Believe it or not, there are other things going on in the Mets universe beyond the Jose Reyes-sized hole on the 25-man roster. So whether you've already turned the page on that chapter or -- like me -- you need to distract yourself from your own misery, here's a nice little diversion for you:
The 2011 Winter Meetings are underway which for prospect-watchers means that the Rule 5 draft can't be far behind. The annual process takes place on the final day of the Winter Meetings each year -- this Thrusday if you're wondering -- and serves as an interesting way for shrewd GM's to nab potential impact major league players for a fraction of the cost that they'd typically pay.
The Mets have remained relatively active in the draft in recent history, typified by last year's league-leading five selections including the minor league phase. While their first pick Brad Emaus fizzled fast, second selection Pedro Beato turned out to be a moderately effective strong-armed reliever who at times flashed the potential for more.
Players are eligible for the draft after they've spent four years in an an organization, if they were younger than 19 on the June 5th immediately prior to the date that they first signed. If they were age 19 or older then they need only have spent three years in an organization to be eligible. If they signed their first contract after the end of the season, then their natural Rule 5 protection extends an additional year. Got it?
There are dozens of players from the Mets organization that are eligible for this year's draft (see full list at the bottom). However the following names are the most at-risk to be selected:
RHP Rhiner Cruz - This scenario resembles last year's situation with Elvin Ramirez quite a bit. Cruz too is kind of old (25) for a guy not having yet reached Triple-A, hasn't posted great results and is not considered much of a prospect. However like Ramirez, Cruz has a strong arm and suddenly saw his fastball tick up to the mid-90's in 2011, even hitting 99 mph on numerous occasions. He also features a decent but inconsistent slurve and after a winter that's seen him dominate the DWL thus far, he could easily audition for a last spot in bullpen role in 2012. Like Ramirez, I feel Cruz may fly under the radar for now but I'd say he's the Mets only player who is a very high risk to be selected -- though I personally wouldn't sweat that loss much due to really poor career walk rates.
RHP Elvin Ramirez - Speaking of Ramirez, he was selected by the Nationals as the sixth overall pick in last year's draft. Though he'd pitched only 6.2 innings above A-ball, the 24-yr old garnered quite a bit of attention last winter when he was reportedly working in the high 90's in the DWL. However, he missed the entire season after shoulder surgery and though he remains an interesting arm going forward it's pretty unlikely he'll be taken again.
RHP Brad Holt - The '08 supplemental first rounder converted to relief in 2011 and though he was inconsistent, overall he looked more effective than he had in a couple years. His fastball is not what it once was and command continued to be an issue but teams may take notice of his 9.5 K/9 and .197 opponent average after making the switch to the bullpen.
RHP Nick Carr - Notice a trend here? The Rule 5 Draft is typically dominated by relief prospects, especially those of the hard-throwing variety which is why the 24-yr old Carr could garner some interest. With a fastball that runs into the high 90's, Carr finally seemed to put it all together this year as he dominated the Hi-A Florida State League and looked like he was on the fast track. Now the problem is that Carr has always battled injuries -- this year included -- but as we saw with Elvin Ramirez in 2011, Rule 5 selections can be stashed away on the DL.
1B Allan Dykstra - The '08 first round junk-for-junk swap with the Padres last winter actually panned out pretty nicely in 2011 and is likely the only potential Mets position player at risk. After disappointing San Diego for three seasons, the 24-yr old Dykstra finally made good on his power potential, whacking 19 bombs. What's more, he continued to show off the solid plate discipline that he's become known for (see, .389 OBP). While he's not a starter, a team looking for a capable backup with excellent on-base skills, good pop and the potential for more could definitely do worse.
LHP Mark Cohoon - The soft-tossing lefty, who was the Mets 2010 Organizational Pitcher of the Year, was off to another fast start with Double-A Binghamton in 2011. However, things took a turn after an early-season promotion to Buffalo where he was hit very hard (see, .321 opponent average). While the 24-yr old is still a potential back-end starter long-term, it's pretty apparent he needs some more seasoning so it's extremely unlikely he gets the call.
Ditto that last line for fellow Rule 5 candidate RHP Collin McHugh.
3B Jefry Marte - The 20-yr old Marte is an oddity on this list. He's a potential top ten prospect for the Mets and yet, even as he's nearing Double-A he's seen as light years from the majors. His glove at third is anything but a sure thing and while he's made strides at the plate, his plate discipline is still suspect and his in-game power still not enough for a major league corner. However, his assault on the prospect-studded Arizona Fall League last month shows you the kind of offensive potential he possesses and if a team in rebuild mode (Houston perhaps?) is willing to sit him on their bench for a year, they'd immediately be gaining an upper prospect.
You could same roughly the same thing -- switch out offensive potential for defensive -- for fellow 20-yr old and Rule 5 candidate SS Wilfredo Tovar.
As much as it flies in the face of this entire story, trying to guess who a club is looking at for the Rule 5 Draft is pretty much an exercise in futility. So instead of giving you a list of guys tailored to the Mets roster -- and it's various deficiencies -- here are a few of the names that happened to catch me eye, along with a link in case you do want that really exhaustive list:
- LA Angels 22-yr old pitching prospect Trevor Reckling is an interesting lefty who mastered the Double-A Texas League as a mere 20-yr old back in '09. As recently as 2010 John Sickels rated him as the club's no. 3 prospect. And in 2011 he had continued success at Double-A, but the problem is that his velocity is down and he's been hit hard in his brief time at Triple-A. Additionally, his mostly even splits hurt his chances to cut his teeth in the bullpen and he still may be too raw to count on as a major league starter.
- Washington's C Sandy Leon is a defensive stud whose budding offensive game is beginning to make people take notice. However, while a team looking for a cheap, defensively-oriented backup catcher (like the Mets perhaps?) might be interested, it's tough to carry a 22-yr old who slugged .362 in Hi-A, especially if your no. 1 option isn't a slam dunk to begin with.
- The Indians' 25-yr old RHP Bryce Stowell is a clone of the aforementioned Nick Carr. He throws really hard -- as evidenced by a career 12.1 K/9 -- and he's been very hard to hit. Although like Carr he also struggles with arm problems. However, like I said Rule 5 selections can be held on the major league DL and with good success against Double-A hitters, he may represent a good choice for a team looking to bolster their 'pen on the cheap.
- Former third rounder RHP Nick Barnese is yet another in the Rays long line of polished, good-not-great starters in the mold of a Davis or Hellickson. However, the 22-yr old has struggled with health concerns and though he's maintained strong results, waning K-rates do give pause. It'd be tough to toss him into a major league rotation now, but if he could carve out a niche in the 'pen for the time being he could become a valuable add in the long-term
- 2008 first rounder Tim Alderson was once a top flight prospect with loads of potential. However, as it became clear that the 6'6" righty wasn't going to develop the electric heater scouts hoped for, the Giants cut bait and sent him to the Pirates. He eventually made the switch to the 'pen and though he's still a reach after posting a 4+ ERA in Double-A, wouldn't be surprising to see someone reach on a former big name.
Click here for a full list of some of the top candidates from every organization available in this year's draft.
The following is a comprehensive list of Mets players who will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this coming winter, as supplied by intrepid Mets prospect watcher TPG over at his blog (players in bold will be eligible for the first time):
Triple-A - Buffalo Bisons
Double-A - Binghamton Mets
Jean Luc Blaquiere
Hi-A - St. Lucie Mets
Lo-A - Savannah Sand Gnats
Short Season-A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Rookie - Kingsport Mets
Rookie - GCL Mets
Jeyckol De Leon