Nothing says spring training like Livan Hernandez and his size-52 pants taking ground balls at half-speed! This spring, Port St. Lucie will be home to the Livan Hernandez circus filled with $2.99 McDonald’s value meals and 500-foot blasts from the opposing team. In weeks past, I’d spend the next 900 or so words blasting the organization for even inviting a player of Hernandez’ ilk to camp. However, seeing Hernandez in Mets blue and orange is actually a welcome sight.
Personally, I’m relieved to know Jonathan Niese is not in competition for a rotation spot. I’m happy the Mets have added enough outfield fillers to allow Nick Evans more development time. Bobby Parnell? Eddie Kunz? What’s the rush?
Now if only the Mets’ slowing down their prospects at upper levels will lead to a trickle-down effect throughout the organization.
When I wrote my piece last week on where the top-20 Mets prospects could end up, my fellow MetsGeek writer James Kannengieser’s response to the piece left me thinking about why I view so many of the Mets’ moves in such a negative light.
Maybe I should simply focus on the Mets’ 25-man roster for 2009 instead of viewing the entire organization as one big depth chart which begins in rookie ball and ends in New York. It would make the idea of signing Francisco Rodriguez much easier to accept since I would not know the Mets drafted enough “future closers” to fill a Ringling Brothers Circus clown car over the past few years.
Maybe Omar Minaya shouldn’t be public enemy number one in my eyes. Maybe that designation should be reserved for Tony Bernazard, whose philosophy of rushing big-time minor league talents makes absolutely no sense and has already proven disastrous in Seattle.
If I were writing about the Texas Rangers who currently sport the best minor league system in baseball, my knowledge of minors would be a blessing. With the Mets’ recent organizational woes, it may very well be a curse.
With that said, are the Mets starting to turn it around? Did the Mets’ brass learn from watching the Yankees hype Phillip Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy only to spend $250 million on two starters while still waiting for Chamberlain to throw a season’s worth of innings.
What about Clay Buchholz, the no-hit phenom, whose prospect status was significantly better than Jonathan Niese and still fell on his face to the tune of a 6.75 ERA and 1.76 WHIP?
Soft-hitting shortstop Ruben Tejada fell victim to the Mets’ approach to player development in 2008 as the 19-year old spent the season struggling, and failing to keep his head above water in the Florida State League. It may be a few years until we know whether or not 2008 stunted Tejada’s overall growth as a player, but if he crashes and burns, we will likely know why.
At 20, Fernando Martinez has logged 230 minor league games and less than a thousand minor league at bats, but has close to 600 at bats in Double-A with mixed results. Injuries aside, no one would argue Martinez’ being severely rushed which has left him arguably minor league baseball’s top enigma. As with Tejada, it will be years before we know how much, if any damage speeding up his development curve will cause to his career, but I’ve yet to come across a prospect analyst who thinks it can do anything but harm.
Heading into 2009, I’ll be watching whether Niese being in Triple-A causes a ripple effect throughout the organization and allows Dillon Gee to spend a few more starts in Double-A and Bradley Holt to spend at least half a season in Port St. Lucie before a second-half push.
If the Mets’ signing of veterans to fill the final few spots on the roster spurs the organization to be more careful with top prospects, then my negativity about the farm system will be kept to a minimum all summer. Unfortunately, a good bit of damage has already been done. For the sake of Fernando Martinez, Ruben Tejada, and others, I hope it’s not irreparable.