Looking to challenge the high-ceiling prospect, the Mets used Gomez in a number of spring training games in 2006, then assigned him to the Binghamton Mets of the Eastern League to see how Gomez would respond to more experienced competition in Double-A.
After a slow start, the high-energy centerfielder responded, finishing the year batting .281 with 24 doubles, eight triples, seven home runs, 48 RBI and 41 steals in 120 games.
The Mets still see room for improvement in Gomez's game - a free swinger, Gomez struck out 97 times and walked 27 times in 430 at-bats, and he bristled at the idea of being used as a leadoff hitter.
Still, the Mets are pleased with what they've developed so far in Gomez. The outfielder is happy, too, as he discussed with Inside Pitch's Bryan Hoch earlier this month.
With the season coming to an end, how do you feel about what you've accomplished this year? Has it been a good season, in your opinion?
Before, I thought I needed to be a little stronger. Now, I feel ready – about hitting, about playing baseball. Now, I only want to think and smile. That's when I feel ready for the big leagues.
Looking back, do you believe that coming to Double-A was a good thing? Was it maybe the best thing for you?
You know, I'm 20 years old, and to come to Double-A with good numbers … probably next year, I'll be in the big leagues, you know? If I played [in the] Florida State [League] at 20 years and I'm good, next year I'd come to Double-A. I jumped Florida State and that's very good.
Part of the reason you were promoted to Double-A was that the Mets wanted to challenge you. Was it a challenge? Did it feel like one?
Yeah. The coaches and the staff gave me the confidence to play in Double-A, no matter what. That's why I don't feel problems on the field. I just play baseball. They pushed me, and I did it. They know I work hard every day and I feel great. I feel excited for that.
Have you thought about the possibility that, by this time next year, you could be playing in New York?
Yeah. I think too much about it. Next year I think probably I'll be on the roster and playing a little bit in Norfolk, and then moving up to the big leagues.
To be where you are - 20 years old at Double-A - is impressive. Are you farther along than you thought you'd be?
Yeah, I'm better. Every year, I've jumped leagues. I didn't play for the Brooklyn Cyclones and I didn't play in the Florida State League. It's good.
Omar Minaya has mentioned you on a few occasions in New York. What do you think or feel when the general manager is talking about you highly at the major league level?
I haven't heard a lot, but people have been telling me. I'm focused on playing the game and seeing what happens later. I'll be ready for next year when we come for the big league camp. The manager wants to see that you're ready. I want to be like that, play in Norfolk a couple of games and go to the big leagues. I'm ready. I can hit and I can steal. And defense? Don't worry about it (Gomez laughs).
Minaya said that you may be faster than Jose Reyes. What do you think when you hear him, or other people, say that?
Some people say that. I went running with him (Reyes), and sometimes he wins. But more times, I win. We were in the same city in the Dominican. He hits left (handed) and that's why he's a little more fast. I hit right (handed) and I have a little bigger swing. But if you put me and Reyes at 60 yards, I'll win all the time. He looks fast because he bunts a lot and he hits left (handed), but if he hits right, I'm faster all the time.
The way Reyes has come up, he's become a table-setter for the Mets; they are a different team with him in the lineup. How do you think you could help the Mets one day?
A lot. We'd have two speed guys – me and Reyes, back to back, or I'd be (low) in the lineup and he'd be first. That's very good. I can steal like him and I can run. I could score more runs for the Mets.
Do you think the Mets believe that, too?
Yes. The Mets think of me and Reyes together and that's very good.
In recent weeks, there have been a few newspaper articles – the New York Post wrote a story about you - and there's been hype. People are starting to talk about you. Does it affect you in any way?
I don't care what other people say. We come to the field and play, no matter what. I'm not focused for that. I can't worry about what is said to me. I'm not like that. I play baseball. It's good and you feel excited for that. When you see (positive press), you work harder, because you think you're close.
One scout in that Post article compared you to Willie Mays. That's pretty significant. How can you even react to that?
I feel excited. Willie Mays? That guy is unbelievable. To be compared to Willie Mays, I say, 'Damn.' I think the scouts and people say when I look like Willie Mays, they (are talking about) the passion for the game. I play hard all the time and all the time I'm running. It looks like I have a lot of energy like Willie Mays. That's probably why they say that.
Energy is a big part of your game. Is it the most important part?
It's the biggest. All players need energy. When you feel the game and have energy, you have fun. I feel the game is too quick for me when I play. I feel like everything is fast. I have to slow it down.
What do you think is the biggest thing you can take from 2006?
I smile at baseball. I think more about situations. I'm ready.
And you think we should expect you at Shea Stadium next year?
Yes. That's my plan. When I play in winter ball this year, I had a very good experience. To come back to spring training, I felt like a big leaguer. My (winter) league had a lot of big leaguers, like Rafael Furcal and Neifi Perez. They showed me a lot about the game. I have to think probably next year I'll be in the big leagues at Shea Stadium.