2012 Amazin' Avenue Top 50 Mets Prospects: The Top 5

We're finally here, the top five.

The funny thing is that even now as we cross the finish line, I'm re-evaluating my positions on many of these guys. And in just two short months the names will be re-shuffled once again.

Ranking prospects is such a crap shoot, which is exactly why I've said time and again that no list is the end all, be all -- not mine, not the community rankings, not Kevin Goldstein, not some dude on the street. Everyone has their own philosophies. Everyone values players slightly differently. That's the beauty of such lists and that's the fun in creating them. And reading others for that matter.

So hopefully you guys have enjoyed reading mine. I've certainly enjoyed making it. And by mid-season I'll enjoy blowing it up and starting from scratch. Such is my mania.

For anyone that's missed a segment here or there follow the links below, or scroll to the bottom of the page for a compiled version of the rankings:

#50-41 | #40-31 | #30-21 | #20-16 | #15-11 | #10-6

NOTE - For the record, I did NOT include Josh Satin in my final rankings -- though I probably should have. In my head he'd pretty much 'arrived', though he still harbors rookie eligibility and may begin 2012 in the minors. Had he been included he would have fallen somewhere in the neighborhood of no. 20-25.

5) RHP Jenrry Mejia

Team League W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO GO/AO AVG
BUF INT 1 2 2.86 5 5 0 0 0 28.1 16 10 9 1 14 21 0.88 .168

After Omar Minaya's lesson in how to mishandle a pitching prospect, Mejia began 2011 back where he belonged -- in the Triple-A rotation. And after his first couple of starts the bad memory of 2010 was fading away as Mejia had yet to allow an earned run in 12+ innings. However, by the end of April it was clear that something was wrong as his walks were up and his velocity was down. Then the news of Tommy John surgery dashed any hopes that the 22-yr old could recapture the momentum he had possessed one short year ago. Mejia is expected to hopefully get back on the field by mid-2012, though I'm not dinging him much for the injury as TJ rehab is bordering on routine at this point.

Unlike some of the other serious injury victims in the organization, Mejia is included on this list 1. because he actually appeared in 2011. And 2. because he's proven himself at the highest levels. That same reason explains his placement so high in the rankings. Despite the fanfare and hype for the Mets newly-crowned big 3, Mejia is the only pitcher in the Mets farm system to dominate at Double and Triple-A. The hard-throwing righty has a sub-3 ERA in 22 starts between the two levels, not to mention stuff on par with anyone in the organization. Mejia's electric mid-to-high 90's sinking fastball and developing 12-to-6 power curve give him the chance to carry that success to the next level, but it remains to be seen in which role. Sandy & Co. will likely put him back on track in the minors as a starter, but his max effort delivery, small stature (6'0") and durability questions stemming from the injury certainly lead some to believe he's a late reliever long-term.

4) OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis

Team League AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
BUF INT .298 53 188 33 56 17 2 6 14 95 32 59 5 2 .403 .505 .908

For the second straight season Nieuwenhuis garnered the no. four spot on this list. I let the cat out of the bag a bit the other day in the comments section with my defense of Capt. Kirk among the team's top center field prospects:

'...strike outs will always be an issue for him which means you can expect averages around .250-.270 early on. But he’s done some very good things with his walk rate and he’s posted an ISO at or near .200 at four of his last fives stops, which for a CF is great. Does he have the defensive chops to stick there long-term? Probably not, but the whole lack of tools discussion gets overblown; I’ve seen him in person many times and he has very good athleticism, he just doesn’t have any one standout tool. But even if he’s only there for his first few seasons, a cheap center fielder who boasts 20/15 potential (based on a track record at the highest levels, which shouldn’t be overlooked), coupled with an 11-14% walk rate is a very valuable thing. Hell that's a potential ROY candidate."

Now a Rookie of the Year award is obviously a bit of a long shot but the talent is absolutely there. Unfortunately, Kirk missed the final two-thirds of the 2011 season with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder, otherwise we likely would have seen his Mets debut in September. Nieuwenhuis recently voiced the frustration of stalling in the midst of a truly breakout campaign. However, if he can recapture the huge gains he was making in terms of his plate discipline while maintaining his good power from the left side, there's a good shot we see him stealing ab's from Torres by mid-2012.

