Thursday, July 18, 2013
Mets prospects to watch
By Adam Rubin
The Mets have more arms beyond Zack Wheeler on the way, highlighted by Futures Game starters Rafael Montero at Triple-A Las Vegas and Noah Syndergaard at Double-A Binghamton.
In fact, one scout who just watched Syndergaard believes Jonathon Niese will end up being the Mets’ No. 4 starter in the not-too-distant future because of the influx of arms.
Because of innings caps and more development time needed, neither Montero nor Syndergaard is expected to make his major league debut in 2013. But a handful of others may appear at Citi Field once rosters expand in September, if not sooner:
1. Travis d’Arnaud, c: A centerpiece of the R.A. Dickey trade with the Blue Jays, along with Syndergaard, d’Arnaud would have been up in the big leagues by now had he not suffered a broken left foot getting struck with a foul ball while catching back in April with Vegas. D’Arnaud is expected to get clearance Monday from Mets doctors to begin playing in games. He still needs minor-league seasoning, but a September call-up is highly likely. D'Arnaud has a Russell Martin-type build and is projected to hit 20 homers a season in the majors. He also missed a substantial portion of the 2012 season, that time with a knee injury.
2. Matt den Dekker, cf: Den Dekker fractured the wrist on his non-throwing hand attempting another highlight-reel catch back in March. He recently finished rehabbing and joined Vegas. Because he was drafted in 2010 out of the University of Florida (fifth round), den Dekker needs to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason anyway. Den Dekker's marching orders this season were to improve his pitch-recognition skills and start making more contact. He has appeared on SportsCenter's Top 10 plays four times between college and the pros.
3. Wilmer Flores, if: Flores leads the Pacific Coast League with 75 RBIs, and also ranks in the top 10 in the league with a .321 average. The Venezuela native more recently is getting some first-base exposure after manning second base for much of the 51s’ season. Flores’ slow first step hurts him, but he already is on the 40-man roster and his bat is good enough for the majors. The 21-year-old Flores originally was a shortstop, but he moved off of that position after the 2011 season and has not returned. He regularly has played second and third base in winter ball.
4. Jack Leathersich, lhp: No guarantee here since the Mets do not have to add Leathersich to the 40-man roster this offseason. But given the strikeout machine should be competing for a bullpen spot in spring training, why not give him some exposure now? Leathersich has struck out 217 of the 545 batters he has faced since turning pro out of UMass-Lowell. The reliever who would need to be protected this winter is Double-A closer Jeff Walters, a right-hander who has an Eastern League-leading 24 saves, four shy of matching the B-Mets franchise record set by Jerrod Riggan in 2000.
5. Francisco Pena, c: No guarantee here, since d’Arnaud is likely coming up, and there is a limit to how many people a team can carry. But the 23-year-old Pena has slimmed down and at least put himself back on the radar in his seventh season in the organization. The son of All-Star Tony Pena, he has hit a combined .246 with six homers and 30 RBIs between Binghamton and Las Vegas. One Mets insider believed Pena might be a more logical call-up than Juan Centeno if the Mets carry four catchers in September, because Pena has regularly caught stars in winter ball and also was part of the Dominican Republic’s unbeaten World Baseball Classic squad.
6. Cesar Puello, of: Here is the one that really is complicated. Yes, Puello is on the 40-man roster. And, yes, he has put up gaudy numbers with Binghamton (.332, 16 HR, 65 RBIs, 21 steals). But ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” also has linked Puello to Biogenesis. And a suspension could be looming, although the Players Association chief said in a general sense on Tuesday that appeals should delay any potential discipline until 2014.