When I wrote that the 1967 crop featuring Seaver, Ryan, and Koosman was probably the strongest group of prospects the Mets ever had, I was weighting it heavily on the future success of those three pitchers. But in terms of potential and depth, it would be hard to top the 1981 list.
Here’s what a list of the Top 10 Mets’ Prospects for 1981 may have looked like. Injuries and addictions certainly played a role in limiting the success of some of these players, but it was a talent-rich group.
1. Tim Leary, RHP – Just off a season where he was the best pitcher in the Texas League as a first-year pro, Leary looked like the best Mets’ pitching prospect since Seaver.
2. Darryl Strawberry, RF – The previous season’s #1 draft pick now had a half season of pro ball under his belt and though he was far from dominant, his star potential shone through.
3. Mookie Wilson, CF – The International League’s All Star Centerfielder would soon make Lee Mazzilli expendable leading to a chain of deals that brought the Mets Ron Darling and Howard Johnson.
4. Hubie Brooks, IF/OF – The Mets hadn’t yet decided if Hubie would be an infielder or outfielder, but he was coming off a solid year in AAA and looked major league ready.
5. Wally Backman, 2B– Tidewater’s switch-hitting second baseman would later abandon righthanded hitting and emerge as a solid #2 hitter and gritty infielder.
6. Rick Ownbey, RHP – With a big year at Class A Lynchburg followed by a successful stint at AA Memphis, Ownbey was coming on as a future star in the Mets’ rotation. He never made it, but was a valuable chip in the Keith Hernandez trade.
7. Mike Scott, RHP – Tidewater’s #1 starter was ready for the big leagues although he wouldn’t blossom until dealt away.
8. Ed Lynch, RHP – a solid starter for Tidewater who was pencilled in as a likely #4 starter type, which is just what he became.
9. Juan Berenguer, RHP – The International League’s strikeout leader, he was a strong candidate to shift to the bullpen, where he enjoyed a measure of big league success although not with the Mets.
10. Brian Giles, 2B – This smooth-fielding second baseman hit .286 in the Texas League and it looked like his glove could propel him ahead of Backman as the 2nd baseman of the future.