2010 Spring Training Preview - Part II

Wilmer Flores moves on to High-A in 2010

In Part Two of Inside Pitch's minor league Spring Traing Preview, we take a look at the lower level full season clubs. What prospects do you need to look out for? How may the rosters look in the season? What prospects will emerge and what prospects need make some noise? Look inside to find out.

ST. LUCIE (HIGH-A)

The St. Lucie Mets will not be outdone when it comes to intriguing prospects on their roster. Pitching headlines the 2010 St. Lucie Mets as a talented foursome of hurlers will all move up from Savannah. The Mets will need to rely heavily on their starting rotation, but there are promising bats coming on board as well. St. Lucie will feature more raw talent than the 2009 edition, but there exists loads of potential on the roster. The Mets may take some lumps this season, but upside on the roster cannot be overlooked.

Wilmer Flores headlines the club, and the learning curve really picks up for the 18-year-old shortstop. Flores comes off an up-and-down year in Savannah, but confidence remains high that the Mets fifth-rated prospect can learn on the job. Flores will certainly get his tests in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.

Right-handers Jeurys Familia and Kyle Allen could be the fast movers of the pitchers heading down the coast from Savannah. Each had an excellent second half with Savannah, and a strong first half in St. Lucie for each could land them both in Binghamton come July. The two starting pitchers are slowly but surely emerging; strong 2010 seasons will put them on the national radar.

GRIND IT OUT

That's what third baseman Jefry Marte needs to do. Some observers will argue that the 18-year-old third baseman would be better off repeating his stay in Savannah and he may do that. There is some validity to that considering he has more questions than answers heading into the 2010 season. Nevertheless, if Marte is off to St. Lucie, the results will not come easy.

Robert Carson brings the most to the mound of any left-hander at this level of the farm. Carson had an unimpressive 8-10 record in 2010, but posted a 3.21 ERA and maintained a high groundball rate that should play effectively in the expansive home field of the St. Lucie Mets.

Eric Beaulac and Chris Schwinden should fill out the starting rotation, but success may be harder to come by. Both need work with a third pitch that could make or break their success in 2010.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN 2010

Sean Ratliff enters the season at 23 years old and is behind the age curve given the level, but the third year outfielder could move quickly if he gets off to a hot start. Ratliff spent the 2009 season working on plate discipline and execution against secondary pitches. He will certainly get plenty of the latter in the Florida State League and it could go a long way in determining his success this season.

Similarly, Josh Satin will play an important role in the Mets lineup. Satin hit .288 with 65 RBI and 40 doubles in 2009, but at 25 years old is not age appropriate for the league and needs to have a big season to keep himself in the prospect discussion.

Catcher Francisco Pena was average at best with the bat during his 2009 season in St. Lucie. At 20 years old, his age affords the Mets the flexibility to keep him in St. Lucie for another season and it would not be such a bad decision to keep him there for another half season. Where he ends up, either St. Lucie or Binghamton, is one of the most intriguing assignment storylines of spring training.


SAVANNAH SAND GNATS

Much like 2009, this year's edition of the Savannah Sand Gnats will provide young prospects the opportunity to make a name for themselves. The Sand Gants roster will be chock-full of players arriving from short-season ball, including young, higher upside arms from Kingsport and more veteran pitchers from Brooklyn.

The starting rotation will likely not be as deep as last year's starting five which means overall success could be harder to come by for the Gnats in 2010. There are longer term projects suiting up in Savannah which means patience will be a virtue. However, the 2010 season in Savannah is pivotal one in terms of development and further depth of the farm system as a whole.

SLEEPERS NO MORE

Outfielder Cesar Puello is a young, raw player but could explode on the scene with a strong first full season. The 2007 international free agent is loaded with power potential and defensive skills that, with a good season, will help him merge as a top ten prospect in the organization by this time next season.

Armando Rodriguez is rapidly emerging as the next hard-throwing, high-upside pitcher in the organization. He had an impressive stateside debut in 2009 with Kingsport, plus three strong starts in Savannah at the end of the year, and is poised to shoot up the organization's rankings this season.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN 2010

Third baseman Richard Lucas bounced around the short-season levels of the farm in 2009, but should open this season as the Sand Gnats starter on the hot corner. Lucas, who spent 31 games in Savannah in his injury-shortened 2008 season, has power potential with the bat and demonstrated good plate discipline last year. At 21 years old, however, he needs to get going. A strong full season in Savannah and playing his way into a midseason promotion would help.

Nick Santomauro, the Mets 10th round pick in 2009, came from the Ivy League and has potentially high ceiling in the outfield. But he needs more schooling on the field and a spot on the Sand Gnats roster will help that.

Fourth round pick Darrell Ceciliani should hold down centerfield following a solid debut season in Kingsport. Speed and defense are Ceciliani's best traits, and his bat could come on in a hurry.

There are also more questions than answers regarding Alonzo Harris. However, the athletic second baseman will have the opportunity assert himself in an area of need in the organization. He has work to do with both the bat and the glove, but lack of internal competition at the level will give him the chance to learn on the job for the entire season.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

- Where will the young left-handers land? 2009 top pick Steven Matz and 13th round pick Zachary Dotson both missed out on their first summers, but their 2010 destination will be an interesting development. Best prediction? The Long Island native, Matz, ends up in Brooklyn. Dotson, the Savannah area native, ends up in Kingsport.

- 2008 international free agent signing Aderlin Rodriguez could follow the path of Flores and Marte and jump from the rookie ball to Savannah. However, the third baseman was limited to just 10 games in 2009 and thus a move to Kingsport or Brooklyn will be the better choice. His spring training performance will make the decision easier.

- Veteran arms like left-hander Eric Niesen, right-hander Nick Carr and right-hander Ryan Coultas all project as bullpen arms at the highest level. Each could pick up their pace to New York with solidified roles in 2010. Carr is now a reliever. Roster space could force Niesen and Coultas out of the starting rotation.

- The 2009 Brooklyn foursome of Mark Cohoon, Brandon Moore, Collin McHugh and James Fuller will be broken up. Best bets are Cohoon and Moore head to St. Lucie and compete for a rotation spot with one likely earning it. McHugh and Fuller provide rotation depth in Savannah with Fuller possibly landing in the St. Lucie bullpen

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