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August 13, 2009
  
Worst Draft Ever?

The buzzword around the 2009 Mets is depth. Fans and the media are starting to realize that maybe the collapses didn’t occur because of a lack of leadership but because the team just wasn’t good enough. With injuries to the superstars that were supposedly part of the leadership problem, the lack of depth is too obvious to ignore. One of the common explanations for the lack of depth is poor drafting by the Mets under the Minaya regime. Rather than dissect every draft led by Minaya, with most of them still being too early to judge, I want to take a look at the worst Mets draft under Minaya.

Right after the 2007 draft concluded, the Mets draft was widely criticized for their picks. As in 2006, the Mets didn’t have a draft pick in the first round—due to the Moises Alou signing—but they did have two supplemental round picks as well as two second rounders and two third rounders, so there were a number of possible routes the Mets could take to offset the lack of a high first round pick. Possible strategies include drafting overslot or perhaps drafting a mix of high upside pitchers and hitters. Of course we know the Mets didn’t do either, instead with the first pick of their 2007 draft, the Mets went with Eddie Kunz.

There are probably a number of reasons the Mets selected Kunz. At draft time, the ’07 Mets bullpen was greatly underperforming the previous years group. The Mets offense and starting pitching looked solid and looked like they would be solid for years to come. In addition to the Kunz, the Mets selected Joe Smith in the third round of the ’06 draft and saw Smith go from draft pick to effective major league player in under a year. If Smith, a less than premium draft prospect, could yield such positive results for a win-now team, what would a premium college closer be able to do for the Mets? The thing is, retrospectively, Kunz’s college career isn’t too impressive. He last and best season in college had him throw 46 innings with a walk rate of 3.5 per nine and a strikeout rate of 7.2 per nine. I’m sure his groundball percentage was nice but, still, I’m kind of surprised he was thought of as a future closer especially with the fact that he has all of 12 saves in college career. Regardless, Kunz was selected and what was supposed to be a conservative pick that would make the majors quickly is quickly turning into a ROOGY with limited upside.

The Mets next pick came five spots after Kunz. The Mets went with a high upside left-handed high school pitcher, Nathan Vineyard. He pitched 27 innings in ’07 and just eight innings in 08 before having surgery. What happened to him after surgery is odd. Apparently, he just didn’t show up to rehab and there were rumors suggested he retired or quit. He hasn’t been around all year, so that may be true. It’s hard to blame the Mets for this one. I mean maybe they should have seen injury or makeup issues but, seriously, who can predict something like this?

The Mets second round mirrored their supplemental rounds as they went with one high school power arm, Scott Moviel, and one college relief pitcher, Brant Rustich. It’s too early to judge these pitchers but Moviel’s numbers have yet to catch up to his scouting report and is currently a 21 year old in Advanced-A with a 5.35 ERA. Conversely, Rustich has been putting up some pretty good numbers, but the Mets are promoting him very slowly and he has been too old for his level. This year, Rustich is a 24-year-old in Advanced-A with 45 innings, a 2.60 ERA, 42 strikeouts, and 16 walks.

In the third round, the Mets decided to mix it up a bit and drafted a college relief pitcher, Stephen Clyne, and a college starter/relief pitcher, Eric Niesen. As a 24 year old, Stephen Clyne repeated Advanced-A this year and graduated to Double-A. In 28 innings at Binghamton, Clybe currently has a 7.31 ERA. Eric Niesen has been exclusively used as a starter with the Mets and a move to bullpen might be in order. He is currently a 23 year old in Double-A with a really good strikeout rates (9.9) but terrible walk rates (5.1) and a 6.15 ERA.

The most notable draft picks after the third rounds include Dylan Owen (20th round) who has been getting hit very hard in Double-A, Dillion Gee (21st round) who is fighting an injury in Triple-A and best case scenario is a serviceable back end starter, Roy Merritt (29th round) a power lefty reliever with walk problems and a 4.03 in AA and Lucas Duda (seventh round) think Mike Carp with less power currently in Double-A.

I have to say, the pundits seem right about the Mets ’07 draft. This was a pretty awful draft and made worse by the fact that we had six picks within the first three rounds. The Mets focused heavily on college relief arms in the early rounds. The problem with drafting relievers is if they don’t work out there is nowhere to move them. Starting pitchers on the other hand can be moved to the bullpen and gain some effectiveness or even some velocity by letting it all out a la Joe Nathan and Darren Oliver among many others. Another problem with the Mets’ draft is that they waited until their seventh pick in the draft to finally snag a position player which partially explains why the likes of Cory Sullivan, Mark Kiger, et al., are needed to fill the Mets upper minor-league rosters.

