Q & A With Jim Callis from Baseball America

Jim Callis says "Kazmir is the real deal".

Jim Callis, Executive Editor from Baseball America, sits down for "Twenty Questions" with the NYF staff about the Mets' prospects and farm system. We would like to thank Jim for his time and sharing his expertise on this subject.

1) How would you rank the Mets' farm system, compared to the rest of the league?
We rank them the 13th best organization in baseball, up from 27th a year earlier. Their depth isn't as good as the teams ahead of them, but most of a system's ultimate worth comes from it's blue-chippers. Those are the guys you win championships with, and Jose Reyes and Scott Kazmir are a good place for a system to start.

2) What do you think of Matthew Peterson? He came on really strong in the second half last year, and finished with great strikeout numbers. However, during that effective pitching stretch, he also gave up quite a few more homers. How much progress did he really make last year? How meaningful is it that Matt Peterson improved his control as the season went on? What is Peterson's ceiling?
I like him a lot. He didn't quite make our Top 100 Prospects list, but he has a high ceiling, the highest of any Mets pitching prospect outside of Kazmir. He could have two plus pitches with his fastball and curveball and become a solid No. 2 starter. He made some progess last year but still needs better command. That's the key for him.

3) Adam Elliot seems like a sleeper. What can you tell me about his stuff?
He wasn't as big a coup as Kazmir, obviously, but getting Elliot in the sixth round last year might prove to be a steal. He has a low-90s fastball with life, an effective circle change and a developing curveball.

4) Jamar Hill put up great numbers for Kingsport, but is he for real? And which short-season prospects did the Mets appear to like the most?
He's a raw junior college sign with size, speed and strength. He moved from third base to the outfield. I'd like to see him succeed a couple rungs higher on the ladder before I got super excited about him. He was one of the Mets' top short-season prospects last year. Kazmir was the best, clearly. Others to watch include injured lefty Neal Musser, third baseman Aaron Baldiris and outfielders Bobby Malek, Jonathan Slack and Alhaji Turay.

5) What happened to Lenny Dinardo? When he was drafted, everybody expected him to move quickly, as he was a very polished pitcher. Now, however, he seems to have lost all control of his pitches.
DiNardo peaked the summer before he was drafted with Team USA. In 2001, his draft year, his velocity was down and he lacked a plus pitch. It could be a case where he's nibbling too much because he doesn't trust his stuff, but he definitely has to make some adjustments.

6) The Mets seem to have an unhealthy obsession with slap-hitting speedsters (Pagan, Lydon, Duncan, etc.). Do they not realize that Omar Moreno and Brian Hunter were bad players? What's your opinion on Angel Pagan and how good can he truly develop?
There are a lot of teams obsessed with speed, but if a guy is fast but can't otherwise do much he's not going to help. Jeff Duncan intrigues me and I'd like to see what he does with a full healthy season at a higher level. His numbers were interesting last year, even if he was old for Class A. Pagan is a slap hitter without much power or plate discipline. He has hit .302 thus far, but he's going to have to learn to get on base more.

7) What would you estimate is Jose Reyes' most likely power projection in his prime? Has his obvious growth changed your opinion on his power projection?
I see Reyes as a 10-15 home run hitter who will pile up doubles and triples with his speed. He has gotten stronger, but I don't think he'll ever be a huge home run threat.

8) Most analysts say Reyes needs to work on his plate discipline, yet in his first year of pro ball he drew 20 walks in 132 AB. To what extent, if any, can his less advanced discipline at higher levels be attributed to his youth and may he return to a level closer to that first year? Do you think his excellent discipline in his first year is a sign that he has higher discipine potential than he's shown since? And how much emphasis does the team place on plate discipline during the development?
To look at it another way, I don't think I'd trust Appy League walk totals as a good indicator of plate discipline, because pitchers don't find the plate as often. So you could look at it and say his walk totals were down last year because he was young for his leagues, but you could also say his 2000 walks totals were inflated by the relatively inferior quality of pitching. He made some strides in high Class A last year, then regressed in Double-A. He's very talented, and I love Jose Reyes, but his career .343 OBP shows he has work to do. Teams recognize the importance of plate discipline, but I don't think the Mets stress it more than most.

9) Heilman is working on developing a split-finger FB. How does his age affect his chances of developing this type of pitch into a plus pitch? How would the addition of a plus splitter to his repertoire affect his upside compared to what most analysts say - "3rd starter type"?
He's had the splitter for a while and it's a solid pitch. He has solid if not overwhelming stuff, which is why he projects more as a No. 3 starter. That's no knock on him. Being a legit No. 3 is an accomplishment.

