FanPost

Super-Preliminary Mets Prospect Guide: Middle Infielders

(Bumped from FanPosts. --Eric)

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For an explanation of this post, head to the Catchers and First Basemen part of this guide.

Before we start talking about our prospects, I'd like to talk about two second basemen currently on the roster - Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy. I'm a big believer in Ruben. Guys that put up Major League .360 OBPs in their age-21 season are hard to come by, and while I don't think the power tool will ever really develop past ~30 XBHs a year, his glove, discipline, and average should make him a starter. Daniel Murphy is better, though. Murphy's bat (124 wRC+) will play pretty much anywhere on the diamond, but it plays great at second. His defense looks average both to the naked eye and to the advanced statistics, and I'm of the opinion that if he's healthy and productive in Spring Training, he should win the job. Of course, Ruben Tejada will be playing shortstop in 2012 due to the departure of Jose Reyes, so, yeah. Down on the farm, we have a bunch of high-ceiling guys at both positions, but 2012 will be a make-or-break year for many of them.

Second Basemen

General Overview: Second base has gone from a weakness to a semi-strength in the Mets organization, as players like Josh Satin and Reese Havens have continued to hit, and "shortstop" Jordany Valdespin took a big step forward. In addition, Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada, and, to a lesser extent, Justin Turner have all showed some positive results at the big league level. Ultimately, the second basemen are a risky (not to mention graying) bunch. Havens certainly has the ability to take a starting spot away from Murphy, and Valdespin has the ability to take a starting spot away from any of them. Both players, however, carry significant risks. As a future role player, Josh Satin carries less risk and could be a marginally valuable contributor to the Mets right now.

1. Reese Havens (ETA: 2012)

Reese Havens was drafted in the 1st round, as part of the same draft that produced Brad Holt (1st supplemental), Kirk Nieuwenhuis (3rd), Josh Satin (6th), and most importantly Ike Davis (1st). While Havens, unlike Davis, no longer has star potential because of continuous injuries, he's still a solid bet to make the major leagues as a regular, particularly if the Mets are willing to deal David Wright (in which case Daniel Murphy would move to third) or if the Mets are willing to deal Daniel Murphy. He's hit everywhere he's played, has good plate discipline and plays good defense. His power would be good from a second baseman but relatively average for the league - at Binghamton last year, Havens posted an ISO of .166. Two red flags do stick out - despite a .372 BABIP, Havens "only" hit .289 at AA, and he struck out in 24.4% of his plate appearances. Scouts love his swing, and mechanically I can find nothing wrong with it - it's short, compact, and simple. I'm wondering if a slightly more aggressive approach at the plate might benefit Havens, as the strikeouts will become a much greater problem as he starts to advance up the levels. I'm extremely curious to see what Havens does in Spring Training 2012, as his advanced age (he turned 25 in October) basically means he has to start making his impact now.

Major League Projection: Havens has a similar skillset to Danny Espinosa or a slower Rickie Weeks. If he can stay healthy, he's going to be an above-average regular. That is a big if.

Tools (bat/power/arm/glove/speed): 50/50/50/60/45

Overall Rating: 56

2. Jordany Valdespin (ETA: 2013)

Valdespin, who turns 24 in a couple of weeks, is, as I'm sure you've heard, a physically gifted but flawed player. His two biggest flaws are his poor plate discipline and his character issues. I'll deal with the first one first, because character is less likely to make-or-break Valdespin. Basically, Valdespin posted a 93-25 K/BB ratio between AA and AAA, and while that would be good for a starting pitcher, it trends into Shawon Dunston-like levels in the major leagues. Valdespin is alternately listed at 5' 10'' and 150 on Fangraphs and 6' 0'' and 190 on Baseball-Reference, and he's likely much closer to the second figure - Valdespin doesn't have much room to grow, and while that's not a problem in and of itself his power has likely developed to the point where it doesn't project to develop much more. I don't think Valdespin is going to have much luck against tough breaking balls, his swing isn't exactly pretty although it makes solid contact, and he's never met a fastball he didn't like. For these reasons, Valdespin's bat is going to have to continue to improve if he wants to be a big league starter. His character issues are also going to dog him for a while, so he's going to have to work on that in addition to his bat. Now, the good. Valdespin is quite fast and his speed is going to allow him to beat out quite a few ground balls. He was a below-average shortstop when I saw him play, but he won't embarrass himself there. He's an above-average second baseman. I think his range plays well at second, and as a converted shortstop the thing he has to learn most is how to convert the double play. Ultimately, Valdespin is an intriguing prospect, but has almost as many caught stealings as walks. 2011 was a big step forward, but he'll have to take another one at AAA (where his OBP dwindled to a miserable .304 last year).

