When top pitching prospect Steven Matz makes his major league debut this weekend, it will be the culmination of a six-year journey to the big leagues. Matz was drafted out of Ward Melville High School on Long Island in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft. Because he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2010, Matz did not throw a professional pitch until 2012. Since then, he has rapidly ascended through the Mets' farm system and now becomes the latest in a line of top pitching prospects to make it to the Mets' big league rotation.
This promotion also follows another trend: Matz is the latest of several players drafted or signed by ex-GM Omar Minaya to contribute to the Mets long after his departure from the club. Minaya, who was the Mets' GM from 2004-2010, drafted or signed 11 players currently on the Mets' active roster not including Matz, who has not formally been promoted. This list includes several current starters like Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, Lucas Duda, Juan Lagares, and Wilmer Flores. While current GM Sandy Alderson often gets credit for the Mets' rebuilding efforts, many of the players deemed to be part of the team's "core" were initially discovered by Minaya's regime.
The fact that these players are now highly regarded may help Minaya's Mets legacy, which was far from glowing after his firing in 2010. While he did help build the last Mets playoff team in 2006, his tenure as GM ended on a sour note due to some questionable moves. His decisions to sign Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, Jason Bay, and Johan Santana to expensive multi-year deals yielded little on-field production and hamstrung the team financially for years to come. The Mets failed to make the playoffs in any of Minaya's last four seasons as GM despite having one of baseball's five highest payrolls each year.
But now that these prospects are making an impact, Minaya may eventually gain more postmortem support from Mets fans. Another area where Minaya drew heavy criticism was in the area of organizational development. He is often criticized for failing to develop many prospects during his tenure, as the Mets had the sixth-worst farm system in the majors according to Baseball America in 2010. This is often attributed to the philosophy of his front office, which promoted top prospects to the majors as soon as possible.
Conversely, Sandy Alderson's organizational philosophy calls for patience with respect to calling up top prospects, allowing them to spend more time in the minors before being asked to contribute to the major league team. This appears to have had a positive impact on the organization, as the Mets were ranked as the fifth-best farm system this year according to Baseball America. So whether the current success of Minaya's players can be attributed to his own talent-finding expertise or to Alderson's talent-development strategy is debatable. But the fact that Minaya is the one who brought these players to the Mets in the first place may vindicate him in this category to some degree.
The Mets' world has changed completely since Minaya's last day as general manager in 2010: The payrolls are lower, the Citi Field fences have been moved in, and Mr. Met even has a family now. But decisions that Minaya made are still having an impact on the team, and will continue to do so for years to come.