The impact a great farm system, and great prospects, is currently taking center stage in the baseball universe. The Rays have overcome incredible odds to go from last place, last year, to the cusp of the . How did they do it? The catalysts name is Evan Longoria. The top prospect in ’s farm to start 2008, became the leader of this Rays team, and has come up with big hits all year. Behind Longoria are players like B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, James Shields, and of course Scott Kazmir, all guys among the Rays best prospects few years ago.
Over the next couple of months I’m going to go team-by-team dissecting the organizations farm system, and pulling out each of their top 15 prospects; starting with the NL East and the Atlanta Braves. Once starts to release their top 10 lists I will come back to each team and compare and contrast their list to mine. Come to see an assessment on your favorite team’s future, stay because you are just as interested in prospects as I am. If you ever feel as though I have left someone off, or you disagree with my placement of a prospect, or anything else of that nature, please comment, get your opinion out here, and I’ll consider your thoughts.
**As a disclaimer I just wanted to say a few things. First, I rank players based on their potential talent first and foremost, other factors include: age, what level they play at, their 2008 statistics, team needs, and my own gut feeling. The reason I decided on a top 15 list, despite the fact that many team’s good-decent prospects I can count on one hand, was because some team’s do go 15 or more prospects deep, and I wanted to get to include them as well – the Braves are a great example of this, they go 15-19 prospects deep, and it was tough enough for me to narrow it down to 15, let alone 10. Throughout the offseason trades are bound to happen. I currently have every team’s top 15 lists, but they may be forced to change due to trades. I will try my best to make the appropriate adjustments, and even update lists I’ve already posted as prospects come to and from teams. Also, other than Michael Inoa, I have no 2008 internationally signed players; I also do not feel as though they will be missed. Finally, I would like to say that I am not a professional, I do possess a good amount of information, but I will make mistakes, few, but they will be there. There are also some prospects I may not go into full detail about, but I will hit the mot important players, in my opinion of every organization. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this series, and consistently come here to read it. Good Luck to Everybody’s Favorite Team’s Offseason… go Rays.
Minor League notations in descending order
*AAA/AA signifies triple A, and Double A respectively… duh
*A+ signifies high A ball
*A- signifies low A ball
*A signifies a prospect played at both high, and low A ball throughout the course of the season
*a signifies short-season A ball*R signifies rookie league
*MLL signifies minor league level last season
Top 15 Prospects
1. Fernando Martinez OF Age: 20 MLL: AA
Mets fans are still awaiting the arrival of Martinez, and its likely they will have to wait another whole year before they get to see Martinez' pro debut. To me Martinez' tools are still just projection. Luckily, Martinez is still only 20, and has a full season of AA under his belt, so he has plenty of time to develop still. He hit a .292 BA, .345 OBP, but struck out 75 times compared to his 27 walks so , he has to improve his plate discipline. Martinez has been playing center field, but will make a switch, likely to right field. He is an average runner, but has a good arm, which should play well in right field. Having barely missed the playoffs the last two seasons, the Mets may push to get Martinez to the big leagues early next year, but I think it is best for him to spend all of 2009 in the minors (which is the same way I feel about Cameron Maybin of the Marlins).
2. Ike Davis OF/1B Age: 21 MLL: a
Ike Davis was the first first round pick for the Mets in 2008, from the University of Arizona. Davis' best tool is his raw power. He could hit somewhere between 35, and 40 HRs one day. Davis has been most mentioned as a first basemen when he reaches the majors, but he has the arm, and athleticism to play either corner of the outfield, which I think makes him a more attractive prospect. Where he plays in the big leagues will depend a lot on where Nick Evans ends up. If Evans settles in at first once Delgado is gone, then Davis will obviously end up in the outfield, which is where I believe he belongs. Davis is not a speedy, but is a smart base runner, and should have decent range in the outfield. He struggled in his pro debut this past summer hitting for a .256 BA, and failing to knock a home run. He may take a little longer to get to the big leagues now - which only means do not expect him in September of 2009, opening day 2010 is still a possibility.
3. Jon Niese LHSP Age: 22 MLL: AAA/AA
Niese lacks a strong fastball, throwing his somewhere between 88 and 92. However, his secondary pitches are great. Niese throws a possible plus-plus curveball, and good changeup. He also commands all of his pitches well. In 2008 Niese pitched well, playing in AA, AAA, and making his debut for the Mets. He pitched for an ERA of 3.13 striking out 144 in 164 innings. Due to his lack of a great fastball Niese does not have ace potential, but could become a solid #3 starter, or possibly even a #2.
4. Eddie Kunz RHRP Age: 22 MLL: AAA/AA
Kunz' best pitch is a heavy sinking fastball, which he throws up to 96/97 mph. He has a second plus pitch in the form of a slider - obviously making him a ground ball pitcher. Kunz is sure to be a an eighth inning set man, or closer one day. However, right now Kunz has some trouble with his control, and has a tendency to make bad innings worse.
5. SS Age: 22 MLL: a
Taken in the 2008 draft a the Mets' second pick in the first round. Reese will have to switch to either third, or more likely second base, due to his lack of range. However, with , and David Wright stationed on the left side of the infield for the Mets, the move would have been probable anyway. Despite his range deficiencies Reese has a plus arm. Havens already has great plate discipline, and will also have above average power for a second basemen.
