Tool Time: Top Ten Hitters For Average

Fernando Martinez Is The Top Left-Handed Hitter analyzes the top hitters in the Mets' system, ranking the top ten who project to hit for the highest averages at the Major League level. With five of our top ten from last year's list no longer in the farm system, or losing their rookie status, this year's edition has some intriguing names.

10) Greg Gonzalez - With several candidates considered for the tenth spot in our rankings - including Corey Coles, Junior Contreras, Bobby Malek, Hector Pellot, Jesus Flores, and others - we settled on Gonzalez because of the combination of his approach at the plate and his plus ability to bunt for base hits, which allows him to avoid prolonged slumps. He hit a combined .324 with the Kingsport Mets and Brooklyn Cyclones in his professional debut and he's the frontrunner for a starting outfield spot with the Hagerstown Suns in 2006.

9) Carlos Gomez - Owning just a .269 average so far in his career, the inclusion of Gomez in these rankings may seem to be a bit conspicuous. The fact of the matter is that Gomez is still very raw. He has a long way to go in his pitch recognition and learning how to wait on his pitches, routinely swinging at first pitch offerings. However, he does make excellent contact with the bat and many inside and outside the organization believe he'll hit for a high average in the future.

8) Emmanuel Garcia - While there are quite a few question marks about his defensive potential and whether or not he'll hit for enough power to become a legitimate starting infield prospect, not many doubt his ability to hit for a high average. Garcia has a very patient approach at the plate and a polished stroke going the other way. His good speed from the left-side of the plate also allows him to leg out a few more hits over the course of a full season.

7) Andrew Wilson - There certainly are major concerns about Wilson's defensive shortcomings and whether or not the Mets will be able to find a position for him. However, offensively, Wilson has one of the better strokes around. Comparing favorably to Kevin Millar, Wilson will go the other way on outside pitches with the best of them and he doesn't strike out very much for a power hitter. Wilson boasts a career .284 average and he could only get better down the road.

6) Chase Lambin - Chase's .244 average in 2004 was the exception, not the rule. He hit a combined .309 between AA-Binghamton and AAA-Norfolk to bring up his career average to .280, and considering the fact he collected 59 extra-base hits in 2005, he didn't strike out very much at all. Becoming an all-around better player, Lambin is a late-bloomer and he could hit for high averages for a while.

5) Anderson Hernandez - Not many people were expecting Hernandez, obtained from the Tigers in the Vance Wilson deal, to hit a combined .315 between Binghamton and Norfolk in 2005. It is pretty well known that the Dominican born players sometimes take a little longer for their bats to develop, but Binghamton Mets' skipper Jack Lind went even so far to call Hernandez the best switch-hitter he has seen in 35 years of baseball. While we might not be prepared to go that far just yet, Hernandez certainly has blossomed into a solid hitter.

4) Brett Harper - Harper's ability to hit for average was never in doubt. While he hasn't shown the ability to hit for .300+ averages at the AA level just yet - an achievement he accomplished routinely at the lower minor league levels - Harper has sacrificed some consistency with his contact hitting in order to gain more power. A career .294 hitter at the minor league level, there aren't too many hitting prospects who can hit as consistently.

3) Jeff Keppinger - Keppinger hit over .300 for the third straight season in 2005, batting .337 in 64 games with the Norfolk Tides before a broken leg prematurely ended his season. He's one of the elite contact hitters in the farm system and his .314 career average at the minor league level supports that statement. Keppinger only ranks this low because of a combination of a lack of projection left in his game.

2) Fernando Martinez - Half-jokingly referred to as potentially a "Latin Ted Williams", Martinez signed with the Mets out of the Dominican Republic for a $1.6 million signing bonus. Martinez, who just turned 17-years old, should be one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League in 2006 and scouts who have seen him are already predicting minor league batting titles in his future. Some scouts even believe he could find his way to the Major Leagues in two years, his bat is that advanced.

1) Lastings Milledge - The 20-year old Milledge hit a combined .318 between St. Lucie and Binghamton, including a .337 average with the B-Mets as one of the youngest players in the Eastern League. He has a very polished command of the strike zone and he's very adept at going to the opposite field. Milledge also has the speed to leg out a few hits and, now owning a .313 career average, he has just now scratched the surface of his hitting ability. His plus bat speed allows him to sit back and wait on breaking pitches. Recommended Stories