MLB Offseason: Evaluating the New York Mets Prospects in the Arizona Fall League

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst INovember 16, 2011

The New York Mets sent seven Minor Leaguers down to the Arizona Fall League—a finishing school of sorts for prospects—this offseason.

Outfielder Juan Lagares, second baseman Wilfredo Tovar and catcher Juan Centeno represented the Mets position players on the Peoria Javelinas roster, while Robert Carson, Collin McHugh, Erik Turgeon and Taylor Whitenton filled four of the 20 spots on the pitching staff.

As the AFL enters its final few days, here's a look at how the Mets prospects have performed.


Juan Lagares

Lagares has yet to make it to Buffalo, but everything is trending upward for the outfielder.
In 13 games with the Javelinas, the 22-year-old is hitting .333 with 17 RBI in 13 games. He drove in four runs against Surprise on Oct. 22 as part of a 3-for-5 night and he plated four against the same team again on Nov. 11.

Lagares has 15 RBI in his last 10 games, including a nice five-game swing where he went 11-for-23 with 10 RBI.

Everything good that Lagares has done has come against right-handed pitchers. He's batting .375 with seven extra-base hits and 14 RBI against them, compared with just .167 with three RBI and just a pair of singles against lefties.

Lagares has been the Mets best player in the AFL, and it's not too surprising when you consider the success he had in the regular season.

He hit .338 in 82 games in the Florida State League before ripping up the Eastern League to the tne of a .370 average and 22 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 38 games. He hits for power, hits for average and displays good base-running qualities, and there's a good chance he will appear in Buffalo in 2012.

If the Arizona Fall League is any indication, he's ready to handle the challenge that Triple-A will bring.


Juan Centeno

A catching prospect from Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Centeno celebrates his 22nd birthday today.
The 5'9" backstop has never been a regular fixture in the Mets' system since they selected him in the 32nd round of the 2007 draft, but time is on his side.

Unfortunately, Centeno is a slap-happy contact hitter with no power and little speed.
He hit .318 in 52 games with St. Lucie this year, but you can't help but notice the one home run and 11 RBIs in 157 at-bats.

The left-hander is finding success equally hard to come by in the AFL, and that comes as no surprise for a green prospect who has had just one at-bat above High-A.

He's batting .250 with five RBI and six walks in 13 games for Peoria, but he's been on the slide lately.

He was hitting as high as .355 on Oct. 28 after four multi-hit games in six contests, but since then he has found himself in an 0-for-13 hole.

Centeno is batting .263 against left-handers and just .240 against right-handers, a group of pitchers he should be doing much better against.

I don't see Centeno ever cracking the big league roster, and I would say it's a sure thing that you'll see him in Buffalo. He has a low ceiling as a contact hitter, but I hope his power stroke comes around as he fills out. At 5'9" and 172 pounds, maybe he'll develop a gap-to-gap swing as he matures and develops.


Wilfredo Tovar

Tovar is one of six infielders on the Javelinas roster and one of the youngest players in the AFL.
He turned 20 back in August, but he's made the jump from Savannah look pretty smooth.

The Venezuelan is hitting .278 with a homer and eight RBI through 22 games. He also has 15 runs, nine doubles and a triple, and he has eight strikeouts in 90 ABs.

The right-hander is doing well against southpaws as you would expect (.323), but he is hitting .254 against right-handers. Interestingly, though, more than half of his extra-base hits and seven of his eight RBI have come facing righties.

He hit in 13 of 14 contests between Oct. 7 and Nov. 1, and he has been held hitless just three times in his last 19 outings. The majority of his at-bats (66 of 90) have come from the seventh, eighth or ninth spot in the order, so that's why you're seeing relatively few RBI and more runs scored out of him. With the Sand Gnats this season, he was primarily a No. 2 guy.

Also of note is that Tovar has done well fighting off pitchers when he's been behind in the count, batting .333 in such situations.


Robert Carson

Left-hander Robert Carson has appeared in nine Arizona Fall League games in relief for the Javelinas. He has a 4.41 ERA and he has allowed at least two runs in three of his last four outings.

With Double-A Binghamton this season, Carson logged 128.1 innings as a starter—not particularly quality innings either—and the workload appears to have caught up with him.