If you noticed, most of the players drafted are in Double-A, more due to age than performance. If they had better performances, like Dillon Gee, I’m pretty sure the college draft picks would be in Triple-A, if not in the majors, by now. Thus, it’s fair to say, the 2007 draft is one of the reasons the Buffalo Bisons’ roster is full of journeymen players and one of the reasons the Mets lack depth.

Rather than conclude with bad news –this season has been tough enough for Mets fans- there is one member of the ’07 draft class that I did not mentioned, Zach Lutz. Lutz has snuck up on Mets fans this year due to the fact that he injured himself on his first game in ’07 and missed nearly all of the 2008 season because of injuries. This year, the 23-year-old Lutz has hit .297/.394/.469/.863 with 41 walks to 55 strikeouts in 286 at-bats in the tough hitting environment of St. Lucie. While he is a bit old for his league, his performance is nothing short of remarkable for a player that is essentially debuting in professional baseball after missing two seasons.


13 Responses to “Worst Draft Ever?”

  1. Comment posted by Danny on August 13, 2009 at 9:35 am (#1057147)

    It’s funny, Joe. We had a long discussion in the link dump yesterday about the Mets and their drafting philosophy. I think Omar is not heavily criticized enough for signing Alou before the Giants even had to decide whether to offer him arbitration. As good of a hitter as Alou was, it was certainly questionable whether he would be offered arbitration given his injury history. It was really reckless by Omar and I guess he thought Alou was the guy that put the Mets over the top.

    Lutz can flat hit. It’s great that he’s stayed healthy this year and he’s really delivered in the second half.

    The only other guys of note from the 2007 draft are Robert Carson and Alonzo Harris. They are really the only 2 guys (as well as Lutz obviously) that could amount to something and save this draft from being an utter shithole.

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  3. Comment posted by Joe Sokolowski on August 13, 2009 at 10:08 am (#1057217)

    Good timing, eh?

    Danny, thanks for mentioning the other two notables. As I’m sure you guys know, Mike Newman wrote an excellent scouting report on Carson last month. I was meaning to write about him with Lutz but it somehow slipped my mind. As for Alonzo Harris, you always got to root for a guy that’s picked in the last round, he has shown both power and smart speed (good baserunning) this year, he is a bit raw plate discipline-wise but that should be expected for a HS draftee and I defintly weighted that flaw too heavly by not including him.

  4. Comment posted by John on August 13, 2009 at 10:33 am (#1057240)

    Good article

    It does seem like the 07 draft was a poor one but I do think we alot of those guys we need to give it more time before we can really make that determination.

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  6. Comment posted by sweetlew is alive and kicking (now with 3 kids!) on August 13, 2009 at 11:51 am (#1057315)

    This year, the 23-year-old Lutz has hit .297/.394/.469/.863 with 41 walks to 55 strikeouts in 286 at-bats in the tough hitting environment of St. Lucie. While he is a bit old for his league, his performance is nothing short of remarkable for a player that is essentially debuting in professional baseball after missing two seasons.

    Lutz is actuall leading the FSL in OPS. So, even being old for his league, he is on the short list of best hitters in the league, which is always a good thing!

    I second Danny’s point, great article!

    It is funny, we had this exact discussion on the thread yesterday, and I took your same position.

    And really, in defense of Omar, this is the root of all the “Mets’ farm system is weak comments.”

    If the first six picks of the 2007 had amounted to anything, we could have had maybe 2 more players ready to contribute this year.

    Omar actually hasn’t had bad drafts in other years, for instance:

    2005 — Three players appeared in the ML for the Mets this year (Pelfrey, Parnell, and Niese) and one will soon (Thole). Absent Niese’s injury, all three would have contributed quite a bit to the team. To me, that is a pretty solid draft.

    2006 — Smith pitched well for us and was a good trade chip; Mulvey was a good trade chip. And this draft also gave us Murphy.

    2008 — Is looking pretty good with Davis like to hit the ML mid-to-late next year (at an actual position of need mind you!)

    So, Omar has this bad reputation of being a terrible drater, but I think it is an overstated reputation that is built by 1) a lack of draft picks (whether all those FA signings (Alou!) were smart is a different question) and the abysmal 2007 draft.

