Already a middling farm system, the Mets' system took a big hit when GM Omar Minaya dealt right hander Yusmeiro Petit and first baseman Mike Jacobs to Florida for Carlos Delgado. Still, it was a smart trade, and the system still has some promising youngsters, led by CF Lastings Milledge. Whether or not Milledge is also dealt remains to be seen.
Having produced Jose Reyes, Aaron Heilman and David Wright, not to mention Scott Kazmir, in the past two years, the Mets' system continued to be productive, as the team gave big league debuts to first baseman Mike Jacobs and Anderson Hernandez. The recent influx of talent to the Major Leagues, the Delgado trade, along with injuries to Philip Humber and Shawn Bowman, thin out this top twenty prospect list.
The team still has some strong talent, most notably in Lastings Milledge, and once top pick Mike Pelfrey signs, they'll have a fast moving blue chip pitcher. This list could look a lot better with continued development by Carlos Gomez, Gaby Hernandez and Jesus Flores, along with a strong debut out of Dominican signee Fernando Martinez.
1. Lastings Milledge (CF)- Five tool talent with the stats to back it up, Milledge is far and away the top prospect in the system. Performed well in St. Lucie before raking after a promotion to Double A Binghamton, where he hit .337. He then went on to hit .330 in the Arizona Fall League. Though just 20 years old, has begun to show the adjustment making ability that will help him succeed at higher levels. Will be ready for the big leagues by the end of the season, though it remains to be seen where he'll show off his terrific tools.
2. Mike Pelfrey (RHP)- Once he signs, will be far and away the Mets' top pitching prospect. Was the top pitcher in the 2005 draft, falling to the Mets' at ninth overall due to signability concerns. Possesses an electric 92-97 mph fastball with heavy sink, a power breaking ball and a plus straight change. Should start in St. Lucie with a move up to Binghamton once the weather warms. Could see Shea before the close of the season.
3. Gaby Hernandez (RHP)- Mets were shocked when he fell into their laps during the third round of the 2004 draft and since then he has shot to the top of the class. Got off to a strong start at Class-A Hagerstown in 2005, where he went 6-1 with a 2.43 ERA in 92.2 IP, but struggled following a promotion to St. Lucie. Has an excellent sinker that sits in the 90-94 MPH range. Scouts rave about his poise on the mound and he could move fast through the system.
4. Carlos Gomez (RF)- The only player in the organization with tools to rival those of Milledge-- and perhaps even surpass him. A physically gifted five-tool talent, Gomez stands at 6'2 and has plenty of room to fill out, put on muscle and mature. At the tender age of 19, the Dominican right fielder hit .275 and stole 64 bases in his full season debut for Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League, relying on mere raw skill and instinct. He made big strides in refining his game, and looks to become a true blue chipper with another year of development.
5. Philip Humber (RHP)- The right-hander was selected with the third overall pick by the Mets in 2004's draft, and quickly became the organization's top pitching prospect. However, 2005 was a difficult year after struggling in his debut professional season with Hi-Class A St. Lucie. Despite his struggles, his "stuff" was still strong and he was promoted after strung together a few good starts. Humber then blew out his elbow in his first start after being moved up to Binghamton and underwent Tommy John surgery shortly thereafter. He relies on his trademark curveball as his out pitch and owns a fastball that sits in the 93-94 MPH and possesses plus command. Look for him to be back on a mound in game action by mid-July, early-August.
6. Fernando Martinez (CF)- The first product of GM Omar Minaya's Dominican pipeline revival, Martinez signed for $1.4 million as a sixteen year old. He's another five-tool talent, and he backs those tremendous gifts with an advanced understanding of the game. His best tool is his thunderous left handed bat, with a sweet swing and terrific power. Martinez was impressive in Fall Instructs after getting acclimated to life in the US, and may jump to Hagerstown to start the season.
7. Brian Bannister (RHP)- The former USC Trojan, and son of 1976 first overall pick Floyd Bannister, made a name for himself during the 2005 season. His best pitch is his curveball with excellent 12-6 rotation when it's on. He also has a fastball that sits in the 90’s and relies heavily on his command at the corners. Last season Brian made tremendous strides on both his slider and changeup, which have helped to form a very solid repertoire. Scouts love Bannister’s rave above his makeup. He’ll start 2006 in Triple-A Norfolk, with a call-up likely to the majors likely, and projects to a back-end of the rotation starter.
8. Alay Soler (RHP)- Finally in the United States after expatriating from Cuba in 2003, the Mets are hoping Soler makes good on the $2.8 million contract they gave him during the 2004 season. Soler boasts a low to mid 90's heater and a sharp slider that serves as his out pitch. Advanced and experienced, it shouldn't take much time before Soler is ready to contribute in New York.
9. Anderson Hernandez (2B)- The New York Mets acquired the hot-hitting infielder in a trade last season that shipped catcher Vance Wilson to the Detroit Tigers. Anderson is a free-swinging, high-average hitter who sprays the ball to all fields. He had a big year at Double-A Binghamton, hitting .326 (89-for-273) and earned a promotion to Norfolk mid-season where he continued the trend by posting a .303 average (79-for-261) in 66 games. He’ll push for a bench spot this spring-training, or even a starting job if the Mets cut ties with Kaz Matsui.
10. Jeff Keppinger (2B)- A high average hitter wherever he's gone, Keppinger was in the midst of hitting .337 with an incredible 16:13 BB:K ratio in 255 at bats when he broke his knee cap turning a double play for Triple A Norfolk. He possesses the ability to put nearly any pitch into play and an exceptional eye at the plate. A bit above average defensively at second, Keppinger is a strong in house option to play second at Shea if the Mets are able to rid themselves of Kaz Matsui.
