Mets Winter League Update - 12/27/11

Mets top prospect Wilmer Flores has caught fire in the Venezuelan Winter League, batting .353 over his last ten games.

Despite the fact that this has been an extremely quiet winter amongst Mets players, it's been a while since our last update. So for today's Minor League Monday Tuesday it's about time that we take another heat check on all of the baseball that's currently being played around 20 degrees north:

The Hitters

OF Andres Torres (MAY - PWL)

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That's right, the 33-yr old said he was going to bust it this winter to put his best foot forward with the Mets and he's lived up to his word, jumping into the winter league in his native Puerto Rico midstream. He's been ok so far, striking out more than you'd want to see, but also showing a lot more pop than you'd expect. Either way, this is more of an indication of the kind of energy/effort that we should expect from Torres come 2012 than anything else.

SS Jordany Valdespin (LIC - DWL)

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At last check the 24-yr old infielder was batting .220 and wasn't seeing a ton of playing time. And while he's still not playing every day he's certainly boosted his performance a bit, batting .303 over his last 10 games and stealing a bunch of bases. And as with our last check Valdespin is mostly playing second base or DHing, though he's seen a fair share of short as well which is a good thing.

OF Juan Lagares (AGU - DWL)

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After a reasonably successful showing out in AZ (see, .828 OPS) Lagares has surfaced in his native Dominican Republic, joining Francisco Pena and Miguel Batista with Aguilas. Problem is that playing time has been a lot tougher to come by, which is no surprise considering he joined the club as they enter the stretch run before the Caribbean Series. However despite sporadic at bats as a pinch hitter, he's also spelled Carlos Gomez a bit in center which is one of the keys to his value proposition going forward.

SS Wilmer Flores (MAR - VWL)

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After a slow start, Flores has come on strong over the last couple weeks boosting his average from a .167 mark back on Halloween up to .294, including a .353 average over his past ten games. However, despite the hot streak as well as a couple of recent homers he's still not showing the kind of pop that will make him a player regardless of what glove he's holding. We all know he's very good at making solid contact but his current .389 SLG -- which resembles his .380 mark with St. Lucie in 2011 -- isn't going to cut it for a guy that won't stick in the middle infield.

Speaking of, Flores has interestingly been relegated almost exclusively to second base duty with the Bravos, who feature former Yankees/Nationals top prospect and noted defensive wiz Alberto Gonzalez at short and current major leaguer Sean Burroughs at the hot corner. It's probably a long shot to hope that the slow-footed Flores will maintain the kind of range for second but hey, at least it's another option. Problem is he's already made eight errors in under 40 games.

OF Fernando Martinez (ESC - DWL)

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This seems to be the winter that FMart has finally fallen off the map. No amount of apologizing can excuse what's gone on with the 23-yr old in 2011. Between the stalled development, the continued injuries and worst of all the diminishing production, Fernando is quickly seeing his window with the Mets come to a close. And while nine poor at bats in the winter leagues certainly isn't the determining factor, it's more like the cherry on top of a few years of disappointment.

SS Juan Carlos Gamboa (MOC - LMP)

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So much for the ~.450 average that Gamboa was sporting last time we checked. Obviously the 21-yr old had to cool down at some point -- and he really has. Specifically, he's currently sporting an 0-fer that stretches back over his last 10 games, though to be fair that's only been 12 at bats. But once again the little man is surprising me with his pop as he's knocked three more homers despite the slump, bringing him to six for the winter season -- just below Jorge Cantu and believe it or not, Erubiel Durazo.

C Francisco Pena (AGU - DWL)

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Ok I guess we have to make a mention of the 22-yr old's success thus far down in the Dominican. However, his .234 career average in five minor league seasons, as well as his .223 average with St. Lucie in 2011 make me more than a little skeptical.

C Xorge Carrillo (MXC - LMP)

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The Mets 2011 14th round selection out of Arizona went back to his roots and joined up with Mexicali down in the Mexican League. So far he's only appeared in two games but in his only at bat he knocked a 2-run bomb off of none other than Francisco Rodriguez -- not this one, that one.

C Vinny Rottino (ARA - VWL)

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And as long as we're talking about filler at the catching position, Mets minor league free agent pickup Vinny Rottino is staying active this winter down in Venezuela. The 31-yr old Buffalo-bound backstop has been all right, though his strong K:BB rate belies a traditional strength of his.

The Pitchers

RHP Armando Rodriguez (ESC - DWL)

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In a peek into his potential future role, the 23-yr old hard-throwing righty has been dominant in the late innings for the Leones over his 10+ innings. He's K'd over a batter an inning and is currently allowing just a .150 opponent's average, including a .105 mark against the righties.

RHP Gonzalez Germen (TOR - DWL)

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Not as much for Germen though as he's already allowed five homers in less than 15 innings for Este, in seven games split between the bullpen and the rotation. However, don't be fooled as the peripherals are still there for the strong-armed righty; note the 13.3 K/9 as well as the excellent .185 opponent's average.

RHP Dylan Owen (CAR - VWL)

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If there's anyone who owns winter ball it's Owen who posted a sub-2 ERA last season in the Puerto Rican League and has been every bit as effective in Venezuela this season. It's really not a huge surprise either as the 25-yr old is a control artist and in the historically free-swinging winter leagues, sometimes that's all you need. Unfortunately for Owen, that's pretty much all he's got which doesn't necessarily play in the bigs.

LHP Roy Merritt (CAG - PWL)

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Speaking of wintertime stars, the 26-yr old Merritt is another who always seems to fare well in the Caribbean. After a very strong 2010 in Puerto Rico, the lefty is back and even better. In 11+ IP he's yet to allow an earned run and has surrendered just five hits in that time -- though he's walked five and only K'd five as well. If he can replicate the success against lefties that he's shown at times in the upper minors, Merritt will always have a shot as a second division LOOGY.

LHP Carlos Vazquez (MAZ - LMP)

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Like Merritt, Vazquez is another future LOOGY candidate. And after a solid 2011 campaign as a starter in Brooklyn, the little lefty is back as a reliever in his native Mexico and carving up Mexican League hitters with his excellent command. Much like Savannah's Angel Cuan, the lack of stuff allows for a very small margin of error but good pitchability and control has gotten him this far.

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By the way, 2011 is almost in the rearview which means just one thing: It's nearly prospect ranking season. So keep your eyes open for the Amazin Avenue Top 50 Mets Prospects list come January!

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