Why He's Here: I'm higher on the 24-yr old than most but a kid with at least a decent shot to play center field with a varied offensive profile that has proven himself at the highest levels is a significant player in my view. And though I'd feel better about having him in the top five had he finished out the year strong on the field, with guys like Nimmo, Puello, Havens and Lagares behind him, all of whom either have minimal track records, serious warts or both, I don't realistically see any other choice.

Also, Nieuwenhuis kind of looks like the dude from 'Hung'.

3. RHP Jeurys Familia

Team League W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO GO/AO AVG
STL FSL 1 1 1.49 6 6 0 0 0 36.1 21 7 6 1 8 36 1.16 .171
BIN EAS 4 4 3.49 17 17 0 0 0 87.2 85 43 34 10 35 96 0.91 .249
Minors 5 5 2.90 23 23 0 0 0 124.0 106 50 40 11 43 132 0.97 .228

Not a ton I can say about The 22-yr old Familia -- or any of the Mets big 3 pitching prospects -- that you haven't already heard. The 6'3" hard-throwing righty features a plus-plus electric fastball that he pushed into the mid-to-upper 90's in 2011. Combined with a strong slider and a inconsistent change and he flashes front of the rotation potential. And the results certainly agree to this point as he blew away A-ball with a sub-2 ERA before he was promoted to Double-A where he'd find similar success -- though some mildly concerning shoulder woes.

Now there are things to nitpick. For one, he allowed ten home runs in under 90 IP in Double-A while his BB/9 jumped back up to the mid-3's. Also his 3.96 FIP is a little less impressive than his strong ERA. But in his first shot at Double-A -- especially young for the level -- none of those things is very concerning. The real concern revolves around the inconsistency of his secondary stuff, leading to the idea of a late relief role long-term. In my view, though it is definitely a possilibility, it's still VERY early in his career to say that he can't/won't develop that facet of his game, as Keith Law recently posited. In fact, if Familia spent the next 2.5 years between Binghamton and Buffalo strictly working on his change-up, he'd still be at an appropriate age to make his big league debut. Call me a homer but I'm of the mindset that he shows just enough to make it work. In fact, I could very easily see Familia follow the path of the Rangers' Alexi Ogando, where he excels in both roles.

For the record, Familia at no. 3 was not a given by any means as various iterations of this list had him at no. 2 and even challenging for the top spot. I do not see the gaps between any of these three that others have indicated. In short, I'm basically working with a fluid top three.

2) RHP Zack Wheeler

Team League W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO GO/AO AVG
SJ CAL 7 5 3.99 16 16 0 0 0 88.0 74 44 39 7 47 98 1.35 .224
STL FSL 2 2 2.00 6 6 0 0 0 27.0 26 6 6 0 5 31 1.09 .252
Minors 9 7 3.52 22 22 0 0 0 115.0 100 50 45 7 52 129 1.29 .231

The 21-yr old return for Carlos Beltran certainly endeared himself to Mets fans with an oustanding showing with St. Lucie down the stretch. In six starts he posted an even 2 ERA, with over a K/IP, under a hit/IP and best of all just five walks in 27 innings. And if the numbers were good, the stuff was great. Wheeler featured a plus fastball that works in the low 90's and touches 95-96 mph with good late movement. Additionally he features a slider and a power curve that he spots well and features excellent two-place break. It is a true swing-and-miss offering and figures to be a plus pitch at the major league level. Like most pitchers his age his change-up lags behind his other pitches and will need a lot of work to become even an average pitch.

