Monday, December 31, 2007
Get to Know ‘Em:
Late last week, we started hearing that the Twins and the New York Mets are again discussing a trade for Johan Santana. I think any Twins fans that really thought that the Mets would trade Jose Reyes or especially David Wright were a little bit optimistic. OK, more than a little bit. The Mets wouldn’t do that, but they certainly are the team that most needs Johan Santana or an ace like him. From the Twins perspective, trading Santana to a National League team would mean that they would not have to face him except during interleague play… or the World Series. From Santana’s perspective, it would allow him to hit. And, of course, there is that perception of Mets GM Omar Minaya affinity for signing and acquiring Latino players.
But the reality is simple. The Mets most need starting pitching. Johan Santana is baseball’s best pitcher. The Twins are trying to trade Santana. The Mets have several prospects and the means to give Santana the dollars and years he is looking for. It would seem to be a good match.
Last week, Jayson Stark wrote:
So, does this mean that the Twins want Gomez, all three pitching prospects and Fernando Martinez? Who knows, maybe they are asking for Deolis Guerra, too? Hey, why not? I mean, ask for the moon and stars too. And yes, that would rip up the whole Mets system!
Today, I wanted to just take a little time and familiarize you with the Mets prospects that are being reported and a few more.
Carlos Gomez – 22 year old OF
In every Santana trade rumor, the Twins would be acquiring a centerfielder who would become their regular centerfielder of the future. Jacoby Ellsbury, Adam Jones and Melky Cabrera are the other examples. In a potential Mets deals, Gomez is that guy. And “potential” is the key word with Gomez. He is young and he is talented. He stole 64 bases in 2005 and 41 in 2006. The power is believed to be coming, but to this point, it hasn’t really arrived yet. In 2005, in A ball, he hit eight homers and had just 27 extra base hits. In 2006, at AA (at age 20 remember), he had seven home runs and 39 extra base hits. Lack of home runs doesn’t bother me so much. Joe Mauer can be incredibly productive without hitting a lot of home runs. But he hits a lot of doubles and he walks more than he strikes out. To this point in Gomez’s career, he does not walk a lot and he strikes out almost three times for every walk.
The truth is that Gomez could really have used a full season at AAA New Orleans in 2007. He was showing a lot in his 36 games there, including more walks and steals. But injuries in the Mets outfield meant that they needed to push him to the big leagues. He showed plenty of promise, but in reality, it probably slowed his progress. And then in early July, he had a hand injury and did not return until September.
Carlos Gomez certainly has the potential to be a 30-30 guy. In reality, he could probably steal upwards of 80 bases if given the opportunity. His speed is tremendous and he could certainly cover some ground in centerfield. And of course, it is vital to remember that he will be just 22 years old throughout the 2008 season. He could contribute to the Twins in 2008, but he could be very good in 2010 in the new stadium.
Mike Pelfrey – 24 year old right-handed pitcher
Many seem to wonder if Pelfrey will ever become the top of the rotation starter that was assumed when the Mets took him with the 9th overall pick in the 2005 draft. Pelfrey’s career at Wichita State was truly incredible. As a freshman, he went 10-2 with a 2.49 ERA. As a sophomore, he was 11-2 with a 2.18 ERA. In his junior year, he went 12-3 with a 1.93 ERA. Of course, Twins fans will point out that one of those losses came in the Knoxville regional when Kevin Slowey’s Winthrop team beat Pelfrey and the Shockers.
The 6-7 Pelfrey was taken 9th in that 2005 draft, but he actually could have gone higher except he is a Scott Boras client and the Mets ponied up a $3.5 million signing bonus to go with a four year Major League contract worth $5.5 million (with incentives that could reach $6.6 million). He signed in January of 2006 and made his big league debut in July of the same year.
So why the question marks? Personally, I think that it is ridiculous if some don’t think that Pelfrey will become a very good big league starter. Sure, in 15 games (13 starts) with the Mets in 2007, he went just 3-8 with a 5.57 ERA. The reality is that the Mets probably rushed him a little bit. Sure, he dominated Hi-A and AAA in 2006, and he did well in a couple of AAA starts. His scenario is just like that of the Twins Matt Garza. He pushed from Ft. Myers to Minnesota in that 2006 season. Like Garza, Pelfrey had to go back to AAA this year and learn a few things. I think most Twins fans think that Matt Garza can be at least a #3 starter with the ability to be much more. There is no reason to believe that Mike Pelfrey can’t be at least that. He could be an Ace.
