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Top 10 Prospects: The New York Mets

The New York Mets
2010 MLB Record: 79-83 (4th in the NL East)
Minor League Power Ranking: 27th (out of 30)
Click for: Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

The Prospects

1. Wilmer Flores, SS
Acquired: 2007 non-drafted free agent (Venezuela)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A/A+
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.5

Notes: Flores didn’t have a huge season at the plate but he spent much of the season playing A-ball at the age of 18. The right-handed hitter batted .278/.342/.433 in low-A and then moved up to high-A where he produced a line of .300/.324/.415. Flores was overly aggressive in high-A and saw his walk rate plummet from 7.5% at the lower level to 3.1%. His 36 doubles on the year hint at the raw power he possesses. His strikeout rates have been impressive (14.4% in high-A) given his age; hopefully he can maintain them as his power numbers spike. Flores hits with an open stance and is susceptible to balls on the outer half of the plate. He has a habit of pulling his head off of breaking balls. He also has a lot of movement in the hands, which he clearly uses as a timing mechanism. Flores is at his best when he maintains a level, line-drive stroke and avoids the upper cut. He has enough bat speed that he doesn’t need to generate loft by dropping the head of the bat. Look for his power numbers to spike when he buys into the approach. Flores doesn’t play with as much energy as you might expect from a top-of-the-line prospect and his lack of range will eventually move him off shortstop. He has good arm strength and could end up at third base or an outfield corner.

2. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF
Acquired: 2008 3rd round (Azusa Pacific U)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA
Opening Day Age: 23
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5

Notes: Nieuwenhuis hits from a crouch and has average bat speed, which limits his power potential and could see him end up with a similar profile to Reed Johnson. Like the former Jay and Cub, this Mets prospect will let things fly in the outfield and isn’t afraid to dive for balls. At double-A, the 23-year-old outfielder produced a solid line of .289/.337/.510 in 394 double-A at-bats and received a promotion to triple-A where he produced modest numbers in 120 at-bats. Nieuwenhuis showed good power numbers at double-A and posted an ISO rate of .221 but his homer totals in the Majors should sit between 15 and 20 during a full season. He could stand to improve his contact numbers after posting a strikeout rate of 23.6 K% in double-A and 32.5 K% in triple-A. Nieuwenhuis may end up in a platoon role unless he improves against southpaws.

3. Matt Harvey, RHP
Acquired: 2010 1st round (University of North Carolina)
Pro Experience: None
2010 MiLB Level: Did Not Play
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: Harvey was a top prep pitcher but he spurned the Angels’ offer when he fell in the ’07 draft due to signability concerns. His value dropped temporarily in college, but he rebuilt his game and ended up going in the first round of the 2010 draft. He has a whip-y arm action that appears to put stress on his shoulder and elbow, which could lead to injury problems down the road. He has little movement through his trunk and a long stride. Harvey pitches with a three-quarters arm slot more, which is clearly more conducive to throwing a slider than a curveball, which was his best pitch in high school and his freshman season in college. He fights his release point and loses his arm slot, which can cause control problems. His delivery and injury concerns could lead to him moving to the back end of the bullpen where he can focus on his mid-90s fastball and breaking ball. Harvey didn’t pitch in pro ball in 2010 and should open 2011 in high-A ball.

4. Juan Urbina, LHP
Acquired: 2009 non-drafted free agent (Venezuela)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: Rookie Ball
Opening Day Age: 17
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.0

Notes: Former Expos closer Ugueth Urbina‘s son Juan shows a ton of potential. But the teenager is still raw and his three-pitch repertoire has a ways to go before he’s ready for the upper levels on the minor leagues – let alone the Majors. The young Urbina shows the potential for above-average velocity for a southpaw and currently projects as a long-term starter. He has good control for a teenager and posted a walk rate of 2.61 BB/9 in rookie ball. Urbina does need to throw more quality strikes and improve his fastball command. For a young pitcher, he does a nice job of repeating his delivery. Along with his 86-90 mph fastball, Urbina also features a good changeup, but his breaking ball is still a work in progress.

5. Fernando Martinez, OF
Acquired: 2005 non-drafted free agent (Dominican Republic)
Pro Experience: 5 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.0

Notes: A former top international signee, Martinez has seemingly been around forever and may be growing stale in New York. A trade out of the organization could do wonders for his future but it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Mets considering that the prospect’s value is at an all-time low. It’s really not fair, as the outfielder posted respectable numbers at triple-A, especially considering that he’s still just 22 years old. Martinez produced a triple-slash line of .253/.317/.455 in 257 at-bats. He’s shown good power potential the past two seasons in triple-A with ISO rates topping .200. As he matures as a hitter, Martinez could hit 20-25 homers in the Majors but he’s going to want to make a little more consistent contact after posting a strikeout rate of 25.3% in 2010. He also needs to incorporate his legs a little bit more into his swing, as he’s currently relying on his hands and bat speed to generate power. Defensively, he’s a good corner outfielder with a solid arm, but his speed has diminished over the past few seasons, which has cut into his range. With parts of two seasons at triple-A now, it’s time for Martinez to show a little more consistency – and hopefully stay healthy for a full season.