I listed Valdespin as a second baseman because everyone says he's going to play second base in the majors.

Major League Projection: Howie Kendrick and Darwin Barney are the guys most comparable to Valdespin, but he's not really comparable to any guy playing in the major leagues right now (low BB%, high K%, good glove, average power/bat).

Tools: 45/45/55/55/60

Overall Rating: 50

3. Josh Satin (ETA: Now)

Josh Satin is going to turn 27 in a couple weeks - he was born on December 23, 1984, the same date as Valdespin, but three years older. Most players at 27 are either non-prospect organizational fodder or major league players. Satin is both. He's always been old for his league - at 23, he was still a college senior, and he's moved up slowly but steadily through the minor league system of the New York Mets, leaving a trail of a .300/.390/.480 campaigns in his wake. We know pretty much all about Josh Satin at this point. Last year, he picked up a lot of at-bats under the alias Justin Turner (if you check it out, Turner's minor league stats are very similar to Satin's), and performed adequately. Both players will be 27 next year, and if I had to pick between the two, I'd choose Turner, who plays average defense and has nice range, as well as slightly more speed and a more proven bat. The main thing that Satin brings to the table is versatility, as he's capable of playing first, second, and third base. Unfortunately for Satin, 2012 likely means a stint in AAA for Satin. If he's hot in Spring Training, though, I'm more than comfortable awarding the spot to Satin, who probably has just a bit more power than Turner.

Major League Projection: If you want to be really, really generous, a righthanded Daniel Murphy. If you don't want to be generous, a defensively-challenged Justin Turner with the ability to play first.

Tools: 50/40/40/40/40

Overall Rating: 46

4. Robbie Shields (ETA: 2014, if at all)

Like the rest of the guys on this list, Robbie Shields is old. Not like Jamie Moyer old, but like 23-year-old playing at A/A+ old. I don't know much about him and I honestly don't have much to say, so I'll just go off the statline. The positives: in 80 games, Shields cracked .273/.350/.416 and had a very nice 45-37 K/BB ratio. By all accounts, his defense plays at second nicely and at short okay. The negatives: he's 23 and didn't have the kind of eye-popping season you'd like to see from a 23-year-old player in Single-A ball. I don't like Shields' swing much. He has a big hole low-and-inside and in general he's going to be a high-ball hitter. Maybe Shields can get everything figured out, but he's not the kind of guy I'd expect to contribute at the big league level, and if he does he won't start. He also has injury problems, and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2009. Not a non-prospect just yet, though.

Tools: 45/35/50/50/45

Major League Projection: Shields would love to have the same kind of career as Jamey Carroll

Overall Rating: 42

Also maybe of interest: Brooklyn keystoner Brandon Brown, who got into 27 games at second and slashed .301/.361/.465. His advanced age makes him a non-prospect. Ismael Tijerina, who was just 21 but barely managed to crack the Mendoza line. Undrafted free agent T.J. Rivera. He actually wasn't too bad in 2011, but he's old also. Yeah, every second baseman in this entire system is old. The awesomely named Yucarybert De La Cruz, who OPS'd .100 points better in 2011 than 2010. The bad news? His OPS in 2011 was .628. Rylan Sandoval wasn't much better, batting just .224/.291/.353 and cementing his status as organizational fodder. Speedy Venezuelan Alvan "Macarena" Macararo garnered 134 PAs in the DSL and swiped 10 bags. He turns 19 in February, so we won't see him actually play for a while. 2011 '2nd base candidate' Luis Hernandez, also known as the Rick Santorum of Mets second basemen, played badly at AAA. At least his last name isn't synonymous with something very, very gross.

Shortstops

General Overview: With Ruben Tejada set to fill a pair of very big boots in 2012, the Mets look to move on from the Reyes era. Though the system offers very little at the top, the Mets certainly have a lot of talent clustered in the bottom. Basically, the shortstops of the Mets farm system are the reverse of the second basemen - young, without a long minor league track record, and specialized in talent rather than solid around the board. Looking towards the future, though, shortstop is a position which the Mets must stockpile at, as aside from Wilfredo Tovar, there is serious doubt that any of the Mets farmhands can handle the position capably.

