Bottom-heavy Mets system has stars

Harvey, Gorski, Edgin pitched in at Class A Advanced St. Lucie

Darin Gorski was named Florida State League Pitcher of the Year. (Mark LoMoglio/

By Andrew Pentis / Special to | November 23, 2011 5:00 AM

This offseason, will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.

According to Paul DePodesta's math -- as you would expect, it checks out -- four of the Mets' six stateside Minor League affiliates combined on what equates to an 90- to 91-win season in the Majors. (Make that 90.4275534. The man of "Moneyball" fame doesn't round off his decimal points, so neither will we.)

Overshadowing the relative struggles of Triple-A Buffalo and Double-A Binghamton, Class A Advanced St. Lucie (72-68) and Class A Savannah (79-60) were finalists in the Florida State and South Atlantic leagues, respectively. Short-season Brooklyn (45-29) secured a Wild Card berth in the New York-Penn League, while Rookie-level Kingsport (39-29) narrowly missed out on the Appalachian League postseason.

So it should come as no surprise that nine of those New York farmhands named organizational All-Stars spent most of 2011 in the Class A or short-season ranks.

"Hopefully," said DePodesta, the Mets vice president of player development and amateur scouting, "those guys make our decisions tougher as the funnel gets tighter in Double-A and Triple-A."

Mets Organization All-Stars

Catcher -- Camden Maron, Savannah (one game), Kingsport (58 games): A 34th-round Draft pick in 2009, Maron played Gulf Coast League games over his first two pro seasons before emerging in 2011. The 20-year-old New York native batted .317 overall and sported a 38-36 walk-to-strikeout ratio.

"He has a very advanced approach at plate for such a young guy," DePodesta said of the Appalachian League postseason All-Star. "This was his first opportunity to play full-time and he took advantage. Defensively, he's solid and he's going to get much better."

First base -- Allan Dykstra, Binghamton (121 games): Sharing the surname of a famous ex-Met, this unrelated Dykstra batted .267 and established career highs in home runs (19) and RBIs (77). That success came after he batted .241 in the hitter-happy Cal League as a member of the Padres organization in 2010. He was San Diego's first-round pick in 2008.

"Considering the difference playing in the Cal League and the Eastern League, he performed especially well," DePodesta noted.

Second base -- Reese Havens, Binghamton (58 games), St. Lucie (three games): A line-drive, gap-to-gap hitter if there ever was one, Havens batted .289 at Binghamton and collected 22 extra-base hits in an injury-shortened campaign. Back problems cropped up in June and July.

"Whenever Reese has been healthy, he has always been able to perform," DePodesta said. "He's a natural hitter."

Havens, selected 22nd overall in the 2008 Draft, is New York's No. 9 prospect.

"Big-league hitter," echoed new Buffalo skipper Wally Backman, who managed Binghamton last season. "The issue with him has always been health. If he had stayed healthy [in 2010], I believe he would have been the second baseman for the Mets [in 2011]."

Third base -- Richard Lucas, Brooklyn (69 games): Lucas batted an even .300 with 28 extra-base hits, a welcome improvement from his .212 full-season campaign at St. Lucie in 2010. The ball appeared bigger than usual for Lucas in July: He went 35-for-96 and scored 28 runs in 27 games.

DePodesta said he projects that Lucas, a New York-Penn League midseason All-Star, will stay at third base and potentially develop into a middle-of-the-order hitter.

Shortstop -- Danny Muno, Brooklyn (59 games): Embarking on his first pro season, Muno led all Mets farmhands with at least 200 at-bats in hitting (.355) and was in Ted Williams territory with his torrid second half (.396). The New York-Penn League midseason All-Star also impressed with a 43-39 walk-to-strikeout ratio, while his .466 on-base percentage led the league.

"I don't think many players had a better year than Danny Muno. He did everything," DePodesta said, adding that Muno has a chance to continue his career at shortstop.


Juan Lagares, Binghamton (38 games), St. Lucie (82 games): Lagares suffered an ankle injury in 2010 and, according to the Mets, it slowed him during Spring Training. Everything appeared OK by Opening Day, however, as he went on to lead all Mets full-season players in batting (.349), increasing his .338 mark at St. Lucie to .370 in Binghamton. The six-year Minor League veteran had never batted above .279 at any level.

"Unbelievable year," DePodesta said from Arizona, where Lagares hit .303 in 15 games in the Fall League. "The move obviously didn't faze him."

While Lagares drew only 26 walks, he also fanned only 76 times in 120 games.

"The biggest thing for Juan this year was his plate discipline," said St. Lucie skipper Pedro Lopez, who also managed Lagares, as a taxi squad player in the AFL. "Managing the strike zone has helped him out. We're talking about a kid who was a free swinger a year ago; now he has a better understanding of what a strike is."

"He can definitely play [defense] in the big leagues right now," Backman added. "It will depend on what the organization wants, but for me, he can go to Triple-A [in 2012]. He is probably the best player I had for the year, and I only had him for half a year."

Travis Taijeron, Brooklyn (56 games): Another NY-Penn League All-Star, Taijeron split time between left and center field in 2011 but lands on this list thanks to his bat -- he hit .299 with nine homers and 44 RBIs. Despite the small sample size (this was Taijeron's first pro season), the front office believes it has a power hitter on its hands.

"Ike Davis went to Brooklyn and didn't hit a homer the entire summer, then hits [19] in the Majors, so it's very difficult to project," DePodesta said, using the Mets' first baseman for comparison. "Taijeron's strength isn't going away, his power to right-center isn't going away, so that should all serve him well in the future."