The real issue with Wheeler is that up until that six start preview, he had often battled control problems since he was drafted ninth overall by the Giants in 2009. In 2010 with the Giants' Lo-A affiliate he posted a 5.83 BB/9 and this season he was at a 4.81 mark in Hi-A before the trade. Fortunately he balanced those with a K/9 consistently above ten but that is still a concern for Wheeler, who at 6'4", 185 lbs has had questions about mechanics and release point. However, he is younger than the other two top pitchers and based almost entirely on the quality of his top secondary offering he boasts a higher ceiling -- if all breaks right I see shades of another first round prep pitcher from Georgia, Adam Wainwright. In terms of ranking him, we're slicing hairs at this point but any way you look at it the Mets were lucky to get this kid into the organization.

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1) RHP Matt Harvey

Team League W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO GO/AO AVG
STL FSL 8 2 2.37 14 14 0 0 0 76.0 67 24 20 5 24 92 1.20 .238
BIN EAS 5 3 4.53 12 12 0 0 0 59.2 58 32 30 4 23 64 1.47 .254
Minors 13 5 3.32 26 26 0 0 0 135.2 125 56 50 9 47 156 1.32 .246

That leaves us with only one guy left, Mets 2010 first rounder and Connecticut native Matt Harvey. The 22-yr old electrified scouts and fans alike in his pro debut, posting a 10+ K/9 between Hi-A and Double-A while limiting opposing hitters to a .246 average. It was clear right away that the 6'4", 210 lb horse was too good for A-ball, surrendering just one unearned run through his first three starts. However, he scuffled a bit upon his promotion to Binghamton, giving up 13 runs in just his first three starts. But the good news? He'd allow just 17 more runs in his remaining nine starts, good for a 3.25 ERA with a .218 opponent's average over that span.

Like each member of the Mets top three, Harvey utilizes an electric fastball which features low-to-mid 90's velocity that he holds late into games very well. In addition, he features a very effective two-seamer that he uses to drive lots of ground balls (see, 1.47 GB:FB at Double-A). He also possesses two solid secondary offerings -- a curve and slider -- which flash plus potential but tend to look similar. Finally, his change-up showed a lot of growth in 2011, to the point that it's a strong weapon against lefties. Existing questions about his command re-surfaced a bit as his BB/9 with Binghamton jumped up to 3.47 and his lack of a plus-plus secondary pitch -- like Wheeler's -- limits his ceiling to a good no. 2 or 3. However, he's shown more at a higher level and the overall depth of his repertoire makes him much closer to the majors today. And for that reason Harvey tops this list in 2012.

____________________________________________________________________

Compiled Top 50 Mets prospect rankings:

1. RHP Matt Harvey

2. RHP Zack Wheeler

3. RHP Jeurys Familia

4. OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis

5. RHP Jenrry Mejia

6. MI Jordany Valdespin

7. OF Brandon Nimmo

8. OF Cesar Puello

9. 2B Reese Havens

10. OF Juan Lagares

11. SS Wilmer Flores

12. RHP Michael Fulmer

13. RHP Cory Mazzoni

14. C Albert Cordero

15. CF Matt den Dekker

16. 3B Zach Lutz

17. 3B Aderlin Rodriguez

18. RHP Akeel Morris

19. LHP Darin Gorski

20. OF Cory Vaughn

21. 3B Jefry Marte

22. RHP Domingo Tapia

23. SS Phillip Evans

24. SS WIlfredo Tovar

25. RHP Collin McHugh

26. OF Darrell Ceciliani

27. SS Danny Muno

28. LHP Josh Edgin

29. LHP Jack Leathersich

30. LHP Juan Urbina

31. RHP Erik Goeddel

32. RHP Chris Schwinden

33. RHP Josh Stinson

34. IF Robbie Shields

35. LHP Mark Cohoon

36. RHP Brett Pill

37. RHP Armando Rodriguez

38. RHP Logan Verrett

39. SS Juan Carlos Gamboa

40. SS Bradley Marquez

41. RHP Taylor Whitenton

42. RHP Greg Peavey

43. RHP Luis Mateo

44. RHP Rafael Montero

45. C Cam Maron

46. RHP Nick Carr

47. LHP Robert Carson

48. OF Travis Taijeron

49. OF Gilbert Gomez

50. RHP Ryan Fraser

51*. OF Javier Rodriguez

52*. RHP Brad Holt

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