While, for most of the season, it will be the St. Lucie Mets grabbing the headlines, the Binghamton Mets have an intriguing roster as well. Bingo will feature a solid pitching staff, headlined by Rafael Montero, as well as some prospects that have largely flown under the radar in their careers, but have talent, such as Wilfredo Tovar and Alonzo Harris. The B-Mets will also feature two interesting names who haven’t been able to put it all together yet: Cory Vaughn and Cesar Puello, both of whom have very high ceilings. Now, let’s get to the players.
The Big Names
- Rafael Montero (RHP)- Montero has risen through the minors unusually quickly, playing for seven of the Mets’ minor league affiliates after signing with them before the 2011 season. Although he had a fine 2011 season between the Dominican Summer, Gulf Coast, Appalachian, and New York-Penn leagues, he didn’t really put himself on the map until last season. Last season between Savannah and St. Lucie, he posted a 2.36 ERA in 122 innings, striking out 8.1 per nine while walking just 1.4. Scouts credit his strong secondary pitches for his successes so far in his career. His changeup and slider are both well-developed, which is why he has dominated and moved up so quickly.
- Wilfredo Tovar (SS)- Until last season, Tovar looked like a weak-hitting shortstop with a good glove, but also a bat that would keep him from the majors. In 2011, Tovar hit .251/.318/.318 in a full season with Savannah. He was moved up a level to St. Lucie last season, in which he started to look like more than a weak-hitting shortstop. In half a season with St. Lucie, he upped his batting line to .284/.377/.385 with 12 stolen bases in 65 games, earning himself an FSL All-Star Game selection. What was especially promising was his strikeout and walk rates, which were better than ever. He walked in 11.3% of his plate appearances, compared to his career-best of 8.0%, and struck out at a 6.6% clip, also the best mark of his career. He struggled in Binghamton last year, which is why he is repeating the league, but if he can harness the patience that we saw out of him over the first half of 2012, he could become a Ruben Tejada-type player.
- Cory Vaughn (RF)- The Mets don’t have many pure power hitters in their system, but Cory Vaughn is one of them, and among the best. He is the definition of a power hitter: getting on base, and hitting a ton of extra-base hits. Last year, he hit 51 extra-base hits in 126 games with St. Lucie, 23 of them home runs. Vaughn, however, has speed that most power hitters don’t have. He swiped a career-best 21 bases last season. Vaughn’s biggest weakness right now is his hit tool. Everything else is there. If he starts hitting for a higher batting average, everything will come together.
- Cesar Puello (RF)- Once dubbed the next Carlos Beltran, Puello may have the best tools in the entire Met system. He has speed, power, and is a solid defender in the outfield. It’s the health that will dictate his future. Last season, Puello hit .260/.328/.423 with 26 extra-base hits in 66 games.
- Danny Muno (2B/SS)- Muno was suspended for PED use last year, after hitting .355 in Brooklyn in 2011. The 2011 eighth-round pick still put up solid numbers, even after the suspension. He hit for a little bit of power, knocking 16 doubles, two triples, and six homers in 81 games with St. Lucie. He put up a .280/.387/.412 batting line. Muno walked an excellent 14.2% of the time while striking out only 15.1%. Oh, and he stole 19 bases.
- Tyler Pill (RHP)- Pill is seeing his stock rising fast, and although he isn’t put in the same group as Wheeler, Fulmer, or Syndergaard, he has made a name for himself as a top-30 prospect. He only throws in the high-80s, but uses his excellent command to get hitters out. Last season, he put up an impressive 4.77 K/BB rate with a 2.31 ERA in 113 innings between St. Lucie and Savannah.
- Jack Leathersich (LHP)- Leathersich has put up amazing strikeout numbers out of the bullpen since being drafted in 2011 in the fifth round out of UMass-Lowell. Leathersich is on the fast track to the major league bullpen, and will continue to move quickly if his strikeout numbers remain this high. Last season he struck out 14.1 batters per nine. Some call his delivery deceiving, which may explain why his ERA in the Florida State League this year was 4.12. Maybe more advanced hitters are catching on. Perhaps his high walk numbers are hurting him. Or maybe the high ERA was just a result of a small sample size, as so often happens with minor league relief pitchers.
- Alonzo Harris (OF)- Harris, once deemed ruined after an aggressive promotion by Omar Minaya went horribly wrong, has re-gained his prospect status with a much-improved approach at the dish over the last few seasons. Promoted too quickly because of his athleticism and raw tools, Harris hit .224/.270/..342 as a 20 year-old, second-year player in Savannah. He was overly-aggressive and struck out over in over 20% of his plate appearances. Since then, he has seen his walk rates rise and strikeout rates fall steadily and now he has a solid approach at the dish. His success in 2011 in Savannah were attributed to him getting used to the league, but the even better walk and strikeout numbers in 2012 with St. Lucie have some people believing that he’s not done yet.
Other Names to Watch
- Cory Mazzoni (RHP)- Mazzoni was the Mets’ second-round pick of the 2011 draft out of NC State. After a little over a year in the minors, it appears that that Mazzoni, with a limited arsenal, is headed to the bullpen. He will start for the forseeable future to get more in-game action, but his 6.5 K/9 last year leave much to be desired.
- Logan Verrett (RHP)- Verrett only made six starts in St. Lucie after coming back from a shoulder strain, but will move up this year anyway. His 7.15 K/BB ratio last year was stellar. The only concern is the lower strikeout rate in the six St. Lucie starts, which fell to 6.1 K/9 from 9.3 in Savannah.