New York Mets: Top 10 Prospects

General Manager: Omar Minaya
Scouting Director: Rudy Terrasas

FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects:
(2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

The Major League squad may still look a little rough around the edges but the minor league system is starting to round into shape. The first four players on the list all received consideration for the top spot, while the last six could all face big breakout seasons. The ’09 draft did not infuse much talented into the system.

1. Fernando Martinez, OF, Majors
DOB: October 1988 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2005 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2

Although some have already, it is far too early to give up on Martinez. Just 21 years old, the Dominican outfielder just needs to have a healthy season. When he did get on the field in ’09, he hit .290/.337/.540 with an ISO of .250 as a 20 year old in triple-A. That is pretty darn impressive. He reached his ’08 total in home runs in about half the at-bats. Martinez actually had a career-high OPS of .877 in ’09. He also kept his strikeout rate below 20% at 18.8%, but it would be nice to see more patience at the plate (5.9% walk rate). At the MLB level, he was over-matched and hit just .176/.242/.275 in 95 at-bats. With a career line against southpaws of .237/.308/.392, he has some work to do against lefties. Despite that, he still has a chance to be a very good player.

2. Ike Davis, 1B, Double-A
DOB: March 1987 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2008 1st round – Arizona State University
MLB ETA: Mid-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

A lot of eyebrows were raised (including mine) when Davis hit zero homers in his ’08 debut, which spanned 239 plate appearances. He responded to the criticism in a big way in ’09 and split the year between high-A and double-A while slugging 20 homers and 31 doubles. At the higher level, the first baseman hit .309/.386/.565 in 233 at-bats. He posted a wOBA of .426 and an eye-popping ISO of .256. Davis also showed a willingness to take a walk (11.2 BB%) but his strikeouts started to get out of hand (29.0 K%). He has some work to do against lefties, as seen by his OPS split: .672 against left-handers compared to 1.000 against right-handers. One caution about Davis’ breakout season: He’s a slow-footed player that posted a BABIP of .350 at high-A and .381 in double-A, so we’re likely to see his batting average come down in 2010, especially if the strikeout rate remains high.

3. Jenrry Mejia, RHP, High-A
DOB: October 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Late-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 90-96 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

Mejia did not turn 20 until after the season ended and he reached double-A as a teenager, which says a lot about his potential. The right-hander began the year in high-A where he posted a FIP of 2.52 and allowed 41 hits in 50.1 innings. He showed good control with a walk rate of 2.86, but that jumped to 4.67 BB/9 in 44.1 double-A innings. His strikeout rate of 7.87 also increased with the promotion, though, to 9.54 K/9. Mejia allowed just two home runs on the season, thanks to a ground-ball rate just shy of 60%, which is outstanding for a flame-thrower. He dominated left-handed batters, as seen by his 10.71 K/9 rate against them, and they hit just .247 against Mejia despite a .354 BABIP. After making just 19 starts in 2009, the talented youngster should open 2010 back in double-A but he could reach the Majors by the end of the season, if needed.

4. Wilmer Flores, SS, Low-A
DOB: August 1991 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 non-drafted international free agent (Venezuela)
MLB ETA: Mid-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Another young player, Flores is just 18 years old and he spent much of the year playing in low-A ball at the age of 17. Overall, he had a ‘foundation year’ with a line of .264/.305/.332 in 488 at-bats. His BABIP was just .305 so we can expect to see a bump in that in the future even though he lacks blazing speed. Flores has raw power, but he posted an ISO of just .068. He needs to show more patience at the plate after posting a walk rate of just 4.3% but he handled the bat well and struck out just 14.8% of the time. Because he profiles as a third baseman down the line, Flores will need to focus on getting stronger and driving the ball more (12.5 LD%) in 2010. He’ll likely be pushed up to high-A this coming year.

5. Jonathon Niese, LHP, Majors
DOB: October 1986 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2005 7th round – Ohio HS
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2
Repertoire: 88-92 mph fastball, cutter, curveball, change-up

Many Mets were cursed by injuries in ’09 and Niese was one of them. A torn hamstring tendon ended his season prematurely in August after he had made just five MLB starts. Despite that fact, Niese left a solid impression after posting a 3.25 FIP in 25.2 innings. His most effective pitch was a newly-honed cutter. Earlier in the season, the southpaw showed his MLB-readiness by posting a 3.38 FIP and 55% ground-ball rate in 94.1 triple-A innings, while also showing good control with a walk rate of 2.48 BB/9. Niese should be healthy and ready to go in spring training so he has a good shot at winning a spot in the MLB starting rotation.

