8 Mets Prospects Who Never Lived Up to the Hype
The New York Mets have had their share of busts throughout the years. As important as ranking prospects is to MLB franchises, even some of the most highly touted young players don’t necessarily pan out.
With players like David Wright, Jose Reyes and Matt Harvey (so far) living up to the hype, the Mets have shown success in evaluating prospects in recent years. However, plenty of top Mets prospects have vanished before our eyes.
Remember Philip Humber and Eddie Kunz? What about Lastings Milledge and Fernando Martinez? The Mets have seen plenty of top prospects flounder once they were thrust into the big leagues. Here, in no particular order, are eight recent Mets prospects who simply never lived up to the hype—a list Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and Wilmer Flores will look to avoid in the future.
Drafted: First round, 18th pick of 2008 MLB draft
Debut: April 19, 2010
Career Statistics with New York: 454 G, .241/.334/.433, 64 HR, 224 RBI
Ike Davis is a very strange case here but definitely needs to be on the list. He spent three full seasons with the Mets before being traded to the Pirates earlier this season. He was dubbed the Mets' first baseman of the future when he was drafted in 2008 thanks to a compensation pick from the Braves for losing Tom Glavine.
In 2010, just a few weeks into the season, the Mets promoted Davis to the majors, and he showed up ready, going 2-for-4 with an RBI in his first game. For a while it looked like he really was the team's first baseman of the future. As a rookie, he put up a slash line of .264/.351/.440 including 19 home runs and 71 RBI.
After another good start to the 2011 season, a collision with David Wright ended Davis’ season after just 36 games; after that, it was straight downhill for him. He batted just .227 in 2012, but his 32 homers and 90 RBI gave reason to rejoice.
2013 only made it worse, though. A dismal .205 average with nine home runs and only 33 RBI in 103 games did not leave the organization happy. Davis spent a brief stint in Las Vegas with the Mets minor league affiliate as well.
The biggest surprise was that he was still with the Mets at the start of the 2014 season. Not surprisingly, that did not last long, and after just 12 games, he was shipped to Pittsburgh. Davis had some bright moments as a Met, but in the end it wasn’t going to work with this team, and he certainly was not the first baseman of the future.
Drafted: First round, 18th pick of 2001 MLB draft
Debut: June 26, 2003
Career Statistics with New York: 305 G, 450.1 IP, 25 GS, 22-33, 4.24 ERA, 395 K/185 BB
After losing Mike Hampton to the Colorado Rockies in free agency, the Mets were awarded two compensation picks in the 2001 draft. The picks turned out to be the 18th and 38th overall selections.
With the 18th pick the Mets selected Aaron Heilman out of Notre Dame, and with the 38th pick they snagged David Wright out of Hickory High School in Virginia. Hampton went on to pitch for the Rockies for two years, posting a record of 21-28 to go with a 5.75 ERA. Not a bad deal for the Mets.
Anyway, Heilman was supposed to be a big-time pitcher. A starting pitcher, that is. As a senior at Notre Dame, he went 15-0 with 12 complete games and a 1.74 ERA. He also struck out 111 batters that year while walking just 31. He was a consensus first-team All-American and just lost out on national player of the year honors to Mark Prior, a good friend of the not-living-up-to-the-hype crowd.
Heilman looked good as a starting pitcher through his time in the minor leagues as well. After successful seasons in Double-A and Triple-A, he was called up to the Mets. In his first start the young prospect threw six innings while allowing just one earned run. Unfortunately, thanks to four Mets errors, he allowed four unearned runs and received the loss, while Dontrelle Willis moved to 8-1 on the year. Heilman went on to post a 2-7 record, with a 6.75 ERA in 13 starts in 2003.
The Notre Dame alumnus found himself back in the starting rotation in 2004, where he started five games, posted a 5.46 ERA and lost three of his four decisions. Still struggling to find his way, the Heilman everyone had been waiting for finally showed up on April 15, 2005. He threw a complete game shutout and allowed just one hit in the game. Sadly, that dominance did not last, and he made just five more starts the rest of his career.
