MMLN – Report Date Grows Closer

Jeff Flagg is looking better at first base

PORT ST. LUCIE – The official report date for all prospects is not until this Wednesday, but the workouts are getting more focused as nearly every farmhand is already on site. The position players are hitting their drills hard and showing off how their fundamentals have improved since the conclusion of last season. Inside Pitch was there for the action.

Francisco Pena reported to camp in the best shape of his young career. The 19-year-old backstop looks much leaner with added muscle, and looks ready to better handle the demands of catching 100-plus games in St. Lucie this season. He showed off quality arm strength and some better footwork during catcher workouts.

Jeff Flagg relies most on his bat out of all of his tools, but showed surprising arm strength during infield drills. He still needs to soften his hands and improve his footwork, but the throws he made across the diamond and on the 3-6-3 drill were strong and on point. His stature and physique will never get him lost in a crowd, as his 6-foot-5 and 230-plus pound, muscular frame is a clear indicator of where he generates his power

Off-season workouts seemed to have helped Ike Davis who looks like he added five to ten pounds of muscle while improving his agility a few steps. Davis, who has a high quality arm of his own, was going throw for throw with Flagg.

If the organization is thinking about moving Eric Campbell off third base or having him serve in a utility role, the third baseman is certainly forcing the club to have re-think that notion. He showed excellent athleticism around the bag, making very strong throws while charging and off-balance which were two of the more inconsistent aspects of his game last season. Of the third baseman currently in camp, he showed the strongest arm, stronger than…

Jefry Marte. Marte looked solid on Monday. He was clean in his footwork to the ball with a concentrated, attacking approach. He did not let the ball play him, a signal of his defense maturing after being caught on his heels many times last season.

Greg Veloz also looked very sound around the bag. Like Marte, Veloz needs to be more aggressive to the ball. He showed much more quickness and synchronization in his technique. It is an early positive sign from a player who experienced a lot of offensive growth last season, but now needs it on the other side of the ball as he heads into a likely spot on the right side of the St. Lucie infield.

Alonzo Harris showed off better than expected arm strength. Harris is not as comparatively smooth as Veloz and still needs to improve his footwork and hand coordination, but he lets that ball rip upon its release and is one clear distinction between he and Veloz.

Matt Smith who appeared at three different levels in 2008—his first in the Mets system—continues to impress with sharp defensive skills. His tools with the glove should be enough to once again earn him a spot in St. Lucie or Binghamton though it will likely come as a backup.

As for that looming drama that is the shortstop depth chart, early reports have it shaking out with Ruben Tejada going to Binghamton with Reese Havens and Matt Bouchard going to St. Lucie. It appears Havens will begin the year at shortstop, but Bouchard is taking advantage of the current absence of Tejada and Havens from camp, further sparking the existing internal debate between the two.

Daniel Murphy took his 80 swings in the cage prior to the afternoon game on the main field and completed it with ferocity, hitting to the opposite field with similar strength that he had when the drill began. His success at the drills drew the rave of the coaches.

Wilmer Flores entered Monday's game against the Orioles in the eighth inning, going 0-for-1 in his only plate appearance. In the field, Flores got one real test as he moved to his left in the hole and threw out the runner despite a throw with more than two bounces. The current deficiencies in his defensive game were present in that play. He has trouble from that depth as he has difficulty setting himself and getting enough on the throw.

A few prospects who have yet to be seen around the complex are Reese Havens [who is still being guarded after aggravating his left hamstring on Friday]. Also add Lucas Duda, Cesar Puello, Ambiorix Concepcion, Nick Carr, Hector Pellot among others to that list.

Julio Polanco was released late last week for an undisclosed reason. The move was surprising given Polanco's value as a southpaw.

Fernando Martinez may still be a week or so away from taking part in full drills at the plate, but he was out there for the second straight day participating in conditioning and throwing drills. He appeared in high spirits and was not observed as being guarded by coaches or trainers.

Tobi Stoner was shut down in the early days of camp, but it does not appear to be anything more than a case of the right-hander over-extending himself by throwing too hard so early into his workouts.

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