From Left Field: In Mets’ History, Farm System Has Lacked Strong Hitting
After the trade sending R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays, I started thinking that the Mets really have never developed a top-notch catcher out of their minor league system.
Todd Hundley is closest thing to being a productive home-grown catcher, which isn’t exactly saying much.
Of course, the most productive catchers in team history, Gary Carter and Mike Piazza, were acquired via trade.
Now that the Mets’ catching future in the hands of Travis d’Arnaud, hopefully he can change that trend. Though the Mets didn’t draft him, he will at some point make his Major League debut with the Amzain’s.
Then I also got to thinking: Not only have the Mets really never developed a strong catcher, but they also really have struggled in developing any sort of hitters from their system.
Scouts will say that pitching and defense win championships, but you have to score some runs as well.
The Mets have actually been known in their history to have all sorts of good pitching prospects but not much hitting.
Really the bulk of the Mets’ strong hitters have been acquired via trade or free agency: Piazza, Carter, Keith Hernandez, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Howard Johnson, Cliff Floyd, etc.
I looked back in Mets’ MLB Draft history to see if any of their offensive-minded draft picks ever made it big, and I came up with just two: Darryl Strawberry and David Wright.
That’s right, in all the years of drafting players, they’ve only developed two draft picks into superstar Major Leaguers.
Sure, they drafted role players like Lee Mazzilli, Mookie Wilson, Wally Backman and Lenny Dykstra, but I’m talking about face-of-the-franchise type players.
Now along the way, there have been players that have signed as minor league free agents that became good Major Leaguers, including Cleon Jones, Edgardo Alfonzo and Jose Reyes.
But even so, five players in the history of the franchise? That’s weak.
But on the pitching side, the Mets have been more successful. They drafted Nolan Ryan, Jim McAndrew, Jon Matlack, Dwight Gooden, Bobby J. Jones and Scott Kazmir.
Though not all these pitchers had their success with the Mets (especially Ryan), at least the Mets saw the talent in these arms.
And of course, the Mets signed and developed amateur free agents named Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman.
Currently, guys like Jon Niese and Matt Harvey can continue the trend of strong pitching prospects panning out, and Zack Wheeler (though acquired by the Giants) isn’t too far behind.
Maybe the problem with the Mets organization is that the team has focused so much on developing young pitching that the hitters have suffered. Or maybe the scouts are not taking the proper time to assess young hitters while breaking down pitchers.
Keep in mind, this is an organization that used first round draft picks on Lastings Milledge, Jason Tyner and Terrence Long. Not exactly offensive-minded players.
Maybe this trend will be put to rest if Ike Davis and d’Arnaud develop into the hitters that they are projected to be. But even so, it’s something to be considered.
As it stands, even if Mets’ pitching only allows one run per game, the Mets’ offense will struggle matching that.
You need hitters, especially a few power hitters, in this league, and that’s just something the Mets do not develop well in their minor league system.
About the Author: Jim Mancari
Jim Mancari hails from Massapequa, N.Y. He recently earned a Master's degree in Journalism at Hofstra University. He is a devout Mets fan and takes pride in his team, despite their lack of success over the last few years. Like all Mets fans, Jim has plenty of hope. He also writes as the sports reporter for the Brooklyn Tablet newspaper and the senior editor of metroBASEBALL Magazine. Click my name to view my personal website.
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