The New York Mets lost Johan Santana and never got him back, and that was about how the season went. The poor season sent Jose Reyes to the San Francisco Giants to begin the rebuilding effort for Zach Wheeler. As for minor leaguers already in the system, the Mets introduced a few, but the ones who made a difference were Lucas Duda and Dillon Gee. Duda, the poor man, had to listen to same intro song at every road game, but he continually made the opposition pay, hitting .292/.370/.482. While he may not hit that well moving forward, he now looks like a solid regular. Dillon Gee wasn’t quite as successful, pitching 160 slightly-lower-than-average innings, and I wouldn’t expect more than that moving forward, though there are worse things than cheap innings-eaters.
Moving down a level or two, the Mets didn’t have a whole lot more luck than the major-league team did. Matt Harvey pitched well, and he’s doing an excellent job of showing why the Mets drafted him so high a year ago. Jeurys Familia looks more and more like a starting pitcher, instead of a reliever. And it helps that the Mets added Wheeler.
But most of the other top prospects hit obstacles. Jennry Mejia was pitching well at AAA before going down and needing Tommy John surgery. Wilmer Flores didn’t hit, and it’s virtually a lock that he’ll have to move off of shortstop. Cesar Puello added more power, but he didn’t really produce at High-A. Aderlin Rodriguez showed the drawbacks to being a toolsy but unrefined player. And Reese Havens got hurt yet again.
It doesn’t look particularly good for the Mets. With Sandy Alderson and new ownership, the future outlook is more positive, but the current outlook isn’t rainbows. The farm system looks much of the same. There’s some enticing talent, however. Zach Wheeler and Matt Harvey, while they lack an ace ceiling, are potential middle- or front-of-the-rotation starters, and Jeurys Familia is looking more like that every day. Brandon Nimmo and Reese Havens have potentially bright future, though they each have obstacles (experience and injuries, respectively). The system, however, is shallow, and if they want to turn things around quickly, they’ll need essentially everyone to perform well … which is basically impossible.
Matt Harvey SP
Age/Level (as of 4/2012): 23/AA or AAA
When all else fails, choose the guy who’s birthday is one day away from yours. Harvey and Wheeler are both talented pitchers, but I’ll give the slight edge to Harvey for performing well and at a higher level. Harvey attacks hitters with a low-to-mid 90s fastball, a plus slider, a solid curveball (that’s best used sparingly but can be effective), and a fringe-average change-up that should improve. His mechanics are fairly decent, but he has some control issues due to a tendency to open his front shoulder a tad too fast, causing balls to sail up and to his arm side. The control problem is about the only thing that prevents an Elite tag, but it shouldn’t be a deterrent to him pitching in the middle of a big-league rotation.
Zach Wheeler SP
Projection: 2/3/4, Relief Ace
Wheeler could really stand to tone down his delivery. With limbs constantly moving and a pace that suggests Wheeler has to pee really badly, it’s no wonder Wheeler loses his control quite often. He, of course, has plenty of time to work on that, and he definitely has the stuff to pitch at the top of a rotation. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and scrapes even higher, and he adds a plus curveball, a fringe-average change-up, and a new cutter/slider. Even if he just has decent control, Wheeler can be a valuable starter, but if he can make it average or better, he could really be something.
Brandon Nimmo CF
Projection: 2+ WAR
Nimmo was kind of a surprise pick, but no one disagreed with it, considering Nimmo’s potential. Nimmo has plenty of tools, and while Mike Trout’s name was thrown out as a comparable, Nimmo has quite a bit of work to do to get there. He has a solid swing, but scouts aren’t sure how he’ll compete against good competition. Nimmo is an excellent athlete, though, and scouts see promise. With plus speed and a decent arm, Nimmo should remain in center, and as long as he stays there, the bat has plenty of time to develop.
Jenrry Mejia SP
Mejia will arrive a little late to AAA due to his recovery from Tommy John, but due to the recovery rate of that particular elbow surgery, he should retain his excellent stuff. Mejia launches a mid-90s fastball, a splitter/change-up that is a second plus pitch, and a solid curveball that should be an excellent third pitch. The right-hander has been jerked around a little bit, and it has affected his development. But he’s still young, and while they’ll have to wait a little for Mejia to get his command back, the Mets aren’t in a rush this time.
