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Finally Getting It Right Down On the Farm

Mike SteffanosFriday, March 17, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

Sometimes things happen with the Mets that just make me shake my head. Willie and Omar sticking with Kaz Ishii for so long last season is a good example. Some of Omar's moves this past winter, although not without logic, went against the grain a little. I favor a more cautious approach to building a team, and I would love to see the Mets develop a lot more of their own prospects into major leaguers.

Baseball America is doing a series of features on visiting the various camps down in Florida, concentrating on the minor league side of things. Assistant editor Chris Kline visited Mets camp yesterday, and his report on the changes the Mets have made in player development warmed my heart. While acknowledging the depleted state of the system due to the Delgado and Lo Duca deals, Kline has some reassuring words for Mets fans:

...a day in Mets camp revealed there are reasons for Mets fans to get excited about the farm system, and that extends well beyond No. 1 prospect Lastings Milledge, who will likely begin the year at Triple-A Norfolk.

Farm director Adam Wogan has only been on the job for a few months since coming over from the Nationals, but thanks to assistant to the GM Tony Bernazard, field coordinator Tony Tijerina and the rest of the field staff, Mets camp is running like a well-oiled machine. And that makes getting Wogan acclimated that much easier.

As Kline conducts an interview with Wogan and Bernazard, I find myself more and more impressed with the changes that have been implemented in the Mets' system. It's no secret that many players make it to the major leagues shockingly lacking in basic fundamentals. Rather than just paying lip service to correcting this, the Mets player development people have implemented a thorough and logical approach to ensure that future Mets will be well-grounded fundamentally. Kline quotes Adam Wogan:

We definitely want our players to learn to be aggressive in games, but we also want them to all be smart players. Everything we do, we're stressing fundamentals. So if we're doing cut-offs and relays or picks to second base or third base and there's a mistake made, there's no problem. That's why we do those drills. You stop it right there and make sure guys end on a positive with that rep and then do it over again. If there's any one thing that's wrong we want to stop it, re-do it and get to a positive result. We want everything to be done to a level of quality. We're not looking to just check it off the list.

What is equally as impressive is the effort the Mets are making in developing life skills -- cooking, nutrition, finances. Kline quotes Tony Bernazard that the Mets making sure their youngsters have the tools they need to find success in life:

Well, we care about what these kids are going to do while they're playing baseball and when they're done playing baseball from ownership all the way through the organization. It's very important to us that if and when they should leave the organization that they have the life skills to be able to move on from there and become the best person they can be.

You know, it's the little things that often separate the good organizations from the mediocre and bad ones. Sounds like the Mets are putting the right people in place to ensure that their farm system can be a productive source of big-league talent in the future. Kline also looks at some of the prospects beyond Milledge that have a chance of making an impact. Check it out.

Mets.com: Kaz is Cursed
Marty Noble reports that Kaz Matsui will be out 3 weeks with a sprained knee ligament. Anderson Hernandez will receive most of the reps at second base while he's out. Maybe Jeff Keppinger will get more of a look, also -- you'd hate to see the Mets panic at this point and give up too much for a guy like Tony Graffanino.

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