As we head into September in what has been another disappointing Mets season, things might not be as bad as they seem for New York Mets fans. Barring an unforeseen September hot streak to coincide with everybody in the NL East and wild-card races suffering Metslike chokes, the Mets will miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. As I said in my last post, that should lead to the firing of Jerry Manuel and his underwhelming coaching staff and hopefully the reassignment of Omar Minaya to the scouting department (doubt the Wilpons would fire him altogether since he’s got two years left on his ridiculous contract). But there may be some reasons to cheer for Mets fans in September, as New York has several hitters in the upper levels of the minor leagues having very strong seasons. With the Mets fielding automatic outs in two or three positions in the batting order, it can be argued that some of these guys should have already seen the light of day, but that’s another argument entirely. Not all these guys are yet on the 40-man roster, but I’m sure the Mets can jettison such luminaries as Mike Hessman, Jesus Feliciano and Elmer Dessens (I’d say Castillo and Ollie, but the Wilpons just won’t eat those salaries). While the Mets don’t have enough pitching prospects (although Jenrry Mejia dominated another Double-A start tonight and Mark Cohoon looked good as well in a doubleheader sweep for Binghamton), there are hitting prospects galore. Let’s start with Triple-A, where the Mets recently called up the two guys (Fernando Martinez and Ruben Tejada) who weren’t hitting all that much. Omar is a smart one.
Lucas Duda, 24, LF: Duda is a 6-5, 250 pound behemoth who has finally started to generate plenty of power. He’s having the best season of any Mets’ minor leaguer with these eye-popping numbers: .309, .402, .590 (.992 OPS) between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Buffalo. He’s got 38 doubles to go along with 23 HR and 87 RBIs. What I like about Duda though is he’s got a solid walk rate and doesn’t strike out too much for someone with his power. 55 BBs to go along with 75 Ks this season. Would love to see him added to the 40-man for some time in the bigs in September.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, 23, CF: Nieuwenhuis has passed (and really downright lapped) Fernando Martinez has the club’s top overall outfield prospect. He’s spent most of the season at Double-A Binghamton, but received a call-up to Buffalo a few weeks ago and could be the club’s centerfielder of the future (Angel Pagan could also be that as well if he keeps producing). Nieuwenhuis has got power and speed and is a strong defender by all counts. His one weakness right now is plate discipline, as he could draw more walks. His overall slash line this year is quite good though: .282, .335, .496 (.830) with 39 doubles, 3 triples, 17 HR and 71 RBIs to go along with 13 SBs. Only 37 BB to go along with 108 Ks means he could use a little more seasoning, so we may not see him in September.
Nick Evans, 24, 1B/3B: It seems Evans should be older, as he’s received call-ups in each of the last three seasons (although he was only in NY for 2 ABs this year) and while some Mets fans have given up on him as a prospect, I’m not so sure. At the very least I could see him as a solid bench bat, capable of eating up lefties. He too has split the season with Binghamton and Buffalo and is having a great year: .297, .370, .539 (.909) with 40 doubles, 22 homers and 76 RBIs to go along with 51 walks and 82 strikeouts. He’s already on the 40-man so we’ll likely see Nick again in September. Let’s just hope Jerryatric Manuel plays him, unlike last year when he trotted out Fernando Tatis everyday in an effort to post a few more wins and save his sorry ass.
Josh Satin, 25, 1B/2B/3B: Satin is intriguing and he profiles as more of a super-utility guy, as he has played all over the infield in his tenure in the Mets system. He has always hit pretty well though, and he’s having a strong season this year, split between Single-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton: .324, .410, .487 (.897) with 38 doubles, 11 homers and 72 RBIs. He strikes out quite a bit (101 Ks) but walks a lot to offset it (60 BB). Wouldn’t mind seeing him get a look in September, as Luis Castillo and Ruben Tejada aren’t what you call power threats at second.
Sean Ratliff, 23, CF: From a production standpoint, Ratliff has also passed Omar’s golden boy F-Mart, as he has put together a fine year, mostly at Double-A Binghamton. Like Nieuwenhuis, Ratliff doesn’t yet walk enough while striking out a bit too much (33 walks, 124 ks) but when he’s not whiffing, he’s hitting the ball with authority: .304, .354, .529 (.883) with 32 doubles, 3 triples, 21 homers, 77 RBIs and 10 steals. A big lefty power guy, Ratliff could use another year in the minors but he isn’t too far away from a look in the majors.
Eric Campbell, 23, LF and Zach Lutz, 24, 3B: I’ve included both of these guys together because they’re interesting hitting prospects despite being a bit injury-prone (especially Lutz). They’ve both produced when healthy though. Campbell is hitting .311, .378, .478 (.856) between Single-A and Double A with 25 doubles, nine homers and 46 RBIs in 87 games. Lutz has been even more impressive. Despite playing in just 59 contests, Lutz is hitting .284, .384, .577 (.960) with 14 doubles, 17 homers and 41 RBIs. I’d love to see what Lutz could do with a full season. Which leads me to….
Reese Havens, 23, 2B: The first-round pick has given Mets fans glimpses into what could be the future at second base, but he’s been hurt a lot in his first two professional seasons. He’s managed to appear in just 32 games this year, but he was extremely hot at the plate when sidelined with (don’t quote me on this) an abdominal injury. He was hitting .312, .386, .592 between two levels with nine homers. The lefty swinger has pretty good plate discipline and plenty of power and may be a better pure hitter than Ike Davis, if he can ever stay on the field.
Wilmer Flores, 19, SS: Finally, we get to the guy who may end up being the best of the bunch. Flores just turned 19 earlier this month and he’s already playing for Class A-Advanced St. Lucie, where he’s more than holding his own. The power is starting to come, although it may be a year or two before he’s a 20 homer threat as he’s expected to be. He also needs to draw more walks, but he doesn’t strike out very much. Some scouts have compared him to a young Miguel Cabrera. I’ve seen him three times in person and while I get the comparison, it’s still a bit early to tell whether he’ll ever approach Miggy’s status. But he’s already produced more than Martinez (at this point, who hasn’t) and between low-A Savannah and high-A St. Lucie, he’s hitting .287, .333, .429 (.757) with 32 doubles, 11 homers and 77 RBIs. Only 30 walks to go along with 70 Ks in 514 ABs this year, but scouts rave on his ability to make contact, which should continue to get better as he gets older. Remember, he’s played his entire minor-league career in leagues where most of the players are much older than he is and has held his own. Look for him to come into his own in the next year or two.
So there you have it, a little rundown on the Mets’ minor-league hitters. If I had to guess, we’ll see Duda and Evans called up and maybe even Satin if they want to give him a trial at second base (since that is likely going to be an open competition next year). Although I’d love to see Captain Kirk and Ratliff as well, I think they need a little more time in the minors to work on those walk rates.