Last week Josh Thole was reassigned to the Mets' minor league camp, and today Ike Davis joined him there. I expect that in the next week we will also see Fernando Martinez reassigned, and if Jose Reyes shows that he will be ready for Opening Day, Rueben Tejada will also be sent down. The biggest variable is Jenrry Mejia - Mejia is turning quite a few heads , the most important one being that of manager Jerry Manuel. Mejia is making Manuel's decision to send the young pitcher back to Triple-A very difficult with his stellar spring numbers.
As a Mets fan, I find all of these things reason to be optimistic. Why? The optioning of all of these young, talented players down to the minor league communicates one major theme to me... the Mets' front office and coaching staff expect this team to compete for a playoff spot.
If the Mets' brass did not believe that they were in a position to compete for a playoff spot, there would be nothing keeping these players from taking over their respective major-league positions. Consider for a moment the four most major-league ready of the upper-level minor-league talent.
Fernando Martinez - Martinez is a right fielder with huge upside. He recently dominated the Caribbean Series and has been on a tear throughout Spring Training. The player blocking him? Jeff Francoeur, who is signed to a one-year deal worth little money and whom the Mets would not hesitate to part with if the position needed to be cleared for F-Mart.
Ike Davis - Davis is a first baseman with a sweet swing and plus power. He has trouble hitting lefties, and his glove is not the smoothest in the league. All of that being said, his inadequacies could be ironed out at the major-league level, where he could hit lower in the lineup and to improve his patience and his glove without much pressure. This situation becomes even more feasible when you consider all of the question marks surrounding Daniel Murphy's future with the Mets and at first base.
Josh Thole - Thole is the Mets starting catcher at Triple-A Buffalo, and the plan is to apprentice him with veteran receiver Chris Coste. Thole is already a good, patient hitter - what he lacks is offensive power and the defensive skills needed by most major league catchers. The power will come as his body develops, but how much more could Thole learn at the major-league level, catching major-league talent every day and being tutored by Henry Blanco or Rod Barajas?
Jenrry Mejia - Mejia has been brilliant in his few opportunities during Spring Training. The Mets plan had been to send him back to Double- or Triple-A to let him continue to develop as a starter. He has had problems with his control, and he could use another pitch as he continues to grow into a major-league-caliber pitcher. In the winter league this year, Mejia's "stuff" was brilliant - enough to entice veteran scout and journalist Keith Law to write "The most impressive arm so far has been Jenrry Mejia of the New York Mets , who was on a short pitch count but showed two above-average pitches and a chance for a third ." Law also wrote, "The velocity comes easily, and if his command is better than what he showed on Wednesday and he can snap off that good curveball more frequently, he's a potential No. 1 or No. 2 starter ." However, throughout his time in the Arizona Fall league, his control was erratic and he was not effective. Instead of more minor-league seasoning and development, could major-league experience, first coming out of the bullpen and slowly as the year progressed lengthening him so that he could move into a starter's role, be the best way to develop Mejia?
For all four of these up-and-coming Mets prospects, many questions linger, and the "right" choices on how to develop them will be debated. However, what I would like to point out is this; if the Mets did not consider themselves contenders, I believe they would have made the decision to develop all of these players at the major league level in 2010. While you may argue that the front office is delusional (you may have a valid point there), I would say their confidence gives reason for optimism.
Mets' lineup if the front office had moved to rebuild/retool:
SS Reyes, 2B Castillo, CF Beltran, 3B Wright, LF Bay, 1B Davis, RF F-Mart, C Thole
Mets rotation in same case:
SP Johan, SP Pelfrey, SP Niese, SP Mejia, SP Perez
I believe that the decision to develop these four players at the Triple-A level for at least one more year is a telling signal from the front office that they indeed intend to compete in 2010. This could also be a signal that more moves to mold the team could be made in the coming weeks and months. I do not believe that Minaya will "rest on his laurels" this season, not with so much at stake. I just hope that in his attempt to make the playoffs this year he does not make a big mistake with one of these bright prospects.