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Mets favor experience in Day 2
06/08/2004  7:48 PM ET
NEW YORK -- When the Mets chose Rice University's Philip Humber with the third pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, it marked the beginning of a trend the club would adhere to throughout most of the two-day process.

By the time the draft ended Tuesday evening, New York had made it clear that its intention was to stock up on more mature, closer to Major League-ready prospects. Of the 50 players the Mets chose, 33 were college players. While they have varying degrees of experience, the process was clearly geared toward selecting a more-experienced player.

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Humber's selection also marked the beginning of another trend. The hard-throwing right-hander was just one of 28 pitchers selected. New York has traditionally been an organization geared toward pitching and that philosophy was evident in this year's draft as nearly half of the players chosen were hurlers, including the last 10 and 15 of the final 16 players selected. Only seven of the pitchers chosen, though, were left-handers. The last four players the Mets took were southpaws.

The Mets, however, did go heavy on the prep players late in the draft, going to high schools for six of their final 11 picks. The rest of the breakdown saw 11 outfielders selected along with nine infielders and two catchers.

Gary LaRocque, the club's assistant general manager and director of baseball relations, acknowledged that the Mets have always drafted a plethora of pitching but said there was no conscious effort to do so this season.

"It just presented itself as our best option," LaRocque said. "But that has been close to being consistent with what we've done in the past. The way you look at it, the pitching just presented itself."

New York also has an additional farm team this season in the Gulf Coast League [Port St. Lucie]. LaRocque said that was a consideration in drafting as well. The Mets already have short-season affiliates in the Appalachian League [Kingsport] and in the New York-Penn League [Brooklyn]. Historically, the Mets have always signed just above 20 or so picks each year. But because of the Gulf Coast League team, LaRocque said he anticipates signing perhaps as many as 25 or 26 players this year.

"That club will be a mix of college and high school kids," he said. "We needed players to stock that third team. We're also looking to sign additional players there."

The sleeper of the draft could be Jim Burt, whom the Mets chose in the 19th round. Son of former NFL star Jim Burt, the University of Miami first baseman/outfielder has better than average power. He's hitting .374 with 14 homers through 58 games this season and has 36 homers in his four years as a member of the Hurricanes.

In addition, because of his pedigree, he knows what it takes to play in New York. He is expected to play in Brooklyn when Miami's season ends.

"New York fans are the best fans in the world but they are also the hardest to please," Burt said. "You see some guys go to New York and hit their stride but some guys fall apart. You have to have a strong mind to play in New York. I think I know what to expect and I'm ready for it."

Fourth-round pick Aaron Hathaway, a catcher from the University of Washington, second-round pick right-hander Matt Durkin, and 14th-round pick Brad Meyers, a high school righty from California, are three of the players whose progress is worth watching.

While Humber is certainly the most dominant of all the players drafted, he isn't expected to join the parent club any time soon. In fact, it's not likely that any of the players chosen over the last 48 hours will have a chance at being in New York prior to 2006. Humber, though, would be the closest to reaching the pros and could be a Met by late 2005 if he shows enough progress in the minor leagues.

"We're very pleased with the way everything turned out over the last two days," LaRocque said. "[Director of Amateur Scouting] Jack Bowen and all the amateur scouts all worked extremely hard to give us the kind of depth we had on the board."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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