The Mets’ rebuilding plan…

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Joe Janish brought up a very interesting topic in a piece he wrote in Mets Today the other day, in which he brought up a bunch of questions about rebuilding. It got me thinking of how the Mets are going to rebuild, when, with what, etc… so I decided to do a little research…

First, take a look at the Mets’ salary obligations through 2017 from Cot’s Contracts:

Basically the next two seasons are clouded by the two monster contracts of Jason Bay and Johan Santana. Both of them can be bought out for a total of $8.5 million before 2014, which the Mets will certainly do with Bay, and maybe Santana, depending on how healthy they are. So right there, you have two years where it will be difficult to sign a big free agent or trade for a high-salary player. Now, (insert”Count” from “Sesame Street” laughing away) the Mets will be forced to develop from within.

What question didn’t come up was whether or not the Mets have the firepower to successfully rebuild the Mets to the point where they can win a championship. They have four very good pitching prospects in the A+ to AA levels in Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Majia, and Zack Wheeler. You could even throw Juan Urbina in there if you want, but at 18, he is a long way away from the majors. However, everyone knows pitching prospects are harder to predict than Brett Favre’s retirement, and it’s a real possibility that all four (five) of the names that I mentioned will every contribute to a major league team. You could always look at the system from a positive perspective and easily say Mejia Harvey and Wheeler will be at the top of the rotation in three years with the possibility of Familia as the fourth starter, but we have to realize that is a fantasy and that pitchers rarely work out and groups of them dominating at once is almost unheard of.

Look at the drafts starting from ten seasons ago. From 2002-2006 (the classes that should be in the majors right now), here are the pitchers drafted in the first round in that span:

Big list ‘eh? Now, take a look at the list of first round pitchers drafted in that span with 10+ WAR:

Raise the requirements to 20 WAR and the list is even smaller. There are pitchers with WARs of 20 or better:

  • Justin Verlander
  • Jered Weaver
  • Tim Lincecum
  • Zack Greinke
  • Cole Hamels
  • Matt Cain

This just shows how hard it is to develop pitchers. Of the 79 first-round pitchers from 2002-2006, only six (7.5%) have become top-of-the-rotation guys. So it’s really ridiculous, almost naive to think that multiple pitchers of the current Mets core of prospects could become aces. It’s true that the Giants have to pitchers on the list, but they stocked their rotation with crazy amounts of high-quality prospects, which drastically increased their chances of having multiple aces. And even when you do that it’s still difficult. Just look at the Pirates. They are at the top of the draft spending list seemingly every year, but they can’t seem to develop any top pitchers. Unless there’s something about the Met prospects that the scouting department knows that I don’t, I don’t see a full rotation coming purely out of this group. The time the Mets will spend looking for pitching prospects will really slow them down in their quest to become a winning organization once again.

Also, I have to bring up the lack of positional prospects. According to Baseball America, the Mets have five position players in their top ten list of prospects. Brandon Nimmo, Cesar Puello, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Reese Havens, and Wilmer Flores are all in the top ten on the Mets list and it seems like there are flaws in each of them.

Brandon Nimmo:

Here are his “career” numbers:

Year Tm Lg Lev G AB H HR RBI SB BA OBP OPS
2011 2 Teams 2 Lgs Rk 10 38 8 2 4 0 .211 .318 .687
2011 Mets GULF Rk 7 29 7 2 4 0 .241 .313 .761
2011 Kingsport APPY Rk 3 9 1 0 0 0 .111 .333 .444
1 Season 10 38 8 2 4 0 .211 .318 .687
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/3/2011.

Of course I’m not going to even try to judge Nimmo based on his minor league performance so far. He’s only gotten to play in ten minor league games so I’m just putting the numbers up just to have them up there. However, Nimmo is 18 years old. High school players are very risky, especially ones who never actually played high school ball. I’m not doubting Nimmo or his talent/potential, I’m just throwing it out there that a high school player is rated fourth in the organization by Baseball America. If there is a player that everyone is so unsure about, and he is your fourth best prospect, that really says something about the players in your organization. The only issue with Nimmo is the fact that high schoolers are risky picks, but that risk is huge.

Cesar Puello:

Here are his career numbers:

Year Tm Lev G AB H HR RBI SB BA OBP OPS
2008 Mets Rk 40 151 46 1 17 13 .305 .350 .714
2009 Kingsport Rk 49 196 58 5 23 15 .296 .373 .796
2010 Savannah A 109 404 118 1 34 45 .292 .375 .734
2011 St. Lucie A+ 117 441 114 10 50 19 .259 .313 .710
4 Seasons 315 1192 336 17 124 92 .282 .349 .733
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/3/2011.

You can just smell it with Puello. His average is dipping and he is already starting to encounter major struggles. I mean, who knows what could happen. Maybe if it were up to me, I would say that Puello is a better bet than Nimmo, but they’re both so young. I could be wrong. He may not be the best at the plate, but the one thing that you can bet on with Puello is his defense. He is an excellent outfielder.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis

Here are his career numbers:

Year Tm Lev G AB H HR RBI SB BA OBP OPS
2008 Brooklyn A- 74 285 79 3 29 11 .277 .348 .744
2009 2 Teams A+-AA 131 514 145 17 73 17 .282 .364 .843
2009 St. Lucie A+ 123 482 132 16 71 16 .274 .357 .824
2009 Binghamton AA 8 32 13 1 2 1 .406 .472 1.128
2010 2 Teams AA-AAA 124 514 141 18 77 13 .274 .327 .802
2010 Binghamton AA 94 394 114 16 60 13 .289 .337 .847
2010 Buffalo AAA 30 120 27 2 17 0 .225 .295 .654
2011 Buffalo AAA 53 188 56 6 14 5 .298 .403 .908
4 Seasons 382 1501 421 44 193 46 .280 .354 .819
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/3/2011.