1. Wilmer Flores (ETA: Late 2013 to 2014)

I love Wilmer Flores's swing. Everything about it is just wonderful - he rotates his hips well, he can turn on balls, he can make contact even on bad balls. Unfortunately, Flores often makes contact on bad balls. The word on Flores is that he's a very streaky player, and when things are going well his swing looks tremendous and when things are going badly his swing looks poor. When I had the chance both to see him in person and watch him on video, he must have been on, because some scouts were complaining that he did a sort of double-tap with his swing that I never noticed. Anyway, no one doubts that Flores's bat, when it's on, is among the best tools in the entire system. Unfortunately, his other tools have all been missing in action, and his plate discipline really needs to improve. Unlike most people, I think that Flores can stay on short if you're willing to have a -8 or so defender. Yeah, his footspeed is pretty bad and his range won't ever be average. However, Flores's arm, from what I've seen, is plus, and his hands are soft and his reactions are very good. This skillset would play very well at third base, but as long as the Mets have David Wright at the hot corner they should stick it out with Flores at short. He'll probably eventually outgrow the position, anyway. Flores' biggest problems have been his lack of power and his truly awful BB%, which sat at just 4.8% at St. Lucie. Flores needs to work deeper counts, as his strikeout rate is pretty good and he can afford a couple more if it means more walks as well. I'm confident that as Flores matures, his plate discipline will improve to the point where it's at least decent. Having Flores talk to and work with Dave Hudgens would be good. His power will also start to develop more, but I don't foresee Flores as ever having more than 25-home-run power. Rather, he'll be mostly a doubles hitter. I like Flores a lot, and I think he's poised to take the next step forward in 2012. Another note - his 2011 BABIP of .291 was probably a little low for him.

Tools: 70/60/55/45/40

Major League Projection: Michael Young. Like Young, Flores will be awful-to-mediocre at short and decent at third.

Overall Rating: 59

2. Wilfredo Tovar (ETA: 2014)

I like this guy a lot. He's a lot like Ruben Tejada, only I think his defensive tools are even better. So yeah, he only slashed .251/.318/.318 with Savannah. He was also just 19 years old (he's five days younger), and he's supposed to be amazing at defense (my eyes can confirm this). But I'm not sure at all about him, either. He's one of those guys who could bust easily because unlike Tejada, Tovar can't hit a breaking ball. At 19, Tejada, in the same number of PAs and playing at AA rather than single-A, had 6 more XBHs, 4 more SBs, superior rate stats, and had a similarly elite defensive reputation. Tovar's going to have to take a big step forward to pass Tejada on the depth chart. And he certainly has the talent to do so, I just need to see him hit. If he doesn't hit, his ceiling is that of a utility middle infielder. Tovar isn't fast, but he's incredibly quick and his glove is probably the best out of any Met farmhand. Again, he really needs to hit just a bit. Even a .260/.320/.330 line at the major leagues with Tovar's defense would be a very good player.

Tools: 40/40/60/75/50

Major League Projection: Alcides Escobar

Overall Rating: 52

3. Philip Evans (ETA: Late 2014)

I haven't seen Philip Evans play. But the other scouts all seem to like him, giving him good grades across the board for strong plate discipline, a plus bat, and good defensive instincts. Some scouts think he'll move to second base due to a lack of arm strength, but I took a look at his frame and I think he's probably going to fill out just a little bit and his arm will improve to slightly above-average (which would still be slightly below-average for a shortstop). The Mets took him in the 15th round and paid him $650,000. Evans isn't a 'safe' bet to make the major leagues by any stretch of the imagination, but he's the kind of guy who shouldn't have too much of a problem in the low minors. I'd like to see him in Savannah rather than short-season again in 2012, but the Mets under Alderson should rightfully be worried about rushing prospects too much.

Tools: 55/50/50/50/50

Major League Projection: Yunel Escobar

Overall Rating: 52

4. Danny Muno (ETA: 2013)

I'm not getting burned by another Brooklyn sensation who was old for the league and ripped through it with the help of BABIP (see: Ceciliani, Darrell). I like Muno's swing, but honestly I don't know enough about him to write anything particularly enlightening, so I'll just parrot what other people have said about Muno - he's got a great approach at the plate and a future utility role would be a pretty great slot for him. Muno, who is fast, might play well in centerfield based on what I've heard people say about him. He's a great choice as an 8th rounder, though.

Tools: 55/40/45/40/55

Major League Projection: Orlando Hudson-type player with the ability to play shortstop

Overall Rating: 50

Also maybe of interest: Juan Carlos Gamboa, who at 20 showed some surprising pop for a little guy (he's 5' 7'') across three levels, slugging .450. He struck out 41 times in 191 at-bats, but he'll get a chance to start somewhere next year. Outside of these five guys, I'm not sure anyone else even mentions a passing note - 37-year-old Luis Figueroa's .720 OPS in AAA was the best of any regular Mets shortstop farmhand.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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