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Friday, January 31
Updated: March 13, 3:53 PM ET
 
Mets minor-league report

By John Sickels
Special to ESPN.com

System overview
Most of the news for Shea Stadium fanatics centers on veterans this winter, as the Mets try yet again to retool their roster. Although the acquisitions of Tom Glavine, Cliff Floyd, and Mike Stanton get the headlines, it is the farm system that gives the best hope for the future. The Mets farm system is in better condition than it has been in for some time, and several youngsters are ready or nearly ready to help.

The top tier of talent is one of the best in the game. Hitting is a weak point past the top three prospects, while things are better on the pitching end.

Shortstop Jose Reyes, catcher Justin Huber, third baseman David Wright, and pitchers Aaron Heilman and Scott Kazmir rank with the best prospects in baseball. After that group, the talent thins out, but guys like Pat Strange and Jaime Cerda could see significant action with the Mets this year in supporting roles.

There is still work to be done, but the Mets are drafting better, and the level of instruction in the system has improved. They need to maintain this momentum. It will be interesting to see how the '03 draft goes, given the loss of draft picks for free agents.

2002 amateur draft
The Mets scored a major coup in the first round, picking Texas high school lefty Scott Kazmir. Probably the best high school pitcher since Josh Beckett, he fell to 15th overall because of concerns about his bonus demands, but the Mets signed him quickly. He dominated older competition in the New York-Penn League, and is probably already the best southpaw prospect in baseball. Only a health issue can derail him, but that is true for any young pitcher.

It's good they got Kazmir, because they gave up their second and third round draft picks to sign free agents Dave Weathers and Roger Cedeno.

College outfielders Bob Malek (Michigan State) and Jon Stack (Texas Tech) were the next two picks. Malek is a good batting average/moderate power guy, while Stack has patience/speed leadoff potential. Eighth-round choice Tyler Davidson is a toolsy outfielder from the University of Washington. Both Malek and Davidson had injury problems after signing, but all three of these guys could be pretty good players.

By himself, Kazmir makes this a good draft. That also means that a lot depends on him. If he gets hurt, the lack of second and third round picks knocks this draft to below average.

Top prospects
Players in the "Will Help Soon" section could see significant major league action in 2003. Players in the "Will Help Someday" section shouldn't reach the majors until '04 or later, though of course that can change. Players are listed alphabetically. No 2002 draftees are listed.

WILL HELP SOON
Jaime Cerda, LHP: Actually appeared in 32 games last year, but still technically a rookie. Deceptive, especially vs. lefties, and should earn a spot in the bullpen.

Aaron Heilman, RHP: Inning-eating sinker/slider guy, will have a chance for a rotation spot. Not an ace, but durable and consistent.

Jose Reyes, SS: Likely to take over at shortstop, though Rey Sanchez has been brought in to provide a veteran if Reyes falters. Very fast, may develop some power, good with the glove. Not super with the bat yet, but a light year or three ahead of Rey Ordonez.

Pat Strange, RHP: Another guy with a rotation shot. Can hit 93 mph, posted 3.82 ERA in Triple-A. Low strikeout rates, however, and may be better-suited for relief in the long run.

WILL HELP SOMEDAY
Justin Huber, C: Australian catcher, with plus offensive potential, including decent power, contact ability, and strike zone judgment. His defense is workable and improving, and he's just 20 years old.

David Wright, 3B: Hit .266 with 11 homers in the Sally League, but has a ton of ability. Drew 76 walks, stole 21 bases, and is a fine defensive hot sacker. Just 20, with outstanding work ethic.

KEY SLEEPER
Matt Peterson, RHP: Fanned 153 in 138 innings at Class A Capital City, using a 92 mph fastball and a big-breaking curve. Allowed just 109 hits. Needs to improve his command, but at 6-5, 215, he has the size of a workhorse.

Other names to know
Bob Keppel, RHP; Craig Brazell, 1B; Jason Phillips, C; Tyler Yates, RHP; Franklin Nunez, RHP; Mike Bacsik, LHP; Jae Seo, RHP; Phil Seibel, LHP.

John Sickels is the author of the 2002 Minor League Scouting Notebook, and is now working on the 2003 Baseball Prospect Book. His biography of Bob Feller will be published next spring. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife, son, and two cats. You can send John questions or comments at JASickels@aol.com, or you can visit his homepage at JohnSickels.com.





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