As Spring Training rapidly approaches and speculation surrounding the future of baseball’s brightest prospects spreads like wildfire, The Golden Sombrero will highlight some of the notable and intriguing Spring Training invitees from each organization.
Cesar Puello*, OF: Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old, Puello is a toolsy outfielder with power potential. Between his two seasons in Rookie ball (2008 and 2009), Puello slashed .300/.363/.398 with 22 extra-base hits and 28 stolen bases. Playing for Low-A Savannah in 2010, the right-handed hitter slashed .292/.375/.359 and swiped 45 bags in 55 attempts. Even though Puello improved his power production at High-A St. Lucie in 2011, he also saw some of his weaknesses exploited. In 441 at-bats, he posted career-bests in triples (five), home runs (10), RBI (50), and total bases (175). However, Puello fanned 103 times compared to only 18 walks due to poor pitch recognition and count manipulation. He’ll likely never hit for a great average, but his power/speed combo does project well at the big league level – as evidenced by the Mets decision to add him to the 40-man roster. He has the potential to be the Mets’ starting right-fielder at some point in 2013, but will have to refine both his offensive approach and ability as a base-stealer at Double-A in 2012.
Jeurys Familia*, RHP: After making a strong professional debut in the GCL in 2008 and following it up by earning Mets minor league pitcher of the year honors in 2009, Familia had an off-year in 2010 at High-A (5.58 ERA, 1.58 WHIP in 121 innings). One encouraging aspect of his otherwise disappointing season, the 22-year-old Familia fanned 137 hitters – though he walked 74. Since then he has somewhat regained his form as the 6-foot-3 right-hander posted a 3.49 ERA and 96/35 K/BB ratio after a promotion to Double-A in 2011. Familia has always featured an above-average fastball that sits in the mid-90s and reaches the upper-90s, as well as a mediocre breaking ball and change up. Neither pitch has to be exceptional; but definitely good enough complement his fastball and be thrown in fastball counts.
Familia’s ceiling will continue to be determined by his command, which has been consistently iffy. Despite working primarily as a starter in the minors, his cleanest path to the Major League might be as a high-leverage reliever, possibly even closer. Out of the bullpen, his fastball will likely sit towards the upper-90s, which should inherently improve both of his offspeed pitches. Already on the team’s 40-man roster, will definitely make his MLB debut in 2012. The only question is whether it will be as a starter or reliever.
Matt Den Dekker, OF: Unlike Puello, den Dekker is more of a fringe outfield prospect. In his first professional season in 2010, den Dekker posted a slash line of .336/.396/.459 with 17 doubles over 122 at-bats between the GCL and Low-A. He responded well to a promotion to High-A to begin the 2011 season, batting .296 with 33 extra-base hits and 12 stolen bases in 302 at-bats. Den Dekker didn’t fare as well after a mid-season promotion to Double-A, though, as his slash line dropped to .235/.312/.426 while posting a 91/27 K/BB ratio. However, he did tally another 27 extra-base hits (including 11 home runs) while once again swiping 12 bags. Although he took a step in the right direction hitting for more power, the left-handed hitting den Dekker doesn’t project as a Major League power threat. He will also need to cut down on his strikeouts (156 in 539 at-bats in 2011) in order to progress through the Mets’ weak system. Den Dekker projects as a defensively savvy outfielder who will hit enough doubles to make him serviceable as a reserve. But given the state of the Mets’ outfield – and lack of genuine outfield prospects – his arrival in the Major Leagues may happen ahead of schedule. For the time being, den Dekker seems destined for another crack at Double-A to begin to the 2012 season.
Matt Harvey, RHP: Ranked by The Golden Sombrero as the No. 45 prospect in baseball headed into the 2012 season, Harvey was the clear No. 1 prospect in the Mets’ organization until Zack Wheeler was obtained for Carlos Beltran in late July. A first-round selection by the Mets out of North Carolina in 2010, Harvey breezed through the Florida State league (High-A), posting an 8-2 record, 2.37 ERA, and 92/24 K/BB ratio over 76 innings. After a promotion to Double-A Binghamton, Harvey struggled initially but finished the season strong with five wins and 50 strikeouts over his final 47 innings.
The right-hander’s fastball usually works in the mid-90s but has been clocked as high as 97-98 mph, and more importantly, is sustainable late into games. His other plus pitch, a hard, late-breaking slider, is a genuine out pitch that plays off of his well-located heater. Harvey also features a big breaking ball and change up, although the latter lacks feel and is the least advanced of his offspeed offerings.
At 6-foot-4, 210-pounds, the 22-year-old is built for innings. Although Harvey currently may be one of the five best starters in the organization, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll begin the season in the Major League rotation. However, he’s not too far away and should definitely crack the rotation at some point this season, possibly even before the All-Star break.
*On team’s 40-man roster
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