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Things Going Right

Mike SteffanosTuesday, March 17, 2009
By Mike Steffanos

Tim Redding won't be ready to open the season with the Mets. John Maine isn't throwing his curveball yet. Freddie Garcia looks like what he is -- a thirty-something pitcher trying to come back from shoulder surgery. Livan Hernandez can't break a pane of glass at ten paces with his fastball.

While spring training 2009 has been a relatively happy camp, there is no shortage of reporting any perceived vulnerability of this club in the media. Certainly questions linger about the fifth starter and a couple of bullpen spots, but a closer look reveals there has been a lot of good news coming out of camp.

Corner Outfielders
The Mets passed up chances to land an established bat for their corner OF slots, instead opting to stay with Ryan Church in right and a platoon of Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis in left. Despite the off-season controversy, early returns look promising.

Church looks like the guy who was the best player on the team for the first six weeks last year before his season was ruined by concussions. He's hitting the ball to all fields with authority and hanging in against lefties just fine.

Meanwhile, the projected platoon has morphed into Murphy being the everyday left fielder, and by all accounts the kid seem just fine with the idea. He impresses even the most skeptical observers with his work ethic and feel for the game. It seems like I've gone from reading dire predictions for the kid's failure to a growing consensus that he could handle the job.

Another young player, Nick Evans, seems poised to make a contribution if Fernando Tatis proves to be a flash in the pan. Evans contributed last year, but at times seemed overmatched. This spring he has been raking the ball, showing the power that wasn't all that evident last year. The difference seems to be one of confidence, and he's making a still likely decision to send him down to start the year harder and harder on the brain trust.

Bobby Parnell
With Duaner Sanchez gone, there is a spot to be taken if the hard-throwing youngster is ready for it, and it's starting to look like he is. He's throwing more strikes and working on a split finger pitch to complement his heavy fastball. While he definitely shows short-man quality stuff, Parnell, who has been a starter in the minors, can stretch out to pitch multiple innings and give the Mets flexibility in the bullpen.

What interests me about these players beyond what they stand to contribute is where they came from. Murphy was a 13th round pick in 2006. Parnell was a ninth round pick the year before. Evans came in the fifth round a year before that.

Finding gems in later rounds and developing them into major league ballplayers is a mark of a good player development system. For years the Mets couldn't even get it right with their top picks. This is a positive trend for both this season and beyond.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (4)

there is also the heavy recruiting and development program down in the DR academy as well that should start bearing fruit in the not so distant future. The Mets farm system is in a far far better place since Minaya has been GM.

I have been a fan of Murphy and Evans, watching them in Binghamton and always had my fingers crossed every time they talked trade with anybody that these guys would stay along with F-Mart, we have a good outfield group.They talk about Evans for 1st base. But I don't see to much power "yet" to be a 1st basemen.Murphy is for real and a future team leader, I think he can be another David Wright kind of player.thanks for the pep talk Mike, I needed that after reading so much down press about the Mets.

This is the part that we wanted to see, "player development". I like the fact that Evans has improved on his game, Murphy is being consistant, & Parnell may get a spot. If the farm can keep developing and producing young players it benefits all aspects of your baseball team. Holt, Flores, Pena, Moviel, and others should yield dividends in the near future. Just keep hiring good baseball people, and they can have a good crop of home-growns for years. I admired teams like the Dodgers who seem to always produce 3 to 4 good prospects into solid ML's. Lopes, Garvey, Russell, & Cey to Guerrero, Scoscia, Hershiser, & Valenzuela, along the way the Piazza's & Martinez' and now Eithier, Kemp, & Loney. It's nice to see it in the Mets farm system. That fifth spot is the thing now, I was pulling for Garcia, but he is just not ready. Livan, Armas, Figgy, Pedro?

I think the New York Sports Media wants to hype up "how bad things have gone" for the Mets to cover up the fact that THEIR Yankees have had a pretty horrible spring training. A-Roids and an aging and increasingly creaky team, anyone?

When all the Mets have to really worry about is their #5 starter, you know you're doing something right. Of course, if Maine doesn't improve during the season, then I'll worry. But Johan will be fine, Pelfrey looks good, and Livan and Perez are serviceable. For the pen, Putz and K-Rod have been stellar in the WBC.

And might I also point out that Delgado was a monster in the WBC? He hasn't lost his stroke from the second half last year.

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