his game at Triple-A. Evans needs to learn to make use of his power more consistently in game situations, and he also needs to be more patient at the plate after walking just seven times in his debut (6.0 BB%).
Wilmer Flores, 17, has the potential to be an outstanding player after hitting .310/.352/.490 in 245 rookie ball at-bats in 2008 as a 16-year-old shortstop. It was an even more impressive performance considering that it was his first year in North America too. The Venezuelan also earned a few at-bats in short-season ball and A-ball, which is where he will likely spend the 2009 season. Defensively, he should move off shortstop to third base in the next two seasons. Flores’ power should develop enough to make him an impact player at that position as well.
Brad Holt is already being considered the steal of the 2008 draft, having been selected in the supplemental first round out of college. The right-hander posted a 1.87 ERA (2.62 FIP) with 43 hits allowed in 73.1 short-season innings. He also posted rates of 4.11 BB/9 and 11.94 K/9. Holt’s repertoire includes a fastball that can touch the high 90s but his secondary pitches – a slider and change-up – are lacking, which could cause him to struggle at higher levels. Holt will definitely begin the 2009 season in either High-A or possibly even Double-A.
Jenrry Mejia and Jefry Marte are two more impressive Latin-America finds for the Mets. Mejia, a right-handed starting pitcher, allowed 42 hits in 56.2 short-season innings in 2008. The 19 year old posted rates of 3.65 BB/9 and 8.26 K/9 and should begin 2009 in A-ball. Marte, 17, is a powerful third-base prospect who hit .325/.398/.532 with 14 doubles and four homers in 154 rookie ball at-bats last year. Defensively, he is athletic enough to remain at the hot corner long term.
Both Reese Havens and Ike Davis were selected out of college ahead of fellow 2008 draftee Holt but they both struggled. Havens, who could end up as a catcher or second baseman, struggled with injuries and failed to appear in a regular season game. Davis appeared in 58 games but was a huge disappointment by hitting just .256/.326/.326 with no home runs and just 17 RBI.
Up Next: The Toronto Blue Jays
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