New York Mets Youngsters Who Have Earned a Shot in 2013

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistAugust 9, 2012

New York Mets Youngsters Who Have Earned a Shot in 2013

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    While the New York Mets will likely not be viewed as a legit playoff contender next season, they should continue a promising trend of promoting young, homegrown talent.

    New Yorkers have taken a liking to this year’s squad since it predominantly consists of players from their farm system. Before Lucas Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis were sent back down to Triple-A, the Mets often constructed a batting order filled entirely of players who rose up New York’s minor league ranks.

    The arrival of fresh faces won’t come to a halt in 2013.

    Matt Harvey’s promotion sparked excitement throughout the Mets’ fanbase in July, and New Yorkers will likely experience a similar euphoria when Zack Wheeler reaches the big show next year.

    Guys like Nieuwenhuis and Dillon Gee might not exactly ever develop into superstars, but solid debuts led to promises of productive careers. The Mets have another crop of talent waiting to prove their merit in the MLB, and these players could get their name called next season.

Zack Wheeler

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    Many Mets fans want to see Zack Wheeler’s promotion before the season ends, but the team should postpone his highly-anticipated debut to next year.

    In a brilliant deal by Sandy Alderson during his inaugural season as the Mets’ general manager, he shipped away Carlos Beltran two months prior to hitting the free-agent market for Wheeler—a premier pitching prospect with ace potential.

    Selected in the first round in 2009 by the San Francisco Giants, Wheeler throws a lively fastball and a curveball that breaks ferociously. Ranked 10th in Baseball America’s midseason top prospects list, Wheeler is the Amazins’ most highly touted pitching prospect since Scott Kazmir. Hopefully this story ends better.

    In 116 innings with the Binghamton Mets, Wheeler went 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 117 strikeouts. The 22-year-old possesses a rocket arm and has improved his walk rate—which is down to 3.5 per nine innings this season—as he has progressed through the minors.

    Still, jumping a top prospect from Double-A to the majors hardly seems worth a risk for New York’s valuable asset. Recently upgraded to Triple-A, Wheeler has only made one start at the higher level, where he walked four batters and did not complete the fifth inning.

    Let him test the waters in Triple-A before feeding him to the sharks. 

    Wheeler will soon enough take the mound at Citi Field to initiate what the Mets can only hope will become a formidable young duo between him and Harvey. He might crack the rotation to start the season, but he will definitely receive his shot some time in 2013.

Jordany Valdespin

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    The Mets seem to have no idea what to do with Jordany Valdespin.

    The 24-year-old earned a big-league promotion, but the club has nowhere to put him. With Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada blocking him from assuming a spot as a middle infielder, Valdespin was relegated to bench duty. Quickly mastering his role as a pinch-hitter, the rookie set a team record with five pinch-hit home runs.

    In 138 at-bats, Valdespin has already recorded seven home runs and five steals. Terry Collins has recently played the youngster in the outfield, but not on a consistent basis.

    While Valdespin has his flaws, his pure talent warrants a deeper look as a potential everyday player.

    For Valdespin to stick as a MLB starter, he must improve his plate discipline. Drawing only four walks, Valdespin sports an ugly .292 on-base percentage on a squad that preaches patience. Valdespin needs to eventually show more than just power and speed.

    At the same time, the Mets can sure use some power and speed right about now. Jose Reyes’ departure left them without a capable base-stealer, and Murphy and Tejada solely function as contact hitters.

    Between Double-A and Triple-A stints, Valdespin stole 37 total bags last year and currently holds a .489 slugging percentage in the majors that ranks third on the squad after David Wright and Scott Hairston.

    Finding an open position for him may continue to be problematic next season, but the Mets need to test out a possible 20/20 player.

Matt Den Decker

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    The Mets may have yet another name to add to their jumbled outfield situation next year.

    Duda should return to his role in the middle of the Mets’ lineup next year, but you never know with the Mets. Nieuwenhuis will need to work his way back into the team’s good graces.

    Unfortunately, the Mets are stuck with Jason Bay for one more year, but don’t be surprised if they finally decide that enough is enough of the struggling veteran.

