Prospect Watch: Who To Look Out For In 2006

Fernando Martinez Should Be Top Hitter For Suns

Who should be the offensive stars for each minor league team? Who should be the top pitchers for each team? Who should be the comeback player for each team? Who is ready for a breakout season? In a quick team-by-team preview, here are the prospects to look out for in 2006.

Norfolk Tides

The Offensive Star Should Be....OF, Lastings Milledge - His talent and potential have been well publicized over the last year, thanks in large part to his tremendous Spring Training with the big league club. A career .313 hitter with developing power and great speed, there isn't much Milledge can't do on a baseball field. He's in Norfolk as his final tune-up for Shea Stadium, possibly as soon as late-2006. (If its not Milledge, it should be 3B Chase Lambin)

The Player Most Ready for a Breakout Season Should Be....1B/OF, Todd Self - A product of the Astros' organization, Self has proven to be a very good hitter over his career, posting a .301 average at the minor league level. A big left-handed batter, he has had decent gap power but he never realized the power potential many scouts believed he had. At 27-years old, he should be hitting his prime now and he could surprise some people in 2006. (If its not Self, it should be 1B Juan Tejeda)

The "Comeback" Player of the Year Should Be....OF, Julio Ramirez - Considered one of the top prospects in the game in the late 90's, Ramirez hasn't fulfilled his five-tool talent abilities and he's now with his sixth organization. He struggled to hit .241 with the hitting-friendly Pacific Coast League in 2005. If Ramirez could secure consistent playing time with the Tides in 2006, he could return to his old form. (If its not Ramirez, it should be C Joseph Hietpas)

The Pitching Star Should Be....SP, Jason Scobie - The Tides' Sterling Award Winner in 2005 returns to anchor the Norfolk rotation in 2006. He went 15-7 with a 3.34 ERA with the Tides last year, which was slightly higher than his career 3.11 ERA in the minors. Scobie should be on the short list of potential replacements at the Major League level if the need for a starter arises in Queens. (If its not Scobie, it should be RP Juan Perez)

Binghamton Mets

The Offensive Star Should Be....1B, Brett Harper - With 23 home runs in 401 at-bats with the Binghamton Mets over parts of the previous two seasons, Harper's return to the Eastern League in 2006 is mostly to work on his defense at first base. Offensively, he's proven to be one of the premier sluggers in all of minor league baseball. Harper should once again hit .280 or above, 25+ home runs, while approaching 100 RBI. (If its not Harper, it should be C Andrew Wilson)

The Player Most Ready for a Breakout Season Should Be....OF, Carlos Gomez - Proving just how high they are on him, the Mets promoted Gomez from low-A Hagerstown all the way to AA-Binghamton in just one year. The speedy Gomez stole 64 bases in the South Atlantic League in 2005, but scouts love his power potential. At just 20-years old however, and one of the youngest players in the Eastern League, Gomez might take a little time to harness his potential. By the end of the year though, he should be one of the most exciting players on the B-Mets. (If its not Gomez, it should be RP Henry Owens)

The "Comeback" Player of the Year Should Be....SP, Miguel Pinango - Various injuries have limited the Venezuelan native to just 16 appearances in 2004-2005. Finally healthy, Pinango will flash his impeccable control in the Eastern League with the Binghamton Mets. He is still just 22-years old and he has walked just a little more than one and half batters per nine innings over his entire career. Pinango still has work to do on his secondary pitches, but his control alone should notch him quite a few wins. (If its not Pinango, is should be RP Matthew Lindstrom)

The Pitching Star Should Be....SP, Evan MacLane - Until Pelfrey makes his way to Binghamton, MacLane should be the top pitcher in the B-Mets' rotation. His plus changeup and pinpoint control are two reasons he has been compared to Jamie Moyer of the Seattle Mariners. He went 3-2 with a career-worst 4.14 ERA in just nine games with Binghamton in 2005, but like Pinango, MacLane's control should allow him to win more games in 2006. At 26-12 with a career 2.97 ERA, MacLane deserves a little more respect from his critics. (If its not MacLane, it should be RP Eddie Camacho)

