Sizing Up the First Base Prospects

Carp Has the Highest Upside

Inside Pitch analyzes the Mets' first base prospects. Which first base prospect has the highest upside? Which are the ones ready to make a Major League impact soon? Who needs to make their mark quickly?

Highest Ceiling

Mike Carp: At year ago we listed Carp as the Mets' first base prospect with the highest ceiling. A year later, nothing has changed. As one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League in 2005, Carp smacked 19 home runs with the Hagerstown Suns in just 313 at-bats, all while playing with an injured wrist and a broken hand.

Much has been made of his strikeout totals thus far in his career, striking out 147 times in 504 career at-bats. However, Carp won't turn 20-years old until the All-Star break in 2006 and he'll once again be one of the youngest players in his league when he's manning first base for the St. Lucie Mets in the Florida State League this coming season. He crowds the plate and can extend on outside pitches with decent opposite field power. Playing a serviceable defensive first base, Carp is not only one of the top power hitters in the Mets' system, he's the first base prospect with the highest upside.

Nick Evans: In deference to Baseball America, who listed Evans as the 31st best prospect in the Mets' system and would probably call him a "sleeper", Evans is right behind Carp in overall potential. Drafted as a third baseman out of high school, Evans was relegated to the short-season leagues in 2005 because of his transition over to first base. Like Carp, Evans plays an adequate defensive first base.

And also like Carp, Evans' game is predicated on total raw power. In fact, their career numbers are very similar. In the equivalency of just under a full minor league season, Evans has hit .267 with 28 doubles and 19 home runs in his career. He has made significant progress in cutting down on his strikeouts and he's also driving the ball more to right field, a good sign of things to come. Evans compares very favorably to the Phillies' Pat Burrell and Evans will be out to prove his critics wrong with the Hagerstown Suns in 2006.

Closest to the Majors

Brett Harper: Right now, Harper is easily the top power hitter in the Mets' minor league system. He clubbed 36 home runs in two stops between St. Lucie and Binghamton in 2005 and he figures to see ample time with the AAA-Norfolk Tides in 2006. Probably better suited as a designated hitter in the American League, Harper is now blocked by Carlos Delgado at first base for the next couple of seasons. He'll be the first one called up to Shea should Delgado befall an extended injury.

The "Sleepers"

Junior Contreras: Listed at 6'5" and a laughable 220 pounds, Contreras is built more like Cecil Fielder. Like Fielder, Contreras is an imposing figure when he steps into the batter's box and while he has awesome power, he also shows good patience at the plate. He hit .291 with 8 home runs for the Gulf Coast League Mets in 2005 and he could break Spring Training with the Hagerstown Suns in 2006 as Evans' backup whenever he's not the designated hitter. Like Harper however, Contreras is probably better suited as a designated hitter as his defensive abilities are suspect at the current time. Contreras has special power though and he could slug his way up the minor league ladder.

Andrew Wilson: Wilson, who played 59 games at first base for the St. Lucie Mets in 2005, will be attempting to move behind the plate. He played 20 games at catcher last season, and while the Mets are trying to take advantage of his potent bat as a backstop, the move seems optimistic at best. At 25 years old, Wilson's move to the catcher's position seems more of a way to increase his versatility. While he projects to be more of a utility player who is also probably best suited for the American League, Wilson should still see plenty of time at first base. With a career .284 batting average and 49 home runs over the last two seasons, he clearly has the ability to be a very good hitter and he could hit his way to the big leagues.

Need to Make Their Move

Jim Burt Jr.: The son of former New York Giants' defensive lineman, Jim Burt Jr. was a four-year starter for the University of Miami before being drafted by the Mets. He has put up some decent numbers (.264-8-39 in 360 at-bats) as a quality backup first baseman and designated hitter in his two seasons in the Mets' organization, but he'll need a lucky break to go his way to get any chance in becoming a legitimate prospect.

D.J. Wabick: Drafted in the 25th round of the 2005 MLB Draft, Wabick is a solid defensive first baseman with a decent eye at the plate. The left-handed hitting Wabick doesn't have very good power however, and at the current time, he's more of a backup first baseman at the minor league level.

Riky Oliveros: Oliveros, a product of the Mets' Venezuelan Summer League, just turned 22-years old and he has yet to make his way out of the short-season leagues. Once considered a potential right-handed slugger, Oliveros has just 11 career home runs in 854 career at-bats. He'll need a breakout year just to get into the first base mix at the lower minor league levels and the odds are certainly stacked against him.

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