Prospect Predictions for 2009 – Part II

Observers are looking for Ike Davis to bounce back

Before Spring Training coverage begins, InsidePitchMagazine.com offers this last look at preseason predictions. In Part Two, we offer a look at the superlatives including who will be the first to debut at the big league level, who will come back from injury, who will have the big bounce-back season, and more.

The Superlatives

First Player to be Called Up to the Major Leagues: Fernando Martinez – We hit this prediction on the nose in 2008 when Carlos Muniz was called up just two weeks into the season. Going with another pitcher is a reliable pick, but given the new found depth both in the rotation and in the bullpen we're going with Fernando. Despite an elbow injury that had people holding their breath, Fernando should be ready to go at the start of the season and it may not take long for him to finally make his big league debut after years of anticipation. The Mets outfield is pretty much set for Opening Day, however, it will be difficult for the organization to hold him down in the minors if he gets off to a hot start.

Comeback from Injury: Brant Rustich – The big right-hander recorded 50 innings last season, but competed the entire season with a stress fracture in his throwing arm that was not fully diagnosed until the after the season was over. Come April, Rustich should be ready and strong enough to go, a promise that eluded him last season. Many are waiting for him to pitch at full health considering all the promise that comes with his repertoire. Zach Lutz, coming off another season-ending injury, is a strong candidate as well, as is Raul Reyes who returns from a major ankle injury. Additionally, Jacob Ruckle returns from labrum surgery and should be in position to return to Binghamton when fully healthy. Second baseman Hector Pellot returns from a hip injury and could be assigned to Binghamton outright.

Best Bounce-Back Season: Ike Davis – It is not just that we believe Davis can bounce back from a very disappointing season at the plate in 2008, but the importance that he do so for his own advancement. A full season affords Davis the time to work out the problems in his swing that plagued him last season including covering the outer half of the plate and executing against breaking pitches. Davis does not need to live up his draft standing all in the first month, but over the course of the season he should recover from the hit his stock took during his professional debut. Sean McCraw also suits this category as he very much needs to bounce back from a very disappointing season in St. Lucie and Savannah.

International Signing to Move Up the Rankings: Aderlin Rodriguez -- It was not too difficult to peg this category correctly last season. We predicted Wilmer Flores to have the breakout season from the 2007 international signing class and his debut was very well documented. In 2008, however, the Mets were uncharacteristically quiet on the July 2 signing deadline only signing Rodriguez to the tune of a six-figure bonus. The third baseman is only 16 years old but could be pushed like Flores and begin his career stateside in the Gulf Coast League. While he is the lone candidate to fit this category, his development in his first season will be closely watched.

Current Prospect to Crack the Top Ten: Scott Moviel – There are a host of prospects who could fit this prediction, but given Moviel's standing around number 20 in the last two editions of the Top 50 prospects, we predict he takes the necessary steps this year to really move up the ranks. He will get off to a late start as he will miss the first month of the season returning from knee surgery, but the improvements he showed have many scouts and coaches believe this will be the year his talents take him to the next level. Dillon Gee, Reese Havens and Scott Shaw are some other names that should break through, but given their proximity and the graduation of a number of top ten prospects, we look to Moviel to be the real mover.

Breakout Player: Kirk Nieuwenhuis – Our 2008 prediction, Raul Reyes, never got the opportunity to break out as his ankle injury sidelined him just 13 games into the season. Nieuwenhuis is a favorable candidate as he likely heads to St. Lucie because of his athleticism, sound skills at the plate and in the field. He hit a solid .277 and led Brooklyn in steals last season and would be an enticing option to stick in the second spot of the St. Lucie order.

Current Non-Top 50 to Break Into the Top 50 Next Season: Jordan Abruzzo – Catching depth is always welcomed and in his third season—second of full health after missing 2007—Abruzzo could make a move as he lines up to spend the full year on a long-season roster. He produced at every level last season including a .301 average with seven home runs in 73 games split with Savannah and St. Lucie. Abruzzo returned to Brooklyn simply to give him a starting role and consistent playing time. Defensively, he does not possess a stand out tool but his productive bat is enough to keep his stock on the rise.

Top Prospect for 2009: Wilmer Flores – Fernando Martinez' anticipated ascension to New York this season will leave room for Flores to take over the top spot at the conclusion of the season. Brad Holt will give him a run for his money, but Flores should climb to number one.

Players to Skip a Level to Star 2009: The Mets have not shied away from pushing players and having them skip levels. Over the last two seasons through strong drafts and international free agent signings, the organization added value and depth at the lower level of the system with the flexibility to have a number of prospects skip a level. Here are some predictions on who we expect to jump a level heading into 2009.

Wilmer Flores: 2008 Kingsport – 2009 Savannah
Jefry Marte: 2008 GCL – 2009 Savannah
Brad Holt: 2008 Brooklyn – 2009 St. Lucie
Scott Shaw: 2008 Brooklyn – 2009 St. Lucie
Ike Davis: 2008 Brooklyn – 2009 St. Lucie
Kirk Nieuwenhuis: 2008 Brooklyn – 2009 St. Lucie
Reese Havens: 2008 Brooklyn – 2009 St. Lucie
Robert Carson: 2008 GCL/Kingsport – 2009 Savannah

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