Reviewing Brad Holt, Matt Harvey and Other New York Mets Prospects' First Week
The New York Mets do not have the best farm system in the world. It's not the best in the National League, or even the best in the NL East, but there is talent there if you dig deep enough.
MLB.com's preseason list of top 50 prospects does not feature a single Met, and most of the players throughout New York's four minor league affiliates who have started pretty well in 2011 are not going to make an impact at Citi Field any time soon.
Still, it's great to see Matt Harvey make his debut, and it's nice to hear that Brad Holt is regaining his confidence.
Generally speaking, the Mets' affiliates have started slowly. At 10-2, only St. Lucie has started off well, with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons (4-7), Double-A Binghamton Mets (4-6) and Class A Savannah Sand Gnats (5-6) all below .500.
Here are some highlights, news and notes from the first full week of the MiLB season.
Well, it didn't take F-Mart long to land himself on the DL did it? He made it four games.
Martinez, an outfield prospect, went on the seven-day disabled list with Triple-A Buffalo on Friday because of a tight right hamstring. He was 4-for-5 with a double in the Bisons' opener on April 7, but was 1-for-11 with a walk and four strikeouts over the next three games.
He has all the promise in the world, and that's what makes it so frustrating. MLB.com reports that the 22-year-old has never played in more than 90 games in any of his five professional seasons because of knee, lower back and hamstring problems.
When you're looking at the Sand Gnats, Honeck stands out above the rest. The 23-year-old first baseman leads all Mets affiliates with a .500 batting average, and he has hit safely in nine of his first 10 games.
He has six multi-hit games already, and he had six extra-base hits in the last series with Greenville to power the team to four consecutive wins.
His 11 RBI are almost twice as many as any other Mets minor leaguer, and it's good to see the left-hander hitting southpaws (.667) in addition to right-handers (.448).
The former 11th-rounder was a midseason All-Star for the Brooklyn Cyclones in the Short Season New York Penn League two years ago, and early signs are pointing toward a great year in the Sally League.
2011 represents his first full year in Class A Savannah, and with his leg apparently back to full strength, he could flourish against full-season competition.
Lutz, a former fifth-round draft pick, gets his first real crack at Triple-A in 2011.
He hit .287 with 19 homers and 55 RBI across four levels with the Mets' Gulf Coast team, St. Lucie, Binghamton and Buffalo in '10, and he showed enough promise to start this season in the International League.
A decent contact hitter with a little pop and below-average speed, the third baseman is off to a hot start.
Predominantly hitting fifth in Buffalo, Lutz has a six-game hit streak for the 4-7 Bisons, and he's one of only a few Mets there swinging the bat well through the first week-and-a-half.
Seventeen homers in 225 at-bats with Binghamton a year ago show the kind of numbers he could put up in the top two levels of the minors, but he's much more suited to the Eastern League than he is the National League East.
Nieuwenhuis has played in all 11 of the Bisons' games so far, posting a .324 average and team-high seven runs.
He has played a couple games in the No. 2 hole, but he's been used much more frequently in the mid-to-lower half of the lineup, particularly fifth and sixth. This has impacted his RBI numbers (just three so far), as has a lack of hitting in general from the meat of the order.
The center fielder has more of a prospect tag than some of the other players in this list, but he has a lot to prove in his first full year with Buffalo.
He made 30 appearances with the Bisons in 2010 after hitting .289 with 16 homers as an Eastern League midseason All-Star in Binghamton, but be cautious of his hot start.
He projects as maybe a .260 Triple-A hitter this year, and his ceiling right now is dictated by his long swing and affinity for striking out.
Drafted in the third round of the 2008 draft, Nieuwenhuis could reach the majors in late 2012 or early 2013.
Seventh overall draft pick Matt Harvey has arrived in pro ball, bad moustache and all.
Luckily for the former Tar Heel right-hander, we're more concerned with his mechanics and breaking ball than we are with his facial hair.
It's safe to say that Harvey has taken to the Florida State League like a duck to water.
He's 3-0 in his first three starts with St. Lucie, sports a perfect ERA and has allowed just one unearned run in 16 innings. In addition, he was more than three times as many strikeouts (20) as walks (six) and opponents are hitting just .179 against him.