Pelfrey is blessed with a fastball that gets as high as 97 mph on a radar gun. He has a very good changeup and a developing curveball.
Philip Humber – 25 year old right-handed pitcher.
The New York Yankees drafted Humber in the 29th round out of high school in 2001. He instead decided to attend Rice University where he combined with Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend to win a National Championship for the Owls. In his freshman year, he went 11-1 with a 2.78 ERA. He went 11-3 with a 3.30 ERA as a sophomore. His junior year, he went 13-4 with a 2.37 ERA. His decision to go to college also paid off when the Mets took him with the 3rd overall pick in the 2004 draft and signed him. Like Pelfrey, Humber got a nice signing bonus ($3 million) and a four year Major League contract (worth $5.1 million).
Unlike Pelfrey, the minor leagues have not been kind to Humber. He signed in January of 2005, and then he made 14 starts for Hi-A St. Lucie, going just 2-6 with a 4.99 ERA. People were wondering what was wrong with him. He was promoted to AA, so people felt better, but he made just one start there before needing to have Tommy John surgery. So, he missed the rest of that season and half of the 2006 season. When he came back, he produced. He went 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA at St. Lucie. He moved up to AA Binghamton and went 2-2 with a 2.88 ERA and struck out more than one an inning. That earned him a big league call up and he made two relief appearances. In 2007, he spent the season at AAA where he went 11-9 with a 4.27 ERA which is not bad in that league.
Humber has a fastball that touches 94, but he is best known for an excellent curveball. He’s also developing a changeup. His potential is probably that of a very solid #2 pitcher.
Kevin Mulvey – 22 year old right-handed pitcher
Now, Mulvey is kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum as Humber and Pelfrey. Mulvey did not really have a distinguished college career at Villanova. His freshman year, he went 7-4 with a 5.29 ERA. As a sophomore, he went 4-4 with a 4.65 ERA. His junior year, he went 3-8 but had a respectable 3.61 ERA. If he had great strikeout totals, it would make sense when the Mets took him with their 2nd round pick in 2006. Not only that, but after signing (for $585,000), he made one GCL start before moving up to AA for three starts.
Now, I have heard him compared somewhat to the Twins Kevin Slowey because he of his control. Although Mulvey has decent control, he is not at all comparable to Slowey. In fact, Mulvey has averaged at least twice as many walks per nine innings as the Twins righty. Mulvey’s fastball hits 91-92. He has a very nice slider and is working on a changeup and curveball. He has the potential to be a solid middle of the rotation starter.
At AA Binghamton in 2007, Mulvey went 11-10 with a 3.32 ERA. He then got one start at AAA and got a win by allowing no runs on just two hits over six innings.
Fernando Martinez – 19 year old outfielder
How is this for expectation? This is from an article on ESPN Deportes (and translated over at the Mets Geek) shortly after Martinez signed with the Mets out of the Dominican Republic in July of 2005 for $1.4 million:
Martinez is a left-handed power hitter who possesses all five tools necessary to be considered a potential star in the major leagues.
“Fernando is amazing. He has power, he makes contact, he has a great arm, speed and he can field. He possesses the five tools to become a great star,” said Ezequiel Sepulveda, a scout from the Dodgers who followed Martinez for months.
A scout from the Boston Red Sox said that Martinez looks like a young Ted Williams.
Most 17 year old baseball players are between their junior and senior years of high school. The Mets had Martinez start in Low-A, and he responded by hitting .328/.383/.497 with 14 doubles, two triples and five home runs in just 46 games. So, they moved him up to Hi-A St. Lucie. In 30 games there, he hit .193/.254/.387 with four doubles, two triples and five home runs. The Mets sent him to the Arizona Fall League, the youngest player to ever play there.
The assumption would be that in 2007, he would at least start the year back with St. Lucie, but instead, the Mets decided to move him up to Binghamton. In 60 games, he hit .271/.336/.377 with 11 doubles, a triple and four home runs. He was limited because of a hand injury that ended his season in July.
