It’s no secret that most Performance Enhancing Drugs, PED’s, are readily available and in most cases legal in many of the Latin countries where so many of today’s baseball players hail from.
These banned substances are especially rampant in the Dominican Republic and in Venezuela where aspiring baseball players are exposed to them at a very young age. Sadly, many of these young players, some as young as 15-16, are encouraged to take these performance enhancing drugs to improve their performance and hopefully land a contract with a Major League organization.
Some organizations, including the Mets, even have special baseball academies set up in these countries to help recruit and develop many of the players that are now flourishing in their minor league systems.
In the Mets case, all too many of them have been rushed mostly at the prodding of the now departed Tony Bernazard, but no doubt with the approval of Omar Minaya.
This morning, John Sickels of Minor League Ball, released his Top 20 Mets Prospects.
Topping the first three spots are Jenrry Mejia, Wilmer Flores and Fernando Martinez in that order. All three of these players were signed as international free agents and were not selected in the June Amateur Draft. Mejia and Martinez were both signed from the Dominican Republic, while Flores hails from Venezuela.
Sickels writes the following,
Part of the problem with analyzing the Mets is the weird way they have handled prospects. Some guys, particularly the Latin American signees, have been rushed way too fast, while others have been handled very cautiously.
Last week, Maury Brown of the Biz of Baseball, reported that the Mets led the Major Leagues with eight PED suspensions in 2009.
Brown points out that 39 of the 82, almost half of all minor league drug suspensions, occurred in the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues. Furthermore, five of the eight Mets players that were suspended played in these leagues.
I would hope that after a season in which so many Mets minor leaguers were suspended, some new guidelines and protocols will be established and chief among them will be a system that will educate these players as to the dangers of these substances. Eight suspensions in one season is far too high a number, and although it will be almost impossible to stop PED use completely, the Mets certainly have to do a better job than they have been.
Getting back to Sickels top prospect list, I found some of his comments to be a little sobering.
He ranked Josh Thole #15 and wrote,
Grade C: He can hit for average, but has no power and defense is mediocre. Sounds like a bench guy to me.
Ike Davis got a solid #4 ranking, but Sickels says,
Grade B: Showed he could hit for power, also has a fine glove. But I think he looks more like a solid regular than a future star.
Considering the high expectations Mets fans have for Thole and Davis, and the enormous hype the Mets themselves have generated, you would expect to see some of those expectations shared by a lifelong expert in minor league prospects like John Sickels. The Mets have treated Ike Davis and Josh Thole as future All Stars. To hear one referred to as a regular player and the other as a bench player makes me wonder why we always hold on so tight to these prospects.