Reese Havens 2B
Projection: 2-4 WAR
Just stay healthy. That’s all he’s got to do. Havens brings a solid stick with a good approach, and his power might be a tick above average. And after switching to second, he looks like a solid defender. The only blemish on him is all the injuries that have prevented him from ever playing over 100 games in a season, and while you love the production he brings when he’s healthy, he’s not producing when he’s on the disabled list. If he can ever stay healthy, he might produce closer to the 4 WAR than the two, but when you get hurt this often, you wonder if there’s just something wrong in the machinery.
Jeurys Familia SP
Projection: 3/4, Relief Ace
After hitting a massive speed bump with a 5 BB/9 ratio in High-A in 2010, Familia bounced back with much better control in 2011, which led to a quick promotion to AA where he continued to pitch well. The question is how his command will do moving forward, and that’s not necessarily as encouraging. Familia looks pretty good most of the way through his windup, but his arm action is short and without much help from his lower body. To make things worse, he doesn’t really follow through all that well. This, however, overlooks a plus-plus fastball that regularly hits the upper-90s, and while the average to tick above curveball and decent change-up aren’t overwhelming, they’ve improved recently. And he’s only one day older than Mejia, and he has plenty of time to develop a bit more.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis OF
Age/Level: 24/AAA or MLB
Projection: 2-3 WAR
Nieuwenhuis never seems to get a lot of credit. Instead of focusing on what he can do (just about everything), everyone seems to focus on what he can’t (no plus tool). He might be a bit miscast in center, but he should be fine to above-average in a corner. The problem, however, may be that he can’t hit enough to be a starter in a corner, but he’s always hit and has hit plenty of doubles along with several home runs. While I think his ceiling is limited to a solid regular, I think that’s what he is, and even if he comes up short, he’s an ideal 4th outfielder. Now, he just needs to recover from shoulder surgery to his non-throwing shoulder.
Michael Fulmer SP
A supplemental round pick in the 2011 draft, Fulmer is a pretty typical high school righty. He starts with a low-90s fastball and a wicked slider, and he has essentially no change-up, which always saddens me. He’s a big, physical guy, but he has little projection left. His delivery is pretty solid, and I don’t foresee too many long-term control issues. That being said, Fulmer is mainly all imagination right now, and we’ll need a full season to get a good look at the young man and what he really is. He has a pretty high upside, though.
Wilmer Flores SS
Age/Level: 20/High-A or AA
Projection: 1-3 WAR
If Flores could stick at shortstop, there wouldn’t be so many concerns about his bat, but considering he will need to move to third and may need to move to right field or first base, the bat becomes more important. He rarely strikes out, but his aggressiveness also precludes him from A) drawing walks and B) getting good pitches to drive. He has the tools to hit, but he needs to understand how to use them, which he hasn’t yet. Considering he’s already slow, that move to a corner seems more and more likely, and Flores could really use some progress with the bat if he wants to play in the majors.
Cesar Puello OF
Projection: 1-3 WAR
Puello and Flores are in similar boats. They had near-identical discouraging slash lines, and they will both need their bats to play up if they want major-league jobs. Puello’s hitting skills are worse than Flores, but he has a similar power ceiling and could be valuable offensively. But he’s aggressive at the plate, leading to the same problems Flores has. Puello has a bit more athleticism, but as he grows, staying in center field becomes essentially impossible. It’s still to early to give up on Puello, but he’s got some work left to do.
Big Question – Competing in the East
It seems as though the AL and NL East are creating powerhouse divisions. While AL East domination is well-known, the NL East is somewhat quietly building a powerhouse of its own. The Phillies are already dominant, the Braves are good and have some young, impact talent, the Marlins seem hell-bent on spending to add onto a decent core, and the Nationals could end up being the best of all of them. That leaves the Mets, who are trying to figure out who they are. They aren’t good, but they have plenty of money and can afford to add necessary parts, though that would likely still leave them short. New York, however, isn’t known for being kind to rebuilding efforts, and the Mets might be inclined to go against their better judgment, which I think means trading David Wright if they can get a hefty return.