    Another young outfielder in Matt Den Dekker could earn a trip to Flushing next season. The 24-year-old obliterated Double-A competition, hitting for a .340/.397/.563 line with eight home runs and 10 steals in 58 games. While he has slumped through Triple-A with a .192 average, he has at least registered eight homers and seven steals during his tenure with the Buffalo Bisons.

    For all his power and speed capabilities, Den Dekker has a long swing that results in many strikeouts. In 106 games, Den Dekker has struck out 126 times—a number which would only rise against major league pitching.

    You may be thinking that he sounds exactly like Nieuwenhuis. Well, pretty much. Den Dekker could spurt the Mets’ offense at some point in 2013, but his propensity to strikeouts limits his career forecast to more of a fourth outfielder. 

Jeurys Familia

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    Earlier in the season, speculation arose that Jeurys Familia would play a pivotal role in the Mets’ bullpen this year. Turns out they don’t promote pitchers with terrible minor league numbers.

    The 22-year-old has taken a giant step back in Triple-A with a 4.98 ERA and 1.64 WHIP. While his strikeout rate has shrunk to 8.0, his walk rate stands at a hideous 5.3. It doesn’t matter how hard he throws if he can’t get the ball across the plate.

    That’s not to say that the prospect is a lost cause. Only one year removed from striking out 132 batters in 124 innings, Familia is still considered one of the best arms in New York’s farm system. In his midseason prospect rankings, John Sickels kept Familia inside baseball's top 100 despite his poor season.

    The organization has used him as a starter, but Familia's future lies in the bullpen, where he can fully harness his power arm. His lack of an effective secondary pitch also limits his potential as a starter.

    He won’t join the Mets’ bullpen as soon as fans hoped, but Familia could get a chance next season if he shows any signs of life. Even if he does not complete a full revival, they might need him if this year is any indication of their bullpen’s capability.

Josh Satin

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    Josh Satin’s minor league stats are silky smooth. The corner infield wet his feet during a September call-up last year, but he deserves an extended look.

    The 27-year-old has proven that he can handle Triple-A pitching. This year, Satin is hitting .296 with a .400 on-base percentage, 12 home runs and 58 runs scored. During a 38-game stint with the Bisons last season, Satin hit .317.

    For the Mets’ sake, they should hope Satin has no clear path to a roster spot since that would signify an injury to Ike Davis or the worst-case scenario of Wright skipping town. He doesn't quite fit the bill of an above-average starter anyway.

    Nobody is going to hold their breath in anticipation of Satin’s big-league arrival. Satin has never hit more than a dozen home runs during a season and rarely has any intentions of stealing a base.

    But what does he do? Points to Jonah Hill

    That's right; he gets on base. Satin fits the Mets mold to a tee, which could land Satin another September promotion and a spot on New York’s bench next year. Nothing against Justin Turner, but Satin replacing him means we never have to hear “Call Me Maybe” play at Citi Field again.  

Collin McHugh

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    Not everyone can be Zack Wheeler or Matt Harvey, but there’s nothing wrong with a bottom of the rotation starter.

    Collin McHugh does not sit on top of anyone’s prospect rankings. His arrival won’t create a stir, and he won’t break the radar gun. He’s also not about to be selected in any fantasy baseball leagues.

    However, it would not be shocking to see one of New York’s most productive Single-A pitchers debut with the Mets next season.

    The 25-year-old righty currently sports a 3.99 ERA and 1.28 WHIP through 10 Triple-A starts. He has punched out 57 batters in 56.1 innings to support his career tendency of striking out a batter per inning in the minors.

    As a solid pitcher flying under the radar, McHugh has drawn comparisons to Dillon Gee. McHugh seems to agree, as he explained to ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin.

    “I think for the most part the comparisons are pretty well-founded. We both throw four pitches -- curveball, slider, changeup, fastball. He’s got a little more of a sinker than I do. I probably have a little bit more of a curveball than he does. Otherwise, it’s pretty similar.” 

    Like Gee, McHugh can sneak into the major league rotation with an injury or two.