Having lost Scott Kazmir, Matt Peterson, and Justin Huber in the bizarre deadline deals that netted the Mets Kris Benson and Victor Zambrano last July, the Mets’ system doesn’t look good. They don’t have many players with the potential even to be big-league regulars, and what decent players they do have are a long way from the majors.
The top prospect is Lastings Milledge, a 19-year-old center fielder who destroyed Low-A ball last year, posting a .337 BA/.399 OBA/.579 SLG line at Capital City while stealing 23 bases. Milledge ranks just below the elite prospects in the game, and has the potential to be a future All-Star, but he’s no sure thing.
A 26/71 BB/K ratio in 342 at-bats last year is acceptable, but needs to improve. The problem isn’t so much that he doesn’t walk enough as that a ratio like that combined with a high BA shows he was getting by on physical talent. Older and more sophisticated pitchers are going to expose him if he doesn’t develop his eye as he moves up the ladder. Milledge could be Vladimir Guerrero; he could be Ruben Rivera. It’s hard to know which right now.
Just below Milledge is a similarly flawed prospect, pitcher Yusmeiro Petit (above). A righthander with an average-at-best fastball, Petit has posted a 2.23 ERA and struck out 12 men per 9 innings in 214 minor league innings; he’ll start the year in Double-A having just turned 20 in November. There are no holes in his statistical profile – he doesn’t walk anybody, he allows few home runs, and he’s been young for his leagues.
The problem, actually, is that his numbers are so cartoonishly good that they’re easily discounted. It may turn out that Petit is simply advanced at some aspects of the game compared to the young hitters in A-ball, and that more advanced hitters, less fooled by whatever trickery he’s using to post huge strikeout totals with a weak fastball, will expose him. It also may turn out that Petit is a right-handed Sid Fernandez. This year will be telling.
Past these two, there isn’t much. Baseball America rates Gaby Hernandez as the Mets’ third-best prospect; he’s an 18-year-old pitcher who hasn’t played full-season ball yet, so he’s not really anyone to count on. Ambiorix Concepcion, the next best prospect, is an outfielder, three years older than Hernandez, who hasn’t played full-season ball yet either. And so it goes with most of the players in the system: They’re old for their levels, have serious questions about their physical skills or their performance, or, in most cases, just aren’t very talented.
When appraising the Mets’ farm system, it’s important to remember that it’s not fair to hold the absence of Wright and Reyes from the system against the Mets. Were those two preparing to enter Triple-A this year, the Mets would get a much higher mark; it’s hard to see how the fact that these two were ready for the majors when they were so young reflects badly on the Mets’ scouts or developmental staff. Nonetheless, the fact remains that aside from Milledge and Petit – risky bets both – the Mets don’t have anyone in the system who looks to have a chance to turn into an All-Star.
So what is to be done? Basically, Minaya needs to leave the system alone and stop trading minor leaguers. On both counts, things look sketchy. After arriving in Flushing this off-season, Minaya demoted top scout Jack Bowen and brought in his own man, Russ Bove, who was with him when he ran the Montreal Expos. Given that organization’s barren farm system, that’s not a cause for confidence.