The future success of every Major League team lies in its Minor League system. With that in mind, each preseason, MLB.com takes a top-to-bottom look at all 30 organizations, from top prospects to recent draft picks.
There's been much discussion on the impact Omar Minaya has had on the Mets over the past couple of years, particularly the general manager's recommitment to Latino baseball. Heck, there's even a book about that pursuit at the big-league level: Pedro, Carlos and Omar: The Story of a Season in the Big Apple and the Pursuit of Baseball's Top Latino Stars.
As excited as Mets fans rightfully were about the additions of Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran and then Carlos Delgado, they should be even more pumped about how the "Latino-ization" of the Mets has infused energy and talent into the farm system.
Since Minaya was named GM in fall 2004, the Mets have signed some high-ceiling international talent, the most notable being uber-outfield prospect Fernando Martinez. The teenage phenom is closer than you might think to New York. He's one step behind fellow Dominican Carlos Gomez (signed in 2002, pre-Omar), allowing Mets fans to dream about an all-Latino outfield of Martinez, Gomez and Beltran.
The next wave is a few steps behind, with Venezuelan hurler Deolis Guerra on a similar fast track. But if you really want to see what this renewed commitment to international scouting is yielding, head to Savannah, the Mets' new South Atlantic League affiliate, where several teenagers are primed for their United States debuts.
Couple these developments with some advanced college pitchers (Mike Pelfrey, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey) rising quickly through the ranks and you've got an organization flush with some serious talent. Those who want to see that talent at the highest Minor League level face a slightly different journey than in years past, since the Mets no longer have their Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk, Va. With the Tides rolling out, New Orleans is now home, giving the organization the ability to try the Pacific Coast League on for size while providing a lasting impact on a community that still sorely needs it.
Regardless of where the Mets affiliates are located, things are definitely looking up for the farm system as a whole. Sure, Pedro, Carlos and Carlos (among others) may help New York in the short term, but it's names like Fernando Martinez, Carlos Gomez and Deolis Guerra that should keep the Mets at the top of the NL East for years to come.
Climbing the Ladder
Triple-A New Orleans
Carlos Gomez, OF
Philip Humber, RHP
Others to watch: LHPs Adam Bostick and Jason Vargas came to the Mets from the Marlins in return for Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom. Both will pitch behind Humber and wait for a turn to help the big club should the need arise. ... 1B Brett Harper lost almost all of 2006 with a shoulder injury after hitting 36 homers in 2005. If he can stay healthy, he could put up some good power numbers in the PCL.
Fernando Martinez, OF
Kevin Mulvey, RHP
Others to watch: SS Jose Coronado hasn't hit much in his pro career, but he's an outstanding defensive shortstop. The Mets feel the bat will start coming soon, so they didn't hesitate to send the soon-to-be 21-year-old to Double-A. ... C Mike Nickeas is now the top advanced catching prospect in the system with Jesus Flores gone. The Mets got him from the Rangers for Victor Diaz, and he profiles as a strong defensive backstop. ... OF Corey Coles had a huge year in St. Lucie in 2006, helping them win the FSL title by hitting .341 with a .407 OBP and 21 steals.
Class A Advanced St. Lucie
Dustin Martin, OF
Deolis Guerra, RHP
Others to watch: Joining Guerra in the St. Lucie rotation should be LHP Jon Niese and RHP Bobby Parnell. Niese led the organization with 142 K's in 133 2/3 innings. Parnell had an up-and-down year, including an injury last spring. He's healthy now and should help give St. Lucie a deep rotation. ... SS Emmanuel Garcia, 21, will leap to Class A Advanced ball after hitting .281 with 22 steals between the Appy and New York-Penn Leagues in 2006. ... OF Sean Henry has taken a little while to develop, but he found a new home in center field and stole 30 bases last year. He moves up to St. Lucie after just 21 low-A games in 2006. ... 1B Nick Evans is a former third baseman with some power potential from the right side. He had 15 homers and 33 doubles in Class A a year ago.
Class A Savannah
Francisco Pena, C
John Stinson, RHP
Others to watch: The Mets are being very aggressive with a number of their Latino prospects, not just Pena. Joining the catcher will be a number of players making their United States debuts. SS Juan Lagares is an 18-year-old shortstop who hit .255 and stole 12 bases for the Mets' Dominican Summer League team in 2006. ... His double-play partner will be fellow 18-year-old Greg Veloz, who hit .262 and stole 28 bags in the DSL. ... By comparison, OF Jonathan Sanchez and INF Hector Pellot are old-timers. Sanchez, 21, played in the DSL back in 2004, missed all of 2005 due to injury and made his U.S. debut last year in Brooklyn and Hagerstown. Pellot is 20, made his debut last year with Hagerstown as a second baseman but hit just .189, so he'll get another crack at the level.
Under the Radar
Jose Coronado/Jose Castro, SS
Daniel Murphy, 3B
2006 Draft Recap
It was obvious the Mets were targeting pitching in this draft. Eight of their first 10 picks were pitchers and six of the first seven make their living on the mound. Third-rounder Joe Smith, a college reliever, made it to Double-A last summer and finished with 40 strikeouts, a .190 batting average against and a 2.48 ERA over 32 2/3 innings. A strong spring will land him in the big-league bullpen to start this season. ... RHP Tobi Stoner (16) was outstanding in Brooklyn, going 6-2 with 2.15 ERA over 83 2/3 frames. The league hit just .219 against him. ... RHP John Holdzkom (4) has one of the best fastballs in the class, but doesn't always command it well. He fanned a batter an inning, but walked almost as many and finished with a 7.71 ERA.
Organizational Player of the Year -- Carlos Gomez
Organizational Pitcher of the Year -- Deolis Guerra
"I don't think it will affect anything from the development standpoint. It's going to mean a lot more travel for us, but for me it's closer to home. I'm looking forward to it. I was in the PCL way back when, but with some of these new ballparks, I'm excited about it." -- New Orleans Zephyrs manager Ken Oberkfell, a Houston native, on the new Triple-A affiliate
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.