After Santana, Mets drafting to restock
With two first-round picks, club likely to choose based on talent
NEW YORK -- Johan Santana didn't come for free. He cost the Mets precious prospects, and left them with empty Minor League pockets.
Now, it's time to restock.
This June's First-Year Player Draft will give the Mets new opportunities to fill in the blanks throughout their farm system, and new chances to replenish the talent that they lost in January's trade for Santana. They're certainly capable -- current Mets Mike Pelfrey, Joe Smith and Aaron Heilman were all Draft products -- so there's reason to believe they can do it again.
"You've just got to keep replenishing what you lost," Mets director of amateur scouting Rudy Terrasas said. "Hopefully we can make some good decisions, and hopefully start to add to the system, since it's been depleted a little bit."
The club's chances have increased thanks to its unique position. The Mets haven't enjoyed a first-round pick since 2005, back when they selected Pelfrey ninth overall. This time, they'll have two of them. Aside from their own pick at 22nd overall, the Mets have the rights to two of Atlanta's picks -- each compensation for free agent Tom Glavine's signing with the Braves last winter. One of those is their top pick, at 18th overall.
"I'm excited about it," Terrasas said. "I think that there's going to be a quality player hopefully looking right at us."
Just who that quality player might be, however, is a new sort of mystery. Terrasas knows his club's propensity to trade away many of its top prospects as well as anyone, so he isn't as likely to draft based upon organizational needs. The Mets, too, remain a veteran team, with many of their core players locked up to long-term contracts. So come June, they'll be looking for trading chips, as much as for the next crop of future Mets.
MLB.com will carry every pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, which takes place June 5-6 at The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla. Day 1 coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET with a simulcast of ESPN2's broadcast of the first round and compensation picks. The remaining rounds on Day 1 will be shown exclusively at MLB.com, with live analysis on site from MLB.com Draft guru Jonathan Mayo.
Several of the top amateur prospects are expected in attendance in Orlando for Day 1 of the Draft, and each of the 30 Major League Clubs will be represented by front office executives and baseball luminaries -- the Mets chose former players Al Jackson and Tim Teufel. Fans are welcome to attend Day 1 of the Draft, and admission to The Milk House is free with seating limited to a first-come, first-served basis.
Day 2 will get under way at 11:30 am ET and continue through Round 50, if necessary. Every pick on Day 2 can be heard live at MLB.com.
And by that time, the Mets will have already set their Draft strategy in motion.
"We're not really worried about the short-term," assistant general manager John Ricco said. "We're going to look for the best available guys."
Here's a glance at what the Mets have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
The Mets have missed more often than they've hit lately, and not since 2003, when they selected Lastings Milledge and Brian Bannister, have they seen multiple players from the same draft class reach the Majors. Both play for other teams now, marking a trend that should cause the Mets to shy away from drafting for organizational needs.
Because the farm system has become so depleted over the past year, the Mets are looking to add as much blue chip talent as they can -- regardless of position.
"There are a few college arms, and I think there are more quality relief arms in this Draft than there has been in the past," Terrasas said. "It just depends what's available. There might be something staring you in the face when it's your turn to pick."
Terrasas knows that by the time his first pick rolls around, many of the top college bats might be gone. That will leave him staring at college pitching. Or high school pitching. Or relief pitching. Or perhaps an offensive player, after all.
"When you pick 18th," he said, "you really don't know what's going to be there."
Certainly, the Mets have talent, but much of it remains lower down in their Minor League system. Look for Terrasas to add more players in the mold of Joe Smith and Eddie Kunz -- older prospects who might help the big club sooner rather than later. Terrasas is plenty aware that the Mets have a history of trading away their Minor Leaguers for established talent, so he'll likely take the best available player regardless of organizational need.
College pitching has been a focus for the Mets in recent Drafts, but don't expect that to dictate their thoughts come June. Since this marks the first time the Mets have had a first-round pick in three years, they're eager to replenish the system with whatever talent they can find. Terrasas emphasized that they won't discriminate based on position.
Recent top picks
The past three years have seen the Mets focus on college pitching, using their top picks on Pelfrey in 2005, Kevin Mulvey in 2006 and Kunz in 2007.
Pelfrey shot through the farm system and only 15 months after the Mets drafted him, he joined the big club. This season, he won a rotation spot out of Spring Training. He's held onto it despite some rough spots as the Mets have struggled with rotation depth.
Mulvey, another highly-touted starter, became a major chip in the trade for Santana, and began this season with the Twins' Triple-A affiliate. He could earn a call to Minneapolis soon.
Kunz was a college closer at Oregon State, and has assumed that same role with Double-A Binghamton. He spent a few weeks in big league Spring Training camp, and could earn a call up to the Mets as soon as this September.
Once blocked behind a host of other talented pitching prospects, lefty Jonathan Niese remained grounded in Class A St. Lucie for two years while Pelfrey, Mulvey, Phil Humber and Deolis Guerra garnered all the hype. Now, Niese, the Mets' seventh-round pick in 2005, ranks among their most valuable starting pitching prospects.
First baseman Nick Evans floundered in the lowest levels of the Minors for four years, before finally earning a promotion to Binghamton this spring. Two months later, he found himself on the Mets, whacking doubles in each of his first two Major League at-bats, finishing 3-for-4 with three doubles for the day. Evans was the team's fifth-round pick in 2004.
In The Show
Though the Mets haven't seen many of their recent Draft picks reach the big leagues, the two who made it have stuck. Pelfrey is in the rotation, and will likely remain there for the rest of the season. Smith, the team's second-round pick in 2006, has become a cog in the bullpen, serving as the team's primary situational right-hander.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.