By Mike Steffanos
With relief, I turn my attention away from the free agent frenzy to Baseball America's Top 10 New York Mets prospect list by Matt Meyers. Since I strongly favor that the Mets rely much more heavily on their farm system in the coming years, this is a topic that I enjoy. While it came as no surprise that Lastings Milledge was picked as the Mets' top prospect, I was intrigued by a few names on the list.
The ones that most Met fans have heard mentioned are Milledge, pitcher Yusmeiro Petit, pitcher Phil Humber, pitcher Brian Bannister, 2B Anderson Hernandez and 1B Mike Jacobs. Cuban pitcher Alay Soler was in the news recently as he finally received a visa to enter the US.
The names you might not be aware of, unless you are really into this, are pitcher Gaby Hernandez, OF Carlos Gomez, and OF Fernando Martinez.
Gaby Hernandez is a good-looking pitcher the Mets drafted out of high school in 2004. Mets Inside Pitch also ranks him in their top 10 prospects. He did well pitching for the Mets' rookie league team in Hagerstown, pitched a no-hitter and earned a late-season promotion to high A ball in St. Lucie.
Carlos Gomez is a toolsy 19-year-old OF from the Dominican that earned the Mets' Sterling Award (best minor leaguers) for Hagerstown. He's raw, but he gets a lot of buzz. Inside Pitch actually tabbed him as the Mets' top prospect, ahead of Milledge, although some see that as extremely premature on their part. (But fair, I guess, when you are talking prospects you're mostly talking projection.)
Fernando Martinez is a kid from the Dominican that the Mets made a stir with earlier in the year when they signed him to a $1.4 million contract, one of the richest deals in history for a Dominican prospect. Being only 16 years old when he signed he won't even start playing minor league ball in the Mets system until 2006.
Matt Cerone from Metsblog has a long interview with Matt Meyers that any Met fan with an interest in learning more about these prospects will enjoy.
In the article, Meyers makes the point that the Mets' "hesitance to part with their top prospects for short-term gain indicated a potential change in organizational philosophy and a willingness to build through their farm system." I'd like to believe this, but I'm not convinced. I still have the feeling that Omar is going to deal Milledge and Petit during this off-season, and can only hope that he proves me wrong.
Meyers also makes the point that the Mets organization has produced some impact players over the past few years but lacks depth. This is the general consensus that I hear about the farm system. Meyers points out that due to free agent signings the Mets have given up their second and third round picks in 3 of the last 4 years. It seems likely to happen this year, too, as Omar pursues impact free agents. It is my personal hope as a fan that this might change after this off-season, and in future years, the philosophy shifts more to player development within the system.