This is the first installment of our Mets Minor League Roundtable.
This week we asked Ed Tsunoda of NYFS (NY Future Stars) eight questions about some of the top prospects in the Mets minor leagues, and which ones we can expect to see at Shea in the very near future. NYFS is one of my favorite New York Mets websites and you can visit them at http://www.nyfuturestars.com. They feature great articles on all the rising stars in the Mets Minor Leagues, excellent player profiles, and exclusive photo galleries.
Q – When all is said and done, which pitcher will have had the better career, Mike Pelfrey or Philip Humber? Why?
A – I think it’s impossible to tell at this point. I’m going to say Humber, mostly because I’ve seen him pitch more and I couldn’t be more impressed with him. Mostly due to the diversity and command of his repertoire. I think Humber’s biggest issue will be controlling his emotional responses to getting tagged. He seems to get a little angry at himself in that situation and lose focus. But I also think that’s one of Rick Peterson’s strongest areas of improving a pitcher, so it doesn’t concern me much. I think Pelfrey has a ways to go with his secondary pitches based on what I’ve seen. If I had to win one game today and I had to pick a pitcher from the two of them, I’d pick Humber, so that’s what I’m going with here. But I think they’re both going to be big time big league pitchers in the long run.
Q – What can we expect from Mike Carp and when the time comes, will Carlos Delgado be re-signed by the Mets, or will Mike Carp take over for him at first base in 2009?
A – Carp has had a great spring so far, and had a very solid year last year. I don’t know that his skill sets translate to the big league level. There are a lot of guys who are really great hitters at high A ball, but seem to end up topping out at AAA, e.g., Matt Watson of a couple of years ago, who was one of the most impressive “pure hitters” I’ve seen here in St. Lucie for a long stretch, or Brett Harper as another example. I think what you want to see from Mike Carp the next year or two is physical growth, adding muscle, etc. I think his biggest area of need is to increase his strength and develop the physical ability to maintain consistency through a long season. He’s got a sweet swing and has improved leaps and bounds defensively since he was signed. It’s too early to pencil him in at first for the future, I think. The next 6-18 months will tell a lot of the tale on Carp. I also think the Mets are focused on complete athletes, and I don’t know if Carp fits that profile. I think the Mets want you to run and jump and be a world class athlete in addition to being a two-way ballplayer, and I don’t know if Carp can fit that profile without or even with a lot of physical development. I don’t know if being a great pure hitter is enough for the Mets.
Q – We hear so much about Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez lately and how they will both be in the outfield of the future for the New York Mets. Considering that Carlos Beltran still has 5 years left on his contract, and that Lastings Milledge is also supposed to be the future of the team, what do you think the outfield look like in 2010 and why?
A – A lot can happen in a few years. Guys get injured or traded…anything can happen, and certainly having four great outfielders is an enviable problem to have. I think of the trio of Milledge, Gomez, and Fernando, Gomez is the best athlete, Milledge is the best baseball player, and Fernando is the best pure hitter. Like Carp, I think Fernando has to climb through high A and AA before you start going nuts inking him into future lineup cards. I think Milledge will be the everyday rightfielder this year. I wouldn’t buy any real estate in New York if I was Shawn Green. Ultimately, I believe in Carlos Gomez. I think he’s one of the
most impressive athletes I’ve ever seen, in any sport and I like his ‘tude. I like Milledge’s ‘tude, as well. Those guys are fierce competitors. I haven’t seen that in Fernando yet.
Q – How would you rank the top five prospects in the Mets Minor Leagues?
A – I’m not a big fan of rankings. We never do “top prospect lists” at NYFS. What’s the gradient difference between Humber and Pelfrey? Or Milledge and Gomez? Who the heck knows. It’s impossible to say. They are all talented enough to be number one. It comes down to intangibles. They’re all “best in organization” level prospects, I don’t really see any way or reason to differentiate between them on a 1-5 basis.
Q – It seems like the Mets somehow got the curse of the Bambino at second base (Baerga, Alomar, Matsui). I don’t believe that Anderson Hernandez is the answer at second base, do the Mets have any second base prospects on the horizon in their minor league system?
A – Don’t give up on Hector Pellot. He had a rough year offensively in Hagerstown last year, but he was drafted out of high school and played full season ball, so the Mets have to have seen something in him. They didn’t bump him to Brooklyn or Kingsport when he struggled, and his isoD (OBP-AVG) was good, so I think his numbers may be more reflective of his playing against really advanced competition for his age/development, than indicative of his true ability. Also, I’m a big Chase Lambin fan. He’s going to rebound at AAA this year and give all the Jeff Keppinger fans someone else to obsess over.
Q – Does Alay Soler have a future or a role with the New York Mets and if so what will it be?
A – Probably as a trade chip. I think he has solid potential as a backend rotation starter, or long man in the pen. He can be a role guy this year, and may get some starts here or there. If he impresses, I think he can be a good chip for the Mets. I think he’d be wasted long term in the pen and isn’t really in the rotation mix for the Mets long term, and is a good option for a small market/finance challenged team, e.g., the Marlins, also because of the Cuban community in South Florida. Hopefully he pitches well this spring and early in the season and maximizes his value.
Q – I loved Lastings Milledge from the time he first came up and hit that homerun and high-fived the fans. I also think he got a raw deal from the media. Do you think Lastings Milledge will make an impact this season on the Mets?
A – Yup. I think he will be the starting rightfielder Opening Day. He’s not the kid he’s been portrayed as. He’s an incredibly hard worker. He is very bright. He plays multiple musical instruments, owns a record label, speaks multiple languages. Studies pitchers intently. He’s very studious. He is very disciplined. His Dad is a state trooper and followed him to every city throughout his minor league career. I doubt there’s much chance that he didn’t learn respect or discipline as a kid. I think a Milledge jersey is a good buy.
Q – Why did the Mets Triple A team leave Norfolk after all those years and move all the way to New Orleans?
A – This is pretty ironic, actually. My understanding is that the Tides felt the Mets used AAA to stockpile veterans like an injured reserve list and raced prospects through and around there so it was difficult to market their team. The irony is that this season, they’re going to be sending one heck of a ballclub to their AAA affiliate no matter how you slice it. Some combination of Gomez, Milledge, Pelfrey, Humber, Gotay, Hernanderson, Kevin Mulvey, Joe Smith…pretty much an all-prospects All-star team. But I’m pretty sure that was the issue for the Tides. They wa
nted to have a good product to market and they kept getting Jose Lima on the mound and Jose Offerman, Gerald Williams, et al. on the roster instead. Also, I think for the Mets, it’s a good idea to be south-centric with their minor league teams. They have so much great young talent coming out of the Caribbean and the humidity and heat and food and culture in New Orleans will be much more conducive to the Caribbean kids “feeling at home”. Closer to normal food. Closer to normal languages. Closer to normal everything. I think that will help those kids ease in to American culture much more easily than a Naval base city in Virginia, and make it easier for them to focus on baseball.
Mets Merized Online would like to thank Ed Tsunoda of NYFS for taking some time to answer a few questions for us.