Do you want to know why I'm kind of excited to watch the Mets this month? Even after the faint percentage of a point that represented playoff odds faded away with Reyes' chances for MVP? Even as the club shows up each day and night and -- there's really no other way to say it -- pointlessly plays out the string because, well because they have to?
I'm excited because for the first time in a long time, the Mets will actually boast a handful of promising young prospects who will see their first big league action as the active rosters expand. Who are these promising young players you ask? Well I'll tell you, and in no particular order no less:
Let's start with the guy who has garnered the most attention -- at least from the mainstream riff-raff -- and that's IF Jordany Valdespin.
Valdespin started the 2011 season as an intriguing, yet flawed prospect. Despite possessing many, if not all of the "five tools" as well as a strong showing in Hi-A and even a very good AFL campaign recently under his belt, Valdespin was not a darling of most prospect rankings. In our own Preseason Top 50, I ranked him 28th overall (though I'll shamelessly point out that no other major ranking kept him within the top 30). Here's what I said about him:
"Very athletic infielder impresses scouts with tools but secondary skills are highly suspect; regularly posts BB-rates under 5%. Very raw for a 23-yr old at the plate AND in the field. Batted .355 in AFL in ’10 but also had scouts talking about poor swing mechanics & trouble with breaking stuff."
While that rawness is still there -- see nearly three dozen errors between SS and 2B -- just about everything else has ticked up in 2011. While batting .296, he's showed off his power surpassing his prior high of six homers with 17 and counting. His BB-rate -- around 5% -- could still use some work, but it's a marked improvement over last season's 1.7%. And in the speed department, he'll soon reach 37 stolen bases, twenty more than his previous high. And the best part? He's done all this between Double and Triple-A.
Now a BABIP well over .330 as well as that trademark rawness probably points to some growing pains in the show. However, as he begins to translate nearly every one of his unquestionable physical tools into production, it's hard not to imagine a middle infielder who can affect nearly all phases of the game, much like a certain current Mets MI. More realistically, he could very easily end up looking a lot like a left-handed version of Angels SS Erick Aybar.
Next up is AA favorite IF Josh Satin.
Ah Josh Satin, the kid without a true position that was too old for his level and didn't hit for enough power. Well all he's ever done is hit and nothing changed this season as he kept right on raking, first in Double-A and on into Triple-A. The ongoing joke is that Satin would quietly collect two hits every night and that was pretty much the case as he batted .325 in Binghamton while showing a lot more power -- see. .213 ISO.
Now his BABIP continues to hover around unsustainable .400+ levels so expect regression. However, keep in mind that Satin has posted abnormally high BABIP's at nearly every stop of his career and it wouldn't be a shock at all to see Satin maintain higher than normal levels thanks to his line-drive approach. Though this does put a bit of a cap on his power potential so don't expect a ton of homers.
As far as where he'll play, that's anyone's guess. A second baseman early in his career, he lacks the footspeed for the position, same for the outfield. Thus far he's played a lot of first and third base, which probably belies his long-term role as a very strong right-handed super-sub, bench option. Unfortunately for Satin, the club has grown rife with such players so who knows if he's a Met long-term but one thing is for sure, the bat will play.
Next is a guy who really lives up to the organizational 'snakebit' moniker, 3B Zack Lutz.
Coming into 2011 I went out on a limb and included Lutz in the Mets Top 10, despite his advanced age due to a high propensity for injuries. I liked the bat and had faith that he could stay healthy. Well he's spent three separate occasions on the DL in 2011, but I contend that it should not be held against him. That's because two of those trips were caused by beanballs to the skull and the other was exacerbated by a rogue foul ball that found him in the dugout.
I also dubbed Lutz the system's best all-around bat and while Reese Havens might take that title soon, I'm going to stand by that label. Even between all of these maladies, Lutz just keeps on hitting, showing off a trademark good hit tool as well as strong patience and excellent power. Now he's striking out at a career-high high 27% in 2011 with Triple-A Buffalo but you know what? I give him a lot of credit for not looking a lot more like a guy that can't get going thanks to DL-induced rust. I'll keep on saying it, I think Lutz is a major league starter at third base, just obviously not with the Mets.
UPDATE: Apparently Lutz has been experiencing continued concussion symptoms lately -- which may explain his 31 K's in August -- and obviously if that's the case he likely will be shut down very soon.
I think my favorite September call-up this year will be RHP Josh Stinson, who will provide bullpen depth and hopefully prevent me from looking at anyone named Igarashi, Beato or Carrasco.