He scattered five hits while walking two and fanning nine in his pro debut on April 7 against Class A Advanced Palm Beach. He followed that up with a nice encore start against Fort Myers where he surrendered three hits over six innings, striking out eight.
When I spoke with him last week, he told me that he had so much adrenaline going, that he was too quick to the mound and that he was almost reaching to the plate. The result was very flat pitches with little life. Once he calmed down, he was much sharper.
On Sunday, Harvey gave the St. Lucie Mets their ninth straight win with five innings of two-hit ball. The only run came on a two-out passed ball in the first inning.
The Mets aren't going to rush Harvey, but he's not going to stay in St. Lucie, the team with the best record in the minor leagues, all year. Expect him to see time in Binghamton later in 2011.
21-year-old Vaughn will be a big league outfielder one day, but for now he's tasked with helping the Savannah Sand Gnats.
An All-Star with Wally Backman's Brooklyn Cyclones last year, Vaughn batted .307 with 14 homers, 56 RBI and 12 steals down on Coney Island.
Now a step up the ladder in his first full-season league, the San Diego State product is looking to build his resume further.
His .286 average with the Sand Gnats is second on the team only to red hot Honeck, and his six RBI in 10 games is tied for the second-most among all Mets minor leaguers.
He won't hit .321 against right-handers all year, but the fact that he has only seven at-bats against lefties will help even things out as the sample size increases.
He hit his first homer of the year Friday night at home to Greenville, and he has driven in at least one run in each of the last three games. He's also been hit three times already, with pitchers apparently wary about leaving anything middle-in.
It doesn't really matter right now if he's hitting fourth or fifth, but he could project as a No. 2 guy further down the line. More important, perhaps, is the fact that he's already played all three outfield positions and adds versatility to the organization's depth.
Mejia had his first taste of the Majors—albeit an 0-4 record—in 2010, and he understandably can't wait until he gets a second shot at it.
The road to Citi Field goes through Buffalo once again for the 21-year-old right-hander, who had a cursory stop there last year after pitching beautifully in six Eastern League starts in Binghamton.
With two appearances under his belt so far in 2011, Mejia has already tripled his Triple-A experience, and now it's just a matter of time until the big club implodes sufficiently to warrant a call-up. Judging from those games in Atlanta and at home against Colorado, it may not be too long.
Mejia struck out five over six three-hit innings in his season debut on April 8 in Syracuse and went 6.2 innings in his second scoreless start of the year at home to the SWB Yankees.
He's scheduled to pitch tonight or tomorrow night, so it might be interesting to see if he cruises for a third time in a row.
Holt told MiLB.com last week that pitching is fun once again. That's a good sign, of course, but I'm going to wait a little longer before I get too excited.
Listen, I like Holt, I do, but two scoreless starts does not a star make. It doesn't ease my worries too much, either.
He scattered three hits for Binghamton against Akron in his debut, and he threw seven great innings (four hits, one walk, five strikeouts) against New Hampshire last time out on Sunday.
The former first-rounder has a solid skill set when he's on, but when his command deserts him, he really is a wreck. Imagine the golfers' yips coming into play when you're going through your windup, unsure where a mid-90s fastball will end up.
When he's good, he's great. When he's bad, well...I'll let the 3-14 record and 8.34 ERA from 12 months ago speak for itself.
The optimist and fan in me hopes that Holt has turned the corner. The realist in me says to wait until he can put it together for a full season at Double-A.
This is Holt's fourth year in pro ball and third time facing Eastern League batters. It's time to put up or shut up, I'm afraid.
Jason Bay and Ronny Paulino
This pair of major leaguers were down in Port St. Lucie last week on rehab assignments.
Bay went 1-for-5 with a walk in his brief stint in Florida. He didn't have to exert himself too much in the field, and the most in-game running came when he went first-to-third on a ground ball to right. He's expected to rejoin the team in New York this week against the Astros.
Paulino has played for St. Lucie in each of the last four games. He snapped an 0-for-9 slump with a single Monday against Fort Myers and hasn't looked anywhere near ready in terms of going back to the majors.
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