Mets zero in on talent in the 2007 Draft
GM Minaya to focus on abilty rather than position or need
NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball created a draft of amateur talent in 1965 as a means of balancing the playing field. Not only were clubs allowed to sign only the players they drafted, but the clubs that had been most successful the previous season were assigned a less advantageous place in the drafting sequence, based on position in the standings.
The latter restriction makes the Mets' challenge greater Thursday when MLB stages the first six rounds of its 2007 First-Year Player Draft. The Mets will pay the price for their successes of last season. They won't make a selection until 41 players have been chosen.
If they hadn't forfeited their selection in the first round -- the surcharge for their signing of Moises Alou as a free agent was the loss of their first-round selection to the Giants, Alou's 2006 club -- they would choose 29th among the 30 clubs, well after the elite talent had been selected.
Once they do become involved, though, the Mets will be busy, making eight selections in a sequence of 142, including two in the first 50. They have the 42nd selection, compensation from the Indians, who signed Roberto Hernandez as a free agent, and the 47th selection, from the Orioles, who signed Chad Bradford as a free agent. The other six selections are 78th, 94th, 100th, 124th, 154th and 184th.
The Draft takes place on Thursday and Friday at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. The first round will be aired on ESPN2 beginning at 2 p.m. ET on Thursday, and MLB.com will carry all 50 rounds.
As they do each year in this event, the Mets will focus on talent, not position or need. As general manager Omar Minaya said last week, "The time needed to develop players is unpredictable and varies from player to player," as shown by Joe Smith and Lastings Milledge, which precludes clubs from drafting players to fill existing or anticipated needs as happens in other professional sports.
Given that mindset, the Mets probably will focus on pitching, as they have in their most recent drafts. The first player they have selected each of the last three years has been a right-handed starting pitcher -- Kevin Mulvey from Villanova last year, Mike Pelfrey from Wichita State in 2005 and Philip Humber from Rice in 2004.
Updates on each of the three:
Mulvey: After participating in big-league Spring Training, Mulvey, 22, has made 11 starts for the Mets Double-A affiliate in the Eastern League. He has a 5-4 record and 3.07 ERA in 55 2/3 innings and is the primary starter for the Binghamton Mets. Should Pelfrey or Humber be needed at the big-league level or should a need develop at Triple A, Mulvey seemingly would be the first in line for a promotion.
Pelfrey: Pelfrey, then 22, won in his big-league debut last summer. He had a 2-1 record in four starts and, after making a strong showing in exhibition games, he won a place in the Mets' '07 rotation. But he was assigned to the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs on May 13 after he had produced an 0-5 record and 6.53 ERA in six starts and walked 17 in 31 1/3 innings. He had lost command of his fastball. Since then, he has started four times for the Zephyrs, producing a 1-1 record and 2.66 ERA in 20 1/3 innings. He pitched five shutout innings in his most recent start, on Sunday.
Humber: The other half of Hum-frey -- Humber and Pelfrey -- made his big-league debut in September in a cameo relief role. His promotion was a reward for the effort put forth to return to pitching following Tommy John surgery in July 2005. Humber, 24, has not prospered since then. He was hit hard in exhibition games and has produced modest numbers thus far in 11 Triple A starts -- 5-4 record, 4.50 ERA, 58 hits, 18 walks and 53 strikeouts in 60 innings.
Other players drafted lower than Mulvey, Humber and Pelfrey have progressed more quickly:
Rising fast: Left-handed-hitting first baseman Mike Carp, 21 later this month, made a quite positive impression on the Mets in Spring Training this year. Selected in the ninth round of the 2004 Draft, he hit 40 home runs in his first 995 professional at-bats. A dislocated index finger on his right hand has limited him to 75 at-bats with the Binghamton Mets this season.
Cinderella story: Joe Smith was selected in the third round last year, and GM Omar Minaya considered bringing him to the big leagues five weeks later when Duaner Sanchez was injured, but waited until Opening Day this year. Smith's sub-sidearm delivery and nasty slider have made him an integral part of the big-league bullpen.
In the Show: The players from the past three drafts who have made it to the big leagues with the Mets: Humber, Pelfrey and Smith.
Marty Noble is a repoerter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.