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06/08/07 8:50 PM ET

Mets ready to fit Draft pieces into puzzle

New York leans toward pitching with eye toward quick risers

NEW YORK -- When the day was finally over after hundreds and hundreds of names whizzed on and off of Draft boards and in and out of consciousness, the Mets' front office could finally rest. That group knows as much as anyone that baseball's annual First-Year Player Draft is part science, part experiment, part lottery; years will pass before the Mets find out for sure whether they've won or lost.

Right now, New York officials have not much more than they did two days ago, except a list of players carefully plucked from among thousands. To fans, right now they're just names, to be forgotten tomorrow and hopefully remembered soon as the next big thing. But to the Mets, they're a new set of puzzle pieces to be fit into a jigsaw that stretches on forever.

As for the individual pieces, they're also pitchers -- well, most of them. The Mets knew this was a pitching-deep draft long before they jumped in, so they did the logical thing -- they drafted pitchers.

A lot of them.

"We saw this Draft coming in as a draft that was going to be deep in pitching, and not so much in the number of bats out there," said assistant general manager John Ricco. "So our focus was on trying to get as many quality arms as we could."

They got 21 of them, though what quality will come from that quantity remains to be seen.

That pitching-first mentality worked for the Mets last year, with submarine sensation Joe Smith, a third-round pick, plowing his way to the Majors in less than a season. And they're hoping it works again, taking another reliever -- Edward Kunz -- with the 42nd pick and their first of the Draft.

Predicting anyone to mirror Smith's brand of success might be a bit bold, as might selecting a reliever at all in the early rounds of a Draft, but it's not beyond the Mets to hope. After all, that's what this thing is all about.

And their pitching staff now has plenty of hope for the future, in names like Nathan Vineyard and Scott Moviel, Brant Rustich, Eric Niesen and Stephen Clyne. All of those first six picks are pitchers, three of them relievers.

Against the grain to be sure, but to win in this Draft, the unorthodox often works.

"Drafting hundreds of players, you're trying to find a guy that differentiates," Ricco said. "If you don't have a first-round pick, a lot of the time you're not going to get the guy that has everything."

Draft 2007 | Complete Coverage
Top MLB Draft Picks
Pick POS Name School
1. TB LHP David Price Vanderbilt U
2. KC SS Michael Moustakas Chatsworth HS (Calif.)
3. CHC 3B Josh Vitters Cypress HS (Calif.)
4. PIT LHP Daniel Moskos Clemson U
5. BAL C Matthew Wieters Georgia Tech
6. WSH LHP Ross Detwiler Missouri St U
7. MIL LF Matthew LaPorta U Florida
8. COL RHP Casey Weathers Vanderbilt U
9. ARI RHP Jarrod Parker Norwell HS
10. SF LHP Madison Bumgarner South Caldwell HS
Complete Draft list >

The Mets didn't have a first-round pick, dishing it off to the Giants last winter for the rights to Moises Alou. That put more attention on the later rounds, and on the players who didn't hold that "can't-miss" tag.

"What we do look for on Day 2 are players with upside who we think have a chance to be something special," Ricco said. "You're trying to look for something that you think you can project, knowing that they're going to have some flaws as well."

That means finding someone with a specialty. Perhaps a pitcher with a lazy fastball but a dynamite curve, or a power bat that can't take a walk. It's impossible to avoid some warts by the time the 50th round comes crawling into view, but if a future Major Leaguer comes out of the closing stanza, then that Draft will always be considered a success.

On Friday's second day, the Mets began their search anew, concentrating on -- of course -- pitching, but also straying to some offensive potential. The team plucked five catchers and seven shortstops -- two premium positions that often command top dollar in the trade market.

And just about everyone else was a pitcher. Out of 42 picks, the Mets chose two outfielders. They took seven infielders outside the shortstops, including just one first baseman.

"We don't start at the outset having any strategy," Ricco said. "This year, we just thought the arms overall were the strength of the Draft."

They also didn't draft to excess, forfeiting their last 11 picks in the 50-round Draft. Only 21 teams actually finished all 50 rounds, though the Mets quit somewhat earlier than most of the other early exits.

Ricco has reason to believe in this Draft, with the scouting team finally starting to gel after years of turnover. This marked general manager Omar Minaya's third lottery at the helm of the Mets, and the second for scouting director Rudy Terrasas.

With that stability has come something of a trend. For the second straight year, the Mets took hard looks at players -- Kunz among them -- who could potentially make contributions for the big club as early as this season. Fewer than one quarter of the team's picks came from the high school realm, and five of those were among the team's last nine selections.

High school draftees typically have plenty of upside, but a much longer route to the Majors than do their college counterparts.

Smith was just wrapping up his college ball at this time last year, and now stands as one of the most successful relievers in the National League. And while a similar rise from someone in this group isn't overwhelmingly likely, it's possible. And that's good enough.

"I don't want to say that it's a trend that you're starting to see in baseball," Ricco said of a quick flight to the Majors. "I wouldn't want to put any pressure on any one of them, but we did draft with the idea that some of these guys would be like that."

Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.