6. Brad Holt, RHP, Double-A
DOB: October 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 supplemental 1st round – University of North Carolina – Wilmington
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-94 mph fastball, curveball, splitter

Holt had two distinct seasons in ’09. After a dominating pro debut, he opened ’09 by posting a 3.18 FIP in nine high-A starts. He also posted a strikeout rate of 11.22 and showed solid control (2.70 BB/9). Moved up to double-A, though, Holt struggled with a 5.01 FIP (6.21 ERA) and allowed 58 hits in 58.0 innings, despite a BABIP of just .292. His walk rate rose to 3.57 BB/9 and his strikeout rate plummeted to 6.98 K/9. He also struggled with the long ball (1.40 HR/9), and his ground-ball rate on the season was poor at 38%. Holt, 23, will certainly return to double-A in 2010 and look to conquer the league in his second try.

7. Ruben Tejada, SS, Double-A
DOB: September 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 non-drafted international free agent (Panama)
MLB ETA: Mid-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

The organization has been extremely aggressive with the slick-fielding shortstop. Despite hitting just .229/.293/.296 in high-A in ’08, the Mets promoted Tejada to double-A in ’09 and he hit .289/.351/.381 in 488 at-bats. His wOBA jumped from .277 in ’08 to .346 in ’09. He also showed improved base running and was successful in 19 of his 22 attempts. Tejada is a free swinger, who posted a walk rate of 7.0% but struck out just 12.1% of the time. He should move up to triple-A in ’09 but he’s currently blocked by incumbent shortstop Jose Reyes. Luckily for Tejada, the veteran player was injury-prone in ’09. The youngster could also slide over to second base.

8. Josh Thole, C, Triple-A
DOB: October 1986 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2005 13th round – Illinois HS
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3

This converted catcher has his share of doubters, but he’s done nothing but hit over the past two seasons with a batting average above .300. He even received a 17-game trial in the Majors at the end of the season and hit .321/.356/.396 in 53 at-bats. At double-A, Thole hit .328/.395/.422 in 384 at-bats. The left-handed hitter has walked more than he struck out for three straight seasons and posted a BB/K at double-A of 1.24. He doesn’t need to be platooned, as he actually has a better career batting average against southpaws (.317 vs .284). On the down side, Thole has little power and posted an ISO of .094 in the minors and .075 at the MLB level. Defensively, he’s still learning the position but he improved his throwing in ’09 and nabbed 30% of runner trying to steal.

9. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF, Double-A
DOB: August 1987 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2008 3rd round – Azusa Pacific University
MLB ETA: Mid-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Nieuwenhuis’ first full pro season was a success, as he hit .274/.357/.467 in 482 high-A at-bats, while also playing a solid center field. The speedy player also stole 16 bases in 20 attempts and showed surprising power with an ISO of .193. His strikeout rate was high at 28.1% but he offset that a bit with a solid walk rate at 11.1%. He has work to do against southpaws after hitting just .235/.294/.348. The outfielder received an eight-game trial in double-A and he should head back there in 2010.

10. Jeurys Familia, RHP, Low-A
DOB: October 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Late-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-94 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

Familia is a hard-throwing right-hander who is still quite raw. However, despite being basically a one-pitch pitcher in ’09 (the fastball), he more than held his own in low-A ball at the age of 19. In 134.0 innings, he allowed just 109 hits, thanks in part to a .283 BABIP. He showed good control for his age with a walk rate of 3.09 BB/9 and his strikeout rate was modest at 7.32 K/9. His ground-ball rate was just shy of 50% at 48.8%. Familia did not allow a home run to a left-handed hitter all year (217 batters) but his strikeout rate was just 4.83 K/9 against them. If Familia can continue to grow as a pitcher, he could be a real breakout candidate in 2010.

Up Next: The Baltimore Orioles

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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OF Fernando Martinez is Dominican.