In Heilman’s last three seasons with the Mets from 2006 to 2008, he became a middle-to-late innings relief pitcher. In 233 games over those last three years, he posted a 3.90 ERA and a record of 14-20. He had sky-high expectations coming into his career and never achieved that greatness.
Drafted: First round, third pick of 2004 MLB draft
Debut: September 24, 2006
Career Statistics with New York: 5 G, 9 IP, 0-0, 6.00 ERA, 4 K / 3 BB
Out of the 23 perfect games thrown in MLB history, I have to believe Philip Humber’s is the most random of them all. He was taken third overall in the 2004 MLB draft, just behind Justin Verlander. Humber was one of three Rice University pitchers who were taken in the top eight picks, along with Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend.
After being drafted, Humber began his career with the St. Lucie Mets and struggled, posting a 4.99 ERA in Single-A. In 2006 he went 3-1 in seven starts in Single-A and was promoted to Double-A, where he started six games and went 2-2 with a 2.88 ERA. Then in late September, he was called up to the majors, where he appeared in two games and combined to throw two scoreless innings.
Humber then appeared in three games in 2007, one as a starter, and posted a 7.71 ERA. Oddly enough, that was it for him as a Met. On February 2, 2008, the Mets shipped him, Carlos Gomez and two other pitchers to Minnesota in exchange for Johan Santana.
Humber went on to play scarcely in his two seasons with the Twins and played just eight games in his one season with the Royals. In 2011 he found himself a nice role with the Chicago White Sox, where he started 42 games over two seasons, including his perfect game.
An 0-8 2013 season with the Astros was his last major league experience as of now. He is currently a reliever for the Sacramento River Cats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. It has been a disappointing career for Humber, who came into the league being scouted alongside Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver.
Drafted: First round, 42nd pick of 2007 MLB draft
Debut: August 3, 2008
Career Statistics with New York: 4 G, 2.2 IP, 13.50 ERA, 1 K / 1 BB
Eddie Kunz was drafted 42nd overall in the 2007 MLB draft and was set to be the Mets closer of the future. After three successful seasons at Oregon State, he looked to be ready to go as a professional pitcher. After just 62 minor league games, he was called up to the Mets in 2008.
He made his debut on August 3, 2008 against the Houston Astros, where he threw one scoreless inning of relief in a 4-0 Mets loss. Over the next two weeks, he would make three more appearances in relief, throwing a combined 1.2 innings and allowing four runs.
And that was it. Kunz never pitched again in the MLB.
He was sent back down to Triple-A for the 2009 season and did not fare well, which led him to being sent down to Double-A in 2010, where he again performed poorly. After the 2010 season the Mets traded Kunz to the San Diego Padres for Allan Dykstra.
Kunz, once the future of the Mets bullpen, would never make it to the big leagues with the Padres and was eventually released in 2013.
Signed as Free Agent: July 11, 2005
Debut: May 26, 2009
Career Statistics with New York: 47 G, .183/.250/.290, 2 HR, 12 RBI
“F-Mart,” as we Mets fans liked to call him, was another big-time outfield bust for the Mets. Martinez was signed in 2005 at the age of 17 and was supposed to play a role in the outfield for a long time. When he finally debuted in 2009 at the age of 20, it did not necessarily go as planned. He played in 29 games in 2009 and batted just .176 with one home run and eight RBI.
While that could have been just him struggling to adapt to the MLB at such a young age, things never improved. The 29 games that he played in 2009 were his most ever in one season as a New York Met; Martinez played just seven games in 2010 and 11 more in 2011.
The Houston Astros claimed him off waivers in 2012 after the Mets let him go. Things did not work out at all for Martinez, who never played more than 41 games in a single season and finished with a career batting average of .206.
Also, you know things didn’t work out when I best remember him from falling on his face while trying to make a catch against the Brewers. Unfortunately, I cannot find a video of that play, so we will all just have to replay it in our heads.
Signed as Free Agent: December 10, 2003
Debut: April 6, 2003
Career Statistics with New York: 239 G, .256/.308./.363, 11 HR, 75 RBI, 22 SB
The Mets thought they were making a huge splash when they signed 28-year-old Kazuo Matsui. He had grown up playing shortstop in the Japan Pacific League for the Saitama Seibu Lions, where he dominated. In 2002, he posted a slash line of .332/.389/.617 while hitting 36 homers and knocking in 87 runs. He followed that up in 2003 by hitting 33 home runs and 84 RBI, which was good enough for the Mets to go out and get him.