Gregory Pron, Kingsport (58 games): A 42nd-round pick last June, the physically gifted Pron -- he's a svelte 6-foot-6 -- batted .318 in his debut season. DePodesta gave Pron, who plated 34 runs and scored 42, a strong chance to begin 2012 with a full-season affiliate.

Utility -- Josh Satin, Buffalo (38 games), Binghamton (94 games), New York (15 games): With his silky smooth swing, Satin led all Bisons with at least 100 at-bats in batting (.317) -- he hit .323, counting his time with the B-Mets -- and led the organization with 35 doubles. He also set career highs in extra-base hits (57) and RBIs (76). Defensively, the Eastern League All-Star played at least 20 games at first base, second base and third base.

"No matter where he goes, that's all he does -- hit," DePodesta said of the 26-year-old former Cal product. "We think he's a guy who can play multiple positions and we think he's a Major League hitter."

His Double-A manager said Satin displays average ability at third and is too balky for second. He worked to improve his outfield technique in the Venezuelan Winter League.

"Defensively, that's where Josh lacks," Backman said. "I love the kid to death, but if we can make him adequate at any position, he is a big league hitter. If he dedicates the same time he does to his hitting, he'll get there. [Moving to the outfield] puts him in a better position to go to the big leagues and stay in the big leagues."

Veteran first baseman/designated hitter Valentino Pascucci also deserves mention. Pascucci, who recently signed a Minor League contract for the 2012 season, led the system with 91 RBIs and finished second with 21 homers.

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Matt Harvey, St. Lucie (14 games), Binghamton (12 games): In his first pro season, the seventh overall pick in 2010 led the organization in wins. His 2.37 ERA at St. Lucie ballooned to 4.53 in Binghamton, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio never wavered. The Futures Game selection fanned 156 and issued 47 free passes over 135 2/3 frames.

"We were tremendously pleased," DePodesta said. "Matt obviously came with high expectations. Our goals for him were for him to get established on a five-day schedule.

"There's no doubt in our mind he could go to St. Lucie and dominate without using his changeup. He went to Binghamton and continued to work on his pitches. There were times when I'm sure it would have been easier to throw a fastball by a guy and get out of an inning, but he knew it was more important to work on his craft."

The University of North Carolina product showed improvement at Double-A in August, going 5-0 with a 2.67 ERA in five outings.

Backman, who calls Harvey "intense," is impressed with his repertoire.

"I compare him to [Jeurys] Familia, but he's got more stuff than Familia," he said. "They're both power fastball, power breaking ball guys [while their] changeup is a work-in-progress. When I graded [Harvey] out, I had him as a No. 2 starter on a championship-level, big league team."

Familia won half of his 10 decisions and recorded a 2.90 ERA in 23 starts, 17 for Backman at Binghamton. The native of the Dominican Republic fanned 132 over 124 innings.

Lopez said Harvey "has all the making of a great starter" but cautioned that he should be more aggressive earlier in counts, innings and outings.

"The way he went about his business of getting guys out -- in college, you don't have a pitch count, but in the pros you do," Lopez said. "You have to manage your pitch count to be able to pitch deeper into games. His first couple ballgames, he was coming out early."

Zack Wheeler -- think Harvey with a cutter -- thrived at St. Lucie after being acquired from the Giants in the July trade involving All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran. In six starts, he went 2-2 with a 2.00 ERA and struck out 31 over 27 innings.

"Wheeler and Harvey, both of these guys have phenomenal stuff," Lopez said. "Time will tell whether they will pitch in the big leagues."

Wheeler, Harvey and Familia fill the first three slots on New York's Top 10 Prospect list.

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Darin Gorski, St. Lucie (27 games): The FSL Pitcher of the Year (and's Class A Advanced Best Starter) won his first 10 decisions, although he actually began the season in the bullpen.

"We had a bit of an embarrassment of riches of pitching at St. Lucie. He didn't even get to start the year in the rotation because of that. He got in there and took off," DePodesta said of the 24-year-old southpaw. "He became the ace of that staff and anchored it when Harvey left. We wanted him to experience being the No. 1 guy and pitching in playoff games."

Gorski, a 2009 seventh-round pick, went 11-3 with a 1.98 ERA as a starter and led the FSL in overall ERA (2.08) and WHIP (1.00). He also struck out 140 in 138 2/3 frames, including a career-high 13 on May 26 while holding left-handed hitters to a .171 batting average.

"Darin is probably the biggest surprise of this year," Lopez said. "We knew he had the potential to become the type of pitcher he became, but it was a matter of time. It took Gorski two years to put everything together."

In addition to his slider, improved fastball command was key.

"He always had a changeup," Lopez said, "but nobody swung at it because he could never command his fastball. Next thing you know, he was graded as having the best changeup in our league."

Relief pitcher -- Josh Edgin, St. Lucie (25 games), Savannah (24 games): The power-armed lefty went 1-0 with a 0.87 ERA for the Sand Gnats, finishing 3-1 with a 2.06 mark across two levels. He fanned 76 in 66 innings and earned 27 saves.

Edgin's 93-96 mph heater, the strongest of his three-pitch menu, wasn't what impressed his manager most.

"No fear, he just went after hitters," Lopez said of the second-year pro. "That's the biggest thing he brings to the table."

"He has a chance to move quickly," DePodesta added.

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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