Here’s what the Mets said about him on their top 10 prospects list:

Sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Nieuwenhuis can do a little bit of everything on the field — he’ll hit for average, he has a bit of power and he has a little speed — but none of the tools will jump out at you. He plays the game the right way, and his effort helps him maximize his abilities on the field. He’s just about ready to help out in New York and might have gotten the call up from Triple-A Buffalo in 2011 if he hadn’t suffered a shoulder injury requiring season-ending surgery.

I just am not sure whether a player can succeed when “… none of the tools will jump out at you.” Every prospect has at least one skill that jumps out. Every player who does well has one thing they’re exceptional. Jose Reyes has his speed, Jason Bay has his defense, Daniel Murphy has his high-average hitting, Lucas Duda has his power. Everybody has something and someone who doesn’t scares me a little. Unless Nieuwenhuis is a special player who just puts forth so much effort that he can’t be stopped, I’m not sure it can happen with him in the big leagues, however, I’m excited to see him play. I’m anxious to see what all the buzz is about.

Reese Havens:

Here are his career numbers:

Year Tm Lev G AB H HR RBI SB BA OBP OPS
2008 Brooklyn A- 23 85 21 3 11 3 .247 .340 .811
2009 St. Lucie A+ 97 360 89 14 52 3 .247 .361 .784
2010 2 Teams AA-A+ 32 125 39 9 19 0 .312 .386 .978
2010 St. Lucie A+ 14 57 16 3 7 0 .281 .369 .878
2010 Binghamton AA 18 68 23 6 12 0 .338 .400 1.062
2011 2 Teams AA-A+ 61 222 64 6 28 2 .288 .373 .828
2011 St. Lucie A+ 3 11 3 0 2 0 .273 .385 .839
2011 Binghamton AA 58 211 61 6 26 2 .289 .372 .827
4 Seasons 213 792 213 32 110 8 .269 .366 .829
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/3/2011.

There;’s no doubting Havens at the plate. He is a very good hitter and well-deserving of one of the top prospect spots. However, it all comes down to staying healthy and he just can’t do it. He hasn’t played in 100 games at all in his career, with his career high coming in 2009.

Wilmer Flores:

Here are his career numbers:

Year Tm Lev G AB H HR RBI SB BA OBP OPS
2008 3 Teams Rk-A–A 68 280 86 8 42 2 .307 .347 .815
2008 Kingsport Rk 59 245 76 8 41 2 .310 .352 .842
2008 Brooklyn A- 8 30 8 0 1 0 .267 .290 .590
2008 Savannah A 1 5 2 0 0 0 .400 .400 .800
2009 Savannah A 125 488 129 3 36 3 .264 .305 .637
2010 2 Teams A+-A 133 554 160 11 84 4 .289 .333 .758
2010 Savannah A 66 277 77 7 44 2 .278 .342 .775
2010 St. Lucie A+ 67 277 83 4 40 2 .300 .324 .739
2011 St. Lucie A+ 133 516 139 9 81 2 .269 .309 .689
4 Seasons 459 1838 514 31 243 11 .280 .321 .715
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/3/2011.

I can’t even make a case against this guy. He is just so talented and has so much potential. He hit .307 in the minors as a 16 year-old! That’s nuts. He is a fantastic hitter and will eventually convert to the third base position from shortstop, which could delay his debut in the majors, but there is no doubting his ability. There is a reason why he was rated the 59th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America coming into this season.

So, except for Flores of course, I’ve found flaws in each of these prospects. I may be nit-picking… actually I know I’m nit-picking, but you can find flaws in almost every prospect, which is why so many of them don’t work out. Everyone finds out their flaws and exploits them. By all means, the Mets have a great group of young prospects, but it’s all about depth, and sometimes even depth doesn’t pay off. If I were in charge of the Mets, I would cut the salary of the big league club and invest it in the scouting department. It is just so difficult to develop a top-notch system because you can throw money at players all you want. You can give monstrous bonuses to hot-shot “no-brainers” every year, but the odds are always stacked against you. Met brass will never stand in front of the press saying that the small core of young talent the Mets have assembled right now is going to make for a great team in five or six years because the odds of that happening are next to none for a team that has a deep farm system, much less a team like the Mets, with a farm system in the bottom third in most rankings. In no way am I saying that it will be impossible for the Mets to win a championship in the net ten years. Maybe Omar Minaya was a scouting genius. He did a great job with players like Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, and Ike Davis. Maybe the core of Mets prospects at the moment is the greatest one ever assembled and we just don’t know it yet. Those are some pretty big “maybes.” All I’m trying to say is at the moment, the Mets farm system is nowhere near deep enough to rebuild. The Mets need to stockpile players, but not like the Pirates. The Wilpons need to go out and spend millions on the best scouts in the business, they need to give Paul DePodesta more power in the front office ;), and they need to stockpile intelligently. Don’t throw money at everybody within site. There is a path to rebuilding properly– but also a path to ending up like the Pirates. I’m not an expert on this… I’m just a 14 year-old with a computer and an opinion, but even I know that this is a crucial time in Mets history, and they can’t just sit back, hoping that everything’s going to work out. It’s not.
About Connor O'Brien
I'm a 17 year-old blogger, high school student, and lifelong Mets fan. I've been blogging about the Mets in some form or another for about four years. I embrace the new age, sabermetric way of thinking, but also recognize the importance of scouting and player devlopment.

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