6. Nick Evans 1B/LF Age: 22 MLL: AA
Evans has a big future batting 5th in the Mets' lineup. He hit well in AA before getting extended playing time with the Mets. Although Evans has played first base in the minors the Mets had him play at both corner outfield spots, I think he could be an adequate defender in left. Evans does not strike out as much as some power hitters his age, but he does not walk much either. He has the potential to hit 25-30 HRs.
7. Wilmer Flores SS Age: 17 MLL: A
Many people have Flores ranked much higher than this, and his potential alone may warrant that ranking, but I do not like to buy into young international players that early. Flores is going to end up too big for shortstop, but his arm strength will allow him to move to third base. His power potential should play there nicely, as will his ability to make consistent contact. Flores does not walk much, but he has plenty of time to work on that. Due to the fact Flores is at least three to four years away from think about the majors I do not want to over rank him, just keep in mind he could/will play above this ranking.
8. Mike Carp 1B Age: 22 MLL: AA
Has all the hitting tools, bad fielder, does not have speed. Mike Carp has moved up a little on my board. He hit a line of .299/.403/.471 (Batting Average/On Base Percentage/ Slugging %) in AA last season. Previously, the biggest knocks on Carp were his strikeouts, and his BA against LHPs. Last season he improved on both, hitting .268 against LHP (as opposed to .314 against RHP). Also, Carp struck out 88 times, while walking 79 times. He also possesses good power hitting 17 HRs in 2008, and finishing 2008 with a .874 OPS.
9. Dan Murphy 3B/2B Age: 23 MLL: AAA/AA
Murphy is a big mover having played well in AA, and AAA, and even spending time with the Mets down the stretch. For most of his career Murphy has played at the infield, or outfield corners, but now the Mets are trying him at second in hopes he will compete for the second base job next spring training. Murphy has a very low propensity to strikeout; he did so only 48 times in the minors in 2008. He also has average power, and should hit anywhere from 10-25 HRs a season – if he were to start for a whole season. Murphy’s not incredibly fast, but stole 14 bases in 2008, so he should add a little to the Mets’ already stacked arsenal of base stealers. Murphy is not a great fielder, but the Mets will work hard to get him comfortable at second. If he proves to be able to handle his spot in the middle of the infield Murphy should be a productive starter next season.
10. Brian Rustich RHSP Age: 23 MLL: A-
A big power pitcher with a good fastball he throws in the mid 90s, and a power slider to go with it. Rustich has extreme control problems, but pitched well in a limited span of 49 innings in 2008. He threw for an ERA of 3.62, limiting opposing batters to a BA of .238, and he also struck out 48 batters (in 49 innings). Is Rustich likely to be moved to the bullpen...? Yeah, but if he conquers his control problems like his play this season may imply, he could be a solid second or third starter as well.
11. Dylan Owen RHSP Age: 22 MLL: AA/A+
Owen broke out this past season collecting 13 wins with an ERA of 3.66, 131 Ks, over 150 innings pitched in high A, and AA. I will not pretend to know much about him, but I am impressed with his 2008, and will continue to track him next season. I guess we could be looking at another back end of the rotation guy – feel free to comment about him, if you have any information about him.
12. Scott Moviel RHSP Age: 20 MLL: A
A rare example where I rate potential over an establish player (Moviel over Vineyard). Moviel was the second round pick of the Mets in 2007. Moviel is 6-11, and has yet to peak his fastballs velocity, he also throws a looping curve, and has started to develop his change – because of his power potential, he will likely add a slider at some point. Somewhat surprisingly Moviel played the whole season advancing up to high A, in 125 innings he pitched an ERA of 4.25 winning ten games, while only striking out 84 batters. Moviel has a lot of potential, and will likely break into the top ten next season as he further develops his pitches, and increases his strikeout total.
13. Nathan Vineyard LHSP Age: 20 MLL: A-
The 2007 first round pick of the Mets, Vineyard is a low upside, but very polished pitcher. Vineyard has excellent command over his three average pitches (a fastball, slider, and changeup). He projects to be a fourth or fifth starter in the major leagues. Vineyard sat out for most of 2008, after having rotator cuff surgery – his rotator cuff injury was not torn, so his recovery time will be much faster.
14. Robert Parnell RHSP Age: 24 MLL: AAA/AA
Parnell possesses a good sinking fastball that ranges between 92 and 95 mph. He also throws an average-plus slider, and below average changeup. Parnell is likely to move into the bullpen – possibly the Mets’ to start the season – because of his below average changeup, and below average stamina.
15. Ruben Tejada SS/2B Age: 19 MLL: A+
In the past Tejada’s greatest strength has been his advanced plate discipline – particularly compared to others his age. However, in 2008, he walked only 44 times, despite striking out only 77. Still, Tejada is only 19, and his strike out number is encouraging. Tejada has average speed, and arm strength, this will force a permanent move to second before he reaches the big leagues. He has little-no power, and is not likely to develop any. Tejada lacks upside, but could be an average everyday second basemen, and could also prove to be a good #2 hitter, with a high OBP.