Mid February brought the much touted Johan Santana to the NY Mets but what does that mean for the parent club’s affiliates? Many pundits would have you believe the building blocks for the future were shipped off to Minnesota in the deal (see Gomez, Guerra, Humber, and Mulvey) leaving the coffers depleted. Is this truly the case? Is there any hope here in Bingo town this summer? To hear what Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com thinks of this situation click the link to the right.
The Mets will be the first to say that reports of the farm system's demise following the Johan Santana deal have been greatly exaggerated.
Yes, the Mets gave up four of their top 10 or so prospects in the deal for the left-hander. Yes, they lost other talented Minor Leaguers in deadline deals last summer. But the cupboard, they insist, is not bare.
It certainly ain't what it used to be, no matter how it's portrayed. But that's life in New York, where winning now is Rule No. 1 and the farm system is developed for trade purposes.
The good news is that the Mets did not have to part with Fernando Martinez in that deal, and the uber-prospect is poised to break out in 2008, with the possibility of joining Santana in New York before season's end not so far-fetched.
There are some other intriguing names still around, but in many ways the system's success centers around how quickly F-Mart can realize his ridiculous potential.
Ten prospects to watch out for in 2008:
Wilmer Flores, SS
Since Omar Minaya took over as general manager, the Mets have been extremely active on the Latin American scouting front. Flores is the latest high-profile prospect to join the system and the Mets are very excited about what he can do, especially after a strong showing at instructs.
Flores is lean and tall and his best tool is undoubtedly his bat, drawing comparisons to a Miguel Cabrera when he first began his pro career. He'll stay at shortstop for now, but there's a chance he'll grow out of the position and end up at third. It's up in the air where he'll begin the year and the Mets will use Spring Training to determine if he's ready to go to Savannah on Opening Day or if having him stick around in extended spring training makes more sense.
Eddie Kunz, RHP
The Mets didn't have a pick in last year's draft until the supplemental first round (No. 42 overall) and they used it to take Kunz, the big right-handed closer out of Oregon State. He struggled a bit in his pro debut and in the Arizona Fall League, but considering he had helped OSU win its second straight national title, he gets a bit of a mulligan.
At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Kunz has tremendous presence and likes to be on the mound in pressure situations. His fastball, which sits in the mid-90s, works as a power sinker and has plenty of movement. He also throws a slider and can throw a changeup. The Mets drafted him in the hopes he'd move quickly and that's still the plan, with the right-hander likely to begin the year with Double-A Binghamton.
Fernando Martinez, OF
In some ways, the key to the Johan Santana deal was the fact that New York did not have to give up its top prospect. Martinez is a natural hitter, the kind of talent the Mets feel comes around once in a generation.
Martinez missed a lot of time in 2007 with a broken hamate bone, but he's completely healthy and he showed up to camp this spring with the goal of reaching the big leagues this season -- before he turns 20. He has the ability to hit for average and power and can run, though as he fills out, that might not be the best of his five tools. His makeup is off the charts -- he's worked tirelessly at improving his English and is willing to do what it takes to become great. He'll start the year at Binghamton and the Mets won't get in the way of his talent. If he stays healthy and produces the way he's capable, he could see New York before season's end.
Scott Moviel, RHP
There's no doubt Moviel, the Mets' second-round pick last June, will stand out in a crowd. At 6-foot-11, that much is certain. It also seems like the kid can pitch a little.
Moviel has proven to be extremely coordinated and athletic, especially considering his size. He throws three pitches -- fastball, changeup and breaking pitch -- and he's got plenty of potential for increased velocity. The breaking ball is what needs the most work; right now, it's a curve and he'll continue to develop it. Though he's just out of high school, his athleticism should help him handle a full-season assignment in Savannah.
Daniel Murphy, 3B There are some players who simply are hitters, and the Mets feel Murphy fits in that category. Taken in the 13th round of the 2006 draft out of Division II Jacksonville University, Murphy had his pro career slowed in his debut summer due to injuries. He bounced back with a solid, if unspectacular, year in St. Lucie for his full-season debut and played well in Hawaii Winter Baseball.
The left-handed-hitting Murphy's got a line drive stroke that produced 11 homers and 34 doubles in the Florida State League, and there might be more power to come. Primarily a third baseman, he'll get some work at first and even some in the outfield to increase his flexibility and give the organization more options. He'll work on becoming an offensive-minded utility guy with Binghamton this season.
Jonathan Niese, LHP
Niese showed up to Spring Training a year ago about 30 pounds overweight and paid the price for much of the season in St. Lucie as he tried to get in shape and then readjust to his body. He took better care of himself as the season wore on and had the results to show for it (a 2.62 ERA in six August starts).
Now taking conditioning and, more importantly, nutrition seriously, Niese was in tip-top shape this spring and has looked very sharp. He's got a very smooth delivery and repeats his mechanics well. hat enables him to throw his fastball, changeup and his best pitch, a 12-to-6 curve, for strikes at any point in the count. With the lesson learned, Niese could step up and help fill the void left by the departures of Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra. He'll begin the year in Binghamton's rotation.
Robert Parnell, RHP
People look at the right-hander and see his power arsenal -- fastball/slider -- and the fact that his third pitch, a changeup, is behind the other two and say he belongs in the bullpen. He throws in the low- to mid-90s and can touch 97 mph, and there's little doubt that in a short relief role, he'd be in the upper-90s consistently.
But here's the thing. Parnell can maintain his velocity deep into games and that's something that isn't easily found. So the Mets are inclined to leave him in a rotation, at least for now, so he can continue to work on all of his pitches and stay in the same routine. He'll do that in Binghamton, and perhaps after this year, if the changeup doesn't come around, a switch will be made.
Francisco Pena, C
The Mets were aggressive with Pena and several other international signees last year and Savannah's roster was full of teenagers. The son of Tony Pena, Francisco started out like he'd handle the transition just fine, hitting .278 in April and .256 in the first half.
Then the wheels fell off and Pena saw first-hand just how long a full season is. He hit just .166 after the break and clearly was out of gas. He learned how important staying in shape, eating well and resting is over the long haul of a pro season. He'll go back to Savannah for another try and, since he'll be just 18 all year, it's not like he's fallen behind the curve.
Brant Rustich, RHP
Another big right-hander with arm strength, the Mets got Rustich out of UCLA with a second-round pick. A reliever in college who had issues with a finger injury, Rustich has been working this spring to convert into a starter, something he did at the beginning of his up-and-down college career.
The 6-foot-6 right-hander does have the stuff to succeed, with a fastball, slider and split-finger fastball. Command was an issue for much of his college career, but he was a strike-thrower during his pro debut last summer. The Mets say they were planning on making Rustich into a starter all along -- that is wasn't a reaction to the Santana trade -- but just took it easy on him last summer after a long college year. Whatever the case, he'll join a rotation in April, either St. Lucie's or Binghamton's, depending on how he takes to the transition.
Nathan Vineyard, LHP
The Mets feel they made up for a lack of a true first-round pick by getting a talent like Vineyard in the supplemental first round. The teenager out of Georgia came highly recommended by scout Sandy Johnson. And when Johnson talks, people tend to listen.
Vineyard's got a good three-pitch mix with a fastball, slider and changeup to go with a poise and maturity far beyond his years. With smooth mechanics and a competitive streak, he's making a very easy transition to the pro game. That's why the Mets likely will not have any problem sending him to full-season Savannah to start the year.