Monday, March 06, 2006

Do We Have Any Quality Minor Leaguers To Promote?

Well, according to Baseball America (a publication we LOVE, regardless of how you interpret this column) and other sources, our minor leagues are depleted in depth and quality. To that I reply:

1.) Victor Diaz*David Wright*Jose Reyes*Anderson Hernandez*Jeff Keppinger*Lastings Milledge*Aaron Heilman*Heath Bell* 8 players - all names that our minor leagues have provided us with within the past 3 years. Remember when Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Andy Petite and Ramiro Mendoza all came up together? And the Yanks minor leagues were temporarily left near-barren? When the Yanks needed a second baseman, they traded pitching prospect Eric Milton for Chuck "throw it around the" Knoblach, and no one blinked because Knoblach was a valuable contributor until contracting Blass Disease. If we can have ANYWHERE near the success that that young tandem did, with the right amount of fill-ins via trade and free agency, perhaps then (?) we'll be looked at in a better light? Wright and Reyes are stars, perhaps (in Wright's case) superstars in the making. Diaz and Hernandez have huge upside if they reach close to their potential. Heilman and Bell can solidify the bullpen for years to come, and Milledge, perhaps, has the greatest upside potential of everyone and represents the best outfield prospect we've had since Darryl Strawberry. Yes, Jeter and Rivera are sure-fire hall-of-famers, with Posada, Williams and Petite on the nearly-great list, but we have barely scratched the surface of the talents that our current group represents, and therefore it will take another 10-12 years until we can truly judge this groups' success.

2.) *Mike Pelfrey*Philip Humber*John Maine*Brian Bannister*Henry Owen*Royce Ring*Alay Soler*Fernando Martinez*Carlos Gomez*Mike Carp*Ambiorix Concepcion*Shawn Bowman*Jesus Flores*Jamar Hill*Deolis Guerra*Jon Neise*Brett Harper*Matt Durkin* Emmanuel Garcia*Robert Parnell*Hector Pellot*Matt Lindstrom*Nick Evans -23 players in all - get used to these names, as many of them will be playing a significant role in the Mets future- either on our roster (a la Pelfrey, Bannister, Soler, Martinez, etc) 0r on someone else's for either major or minor league talent that WILL help us. Pelfrey, Soler, Bannister, Owen and Maine might all play a role in this years' pennant drive, while many of the others will, hopefully, in the near future. Martinez already looks to be far more along then any 17 year old that I have ever seen, and the Mets are not in the habit of allowing players that young to get any major amount of playing time, as Martinez seems to now be receiving. Players such as Gomez, Carp and Flores have huge potential upside, as Gomez seems to be, defensively at least, the best natural outfielder we have ever produced. He has been compared to a young Vlad, certainly a comparison we all appreciate after not signing the "original version." Do YOU know how these players are going to turn out??? Neither do I, and therefore, while I recognize that there are experts out there who are right some of the time, judging which players are actually going to have the heart and drive to take it to the next level is far beyond their abilities to predict at this young juncture in most of their careers. As we've said before, too many times so-called "experts" have expected the likes of Alex Escobar and Shawn Abner to become superstars, while guys like Mike Piazza flew far under their radar.

3.) Paul Lo Duca* Carlos Delgado* Victor Zambrano* Duaner Sanchez* Steve Schmoll* - All of these players (including 2 all-stars) were acquired in exchange for minor league (or near minor league) talent. There's no guarantees that Petit, Hernandez or Jacobs will be stars, although collectively, they are a group I wouldn't want to bet against. For our purposes, Lo Duca and Delgado are more important to, and will play a greater role in, our pennant drive this year, and that is something that we have to remember when judging these trades. I loved Jacobs, and hoped we'd have an all-homemade infield of Jacobs, Hernandez, Reyes and Wright for years to come. I also know that Delgado is a multi-time all-star, capable of posting over 30 dingers and 100 RBI's with a high average and decent defense (despite what you might have read elsewhere) even playing half of his games at Shea; Lo Duca is a great clubhouse leader, an excellent handler of pitchers and a good contact hitter with a bit of well-timed pop in his bat. Trading Seo was something I didn't think would happen, considering the great 1/2 year he had, but I also think that getting Sanchez is a great move as he will prove to be an excellent set-up man to Blazin' Billy Wagner. Remember that, prior to last year, most Mets fans grew frustratred by Seo's lack of progress and were not readily embracing of him upon his return to the majors, until he put together a nice win streak. Of course, you win some and you lose some, and EVEN if Zambrano is 15-11 this year with a 3.50 ERA, I will ALWAYS miss the excitement that Kazmir would have brought to this team. However, realist that I have become (okay, I'm a Mets fanatic so I can't consider myself that much of a realist), I know Scott's not coming back, so let's move on and focus on the greatness that is Mike Pelfrey!

4.) General Managers like Billy Beane and Pat Gillick would, I am sure, be happy to raid our organization of some of it's top talent. Beane wants a Milledge for a Zito, but might be inclined to take a package that includes 3 high-ceiling minor leaguers instead if, in July, they are out of contention and his high price is not readily met (or if Zito won't agree to a contract extension). We have more chips then anyone is letting on, and Omar will find a way to utilize them, if need be, in far better fashion then his recent predecessors.

5.) What are the minor leagues supposed to do? Provide us with either talent for our major league team, or talent to trade for other players to become part of our major league team. In short order, Omar has been tasked with the unenviable position of having to trade top minor league prospects for major league ready talent while simultaneously restocking our farm system. He has, so far, done just that, acquiring great major league talent like Delgado and Lo Duca, as well as adding great minor league talent in Pelfrey, Martinez, etc. If memory serves, those dastardly Yanks won 4 World Series' employing this philosophy based around a core group surrounded by an ever-improving, rotating cast. Well, Delgado is a huge upgrade over the Boston Ball-Thief, as Wagner is as huge an upgrade over Loop-De-Looper. Omar HAS to sign free agents in order to upgrade our roster, but he also knows that, with signings like Fernando Martinez and drafts that yield Mike Pelfrey's, he will soon be successful at all levels of talent acquisition. If we're all lucky, he WILL have simultaneous victories!!!!

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