Sizing Up The Outfield Prospects - Part One

Jamar Hill Has Improving Power

Inside Pitch analyzes the Mets' outfield prospects. Which outfield prospects have the highest upside? Which are the ones ready to make a Major League impact soon? These questions are answered in Part One of our two-part series on the Mets' outfield prospects.

Highest Ceiling

Lastings Milledge: Why not just start at the top, right? Lastings Milledge not only has the highest ceiling among the current Mets' outfield prospects, but he may have one of the highest ceilings of any Mets' outfield prospect - ever! Signability and off-the-field issues in high school caused Milledge to slip to the Mets with the 12th overall pick in the 2003 draft. Some Mets officials have noted that Milledge, despite being selected 12th overall, ranked atop their draft list that year, even higher than the #1 pick in that draft, Delmon Young.

You name it, Milledge can do it on a baseball field. He can hit for power and average, hitting .337 for the Bombers in 2004 (his first full professional season) and slugging .579 while batting leadoff! He has incredible speed, stealing 23 bases in 65 games for the Bombers - which would equate to 50 stolen bases over a full minor league season (he missed the first 6 weeks of the season with a broken hand). He is the best defensive outfielder, showing tremendous range in center field and already drawing comparisons to Mike Cameron for his Gold Glove caliber defensive ability. Milledge is also one of the best bunters around and has a plus arm in the outfield. He could hit first in the lineup with his speed or third/cleanup because of his raw power. The only negative to his game right now is his patience at the plate, which is not unusual for a teenager with just one full season of pro baseball under his belt.

Jamar Hill: Hill grew up in Alaska and missed out on a lot of important development time. So despite entering his fourth professional season in 2005, Hill's development is still in its infancy stage, which is truly a scary thought. Hill posted two good years in a row for the Kingsport Mets in the Appalachian League before having his breakout season with the Capital City Bombers in 2004 when he hit .272-26-89 with 20 stolen bases. He has drawn early comparisons to Reggie Sanders of the Cardinals, mostly because of his wiry and athletic build and wonderful combination of power and speed.

The Sanders' comparison is really not far off at all. Like Sanders, Hill is more of a hacker at the plate and does not project to hit for a very high average. Moreover, Hill has awesome athletic ability and he an absolute workout maniac in the gym. As powerful as he already is, Hill has the insatiable desire to improve his already demanding workout regimen and his power. He told InsidePitchMagazine.com that his goal is to hit 40 home runs in 2005! Even if he does not reach his goal, the fact that he's shooting for the stars gives every indication that he will not rest until he's the best.

Ambiorix Concepcion: Concepcion, formerly known as Roberto Solano, took the prospect scene by storm in 2004 by hitting .305-8-46 with 28 stolen bases in 66 games for the Brooklyn Cyclones. He was named the top prospect in the NY-Penn League by Baseball America for his efforts and is a true five-tool talent. Concepcion, despite playing only in the short-season leagues to date, was such a valuable commodity to the Mets that they protected him in the Rule V Draft this past offseason and put him on their 40-man roster so no other team would be able to pluck him away from the Mets - a true testament to his abilities!

There are some critics that are not sure whether or not Concepcion, who has had his fair share of problems with hitting breaking balls, will be able to have the same success at the higher levels. They'll point out that he does not project to be a .300 hitter at his peak. Whether or not Concepcion can make the necessary strides in his pitch recognition as he continues to develop remains to be seen. Regardless, Concepcion has one of the best arms in right field and the kid can flat out fly! At worst, Concepcion projects to be another Reggie Sanders type of player, giving the Mets another power-speed outfielder. Concepcion has All-Star talent.

Alhaji Turay: Beloved by his teammates, Turay is not only one of the more talented outfield prospects around, but one of the more frustrating ones as well. Despite having one of the more powerful swings in the Mets' system, Turay hasn't been able to avoid the injury bug the last couple of seasons and remain on the field long enough to put up the ridiculous numbers he is so capable of achieving. In fact, Turay has played in the long season leagues each of the last two seasons but has only averaged 85.5 games played per season.

As noted above, Turay is one of the premiere power hitters in the Mets' farm system. He hit 16 home runs in 2004 for the St. Lucie Mets in the Florida State League, a notorious pitchers' league. As impressive as his power production was, it came in just 308 at-bats! Like Hill, Turay is a free-swinger and has not shown the best patience at the plate. He projects to hit in the .260-.280 range. Despite being built like a middle linebacker, Turay is an athletic player with good speed (he has 25 stolen bases in the last two seasons). He also has a good enough arm to play right field, but with the Mets' depth at that position, Turay mans left field - where's a solid defensive player. Think Carlos Lee for a good Major League comparison.

Carlos Gomez: Gomez is just 19-years old with one year of short-season baseball under his belt. So he has a ways to go in reaching his potential. But as far as potential goes, Gomez has one of the highest ceilings among the Mets' outfield prospects. His game resembles that of Ambiorix Concepcion at the current time. Like Concepcion, Gomez can hit for power and average. He has a ton of speed and he is blessed with a tremendous arm. In fact, Gomez's arm may actually be better than Concepcion's, which is really saying something. It is still way early in his development, but Gomez has already displayed five-tool talent.

Bobby Malek: Malek is an interesting prospect. He could qualify not only as a high ceiling guy, but could also rank as "Closest to the Majors" and a possible "Sleeper". Two years removed from elbow surgery, Malek had a breakout season in 2004, hitting .266-13-58 with 15 stolen bases for the St. Lucie Mets. While the numbers may not jump off the page, the fact that Malek showed his five-tool ability in a pitchers' league can not be ignored. He has the talent to improve on his numbers and have an even better year in 2005. He may not have the five-tool talent of Lastings Milledge, but Malek projects to be a Mark Kotsay type of player. Malek gives the Mets five legitimate five-tool prospects at the outfield position and he should be a mainstay at the Major Leagues for many seasons.

Closest to the Majors

Victor Diaz: Whether or not Diaz wins a job with the Mets out of Spring Training this season, the bottom line is Diaz is ready for the Major Leagues right now, offensively. Diaz proved he could hit at the highest minor league level, hitting .292-24-94 for the AAA-Norfolk Tides in 2004. Sure he strikes out a bit too much (133 K's in 141 AAA games last season) and he may not be ready for right field, defensively. But with two minor league batting titles to his credit and a career .310 batting average in the minors, Diaz has little to prove offensively at the minor league level. Diaz appears destined for AAA-Norfolk in 2005 but will be the first one called up to Shea should the need for a full-time outfielder arise.

Angel Pagan: Some scouts believe Pagan was a five-tool talent when he was a 4th round pick out of Puerto Rico back in the 1999 MLB Draft. However, the Mets have had Pagan focusing more on his "small ball" skills, improving his bunting and speed. A career .285 hitter in five minor league seasons, Pagan is a speedster with a knack for getting on base. He has averaged 34 stolen bases per year the last two seasons after stealing a career-high 62 bags in 2002. He can play all three outfield positions and projects to be a solid fourth outfielder, at minimum. Pagan should be in Norfolk next season.

Wayne Lydon: Lydon is not as polished a hitter as Angel Pagan. A career .261 hitter, Lydon has a lot more speed than Pagan however. In fact, Lydon is arguably the fastest player in the entire Mets' farm system. He has averaged better than 75 stolen bases per year over the last three seasons. Lydon has also improved his power that last two seasons, steadily improving his extra base hits each of the last three seasons. Like Pagan, Lydon projects to be a solid fourth outfielder some day. Think Tom Goodwin for a good MLB comparison.

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