The Mets' Instructional League season is underway and while the games have been few so far, there…
Post-Season 9: Nine Burning Questions Part I
The 2010 season provided very mixed results. The organization is doing a good job of stockpiling solid across-the-board talent, but with the graduations of Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Ruben Tejada and to a lesser extent Jenrry Mejia, the system took a bit of a hit at the top of the pyramid. That being said, there is future big league talent behind that foursome in Wilmer Flores, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and, yes, even Fernando Martinez among the many others.
However, what really left the farm system churning in place was widespread struggles on the mound. There were pitchers at each level that had solid years and pitchers which emerged from something of a boondoggle on the mound. Yet, the cumulative body of work left organizational pitching in a down year.
Numbers aside, pitchers Dillon Gee, Josh Stinson and Mark Cohoon headlined the positives but injuries, inconsistencies, and/or ineffectiveness that plagued Brad Holt, Jeurys Familia and Kyle Allen and many others prevented organizational pitching from making the jump that was expected before the season.
Conversely, it was a very positive year for position players in 2010. The offensive rise of outfielders Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Sean Ratliff, a career-year from Wilmer Flores, a positive year from third baseman Zach Lutz and the raw but young third baseman Aderlin Rodriguez gives the organization a lot of options at the plate.
The bats certainly give the farm system a boost, but level by level there are questions about the development of pitchers which remains the back bone of any farm system not just the Mets. The farm system should continue to provide help at the big league level in 2011 and beyond, but the depth chart needs at least a few more blue chippers to bank on.
2. Who would benefit from a strong Arizona Fall League performance?
The Mets, as of late September, will send Kirk Nieuwenhuis, infielder Jordany Valdespin, right-hander Josh Stinson, left-hander Robert Carson and catcher Kai Gronauer to Arizona for the highly-regarded winter league. Valdespin and Carson split time in St. Lucie (A) and Binghamton (AA) this season. Gronauer was behind the dish for Savannah (Low-A) and St. Lucie this season while Stinson pitched in Binghamton and Buffalo (AAA) in 2010.
The contingent is a solid base of prospects who have all appealed to scouts this season, but eyes are on Nieuwenhuis. The 2008 3rd round pick hit a combined .274 with 18 home runs, 77 RBI, 43 doubles and 13 stolen bases in Binghamton and Buffalo this season. He is one of the best outfielders in the organization and could be the first outfielder to see time in New York next season. Nieuwenhuis struggled in 30 games with Buffalo, hitting just .225 but he one of the five best prospects in the organization and expectations are still high for him.
3. What is going on with the first base position now that Ike Davis is in New York to stay?
Simply put, there isn't much and certainly not anyone who projects out to Ike Davis' level of play. Nick Evans had a positive year on his road back but his spot remains as a bench bat and/or outfielder for New York. Lucas Duda entered the organization as a first baseman but is now a full-time outfielder.
Stefan Welch is a quality bat in St. Lucie but lacks the power to drive the ball out of the yard with consistency. The significant bright spot at the short-season level was the summer put together by 2010 20th round pick Luke Stewart who hit .255 with eight home runs and 31 RBI at rookie level Kingsport. Ike Davis looks like the Mets first baseman of the future, but building depth certainly doesn't hurt. Right now, the system doesn't have much depth to speak of at first base.
4. What can be taken away from this year's short-season leagues?
Let's take it level by level.
Brooklyn Cyclones: The Cyclones got a lot of attention this summer due to the fact that Wally Backman was the manager and steered the team to the New York-Penn League championship series. Nevertheless, the roster featured a number of intriguing recent, high round draft picks and an international free agent pitcher to keep an eye on. Outfielders Darrell Ceciliani (2009 4th round pick) and Cory Vaughn (2010 4th round pick) led the team with their explosive bats while 20-year-old right-hander Yohan Almonte gives the system another young pitcher to keep an eye on. Quality balance on both sides of the ball made it an exciting year on Coney Island.
Kingsport Mets: The K-Mets had a rather non-descript season but the roster was headlined by the Mets' big international free agent signing from 2008—third baseman Aderlin Rodriguez. Rodriguez is physically mature beyond his years and showed it by hitting .312 and smashing 13 home runs as an 18-year-old. He's another young free agent signing with the hope of making a Wilmer Flores-like jump in 2011.
Gulf Coast League: Though the GCL suits up the players the furthest away, the 2010 club was all about pitching. In 2009, the Mets' international dollars went to 17-year-old Juan Urbina who impressed many in his first year pitching in the States. Alongside him were hard-throwing 2010 10th round pick Akeel Morris, 2009 13th round pick Zachary Dotson and other hard-throwing, international free agent signings Domingo Tapia, Marcos Camarena, Ramiro Peralta among others. Many of these pitchers, as well as the roster, are still raw and in my case projects but the coaches are building promise at this level.
Check Back Tomorrow For Part Two
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