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New York Mets: Predicting MLB Debuts for the Club's Top 5 Prospects

Tony MarcanoContributor IMay 9, 2012

New York Mets: Predicting MLB Debuts for the Club's Top 5 Prospects

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    Let's take a quick look at the Mets' disabled list since the beginning of the season.

    April: pitchers D.J. Carrasco (sprained right ankle) and Mike Pelfrey (Tommy John surgery);  outfielders Andres Torres (left calf) and Jason Bay (rib fracture); shortstop Ronny Cedeño (left intercostal muscle).

    May: shortstop Rubén Tejada (right calf); pitcher Pedro Beato (elbow tendinitis); catcher Josh Thole (concussion).

    In the first two months of the season, the Mets have shuttled eight players between CitiField and Triple-A Buffalo or Double-A Binghamton to plug those holes in the roster. Infielder Jordany Valdespin, who smacked a game-winning home run for his first major league hit, has made two round trips from Buffalo to New York.

    All of the players who have been called up would have made the major league roster sooner or later. With all of the Mets injuries, there's a lot more sooner than later.

    With that in mind, here are some predictions for when we might see some of the Mets' top farmhands in the major leagues.

RHP Zack Wheeler

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    Zach Wheeler already has something in common with his big-league fellows. He's hurt.

    Wheeler, who's pitching for Double-A Binghamton of the Eastern League, is on the seven-day DL with a right middle fingernail avulsion. That's a less gory way of saying his fingernail ripped off, along with several layers of underlying skin.

    Nevertheless, Wheeler remains the Mets' top prospect. A first-round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants in the 2009 amateur draft, he was acquired by the Mets as part of the Carlos Beltran deal.

    Before he was injured, Wheeler was living up to his hype. Ignore the 1-2 record so far this season. What counts is his 1.75 ERA and his strikeouts (30 in 25 2/3 innings).

    The Mets organization continues to project a 2013 call-up to New York. But with Mike Pelfrey's season-ending injury and a shaky bullpen, it wouldn't be surprising to see him on the roster by mid-summer if his injury doesn't worsen. He'll be on the 40-man roster in September for sure.

RHP Matt Harvey

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    Metsville loves Matt Harvey.

    With injuries piling up, Mets fans are wondering why the righthander with the scorching fastball hasn't already been called up from Buffalo. 

    Simple.

    "He's not ready," GM Sandy Alderson told the New York Daily News. Alderson is determined to get Harvey plenty more innings in Triple-A before he comes up to New York.

    “When we bring him up, we hope to do so and not have to send him back," Alderson said. "This is not about filling an immediate need. This is about the long-term stability of the organization and the team.”

    That's a good assessment. His 3-1 record for the Bisons sounds good, but he's been inconsistent so far in 2012. Harvey is loaded with raw talent, but he's still got too many rough edges to smooth out before he's ready for the bigs. 

    Fans are likely to see his major league debut this year. Look for him to throw a few innings when the roster expands in September.  But Alderson's plan notwithstanding, he may be in New York earlier if the pitching staff falters.

RHP Jeurys Familia

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    Of all the Mets' top pitching prospects, Jeurys Familia is the least likely to ride to the rescue from Buffalo.

    He may get a few innings in New York when the roster expands in September, but he'll stay in the farm system this year.

    Familia has a great arm. With a fastball that routinely reaches the upper 90s, he's among the best power pitchers in the organization, but control remains an issue.

    He's 2-1 at Buffalo so far this year, but his 5.06 ERA has to come down and his secondary pitches have to improve before he's ready for Flushing.

    If he makes it through spring training, we'll see him in New York next year. If not, we'll see him on the Buffalo-New York-Buffalo shuttle.

CF Brandon Nimmo

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    We know that 2011 first-round draft pick Brandon Nimmo shows great promise. Here's one promise: The closest he'll get to Queens this year will be as a member of the Brooklyn Cyclones.

    Maybe.

    Whether he plays for Brooklyn or the Kingsport (Tenn.) Mets, Nimmo is bound for a short-season Single-A summer.

    Another promise: The Mets have pledged to bring Nimmo along slowly and carefully. That's a certainty for this year. After that, it's anyone's guess—or everyone's guess.

    MLB.com's 2012 Prospect Watch ranks Nimmo fourth in the Mets' organization and projects he'll make his major-league debut in 2014. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus sets 2015 as Nimmo's ETA, with his first full season in 2016, according to The Star-Ledger of Newark.

    It's too soon to slap Nimmo with an MLB debut watch. He's already been the subject of speculation about where he'll play this year. Conventional wisdom had said Savannah, but he'll almost certainly wind up in Coney Island or Tennessee.

    Then there will be debates over whether he'll skip right to Double-A, or maybe even Triple-A, in 2013 with an eye on a 2014 debut.

    There's precedence for first-round phenoms to progress quickly through the ranks. But it's foolhardy to predict a 19-year-old's big-league debut, when he's still in extended spring training.

    Until Nimmo has a full minor-league season under his belt, I wouldn't put any money on a debut before 2015.

RF/CF Cesar Puello

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    For a top-ranked prospect, Cesar Puello has managed to fly under the radar, but he'll get his due notice soon enough.

    Puello's progress has been steady in his three years of minor-league play, with a few bumps along the way. He came into the organization as a hefty teenager, at 6'2" and 220 pounds. Now he's down to a lean 195, and he's a base-stealing threat.

    His raw power is evident. But Puello had a mediocre season at the plate last year for the high-A St. Lucie Mets, hitting .259 and striking out 103 times in 117 games.

    The strikeouts are in keeping with scouting reports that say Puello is often fooled at the plate.

    Still, the Mets' organization remains high on Puello. ScoutingBook.com calls him one of "the fastest rising players" in the farm system and projects a 2013 debut.

    2013 seems optimistic for a player who's still in Single-A, but if he learns as fast as he runs, Puello could indeed make a quick sprint to New York.

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