11. Jesus Flores (C)- The Mets became extremely high on Flores after his unexpected performance during 2004 GCL season when he .320 and established himself as an excellent defensive catcher. The performance earned him a trip to Mets camp in Spring Training, where he broke his thumb in the last exhibition game against Washington. That and a lack of much playing time and instruction in the Spring led to a disappointing 2005 season with Hagerstown where he hit just .216 in 319 at bats and had an extremely poor 12:90 BB:K ration. His defense is there but scouts warn he’ll need a lot of work offensively, especially with pitch recognition.
12. Aarom Baldiris (2B)- Along with moving from third to second base, Baldiris showed his first real flashes of power in his Double A debut. Always known as a high average hitter with little pop, the 21-year old Venezuelan native reversed course a bit, launching season highs with 11 homers and 35 doubles, while batting a career low .275 for the season. He fell behind Anderson Hernandez and Jeff Keppinger on the organization's depth chart at second base, and where he starts 2006 should depend on what the Mets do with those two.
13. Matt Durkin (RHP)- The right-hander was selected with the team’s second round back in the 2004 draft out of San Jose State and made his professional debut last season with Hagerstown. It was an overall disappointing season for Durkin, who struggled with his command and saw a drop in his velocity from the 91-94 MPH range to the high 80s by year’s end. He has the “stuff” to become a quality pitcher, but it needs to be harnessed. His overall command needs improvement as does his curveball which tended to flatten. The organization is looking for Matt to have a strong start at Hi Class-A St. Lucie, where he’ll most likely begin 2006.
14. Brett Harper (1B)- With continually emerging power, Harper is an intriguing prospect. While he started out his career by hitting for a high average, rarely striking out and producing little pop, he's another Met prospect who has performed a 180. After putting up 20 homers in 239 first half at bats repeating St. Lucie, he faced his demons at Double A Binghamton, where he struggled in 2004. Unlike two seasons ago, Harper had success in Central New York, launching 16 more bombs. While he hit .280 in St. Lucie and .273 in Binghamton, he combined to strike out 149 times, including 84 in 227 at bats in Double A. At 24-years of age, time is running out for him to make adjustments to his very messy swing.
15. Mike Carp (1B)- Carp was considered highly by Mets officials when they took him in the ninth round of the 2004 draft, but they couldn't have expected him to put up the power he did in 2005, especially while making the jump to the full season Sally League. Before a broken hand ended his season prematurely, Carp's uppercut lefty swing produced 19 homers and 63 RBI in 313 at bats for the Hagerstown Suns. Even more impressive is that Carp was only 18-years old for most of the season. On the down side, he batted only .249 and struck out 96 times. Still, he's a hard worker that came back to dominate Fall Instructs, and is perhaps the Mets' best first base prospect. With Carlos Delgado now in tow, the Mets can take their time with his development.
16. Jon Niese (SP)- Signed for $175,000 after slipping to New York in the seventh round of this June's draft, Niese was projected to be a high round pick before a drop in velocity and signability concerns. That drop in velocity didn't deter him from winning his second straight Gatorade Ohio Player of the Year, with a 12-0 record and a .09 ERA. The Mets took a chance on him, and after signing, Niese rewarded them with a solid debut in the GCL, where he struck out 24 in 24.2 innings. His velocity jumped to 94 mph after working with team brass, and he also flashed a plus curve. He has the highest ceiling for a lefty starter in the Mets' system.
17. Evan Maclane (LHP)- The Mets grabbed the left-hander in the 25th round of the 2003 draft and have been enormously impressed with his development over the last three summers. Evan has often been compared to Tom Glavine, based upon how he doesn’t have an overpowering fastball – sits in the high 80s – and relies on command to the corners to set up his off-speed pitches. His changeup is an above average pitch, but he’ll need to improve on his curveball. Scouts are on the fence in regards to Maclane, with some bringing into question whether or not he can survive in an ML rotation with his fastball.
18. Shawn Bowman (3B)- Mets officials were preparing for a big, break out year out of Bowman at St. Lucie, but overwork, internal pressure and what turned out to be a broken vertebrae spoiled his season. Though it's unclear when he hurt his back, it ended his season in July. Coincidentally, Bowman put up his best numbers right before getting placed on the DL. When healthy, he's a plus defender at third and has very good raw power. One aspect of his game he must work on is his plate discipline, which has been his achilles heal thus far throughout his career. He might not be ready until the middle of Spring Training, but if he's healthy, he could start the year back at St. Lucie or in Binghamton.
19. Emmanuel Garcia (SS)- The nineteen-year-old, slick-fielding shortstop broke out in a big way during the 2005 Gulf Coast League season when he hit .339 and led the league in hits with 63. He doesn’t have a lot of raw power at this stage, but his 6’2, 180 pound frame allows for development. Many are impressed with his patience and ability to do the little things at such a young age. His arm strength is below average and a transition to second might be imminent. Emmanuel likely will start 2006 in Lo Class-A Hagerstown.
20. Matt Lindstrom (RHP)- After struggling badly as a starter in the first half of the season, the Mets finally moved Lindstrom to the bullpen, where he flourished. The right hander with a fastball touching triple digits struck out 36 in 40.1 innings out of the pen, and put up a 3.12 ERA. Lindstrom has yet to develop much control, which will handicap him. At 26 years old, he needs to put together a complete season of dominance.