Post-Season 9: Burning Questions – Part II

Can Josh Thole be ready to help the Mets 2010?

InsidePitchMagazine.com continues to answer nine of the pressing questions facing the Mets farm system now that the 2009 season is over. In the second part, we ask, what can be taken away from the 2009 draft class? Who, if anyone, will be ready to contribute in 2010? What area needs more prospects? Find the answers to those questions and more.

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5. What can be taken away from the 2009 draft?

The Mets bucked their recent trend from the last two drafts and went for comparative youth and players from smaller collegiate leagues as opposed to players from established college powers like in 2007 and 2008. That means there are more long term projects and in turn a bit more unknowns.

The Mets failed to sign two of the six pitchers selected in the first 15 rounds, and of those four who inked two are high school arms—Steven Matz and Zachary Dotson—provide intrigue, but are far from sure things. Also about the pitching, there are very few, if any, power arms in this class which is something that has been a big part of the last two drafts.

As for position players, there is again youth at certain skill positions—like catcher (Jeffrey Glenn, Nelfi Zapata) and potentially some sleepers in the outfield (Nick Santomauro, Chase Greene), but after one season no bats from his class have yet to make a lasting impression that they can become an impact offensive player.

In the end, it appears that the success of this draft class will be heavily reliant on the top of the board—Matz and Darrell Ceciliani—making an impact and maturing fairly quickly while the class has yet to show much long term value in the middle to late rounds (Rd. 20 and up).

6. What will the minor league managerial/coaching situation look like next year?

So far, there are openings in Double-A and the Gulf Coast League after Mako Oliveras and Julio Franco were relieved after the season. The opening in Double-A is certainly the more intriguing opening given the importance of the level and the need for a new B-Mets manager could create a shuffle across the organization.

Will an outsider be brought in to manage the team? Will Ken Oberkfell be shifted down from Triple-A where he has managed each of the last two seasons (and has a long history coaching at every level of the farm)? Will Tim Teufel finally ascend from St. Lucie and thus open the door for promotions behind him?

That is a distinct possibility. The Kingsport Mets staff and the Brooklyn Cyclones staff appear safe, for now, with a distinct possibility that they moved up to the next levels. In many cases, coaching staffs play the cards they are dealt, but at the minor league level their jobs rely heavily on getting the most out of their players and developing talent. Things will not be fully determined until big league questions are resolved, but it appears a coaching shakeup is in the cards at the minor league level.

7. Is the approach of "rushing" or "challenging" young prospects paying dividends?

This area of player development has received the greatest amount of attention in recent years, specifically embodied in Fernando Martinez. However, it does not appear the practice is going to change any time soon and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, the numbers can sometimes be unattractive (ie: Jenrry Mejia's numbers this year in Binghamton), and the results have so far been mixed (Francisco Pena, Jefry Marte), but there are times when a player's talent does not make challenging such a bad thing.

The question was proposed to scouts outside the organization whether Mejia's promotion was a wise move and across the board the responses came back positive. The promotions are not always about statistical results, but giving the prospect the opportunity to face competition that matches his talent level. That has correctly been the case for Mejia and Fernando Martinez. The argument does not currently hold water for Pena and Marte.

Additionally, the practice of pushing prospects is not terribly widespread. When looking at the long season leagues, one will see that are no more than five players in the entire system who fit the bill as "rushed"—Martinez, Mejia, Marte, Wilmer Flores and Pena. Three of the five are among the organization's top prospects and with the system in need of immediate answers and/or results, the push can work to its benefit.

Marte is an example of a player being inappropriately rushed and the feeling appears to be shared internally. Flores, however, while the numbers were unsatisfying, there has been little to no disagreement--internally and externally--with his assignment to Savannah given his offensive talents.

Another next season may be Jeurys Familia, but nonetheless, in a system that is hungry for more high echelon talent the act of challenging their most talented prospects is a move that attempts to get the most of players while expediting the learning curve. If a prospect has the natural ability, the move should ultimately pay dividends.

8. Will any prospect be ready to contribute at the big league level in 2010?

To find the answer to that question, one just has to look at the top of the organization's prospect list. A continued opening at first base and a strong start from Ike Davis will certainly begin the calls for his promotion. A turn around stint from Brad Holt in Binghamton could open the door for him to slide into a bullpen spot, ditto for Jenrry Mejia. And of course Josh Thole, who will be in competition for a catching job in Spring Training, could assume a spot on the 25-man roster in 2010.

From a pitching stand point, Holt and Mejia both need to further assimilate in Double-A before their inclusion on the 25-man roster though a late-season call up cannot be discounted.

A greater focus will on Davis. It remains to be seen if Davis begins next season in Triple-A, but without an unresolved solution at first base, he may be just a couple of successful months away from getting to New York. Yet, as of right now, a significant impact is not expected from Davis at the highest level in 2010. While, again, a late season promotion cannot be ruled out, it is more important that he remain in the minors and continue to build on his 2009 season.

That leaves Thole as the farmhand who can make the most significant impact at the big league level next season. He is not ready to take over the starting job as he still has further defensive refinement to undergo and is not yet ready to handle a big league staff. Nonetheless, given the nature of the catching position at the big league level and Thole's simple yet successful approach to hitting, he should hold down a roster spot for some time next season. Our prediction is that he begins the year in Triple-A before he ultimately lands on the roster mid-way through the season.

9. What area needs more prospects?

Simply put, the outfield. Aside from Fernando Martinez and stock riser Kirk Nieuwenhuis (who scouts want to see continued success from), the farm system is in need of depth in the outfield. Aside from these two outfielders, when looking down an early version of this year's Top 50, the outfielders are few and far between with Sean Ratliff, Darrell Ceciliani and Carlos Guzman assuming spots—and all of them possessing question marks.

Can Ratliff, who is blessed with plus raw power, continue to develop his all-around offensive game—especially against LHP—and take a leap similar to Nieuwenhuis?

Ceciliani impressed with his defensive abilities and his athleticism, but the bat will be his biggest questions and what will ultimately determine his value. Next season will answer a lot of questions.

Bigger questions surround Carlos Guzman who, despite being a switch-hitter, has shown little to no effect from the right side of the plate. Previously thought to be an organizational guy that would top out in St. Lucie, can he continue to make the most out of his opportunities? We, and scouts, are not sold on his long term status, but he will have yet another shot to keep proving doubters wrong in 2010.

That being said, more outfielders are needed and options could eventually come from within—Jefry Marte? Alonzo Harris?—but not many answers will come from the 11 outfielders signed from this year's draft class.

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