On the major league side, 2009 was perhaps the nadir of the Met franchise over the last two decades. The core that looked so good in 2006 and fell just short in 2007 and 2008 was some combination of old, declining, and hurt. After two straight years of 30 homers, David Wright hit only 10 in the worst full season of his career. Carlos Beltran missed time with an injured knee, then angered the Mets when he elected to have surgery. Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes combined for less than 300 PA. The Mets finished an abysmal 70-92.
One might hope the draft side of things could be a rare positive note in what was such a horrible year for the franchise, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The 2009 draft is by far one of the worst in franchise history, both in terms of the players that were brought in and those that weren’t. Since Met fans are nothing if not masochistic, let’s deconstruct this mess of a draft:
Round 1, Pick 24: OF Randal Grichuk / OF Mike Trout
Much like in 2006, the Mets didn’t have a first round pick in 2009 after they signed an elite reliever in the offseason. This time around the Angels got the 24th overall selection as compensation for the loss of Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod was coming off an historic year where he set the saves record with 62, and a three year stretch where he was arguably the second best (behind Mariano Rivera) reliever in baseball. In typical Met fashion, he was nowhere near as good in New York, and even if he was would’ve been a superfluous piece on a bottom-tier team.
To add insult to injury, the Angels landed the greatest player of all time in this draft, as they had back-to-back selections at 24 and 25 for the loss of Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira (to the Yankees). Technically Trout was taken 25th, which was the pick from the Yankees, but the miss is close enough that it bears mentioning here. Apocryphal stories about how the Mets would have drafted Trout had they kept the pick have swirled for years and are probably mostly nonsense (particularly given how bad the rest of this draft was), but it’s both fun and painful to imagine what the Mets might’ve looked like for the last decade with Mike Trout patrolling center field.
Round 2, Pick 72: LHP Steven Matz (Melville HS, NY)
With their first pick in the draft, the Mets did something they love to do and went local, snagging Long Island product Steven Matz. Matz was a lanky, projectable lefty who already sat 94 with his fastball, and scouts saw room for physical growth that could boost that velocity a couple ticks further. Needless to say, any high school lefty who can throw that hard is more than a little interesting, and the Mets were surprised that he dropped to them in the second (a tidbit that makes some of the stories regarding Trout all the more unbelievable). The Mets were able to buy Matz out of his commitment to Coastal Carolina, and he’s been with the organization since.
Matz’s raw talent has never been in question, but his health has, and that issue quickly reared it’s head. He tore his UCL in instructs in 2010 and didn’t get back on a mound until 2012. Once he got on the field, he dominated at basically every level, and finally cracked the major league roster in 2015. After a strong debut (who can forget grandpa Matz?), the injury bug bit him again, and a strained lat cost him most of the tail end of 2015. That’s a trend that’s continued for the past five years, as a variety of injuries have continued to limit the lefty, to the point where his stuff seems significantly diminished as a result of their cumulative effect.
Matz’s career is a frustrating one, and is hopefully far from over. As is, getting any prep arm to throw 500+ innings in the majors is a draft success, but comparing the glimpses of what Matz might’ve been with better health to what he actually is remains frustrating. To date, he’s accrued 5.6 fWAR with a 4.24 ERA over 573 major league innings, and has one more year of arbitration ahead of him.
Round 4, Pick 134: OF Darrell Ceciliani (Columbia Basin College)
Aside from Matz, Ceciliani is the only other major league contributor the Mets added in this draft. An outfield prospect with the classic tweener profile (not enough power for the corners, not enough defense for center), Ceciliani hit well throughout his climb up the minor league ladder. He got a late season opportunity when the 2015 Mets were dealing with injuries in the outfield, but failed to impress with a 57 wRC+ over 75 PA (though he did manage his lone major league home run).
In the offseason, Ceciliani was traded to the Blue Jays for a PTBNL or cash considerations. He managed only 34 more plate appearances over 2016 and 2017 before a shoulder injury ended his season, and he elected free agency at the end of that year. In 2018, he briefly played some independent league ball fro the New Britain Bees, but hasn’t appeared in any organized games since.
Round 31, Pick 944: RF Mitch Haniger (Archbishop Mitty High School, San Jose CA)
No, I didn’t miss anyone. The Mets went a whopping 810 selections between major league players in this draft. Moreover, when they finally snagged one, they couldn’t sign him, as Haniger elected to attend Cal Poly instead. The decision proved to be a wise one, as he was drafted with the 38th overall selection in 2012 and received a $1.2 million bonus from the Brewers.
Haniger didn’t blitz through the minors and was traded twice - first to the Diamondbacks, then to the Mariners - along the way, but he was an excellent, second-tier outfielder when he finally established himself in 2017. Over two years as the Mariners’ starting right fielder, he posted a 134 wRC+. His 2019 was much more underwhelming, as trades left him as the only offensive threat in the lineup and a ruptured testicle (ouch) cost him half the season, and he’s since undergone two surgeries for a torn adductor in his groin and a herniated disc in his back. It seems unlikely he plays in 2020, but he’ll be only 30 in 2021 and should have a chance to pickup where he left off.
Round 50, Pick 1514: RHP Zack Godley (Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School, Bamberg, SC)
Another future major league that the Mets couldn’t sign, Godley elected to attend Spartanburg Methodist College. He improved his stock enough to be taken in the 10th round of the 2013 draft by the Cubs, and he was dealt to the Diamondbacks as part of a trade for Miguel Montero a year later. A year after that, he made a very solid debut in Arizona, then struggled in 2015 before bouncing back with a strong two year stretch in 2017 and 2018. His last two seasons have been pretty brutal - a 5.97 ERA in 2019 and a 7.71 mark this season - but his overall fWAR total actually comes out right around Steven Matz at 5.7. This miss certainly doesn’t sting as much as Haniger, but it’s nonetheless frustrating to see another one of the very few major league contributors the Mets identified in this draft slip through their fingers.
A truly painful draft to deconstruct; two major league contributors in 49 picks, one who barely played and one who has been robbed of a potentially special career by injuries. Another two late round picks that weren’t signed who went on to become useful major league players or better. A missed opportunity at the best player of the generation. Somehow, revisiting this draft was even more painful than thinking about the major league season that came with it. So it goes.