There's nothing particularly new and interesting is going on in the Mets farm system. We all saw Jon Niese. Fernando Martinez continues to be up and down. Buffalo stinks. Brad Holt is on a nice roll. Reese Havens' power continues to impress. Eastern League pitching still hasn't solved Josh Thole. Wilmer Flores and Jefry Marte continue to struggle in the Sally League, but for what its worth, Jordany Valdespin is back.
So with that in mind, rather than go through all the updates lets take a look at some of the players who might be able to help the Mets in the near future, and what their path to the big league club might look like.
a.k.a F-Mart, a.k.a F!, a.k.a. The Teenage Hitting Machine, a.k.a Fartinez. For a kid who only really tore up one level, that's a lot of hype. Now in his Triple-A campaign and handling himself fairly well, Martinez seems poised to try and solidify himself as a part of the future of the Mets. At the moment, the Mets don't particularly need another fringe left handed outfielder, but the one thing F-Mart does have over the Mets current crop of middling outfielders is upside. Its not quite enough upside yet where he should be considered anything more than an injury reserve for the big league team, but it makes his progress in Buffalo worth watching closely. Before his recent 0-8 slump, Fartinez had done a good job limiting strikeouts during a nice hot streak, fanning just three times in about 30 previous PAs. If he can continue that trend, show a little spike in walks, and continue to translate his raw power into XBH, he could become a decent option for a starting job in 2010, but not a great one just yet.
2. Jon Niese
Jon seems have earned himself another big league start with his recent performance against the Pirates. His struggles in Buffalo were well documented, but nearly as well documented was his bad luck and poor defense. Another good start against the Braves, the only Major League team he's already beaten, could earn him a chance to stick around long-term. This will be especially tempting considering the alternative is a rotation with both Livan Hernandez and Tim Redding, and that's only until "The Next Sandy Koufax" returns. Niese's ultimate ceiling isn't much higher than a mid-rotation starter, but he may already be just about there. He could be a nice stabilizing force in the rotation and a solid weapon against lefty-heavy, fastball hitting lineups.
3. Josh Thole
Thole has just torn up the Eastern League, posting a .389 wOBA thus far. There's a bit of incongruity in the batted ball data, he's not hitting a lot of line drives but has a .383 BABIP, apparently because a lot of his grounders are finding holes. But he also as drawn more walks than third strikes, just as he did last year in St. Lucie and the year before in Savannah, which is always a great indicator of superior strike zone judgment. The question with Thole has shifted almost exclusively to defense and ability behind the plate at this point. He's throwing basestealers out at a solid rate this year (8/20 CS), but he also already has four Passed Balls. The advantage for Thole is that his path to the bigs is the clearest of any position player on the farm. Castro and Schneider are both free agents after this year, and Thole's bat seems like it will be at least adequate enough to play at the big league level by next season. The Mets would be foolish to use Robinson Cancel as an excuse to keep him out of Buffalo for too long, as a bit of seasoning and Mr. Thole could be the answer to a big upcoming need and a nice way to trim some payroll for next year. The Bisons are loaded with veteran pitching, and would be the best place for him to polish his skills behind the plate at this point, not to mention give Fernando Martinez some much needed lineup support. Please Omar, don't justify my fear that you're already dead set on overpaying for a crappy veteran Catcher next year. Platooning the hippo might actually work with Thole.
4. Reese Havens
Havens' bat may have already earned him a callup ticket to Binghmaton for sometime later this year. He's shown power that scouts just didn't see coming, and though he's been inconsistent at hitting line drives, he has translated his sound approach and ability to get on base to the pros. Havens' stock has probably risen more than any other Mets prospect so far this year, but his path to the bigs isn't quite as clear. The next stage should be that he moves up a level and begins learning his future position, Second Base. Ruben Tejada is playing most games at Shortstop for the B-Mets, and Jonathan Malo has patrolled the keystone. After already suffering a demotion, Malo may be in line for another to make room for Reese sometime this summer. Should that happen, look for Havens and Tejada to split up the middle infield duties. Though Havens probably has the polish to move fairly quickly from this point, as long as Luis Castillo is producing, the Mets will probably be patient, hoping to get one more "good" year out of Castillo before turning the gig over to Havens sometime in 2011.
5. Dillon Gee
Gee has been nearly as ineffective in Buffalo as Niese had been, but it seems to be less about luck with Gee. Though his BABIP is also inflated (.353) it better matches his LD% (21%). Gee is neither as polished nor does he have as much upside as Niese. But he has a decent chance at becoming more than an organizational player, if not all that much more. His 28/7 K/BB is a good sign that he could adapt to Triple-A sooner than later and eventually become a reasonable back of the rotation starter. But remember, he's now only made 10 starts above HiA, so even a 2010 ETA is somewhat optimistic.
Honorable Mention - Roy Merritt
Merritt has struggled a bit of late in Binghamtom, but he's generally been a dependable relief option. If is his exposure to right-handed batters was limited, he could be a viable LOOGY in the near future, but that's about where his upside ends.
Dark Horse - Brad Holt
After a rocky first outing in the FSL, Holt is quickly showing that his fastball is enough to dominate here as well. Since then he's made four more starts, a total of 21 innings, and given up just 3 ER with a 20/4 K/BB. His development speed will be all about his secondary pitches. The Mets have shown a propensity to be aggressive with pitchers like Holt, however, the Mets seem to be taking a slightly more conservative approach here than in the past. After some whispers that they might move him straight to Double-A, they wisely resisted the temptation. With a few more good outings, he may move up north with Havens anyway, but they're also strictly monitoring his innings, meaning he's unlikely to make a meaningful contribution in the short-term. Still, his fastball is probably major league caliber already. He'll get a long, hard look next March. If his secondary stuff comes along quickly it may again be difficult to resist the temptation of having him make an early 2010 debut in the name of an innings limit, but its still probably the correct way to develop the young righty.