6. Aderlin Rodriguez, 3B
Acquired: 2008 non-drafted free agent
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: Rookie/A
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5

Notes: Just 18, Rodriguez produced a solid triple-slash line of .312/.352/.556 in 250 at-bats in rookie ball. He even received a late-season 30-at-bat trial in low-A ball. He showed very good power potential and posted a .244 ISO rate; he shows enough raw pop to hit balls out of the park even when he doesn’t put a great swing on the pitch. Currently, he’s surviving on pure, and raw, athletic ability. There are a lot of areas of his game where he needs to make improvements – which is not surprising, given his age. Rodriguez would make even more contact if he did a better job of following the pitch into the catcher’s glove; he often pulls his head off of the pitch. He also shows a long, loopy swing at times and needs to keep the head of the bat through the strike zone for a longer period of time. Rodriguez also needs to improve against off-speed pitches as he gets out on his front foot and lunges at the ball. Defensively, a slow first step inhibits his range at the hot corner and he doesn’t show a ton of effort in this aspect of his game. There are some similarities to a young Edwin Encarnacion, although the Mets prospect has much more patience at the plate. If Rodriguez continues to develop, the organization could have something special here.

7. Reese Havens, IF
Acquired: 2008 1st round (South Carolina)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+/AA
Opening Day Age: 24
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Havens would probably be a little higher on the list if he had shown the ability to stay healthy and also had a true defensive home. The infielder has never had more than 360 at-bats in a season and has just 570 at-bats over his three-year pro career. We don’t have a ton of data to draw conclusions from but Havens has shown good patience with a career walk rate of more than 11%. He’ll need to make better contact after posting high strikeout rates. He has flashed promising power – a .175 ISO rate in 360 high-A at-bats in ’09. Havens hits with a wide, well-balanced stance, and has a quick bat. He does have a tendency to rock back and forth, which can throw off his timing. Havens holds his hands quite low in his stance and moving them up a bit might help him maintain a more level swing. Defensively, Havens has played both shortstop and second base in his pro career but profiles better at the keystone. There was talk at one point of moving him behind home plate, but that move now would slow his development down too much, as his bat is ready for double-A. Havens may never be more than an average fielder, thanks to stiff actions, but his bat has the chance to be above average. He could reach the Majors by the end of 2011 if he can stay healthy.

8. Cesar Puello, OF
Acquired: 2007 non-drafted free agent (Dominican Republic)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A ball
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0

Notes: The more you watch Puello, the more you like him. The young prospect showed good offensive potential in low-A ball in 2010 and hit .292/.375/.359 in 404 at-bats. Puello exploded in the second half of the season after he made adjustments to his batting stance and closed some holes in his plate coverage. Speed is the main strength of his game and Puello nabbed 45 bags on the year. He’ll need to show more on-base ability to take advantage of his legs, as he posted a walk rate of just 6.8 BB%. He has long strides while running and has good first-step quickness but he also excelerates well going first-to-third. He’s a solid defensive player who has played right field almost exclusively in his career. He certainly doesn’t have prototypical power for the position (.067 ISO rate in ’10) and projects to have 10-15 homer ability, at the very most. Consider him a sleeper for 2011 and he could zoom up the Mets’ top prospect list.

9. Cory Vaughn, OF
Acquired: 2010 4th round (San Diego State)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: A-
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5

Notes: Although it’s early in his career, there are definitely some parallels that can be drawn between Cory’s game and his father’s – long-time Brewer Greg Vaughn. Both possess massive power potential, although the younger Vaughn has a much different build than his father – he’s tall and has room on his frame to add muscle. Vaughn had a nice debut in short-season ball by hitting .307/.396/.557 in 264 at-bats. He showed a good eye at the plate, as well as patience, and posted a walk rate of 10.9 BB%. The high strikeout rate (23.9%) is a trade-off for the power (.250 ISO). His hands are a little too busy at the plate at times, which could hurt his ability to square up on the ball on a consistent basis. He gets out of the batter’s box quickly and shows solid base running abilities but he has average speed underway. Vaughn saw time in center field during his debut but is expected to fill out to the point where he’ll move to right field on a permanent basis. He’s a solid defensive fielder but his throws lack accuracy at times. If his offensive success continues in A-ball, Vaughn could move up prospect lists in 2011.

10. Robert Carson, LHP
Acquired: 2007 14th round (Mississippi HS)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+/AA
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0

Notes: Carson has developed nicely since being a less-heralded, mid-round draft pick out of high school. The lefty posted a 3.67 FIP in 86.1 high-A innings in 2010 before moving up to double-A where he struggled with a 5.38 FIP and saw his strikeout rate drop from 7.19 to 5.55 K/9. Right now, Carson lacks a consistent out-pitch, although he displayed an improved changeup in the Arizona Fall League. Carson fights his delivery at times, as well as his arm slot, which leads to inconsistent control – and command. When he’s on, he produces good ground-ball rates with a sinking fastball that sits 88-92 mph and has touched 94 mph. Carson also has a slider that needs more work. His delivery in the AFL looked a little bit different than that which he displayed in regular season ball, as he appeared to be stepping toward first base a little bit more before delivering the pitch. That created more deception. Carson does a nice job of staying tall through his delivery, uses his legs well, and doesn’t put much stress on his upper body or shoulder.