St. Lucie Mets

The Offensive Star Should Be....3B, Shawn Bowman - A back injury limited Bowman to just 326 at-bats with the St. Lucie Mets a year ago, but he still managed to club 17 home runs in the pitching-friendly Florida State League. With his back fully healed and reporting to camp stronger than ever, Bowman appears primed for a career year. He could quickly turn some heads with his power potential. (If its not Bowman, it should be 1B Mike Carp)

The Player Most Ready for a Breakout Season Should Be....SS Jose Coronado - One of the more advanced defensive players in the Mets' farm system, Coronado has quickly become an organizational favorite over the last calendar year. Potentially a Gold Glove caliber defensive shortstop, the switch-hitting Coronado has displayed a patient approach at the plate and good gap power. 2006 should be the first time Coronado sticks in one league for an entire season and that should help his confidence at the plate. (If its not Coronado, it should be RP Rafael Cova)

The "Comeback" Player of the Year Should Be....C, Jesus Flores - One of the true high-ceiling talents in the farm system, Flores is the complete package behind the plate. A broken hand prior to the start of the 2005 season delayed his debut last year and he never fully regained his stroke upon his return, hitting just .216 with seven home runs. He's just too talented to have another sub-par performance in 2006. Flores has all the tools to be a top prospect but will need to mature mentally in order to take that next step. (If its not Flores, is should be SP Philip Humber)

The Pitching Star Should Be....SP, Mike Pelfrey - Inserted into the St. Lucie starting rotation to begin the 2006 season, Pelfrey doesn't figure to see too much action in the Florida State League. The Mets' top draft pick in 2005, and widely regarded as the top pitching prospect in the entire draft a year ago, Pelfrey will get his feet wet in the professional ranks at St. Lucie for a month or so before getting called up to Binghamton. (If its not Pelfrey, it should be RP Shane Hawk)

Hagerstown Suns

The Offensive Star Should Be....OF, Fernando Martinez - The youngest player on the team also happens to be the most talented. At just 17-years old, Martinez has the best bat control of any hitter on the Suns' squad. He signed for a reported $1.4 million signing bonus and he's making his professional debut in the South Atlantic League this season. Martinez is a true five-tool talent who many scouts believe is advanced enough at the plate to challenge for minor league batting titles on his way to the big leagues. (If its not Martinez, it should be 2B Hector Pellot)

The Player Most Ready for a Breakout Season Should Be....1B Nick Evans - A powerful slugging first baseman who has drawn comparisons to the Phillies' Pat Burrell offensively, Evans has been working on driving the ball more to right center over the last year. With 28 doubles and 19 home runs in just 122 games, the power is already there. Don't be surprised if Evans hovers around .300 for a while and improves on his .267 career batting average. (If its not Evans, it should be OF Jonel Pacheco)

The "Comeback" Player of the Year Should Be....RHP Jeff Landing - Stuff-wise, there isn't much separating Landing from some of the better pitching prospects in the Mets' farm system. He throws four quality Major League pitches but a lack of confidence, leading to spotty location of his pitches, has caused him to get hit hard at times. A solid performance in Brooklyn last season (2.87 ERA in 16 starts) should bolster his confidence in a return trip to the South Atlantic League. (If its not Landing, is should be OF Jonathan Sanchez)

The Pitching Star Should Be....SP, Jonathon Niese - Drafted in the 7th round of the 2005 MLB Draft, the Ohion high school product has arguably the best stuff of any left-handed starting pitching prospect in the Mets' farm system. Even at just 19-years old, the Mets feel Niese is ready to take on the challenges of the long-season leagues. He might struggle in the beginning just because of his lack of experience, but he should become the Suns' top pitcher by season's end. (If its not Hernandez, it should be RP German Marte)

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