Keeping Tabs on the 2009 Draftees: Part 1

In case you don't know, I'm a draft junkie, in much the same way Ralphie's dad was a turkey junkie in A Christmas Story. A few days before the draft, my mouth begins watering and my eyes gain a dangerous gleam. Once the whole thing is over, I live off the leftovers for weeks. A bona fide gally drafticanus freak. While the Mets' 2009 draft turned out somewhat disappointing—no first round pick, a failure to sign their fifth- and sixth-round selections—they did still grab 35 players. And, I suppose, there is a chance that some of these guys may be able to contribute at some point in the future. With the regular season over, I figured now would be a perfect time to get familiar with some of the guys who've been honing their skills in their first professional season. I'll be focusing just on those who made their professional debuts, so don't expect anything on Steven Matz just yet.

 

Third round choice Robbie Shields, arguably the best Division II talent available in this year's draft, was a shortstop out of Florida Southern. Shields had a wonderful sophomore campaign and burst onto prospect charts with a phenomenal summer in the Cape Cod League. His junior season, however, was a little disappointing, causing him to slip from a potential first-rounder to the Mets' choice at 103. While not my first choice with the pick—that would have been David Renfroe—he was on my short list with the third round pick, and I took him in my shadow draft. He's got a line drive bat at the plate, a little pop, and solid instincts in the infield, although some see him as more of a second baseman due to average footspeed. According to Jeff Sackmann, however, he did have a statistically superb defensive season at Florida Southern, making him the best defensive shortstop in the nation.

 

The Mets sent him to Brooklyn, and he was more or less a disaster at the plate, batting an awful .178/.273/.267. Now, here's the question: how worried should that line make us? If you're looking for an answer from me, I'm not too worried yet. Shields should be batting better than this, but he is making a larger jump than most—he only played D-II so, he's making a bigger jump competition-wise—and his batting mechanics are a little complex, and he may be having trouble adapting to pitches as a result. Furthermore, he's been known to try to do too much at the plate, getting overly pull-happy at times. Because of all this, I didn't expect Shields to be an overnight sensation, so it's not time to worry yet.

Like Shields, fans shouldn't be too worried about fourth-round pick Darrell Ceciliani, at least not yet. Ceciliani was drafted out of a Washington junior college, and he drew a lot of comparisons to Jacoby Ellsbury, who hails from the same home town. His principal asset is all-around athleticism, though he doesn't look nearly as fast as Ellsbury. I'll be flat-out honest here: I wasn't enthralled with the pick by any means. The performance in college wasn't great, he wasn't facing top-notch competition, he's especially raw, and scouts didn't like his batspeed. He's got some natural strength, but it just hasn't translated to power yet, and it might not happen.

 

The Mets sent Ceciliani to Kingsport, and, after a hot start, he was overmatched, hitting .234/.313/.310. He did steal 14 bags in 16 tries, which is encouraging, and the reports on his defense are solid. Like Shields, it's probably a little unreasonable to expect immediate results, but there's less track record here, so I'm accordingly less optimistic. He does have a chance to become a leadoff hitter if he can start hitting line drives and continue making strides with his plate discipline.

 

Seventh-round selection and pitchability lefty Darin Gorski; was another small-school pick. Scouts liked his frame and feel for pitching coming out of school, enough to discount his lack of velocity (tops out at 91 and sits in the mid-80's) or even one above average pitch. He throws a slow curve ball with a big break and a decent change. He does have simple, clean mechanics that shouldn't cause any particular problems as he advances.

 

Sent to Brooklyn, Gorski went 3-4 with a 4.91 ERA over 13 games and 62.1 innings, over which he struck out 50 batters and walked 26, while allowing six homers. I'd call it a pretty successful if unspectacular debut, though he'll need to really watch the walks as he progresses—with little ability to strike hitters out, he'll need all the help he can get. I see a potential fifth starter or long man in the pen if things break right.

 

In the following round, the Mets grabbed McNeese State backstop Taylor Freeman. I haven't had a chance to see him at all, but Baseball America noted raw power, raw catching skills, and a long left-handed swing. The performance at Kingsport more or less backs it up: Freeman hit just .205/.271/.305 and struck out 38 times in 145 plate appearances. That strikeout rate just won't fly unless he can develop the power and patience to go with it. On the plus side, he did demonstrate a strong arm, throwing out 29% of would-be base stealers.

 

I liked tenth-round selection Nick Santomauro a lot, and I liked it even better when the Dartmouth product signed quickly for $82,000. While the Ivy League is not exactly a baseball hotbed, Santomauro won conference Player of the Year honors with a .377/.456/.630 campaign. The Mets sent the young outfielder to Brooklyn, where he hit a respectable .241/.368/.441 over 175 plate appearances. He did strike out 38 times, though, so the contact rate needs work. But you really have to love the secondary skills on display here, as he smacked 14 extra-base hits and walked 28 times. Scouting reports suggest he lacks the range for center, but he does have the arm for right. In the long run, he's probably not a true starting corner outfielder on a major league club, but he could be a very useful fourth outfielder down the line.

 

That's it for today, but I'll take another opportunity in the near future to look over some deep sleepers from the Mets' 2009 draft class.

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