Many people know him around baseball circles for his expertise with the youngsters in baseball, and since the Mets’ minor league system has been so scrutinized over the past couple of years, I thought we could get a “State of the Union,” so to speak. So without further adieu, enjoy.
Daily Stache: If you compare the Mets to the rest of the league, how would they stack up in terms of their minor league system?
Jonathan Mayo: They’d still land near the bottom. As was evident when there wasn’t a whole lot to come up to replace the many injured big-leaguers, they’re particularly weak at the top of the system.
There are some interesting young arms from international scouting efforts and Ike Davis looks legit, but there’s still not much there.
Stache: Fernando Martinez hasn’t been able to stay healthy. What would you say is the long-term prognosis for him?
Mayo: I’d say it’s still a good prognosis. His knee is healing fine and he’s slated to play winter ball in the Dominican. While it does seem like he’s been around forever, he’s still just 21 years old.
Even though his big-league stint was less than thrilling, he still showed glimpses of what has had scouts excited for the past few years. Be patient, I still think that bat speed will play just fine in the big leagues.
Stache: Ike Davis has been tearing the cover off of the ball since the season ended? Do you think he will be a good first basemen at the major league level, and if so, when?
Mayo: I do think he’ll be a good first baseman at the big-league level and he’s probably not too far away from getting there. I think you started to see some of the power he’s going to develop.
It remains to be seen just how much power he’ll hit for ultimately, but he’s a decent athlete who should be a very good defensive first baseman while being a good run producer when all is said and done.
I think he can be ready to contribute at some point in 2010, with a full-time gig in 2011.
Stache: Who would you say is the best starting pitcher in the Mets minor league system?
Mayo: While I’m still a Brad Holt believer, I think most are looking at Jennry Mejia as the next “guy.” His stuff is absolutely electric and scouts were raving about it during his stint in the Arizona Fall League.
Yes, his Double-A stats weren’t overwhelming and yes, he could improve on things like command and his breaking ball (a slider).
But he has so much movement and such a live arm, it’s hard not to be excited about him. He’ll pitch all year in 2010 at age 20, so even if he starts the year back with Binghamton, he’s way ahead of the curve.
Stache: K-Rod is only signed for two more years. Do you seeing there being anyone the Mets have that they may be grooming to take over in a couple of years?
Mayo: Not really. I don’t know what happened to Eddie Kunz. I, for one, thought he’d be that guy, or at least helping out as a valuable setup man by now. He’ll be just 24, so there’s still time, but I don’t think anyone looks at him and sees future closer these days.
You never know when there might be a starter who gets converted and takes to short relief, but I don’t see anyone that jumps out at me as an heir to K-Rod.
You could keep an eye on Ugueth Urbina’s kid, Juan, if he can’t cut it as a starter. But that’s a ways away.
Stache: Do you think Aroldis Chapman is going to be the real deal and do the Mets have a shot at signing him? Would that be a wise investment?
Mayo: I’m of two minds when it comes to Chapman. The first is that he’s absolutely legit and that kind of stuff doesn’t come around very often. He’s young, he’s shown he can perform on big stages already, so yes, it’s a worthwhile investment.
At the same time, however, there are many cautionary tales regarding Cuban pitchers (Ariel Prieto, I’m looking at you), so one should at least pause.
That being said, would the Mets even consider being that aggressive on this front? They’re not in the Draft, but have been more active internationally, so that should be interesting to watch unfold.
Stache: Do you think there are going to be any solid guys in the Rule V draft that the Mets should keep their eyes on?
Mayo: It’s too early to tell as teams are still setting their rosters, but there are always guys worth keeping an eye on in the Rule V.
Pitching is usually the best way to go, so I’ll throw out two possible names for you: Lefty Chuck Lofgren from the Indians and righty Kevin Pucetas from the Gaints.
Stache: Who is the best Mets’ prospect that nobody talks about?
Mayo: I’m becoming a big Jeurys Familia fan. Mejia gets most of the buzz because his stuff is off the charts and he’s at an advanced level while still being really young. But Familia shouldn’t be overlooked.
He finished second among full-season pitchers in ERA in the organization at 2.69, led the system in wins (for whatever that’s worth) and finished fifth in strikeouts.
He’s not perfect, for sure, and has a ways to go, but he pitched all year at age 19 in full-season ball, was extremely durable and got better as the season wore on.
Stache: Tell me about Josh Thole. We saw a brief stint of him in 2009, and he seems like a quality hitter. Is he the real deal?
Mayo: He’s hard guy to peg as a prospect. I think his lack of power does have him under-appreciated. I really think the guy can hit and will hit for average and get on base if given the chance to play.
Whether he can catch well enough to be more than a backup remains to be seen, but it won’t be for lack of effort. He does have limited upside since he won’t be a run-producer and doesn’t run, so you can’t put him at the top of a lineup.
That being said, I’d love to see someone give him a legitimate shot at a big-league job, as a backup or otherwise.
Stache: What has happened to Nick Evans? He went from major hype to afterthought. Do you think he is just going to be a backup?
Mayo: I think the hype was overblown completely. The Mets have long believed Evans could hit, but it’s not like he was setting the world on fire in the Minors at any stop. He certainly hit well in Binghamton in 2008 prior to his callup, but in some ways the worst thing that can happen to a prospect is to find immediate success in New York.
You spent one hot week or month there (like his July and August in 2008) and suddenly you’re the greatest prospect on the face of the earth. This past year was pretty much a lost one for Evans, but he’s still only going to be 24 next year.
Who knows what can happen long-term, but I think backup or 4th OF, though one who makes a solid contribution, sounds about right.