Fresh on the heels of his Mets Top 20 Prospect list, minor league guru and fellow-SBN-er John Sickels took a few minutes away from his hectic schedule finalizing his 2009 Baseball Prospect Book to answer some questions about the Mets' farm system.
Eric Simon: Neither Nick Evans nor Daniel Murphy is eligible for the ROY next year (Evans for active roster days, Murphy for at-bats), but Evans made your list while Murphy did not. Is there a strict eligibility cutoff for your list? Where would Murphy fall if he were still eligible?
John Sickels: I use 130 at-bats for players. I don't care about service time. I like Murphy and I think he's a very solid role player type, not a star but a guy who will have a long career. I'd put him between Havens and Marte; obviously Marte has a higher ceiling, but also much higher risk of failure, since Murphy has already shown something in the majors.
ES: How bad would the Mets' system be without their international free agent signings? How does their recent record with IFA signings compare with other teams?
JS: Well they've been very aggressive obviously. They haven't done as well with their draft picks, and it seems to me like they are missing an opportunity there; they certainly have the financial resources to act like the Red Sox and go over slot on certain picks, pick up guys like Lars Anderson who slide because of signability. If the Mets did that sort of thing more often the system would be much deeper. Also they tend to rush their Latin American signees very fast. I'm not sure that's the right strategy with every player. I talk more about this in my book.
ES: What are your thoughts on Josh Thole? Francisco Pena?
Pena is a guy who has been hurt by being pushed so fast. He still has time to build a career, but at this point I don't see him as a premium prospect, there are just too many questions about his bat. Thole has good plate discipline and showed more pop this year, but I don't see him as a premium prospect either. If he repeats what he did at St. Lucie in Double-A, then I could see him as a possible regular. But I want to see more.
ES: Ike Davis's total lack of power was startling. Any idea what the problem was? Do you think he can turn things around?
JS: Well I don't want to overreact to what a guy does in his first half-season. But what concerns me about Davis is that he has had problems in the Cape Cod League hitting for wood, and before his college season the knock on him was that he didn't have enough power. He changed minds with his 2008 performance for Arizona State, and personally I thought he had turned the corner, but then he goes to the NY-P and the power vanishes again. My best advice at this point is wait-and-see. There were rumors that he was pressing and had lost some confidence, and if true a fresh start in '09 could get him back on track. If worse comes to worst and he simply doesn't hit enough, he has a good enough arm that he could be useful as a reliever I suppose.
ES: The Mets have had quite a bit of success finding pitchers in the later rounds of the draft recently. Of the later round picks last year, who looks the most intriguing?
JS: I like Kyle Allen, Florida high school RHP drafted in the 24th round. He looks very interesting so far and has a high ceiling. Scott Shaw out of Illinois in the 13th round had a horrible college season, but was much more effective in the pros. Erik Turgeon (25th round) and Jimmy Johnson (28th round) also have some potential.
Thanks again to John for shedding some more light on the Mets' system. Be sure to check out his writing every day at Minor League Ball, and order his baseball prospect book from his website.