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  8. Comment posted by sweetlew is alive and kicking (now with 3 kids!) on August 13, 2009 at 12:22 pm (#1057338)

    And, while I know comparing anyone to the ineptitude of Steve Phillips is really not fair, the drafting of the prior Mets regieme is really, really, really Godawful!

    From 2000-2004 exactly 16 of the Mets draft picks even reached the ML.

    Of these 16 only 5 have been good (or could be good) ML ball players (Wright, Kazmir, Heilman, Milledge, and Lindstrom).

    And only Wright (maybe Kazmir) will be a prenennial All Star player.

    Pretty crappy drafting.

  9. Comment posted by Jose Reyes – RBI Machine on August 13, 2009 at 2:48 pm (#1057612)

    Sorry to be the pessimist here guys, but I don’t think Ike Davis is going to amount to anything.

    I know his AA numbers are gaudy on the surface, but the kid is striking out almost 1/3 of his at bats. (166ab, 51ks). He was supposed to advance real quickly through the system and hasn’t.

    He’ll make the show and all, but I don’t think he’ll be a starter.

    For comparison, Mark Reynolds struck out at about the same rate as Davis has been when he first reached AA at the age of 22. Sure, Reynolds has been great — but it is very very very difficult for a player to contribute when striking out that much. The vast majority of guys like that will flame out.

    For another comparison, Mike Jacobs was VASTLY superior to Davis at the same age and level and we know how he turned out.

  10. Comment posted by coolpapabell on August 13, 2009 at 3:06 pm (#1057650)

    Great topic! I was looking at the draft tracker for that year a few days ago, and I noticed then that there weren’t any names that jumped out at me after the first round.Additionaly, I was looking at the guys taken after the Mets picks and did not see anyone of worth then either. I think Zimmerman was the only one that stood out. I want to take a closer look and maybe humbly submit and run down to the geeks that love the orange and blue. A cursory glance made me believe that that draft was just lacking in general talent all together.

  11. Comment posted by lucienlc on August 13, 2009 at 3:35 pm (#1057715)

    And, while I know comparing anyone to the ineptitude of Steve Phillips is really not fair, the drafting of the prior Mets regieme is really, really, really Godawful!

    From 2000-2004 exactly 16 of the Mets draft picks even reached the ML.

    Of these 16 only 5 have been good (or could be good) ML ball players (Wright, Kazmir, Heilman, Milledge, and Lindstrom).

    And only Wright (maybe Kazmir) will be a prenennial All Star player.

    Pretty crappy drafting.

    You say this, and then defend Omar’s drafting?

    I’d love to find 16 Mets draft picks from 2004-2008 to make it to the majors. How many have made it? Five? Six? Pelfrey, Smith, Gomez, Niese (maybe), Parnell, Murphy. Am I missing anyone? Sure, some we were lucky enough to foist off as trading chips, but they haven’t made it elsewhere either, like Humber. And not one of those few can be called a quality major leaguer (though the jury is still out on Niese and Parnell in that regard). Much less a star. And you called the prior regime crappy drafting? What the heck is this then?

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  13. Comment posted by Joe Sokolowski on August 13, 2009 at 3:43 pm (#1057732)

    2007 was an overall rough year talent wise but after the Vineyard pick I would rather have Tommy Hunter who is pretty much what Kunz was supposed to be by now, Michael Burgess who has some big power for his age, Corey Brown who would be a younger Cory Sullivan right now and that’s just from the remainder of the supplemental round. More to the point, even if the talent wasn’t there, the Mets strategy in the draft was greatly flawed.

    Also, while the names might not jump out at you players like Danny Worth, Jess Todd (who should be ML ready next year,) and Eric Sogard are probably going to crack the ML rosters soon as backups with some potential for more. The draft isn’t always about getting superstars, but building depth and this draft were unable to do either.

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  15. Comment posted by sweetlew is alive and kicking (now with 3 kids!) on August 13, 2009 at 5:19 pm (#1057898)

    You say this, and then defend Omar’s drafting?

    I’d love to find 16 Mets draft picks from 2004-2008 to make it to the majors.

    Don’t you think it is a little too early to judge the 2006-2008 drafts top to bottom? The fact that 16 guys who touched the majors over 5 drafts is all that those classes are going to produce.