10) I've heard an opinion that Heilman is more likely to maximize his potential than most other prospects. Have most analysts' reports taken this into account ot not? If not, how could this affect his projection? Does it make him a safer bet than most pitching prospects?
I can't speak for other analysts, but personally, I take into account. I balance a player's ceiling with the likelihood that he reaches it. I do think his combination of solid stuff and command makes him a safer bet than most pitching prospects.

11) What Mets' prospects do you see emerging and having breakthrough seasons in 2003 and why you believe they will emerge/have breakthrough seasons? And what Mets' prospect has the highest ceiling, and what are the chances he'll reach it?
David Wright and Matt Peterson. The big ballparks in the Florida State League will hamper Wright's power somewhat, but I could see him hitting .300 with 35 doubles and 15 or more homers. I really think he'll hit. Peterson seems on the verge of puttig it all together, and I could see him tearing up the FSL en route to Double-A. Scott Kazmir has the highest ceiling in the system, and while he hasn't pitched much, I didn't pick him for a breakthrough because he already has broken through. He has yet to pitch in full-season ball, so he's not a sure thing, but I think he'll be a major star.

12) Will Pat Strange ever throw his split finger again, or is that on the shelf permanently? How important is it that Strange start throwing a splitter again once his elbow is healthy? What is his projection with and without the splitter?
He really needs a breaking pitch. You'd have to ask the Mets this question. He has inconsistent mechanics and I've never been a big Pat Strange fan. It was nice to see he named his new son after Brian Cole. That was touching.

13) Bob Keppel has good control, but his low K rates suggest trouble at higher levels. Do the Mets think he has enough stuff to start in the big leagues?
That's a fair point. He should miss more bats with his stuff, but he hasn't. How he perfoms in Double-A and Triple-A will answer this question and determine how the Mets use him.

14) The Mets have only one pick in the first three rounds this year. Will they focus on college hitters? While there's been a lot of attention on prospects from Cuba and Asia, it seems like the bang for the buck from Australia has been really good. Will teams begin to put more effort into that talent pool?
Early in the draft, teams almost always focus on who they think is the best available player, regardless of his demographic. Teams do scout Australia very heavily, and it's not particularly cheap. Top Australians don't command Jose Contreras or Ichiro money, but they get bonuses well into six figures.

15) Is Miguel Pinango developing a strike out pitch? What do you think of his potential?
He's a young Venezuelan with some upside. He doesn't have a real out pitch right now, but he has time to develop one.

16) Can Bobby Malek's lousy debut in the NYP be attributed to his bad elbow?
Hitting with an elbow that needs Tommy John surgery can't be easy, so I think he deserves a pass for his lackluster pro debut. I don't think he has star potential, however. He's more of a solid guy across the board.

17) Even though pitchers like Leiter, Traschel and Glavine are signed up for a few more years each, there is always concerns about the depth of the Met's farm clubs relative to pitching. Who are the likely pitching prospects to make it to the major league club, and when should we expect them to arrive? And if the Met's weren't committed to the likes of Leiter and Glavine for so many years, would we see these prospects sooner? There seems to be no room for decent but not great pitchers like Jae Seo and Tyler Walker. Can we expect some trades?
The Mets don't have a lot of pitching depth. Heilman is ready now, but they don't really have another projected big league starter who was at Double-A or higher last year. Kazmir should move quickly, but there aren't a whole lot of other candidates. We discussed Peterson earlier. The Mets likely will be looking to trades and free agency to fill some rotation holes.

18) With the Mets failing to land a coveted 3rd baseman this past offseason, what does this mean for Met prospect David Wright? Is he a legit major league prospect and if so, when should we expect to see him play?
The Mets tried to land a third baseman, but that was no reflection on David Wright. I think he'll be a good major leaguer, but he's still 2-3 years away.

19) Just how good is Scott Kazmir and how high will we likely see him rise through the organization this season?
Kazmir is the real deal, and nothing he does this year would shock me. He has a great fastball, a great slider and a feel for pitching. I bet he starts in low Class A and makes it to Double-A by the end of the season.

20) With Mike Piazza now in his mid 30's, will his replacement come from the current Met's major league roster or is there a better chance that Justin Huber will be that guy? Why?
Vance Wilson and Jason Phillips are more backup types for me. Huber has a much higher ceiling because of his bat, and he's the Mets' catcher of the future.

Again, a special thanks to Jim Callis for taking time to help give some of his insights on the Mets' prospects and farm system.



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