Mets Winter League Update: AFL

Despite a late season injury, 3B Jefry Marte was one of the top young hitters out in the desert this fall.

Doesn't it feel like it was just yesterday that we were analyzing the initial Arizona Fall League rosters and whether or not Reese Havens would be playing? But time flies and Saturday the AFL came to a close with the championship game between Salt River and Surprise (Salt River crushed).

So while it's always a little sad to see the prospect-laden oasis in the desert disappear for another year, it does give us the chance to ruminate on the performances of some would-be Mets.

 

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LHP Robert Carson

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Carson made ten total appearances out in Arizona and while he was shaky at time, he continued to show the kind of ability that forced the Mets to add him to the 40-man roster last week. Specifically, Carson continued to flash low-to-mid 90's heat from the left side, even registering a few 98's. Perhaps the AFL guns were a little hot but the fact remains, Carson has well above average velocity for a left-hander.

That's not to say that there aren't still issues here: His secondary stuff still lags behind the fb, he still doesn't dominate lefties like he should (see, .348 opp. average) and overall he continues to allow way too many hits on the whole. However, despite these flaws it's still not hard to see a late-inning power arm when you look at the 6'3" lefty.

C Juan Centeno

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Centeno began making a name for himself with a solid 2011 and didn't do anything to harm that progress with his stay in the AFL. In fact, before an 0-for-16 to end the season the 22-year old backstop was showing the kind of good plate discipline and strong contact ability that made many take notice this year. All in all, Centeno is right on track for a 2012 Double-A audition that should tell us a lot about his future as a potential major league backup.

 

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OF Juan Lagares

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Another recent addition to the Mets 40-man, Lagares continued his excellent 2011 out in the thin air of the desert. Though he was only added to full duty from the Taxi Squad late in the season, even in partial playing time his improved hit tool shined through. That was pretty much the story of the season for Lagares who Baseball America ranked as the Mets best pure hitter after he showed incredible development in his ability to consistently drive the baseball wherever he played. Having never batted above .300 previously in his 6-year pro career, it will be interesting to see how Lagares advances in 2012 but his performance against some of baseball's top prospects is certainly a promising sign. Not to mention the fact that he capably manned center for much of the season with Peoria. 

 

3B Jefry Marte

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Like Lagares, Marte really enjoyed hitting out in the desert, ranking in the top ten overall in OPS despite missing the final week of the season with a broken wrist. While he did require surgery back in NY, it isn't considered serious and he should be back to 100% by spring.

The bigger news was his absence among 40-man additions last week, leaving the 20-year old top prospect eligible for the Rule 5 draft, especially when contemporaries Wilmer Flores and Cesar Puello both made the cut. Why you ask? Well it isn't that Marte's not talented too, but the bottom line is that the Mets are just running out of roster spots and a line had to be drawn. None of the three is ready to help a big league club today; drafting any of them would entail wasting a year of development on the bench before they'd be eligible to head back to the minors. Thing is Puello and Flores are coveted enough that they might still get taken; the same likely isn't true for Marte.

 

RHP Collin McHugh

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It was a bit of a struggle for McHugh out in AZ this fall as he found out the hard way that the AFL is most definitely a hitters league. However, if finishing strong means anything at least he's got that going for him as he allowed just two runs over his final ten innings, bringing his ERA down by three runs and pushing his fastball up to 93 mph at times. But frankly McHugh was just too hittable, allowing a .362 opponents average; and the fact that he allowed at least one walk in each appearance didn't help.

 

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SS Wilfredo Tovar

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As usual, Tovar proved one of the hardest players in the league to strike out this fall, showcasing his excellent contact skills. Even better, he wasn't just making weak contact as has been an issue in the past. Instead, Tovar consistently drove the ball, finishing second in the league in doubles which is an excellent sign for the development of his power game. Much like Ruben Tejada, while his glove will always carry him, he'll need to develop at least gap power to be a big league regular. And speaking of Tejada, the presence of a few different options at short ahead of Tovar in the organization is likely the main reason that his marching orders were to begin learning second base this winter.

 

RHP Erik Turgeon

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Turgeon was a bit of an afterthought to start the season as he's not much of a prospect and didn't have a very good 2011 for Double-A Binghamton. However, despite a rocky beginning Turgeon was very strong for his final few weeks in the desert, posting a top ten ERA among relievers. I still wouldn't say he's placed himself in the prospect discussion yet, but hey his performance this fall certainly couldn't have hurt...

 

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RHP Taylor Whitenton

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...In fact, there's not much that any of these guys could do to hurt their stock much, even Taylor Whitenton who posted a near-5 ERA in his ten games. Although despite the high ERA, Whitenton continued to post the strong peripherals that made him an intriguing pitcher with Savannah this year. Using his very strong low-90's fastball that he likes to spot up in the zone, he kept striking out plenty of batters and limited hits as well as homers. The only issue was a re-appearance of his sometimes shaky control, but if he can make further strides to shore that up he'll be a relief prospect to watch going forward.

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