    In addition to the six you named, there are pretty good odds that Thole, Davis, Havens, Holt all make it to the ML at least as bench players.

    Then the are decent odds that Kunz, Lutz and Carson make it to the show as well.

    That’s 13, and that’s just off the top of my head.

    And, news flash, Pelfrey is already a better quality ML starting pitcher than any the Mets drafted, developed and promoted to their own team since Bobby Jones…….chew on that for a bit.

    Lastly, you need to acknowledge that Omar’s drafts have been hamstrung by a lack of top picks due to free agent signings. And, with the exception of Alou, I don’t think any of those signings were bad.

    The belief that Omar has been absolutely terrible at drafting is simply over stated. I mean, in one draft he managed to draft three pitchers who have all made it to the ML, and on the Mets no less!

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  17. Comment posted by sweetlew is alive and kicking (now with 3 kids!) on August 13, 2009 at 5:55 pm (#1057900)

    Sorry to be the pessimist here guys, but I don’t think Ike Davis is going to amount to anything.

    I know his AA numbers are gaudy on the surface, but the kid is striking out almost 1/3 of his at bats. (166ab, 51ks). He was supposed to advance real quickly through the system and hasn’t.

    First, how the hell are you? You graduate yet? Did you have any luck landing a job in this economy?

    Second, I think your take is a bit unfair. Davis still struggles vs. LHP and that is hurting his K-Rate. He has struck out a whopping 38% of his ABs vs LHP. It is a more modest (albeit still higher than I like to see) 26% vs. RHP.

    So, while you have a valid point, it doesn’t look so bad when looking at the splits.

    Heck, maybe we will end up with a Davis/Evans platoon at 1b…..which could actually be pretty good.

  18. Comment posted by sharpstone on August 13, 2009 at 11:38 pm (#1057928)

    2009 is not looking good either. We had no number 1, haven’t signed Matz, or number 2, our number 3, Shields, is hitting .140 in short season A, and no one after that is putting up numbers either. We rely much too much on signing 16 year olds from Latin Amrerica who have even less predictability than high school and college kids. I look at the drafts of other teams, and we look pitiful in comparison.

  19. Comment posted by T Pac on August 14, 2009 at 2:20 am (#1057929)

    I’m sorry, but I can’t agree with this article or most of the comments. In fact, I have to completely disagree. It’s apparent a lot of you didn’t do a lot of research when it comes to evaluating the nature of the draft, or you’d see that the Mets 2007 draft was far from the “worst draft ever” and, in fact, has turned out to be a pretty good one, especially when you consider that they didn’t go overslot on any of their picks.

    Out of the Mets first 8 picks, 6 are legitimate prospects — that is a fantastic rate. The only two misses were Vineyard (who retired) and Clyne, who has been a disappointment. As big of a disappointment as Kunz as been, he is still a major league pitcher, which is more than you can say for a lot of the guys drafted around him. Moviel is a promising young pitcher. Rustich has turned out to be a very good pick — he’s dealt with injury problems, but has absolutely filthy stuff and is definitely a major leaguer. Same with Niesen, who’s turned himself into a very good prospect and definite big leaguer. Richard Lucas, who’s been ignored so far, has promising tools and has recovered from a few injury plagued seasons to put up some monster numbers so far this season.

    Not to mention guys like Duda, Gee, Antonini, Carson, Merritt and Harris who each have various tools that at least make them somewhat interesting. All in all, you’ve got what looks to be at least 8-10 of the Mets top 30 prospects all coming from the ’07 draft. Even if none of those guys make the top 10, it’s still a decent haul.

    Again, the key with these guys isn’t just to look at them, but to look at them compared to some of the guys drafted around them. Most 1st round picks don’t pan out, let around 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounders. Before you spit on our guys, take a look at what the great Red Sox (or any other team) did in the same draft with similar draft picks.

    From 2000-2004 exactly 16 of the Mets draft picks even reached the ML.

    Of these 16 only 5 have been good (or could be good) ML ball players (Wright, Kazmir, Heilman, Milledge, and Lindstrom).

    And only Wright (maybe Kazmir) will be a prenennial All Star player.

    Pretty crappy drafting.

    Again, a lack of research. How many big leaguers do you think come from an average draft? Again to cite the Red Sox, over that same time period, only 17 players Boston drafted and signed made the big leagues.

    Criticizing this team’s management isn’t hard to do. But at least go after them for the right things.

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