Carson is as mediocre in Arizona as he was in the Eastern League. Hitters are smacking him around for a .302 average, and in his last two games against Surprise and Salt River he walked three batters each time.

He has 12 walks to 10 strikeouts in 16.1 innings and only once in those nine appearances—against Salt River two weeks ago—has he worked two clean innings. Lefties are hitting .333 against him which is never a good sign, and he's having trouble throwing strikes to right-handers (just 117 of 200 pitches).

The former 14-rounder had that one good season back in 2008 when he showed glimpses of promise in limited time in the Appy League, but since then it's been downhill, first in Savannah, then at St. Lucie and now in Binghamton and the AFL.

He's still only 22, so there is room to improve, but you have to figure that he's at least two years away from being able to complete properly at Buffalo and probably another year or two away from being Major League ready.

At best, the 6'3" hurler is a fringe long reliever with little upside right now.


Collin McHugh

McHugh has made seven appearance—including six starts—in the AFL, posting an 8.06 ERA and 1-3 record. He has allowed two runs or more in every single outing, and in back-to-back games against Mesa and Surprise he gave up five apiece.

The Georgia native has been overmatched in every way down in the desert. This isn't the Florida State League anymore, Collin.

Let's first look at the positives. 19 strikeouts in 22.1 innings is in line with what he posted across two levels between Class A Advanced St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton, and his 19:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio is manageable if not great.

But now look at the negatives...Opponents are hitting .374 against him, left-handers .339 and righties .419. Yes, it's a small sample size, but those numbers are worrying.

That has led to allowing 37 hits in just 22.1 frames, and that is unacceptable. The biggest worry for me though is that Carson had a great year in Binghamton. He was 8-2 with a tidy 2.89 ERA. The AFL offered him a chance to show he has what it takes to compete at that next level. Unfortunately, all it told us is that he's not really ready yet.

Expect growing pains in Buffalo next April.


Erik Turgeon

All but the most enthused Mets fans will not know who Turgeon is. To fill you in, he's a slim 24-year-old right-hander drafted out of the University of Connecticut in the middle of the '08 draft.

He spent all of 2011 in Binghamton out of the bullpen where he recorded a 5.42 ERA and eight saves in 52 relief appearances. He has average command and below-average stuff, relying on control more than overpowering hitters.

Turgeon has looked rocky at times in AFL, but all things considered he has been one of the better Mets arms on the staff.

He's tossed 14.1 innings over 11 games, putting up a 3.77 ERA. With the exception of one bad outing against Mess on Oct. 29 where he gave up two homers, Turgeon has not allowed more than one run in any game.

If you remove that performance from the equation his ERA would be a more tolerable 3.16.
One thing to note: While it is the left-handers that have been getting the base hits against Turgeon (batting .278), it has been the right-handers who have hit all three home runs and driven in six of the seven runs he has allowed.

If he can work to pitch righties away more, he might be able to limit the damage of the southpaws, which is harder to keep in check.


Taylor Whitenton

Now in his third year of pro ball, Whitenton showed solid growth in his second look at the Sally League this season. He trimmed more than two runs of his ERA from 2010, held hitters to just a .193 average and struck out more batters (119) than innings pitched (112).

A midseason All-Star with Class A Savannah, it was interesting to see the Mets send Whitenton to the AFL. He's a long way from being a finished product, but this experience will have done him good.

Through nine relief appearances he has a 1-2 record and a 5.06 ERA. His 16 strikeouts in 16 innings reinforces the notion that he has good enough stuff to put hitters away, and the fact that he has allowed only one home run tells you he can keep the ball in the yard against even the best prospects.

The nine walks are a little more worrying for a reliever, but you would expect hitters at this level to be much more disciplined than what he was facing in the regular season.

Whitenton gave up three runs on three hits and two walks to Mesa back in his third game on Oct. 13, and he surrendered five hits over two innings to Surprise on Nov. 9. Other than that, I think it's fair to say he has handled himself quite well.

The numbers won't jump out at you as being amazing, but he is playing against guys who are two or three years further down the Minor League track. I'm interested to see what he can do against the Florida State League in 2012. The AFL has definitely been a great offseason primer for him, and being named to the Rising Stars Game will certainly help his confidence.