Unfortunately, things for Matsui did not go as well in the MLB as they had gone in the JPL.
He debuted with the Mets in 2004 as the starting shortstop and started off with a bang. He went 3-for-3 with three RBI in his opening game including a leadoff homer in his first ever at-bat. Matsui also hit a home run in his first at-bat of the 2005 season, but those were just about his only highlights with New York.
Although he put up huge power numbers in Japan, he hit just 11 home runs and brought home 75 runs in 239 games as a Met. The Matsui experiment did not end how many thought it would, but luckily the Mets had Jose Reyes waiting in the wings and were able to fill the role at shortstop effectively.
Matsui was traded in June 2006 to the Colorado Rockies for Eli Marrero, whom also went on to perform poorly in his short stint with the Mets.
Drafted: First round, 12th pick of 2003 MLB draft
Debut: May 30, 2006
Career Statistics with New York: 115 G, .257/.326/.414, 11 HR, 51 RBI
Lastings Milledge was drafted 12th overall out of Lakewood Ranch High School in the 2003 MLB draft. He was touted as a five-tool player who could spread the ball to all fields and was believed to have the speed to steal more than 20 bases per season. As a good fielder with a strong arm, he looked like a great grab for the Mets in 2003.
In 2004 and 2005 he split time between Single-A and Double-A, where he put up solid numbers. After 84 games in Triple-A in 2006, he was called up to the Mets. He went on to play 56 games for the team that season, recording a disappointing average of .241. He also recorded just four home runs and one stolen base.
Milledge came back strong, though, and made the Opening Day roster in 2007. At just 22, his potential was still very high; however, his game barely improved. He played 59 games for the Mets in 2007, batting .272 and hitting seven home runs. The outfielder recorded just 29 RBI and three stolen bases on the season as well.
Not only was his performance below expectations but his on-field antics caused problems within the organization. Whether it was Billy Wagner posting a “Know your place, rook” sign on Milledge’s locker or one of the other veterans disagreeing with his actions, things were not working out.
After two seasons and 115 games with the Mets, Milledge was shipped to the division rival Washington Nationals in exchange for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. Milledge had his best season in 2008 with the Nationals but could never find the right role as a player in MLB.
He is now in his third season with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. I can’t imagine how Lastings is handling himself over there, but I bet it’s interesting.
Signed as Free Agent: July 11, 2006
Debut: April 7, 2010
Career Statistics with New York: 383 G, .253/.321/.311, 2 HR, 95 RBI (As of May 20, 2014)
Ruben Tejada started the 2014 season as the starting shortstop for the New York Mets, though now he is sharing his playing time with Wilmer Flores.
Tejada joined the organization in 2006 at just 17 years of age. At the time, he was thought of as a highly valued shortstop whose future with the team was up for discussion with Jose Reyes in the mix.
When Tejada first was called up to the Mets, he spent 50 of his 78 games at second base, because Reyes still manned the other middle infield position. Tejada’s first season was underwhelming, to say the least, as he batted just .213. However, he was just 20 years old and had time to improve.
In 2011 he was again seen splitting time between second base and shortstop, and while he did improve, it was tough to pinpoint his ceiling.
Tejada’s two best seasons were 2011 and 2012, when he combined to play 210 games, bat .287 and knock in 61 RBI. But what good are those numbers for a below-average fielder with no speed?
Somehow the Mets decided to go with Tejada and Omar Quintanilla as their shortstops to start the 2013 season, which went unsurprisingly poorly. Tejada went on to bat .202 in 57 games in 2013.
Even more remarkably, the Mets came into 2014 with those same two guys set to play shortstop! Now, in 38 games so far this season, Tejada's average is below the Mendoza Line at .185.
Clearly, he is not the guy to fill the void left by Reyes, and the fact that he’s still playing in the majors at all is mind-boggling. Tejada is a below-average fielder who is slow and hits for neither power nor average.
Hopefully, the Mets find a fit at shortstop, because Tejada has proved time and time again that he is not the one.