Overall, Stinson has been a bit of a disappointment in 2011, considering he had an outside shot to make the club out of spring training. I thought it must have been a bit demoralizing to get cut so late then fall all the way back to Double-A; he reached Buffalo in 2010 but the rotation was full this spring. Before long he found his way back up but really struggled to produce consistent results, which has pretty much always been the case for Stinson as a starter.
Eventually, he was sent back to Binghamton and he bounced back into the bullpen -- this time likely for good. And after a bit of a transitionary period where he was beat up in his first few appearances, he's posted much better results, including a 3.44 ERA in July and a 3.21 ERA in August. As a reliever he's seen most of his rates improve, including superior command and a higher K-rate. He's also continued to use his trademark low-to-mid 90's sinker to produce lots of ground balls.
There's no reason why Stinson can't be a capable middle reliever/spot starter for the Mets right now and if he can find some more consistency locating his potentially plus slider, he may push for late-inning duty at some point.
The Mets have also been watching Buffalo starter RHP Chris Schwinden for quite a while so expect to see him make the cut too.
Schwinden has been a huge surprise for the organization in 2011, jumping from the ranks of Double-A bullpen depth to a starter on the verge of making it to the bigs. Perhaps we should have suspected a nice season in the offing as he's always featured excellent command as well as solid K-rates and he posted a 3.64 FIP in 2010.
In many ways his story resembles Dillon Gee's. There wasn't any one thing that clicked for Schwinden this season, instead he just sharpened up his offerings a bit -- including a low 90's fb and improved curve -- allowing him to miss more bats which pushed him over the prospect hump. His true overhand delivery also creates excellent downward plane on his pitches. Though it should be noted that he's posted a less stellar 5.66 ERA since the ASB.
If Gee is a mid-to-back of the rotation starter, Schwinden probably falls a grade below as a potential five starter with a future as a longman/spot starter even more likely. Maybe even a right-handed Misch, shuttling back and forth as needed. Either way, he has certainly proven this season that he can help a major league club one way or another.
And finally, Binghamton starter RHP Collin McHugh is a bit of a dark horse but on the heels of his AFL announcement I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the organization kill two birds, adding desperately needed bullpen depth and rewarding McHugh for a very nice 2011.
McHugh has been the consummate organizational good soldier this year, shuttling back and forth between St. Lucie and Binghamton numerous times this year as the situations dictated. All he did was continue to showcase an advanced secondary repertoire which has once again allowed his K/9 to hover at or above 9, even as he faced tougher Double-A competition for the first time.
And after some early season struggles, McHugh has really turned it on, posting a 1.53 ERA with a .205 average against after the ASB. Like Schwinden, McHugh isn't going to blow anyone away with his stuff or velocity, but an advanced feel for pitching and solid command point to an effective future major league bullpen piece.
First off, Queens kid OF Mike Baxter will be back after his short return to Buffalo.
And apparently there are some reports that the Mets are considering calling up minor league lifer 1B Val Pascucci. He may not get many ab's but it would be a classy move IMO for a guy that only briefly tasted the show and that was back in 2005...with the Expos.
One guy worth mentioning is 27-year old Bisons reliever RHP John Lujan. All he's done is quietly post some very nice totals for Buffalo -- 2.58 ERA, 8+ K/9 -- just as he's always done since the Mets nabbed him from the White Sox back in '09. He doesn't have overwhelming stuff, but he has a good fastball and profiles nicely as a serviceable, 6th-7th inning guy. After seemingly resolving command issues that plagued him earlier in his career, Lujan figures to be one of the rare Minor League Phase Rule 5 draftees that will have an impact on a big league club.
Expect to see organizational whipping boy LHP Pat Misch, who I'm assuming I don't need to introduce you to. Misch has pretty much been Misch this year, posting a 4+ ERA with Triple-A Buffalo, surrendering way too many bombs and exhibiting very little platoon split, neutralizing any LOOGY potential.
30-year old career minor leaguer RHP Dale Thayer has put up solid totals with Buffalo (2.74 ERA, 1.76 in August) so don't be too shocked if he turns up as well, if only for a new face out in the bullpen.
LHP Mike O'Connor is familiar with Queens, but he's had a pretty poor season for the Herd so don't bet the farm on seeing him.
Finally, don't be too shocked if there's another surprise or two from the Binghamton roster (Havens? Lagares? Moore? Holt?), though Sandy has already made it clear that despite reports stating otherwise, hefty lefty Robert Carson will not be getting a look.