New York Mets: With Catcher Josh Thole, Mets Getting Younger and Better

Paul Mueller@@ThePaulMuellerSenior Analyst IJuly 10, 2010

NEW YORK - JULY 07:  Josh Thole #30 of the New York Mets connects on a fifth inning base hit against the Cincinnati Reds on July 7, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Yankees, Red Sox, and Marlins have proven that it can be done in baseball. The Miami Heat are about to prove it can be done in the NBA.

There are some things money can’t buy, and championships used to be one of them. It’s an unfortunate reality, but reality nonetheless.

As long as it’s done right.

The New York Mets have the fifth-highest payroll in baseball. And while they are clearly contenders in 2010 at 47-39, four games behind the Braves for the division lead and a game behind the Dodgers and Rockies in the Wild Card, general manager Omar Minaya likely had higher expectations.

But this year, it’s not Minaya’s big acquisitions carrying the team. It’s the homegrown kids. It’s the young talent that came up through the organization, the way they should.

Mike Pelfrey leads the team with 10 wins and a solid 3.39 ERA. Jon Niese leads all Mets pitchers not named Johan Santana in strikeouts with 73, and has as many wins as Santana with six.

Angel Pagan, who started his career in 2006 with the Cubs, did not come into his own until he came to New York. He’s hitting .304 with a .364 OBP and a .457 slugging percentage, giving him an .820 OPS, second on the team to David Wright among players with at least 100 at-bats.

And those guys aren’t even the franchise players.

Wright, also a homegrown product, leads the team in every major category (.317 AVG, .329 OBP, 539 SLG, .931 OPS). Jose Reyes, while plagued with injuries in recent years, seems healthy and able to contribute, hitting .277 with 19 stolen bases. He also has 15 doubles and six home runs.

Rookie Ike Davis is also having a solid year. Though hitting a pedestrian .257, he has 16 doubles and 10 home runs to go with a .994 fielding percentage at first base.

And then there’s 23-year-old Josh Thole, recently promoted to fill the Mets’ most inconsistent position since the Mike Piazza days at catcher.

Sure, it’s only been eight games. But his .500 batting average (8-for-16), .579 OBP, .563 slugging percentage, and 1.141 OPS would all be team-highs if he had enough at-bats to qualify. Of course, realistically, he cannot maintain that pace. However, there’s nothing more important to a young baseball career than a hot start, and Thole is having just that.

This core of young talent, at an average age of around 25, will be the nucleus going forward.

If Carlos Beltran returns from injury, he would provide a surefire boost, assuming he returns as the Beltran of old. Oliver Perez was just promoted to Triple-A Buffalo for another rehab start. If he and John Maine (currently on the disabled list) can return to form, the pitching staff would get the boost it desperately needs.

In the meantime, the Mets are in contention and look to be there to stay, and it’s not because of the big-name acquisitions with the big paychecks. It’s because of the homegrown talent coming into their own.

Just because championships can be won with a checkbook, doesn’t mean you can’t still do it the old-fashioned way.

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