How do you rate all the Mets CF prospects? Which have the best shot at staying at CF and making the big league club? In other words who is the best CF prospect we have?
Good question as suddenly there's a few to choose from. Let's start at the top as Buffalo's Kirk Nieuwenhuis is in the midst of a standout season for the Herd. Long-term questions surrounding his plate discipline have seemingly been answered as the 23-year old is currently posting a stellar 14+% walk rate along with his trademark mix of power and speed.
Beyond that, those wondering if his large frame would allow him to stick in center should be pleasantly surprised by his outstanding play in the field thus far this season. A shift to right might happen down the line but I see him as a league average CF for his first few seasons. For the Debbie Downers out there, he's still exhibiting some moderate platoon splits and he just suffered his second shoulder injury in two weeks; no word yet on the severity but he has been placed on the DL.
Next up is St. Lucie's Matt den Dekker who is three days younger than Nieuwenuis and has also excelled in 2011. Another long lefty, he has a much leaner build than the muscular Nieuwenhuis which means less power potential but also much more defensive ability. Den Dekker is a true center field prospect -- not common in the minors -- who could likely play a plus center in the majors today. It remains to be seen if the high K-rates/low walk rates will allow for success as he climbs, but with his glove he won't need as much offense to survive.
2010 Cyclones star Darrell Ceciliani has been underwhelming thus far in 2011, though a month spent on the DL with hamstring woes could be to blame. He's previously indicated that injuries completely threw off his timing in '09 with the K-Mets as well. The 21-year old certainly has the speed to stay in center -- if not the arm -- and profiles as a gap-to-gap hitter and basestealer in the mold of Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner. Currently batting just .245 for Savannah, he'll have to prove that his big numbers in Brooklyn weren't a BABIP-driven mirage.
St. Lucie's 20-year old Cesar Puello has as much raw potential as anyone in the system however, he's following up an intriguing 2010 in Savannah with an underwhelming campaign in St. Lucie. Relegated to RF so far as a pro, if he shifts over following the promotion of den Dekker his value will jump. However, he'll still have to hit -- and hit with power -- at some point to be taken seriously.
Yet another St. Lucie Met, Juan Lagares, also has the potential to play center based on excellent athleticism and good speed, not to mention that he's quietly having a great year at the dish. However, as he continues to add muscle chances are he sticks in RF.
After a solid 2010, Pedro Zapata has been good for St. Lucie though despite great speed he's more of a singles hitter and at age 24 he projects more as a 4th to 5th OF at best.
And of course there's the Mets' most recent first round selection, Wyoming's Finest, Brandon Nimmo. You can read up on him in Alex's draft report but in short, he's another long, athletic lefty in the mold of a Nieuwenhuis. He figures to feature a similar power/speed mix and also will likely gain the kind of muscle that will push him to a corner role.
To answer the question, the best CF the Mets have is Nieuwenhuis. The combination of his outstanding offensive performance thus far and the fact that he's doing it in Triple-A makes it a pretty easy call. Despite the fact that he may end up in the corner OF down the road, for now he can capably man CF while providing some offensive firepower should anything happen to Pagan.