Despite the signing bonus and the expectations, I do have to wonder why the Mets are pushing Martinez so quickly. Has he been overwhelmed at any level because of his age? Not at all. But has he done anything dominant that warrants this kind of pushing? I don’t see it.
That said, if the Twins can get him, they absolutely should. Clearly this kid is not only immensely talented as an all-around baseball player, but he also has a maturity beyond his years that will help him out.
Deolis Guerra – 18 year old right handed pitcher
You want young, Guerra won’t turn 19 until April. He was signed for $700,000 out of Venezuela in 2006. The Mets pushed him right to Lo A in 2006. He made 17 starts and went 6-7 with a terrific 2.20 ERA. He then made two starts at St. Lucie. In 2007, he was at St. Lucie. He appeared in 21 games (20 starts) and went 2-6 but had a very respectable 4.01 ERA.
He has not been a strikeout pitcher to this point. In 2007, he pitched in 89.1 innings and struck out just 66. But scouts speak of a couple of things. First, he has great poise, especially for someone his age. He is 6-5 already and just 200 pounds. His fastball is already reaching 90 mph and he has a lot of room for growth, which should increase the velocity of his fastball. His best pitch already is his changeup which also moves a lot. The combination has meant a lot of groundballs to this point. He gave up just three home runs in 2007. He is also working on a curveball.
The sky is the limit on Guerra. Will they continue to push him as they have with Martinez? If so, he could be a 19 year old pitcher at AA in 2008 which would be pretty incredible. I think if the Twins were able to acquire him, I think they would be wise to let him repeat in the Florida State League. Fortunately, the Twins have the depth to not need to push him and let him develop. But as I said with Martinez, if they have a chance to get him, they absolutely should.
If you take a look at Baseball America’s Top 10 Mets Prospect list, you will find that:
· Fernando Martinez is #1.
· Deolis Guerra is #2.
· Carlos Gomez is #3.
· Kevin Mulvey is #4.
· Philip Humber is #7.
· Mike Pelfrey is not on the list as he has thrown too many innings to be considered a prospect.
· Eddie Kunz ranked #5. He is a right-handed reliever that the Mets took with the 42nd overall pick in the 2007 draft out of Oregon State. He walked eight and struck out nine in his debut last summer.
· Brant Rustich ranked #6. He was the team’s 2nd round pick in 2007 after four years at UCLA. He struck out 12 and walked one in his brief debut out of the bullpen. The Twins drafted him in the 46th round in 2003.
· Nathan Vineyard ranks #9. He is a left-handed pitcher the Mets took with the 47th overall pick in 2007. He was taken as a high school pitcher.
· The 2007 draft picks can’t be traded for one year after the draft. So, at this time, they would not be available to the Twins in any trade. However, they could be considered as part of the deal as a Player To Be Named Later. In a trade, the PTBNL has to be determined within six months. So, if the deal is not formally announced until after January 7th, these three could technically be involved.
Who knows? If the Twins and Mets did reach an agreement, these players mentioned and several others could be involved. I the Twins are truly asking for five of the players I have mentioned, they would be ruining the Mets system. However, we have to keep going back to the reminder that we are talking about Johan Santana. If the Mets would offer Carlos Gomez, Mike Pelfrey OR Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and one other prospect, I think that the Twins would have to consider it. If that prospect was Deolis Guerra, they would be silly to say no.
Anyway, the Mets have come back into the picture. I didn’t know a lot of background about the Mets prospects, so this was good for me to learn about these guys. There are certainly a lot of positives to a Mets deal, especially getting Santana out of the American League. I think that Gomez is close, and Humber and Pelfrey are ready as well. The guys with the biggest upside, in my mind, are Fernando Martinez and Deolis Guerra, but they are likely two years away. That said, I don’t think that is a bad thing at all. A Santana trade should not only get two cogs for the 2008 team, but also give them Twins a couple of key building blocks for the future as well. Adding a couple more top notch pitching prospects allows more of them to be traded for other needs.
Thanks again for stopping by this site. Have a great day! If you have any questions, comments or ideas for future postings, please e-mail me.