So as you may or may not have heard, we'll be releasing the AAA 2.0 pretty soon. And along with it will come our 2011 Prospect Rankings. But I wanted to start the rankings a little early just to get the ball rolling so I thought we could do a few lists in the weeks leading up to Spring Training.
We'll start with probably the most intriguing group in my opinion, the Sleepers. Obviously these are the guys who aren't quite there yet, they're under the radar, you probably won't find them in Top 20's and you might not know their names very well but come next year you'll wonder why you didn't. So yes, we all know Reese Havens could be great if he stays heathy, Cesar Puello is on his way to becoming a special talent but those aren't the names we're going to discuss here. Let's take a look at the Top 5 true Sleepers in the Mets Farm System:
(In no specific order)LHP Zach Dotson
Despite just four career pro appearances - with the GCL Mets no less - I'm very high on Dotson coming into 2011. You may remember him as the Mets steal of a pick out of a Savannah-area high school in the 13th round of the '09 draft. Or perhaps more recently being suspended for testing positive for a banned substance - that turned out to be nasal decongestant. Either way I like him for many of the same reasons that people like Stephen Matz & Juan Urbina: He's a lefty with the kind of size, stuff & youth to project for big things. According to Mets former Scouting Director Rudy Terrasas: "His fastball has as good a life as I’ve ever seen...and I’ve been scouting for 27 years." Nice praise. And don't be fooled by the late-round selection; Dotson belongs in the same class as high round blue-chippers like Matz, he only dropped due to a seemingly strong commitment to UGA. Fortunately, an over-slot bonus and the chance to pitch in his back yard with the Sand Gnats was a strong enough draw to make a deal and a big-time draft bargain. Urbina may be the class of that group thanks to his ridiculously young age but Dotson belongs right there alongside Matz when discussing talented young pitchers.
If you read a lot of my Daily Farm System Reports this past summer you know I'm a fan of Tovar's. If you don't, think of him as the yin to Wilmer Flores' yang. Both are shortstops that call Venezuela home, both reached St. Lucie in 2010 at ridiculously young ages and Tovar is actually 5 days younger than Wilmer, but that's where the similarities end. Tovar is a punch & judy-style hitter who happens to possess a very good -- nay -- extraordinary glove; a glove so good that it projects as major League-plus caliber at short. Wally Backman spoke of superhuman plays when calling him by far the best fielder in the NYPL last season. Thanks to his small stature (5'10", 160), he'll never develop much pop but a .281 AVG with almost as many walks as strikeouts in the Lo-A SAL as an 18-year old is nothing to scoff at. What's more, few prospects his age can boast any one single legitimate plus Major League-caliber tool...especially not in our system. Even if he's just a Rey Ordonez look-a-like that ain't bad considering Rey's multiple solid years in Queens - including a nice 3 WAR season in '99 - especially if the price of admission is league minimum.
RHP Jeurys Familia
Ok I did say these would be guys you wouldn't really know about, wouldn't find in Top 20's. And you probably know Familia and he's probably still making Top 20's. But coming off his 2010 which looked a lot like a down year, the hype wave he was riding after his breakout '09 seems to have quelled quite a bit and at this point he's almost an afterthought. But I feel it's important to talk about him here because I'm still holding my surf board, you know why? If you look past the higher ERA in '10 - his FIP only went from 3.16 to 3.89 - and the lack of control - according to reports and Familia himself, he was urged by coaches to throw more changeups walks be damned - you'll see one if not THE strongest, livest arms in the the entire system. This is a kid who added a couple of ticks to a fastball that already touched the mid-90's, significantly increased his K% & GB% and will still only be 21 this season, on the verge of Double-A. I for one am still looking for that big-time breakout campaign from Familia, just a year later than we all expected.
Another late-round find by Omar & Co. - 13th round in 2010 - Harrison boasted early-round talent but dropped thanks to injury concerns. The Hilton Head, SC product managed just one season of 200+ ab's in his three year collegiate career as a Furman Paladin but when he was on the field he played like a star. Aside from an excellent hit tool, very real power and solid plate discipline, Harrison is an excellent athlete who plays a good third but some teams even saw him as a center fielder at draft time. Thus he becomes a bit of a high-risk, high-reward gamble as he enters the Mets system but his brief debut where he posted a .900 OPS and knocked 7 long-balls in just over 100 ab's with Brooklyn illustrates the kind of talent he possesses. Of course, his season did end early thanks to - what else - an injury. I see Harrison much in the same way I view Zach Lutz: A solid third baseman and an overall very strong hitter with the offensive tools to potentially be an impact player in the bigs IF he manages to stay on the field enough to develop them.
The Mets third round selection in '09, Shields has kind of dropped off Mets prospect rankings after a pretty underwhelming debut including Tommy John surgery last season. However, after getting back on the field mid-way through 2010, Shields is starting to show the kind of offensive potential that made him a top pick. After some struggles early, Shields batted .311 with four homers in his final month+ of the season and looked ready to get back to the level that had people reminded of Reese Havens when he was drafted.
Honorable Mention: RHP AJ Pinera
Yeah I know, who's that right? Well he was the Mets 18th rounder this past June out of the U of Tampa. Again I know, long shot but bear with me; I'm not saying he's a future ace, I just think he's got something. With all of the highly publicized draft woes of the previous regime, I will say that one thing they could consistently do was pull out a mid-round starting pitcher in that 15-25 range who would actually become pretty useful. Think Dillon Gee, Tobi Stoner, Dylan Owen, Jim Fuller, Mark Cohoon, Michael Antonini. Not stars by any means but a lot more than one can reasonably expect from 20-something rounders. With good size and a strong mix of secondary stuff, Pinera - who posted a 2.44 ERA in 11 starts with Brooklyn in '10 - is my bet to become the next - and last - in Omar's long line of long-shot, maybe fifth starters.