1. Josh Thole, C (age 23)
Josh Thole is coming off of a tremendous season in which he hit .328/.395/.422 in the Eastern League (AA) followed up by an impressive .321/.356/.396 performance when called up to the Mets in September. Since his power is limited, Thole’s defense will go along way in determining whether he will be a starter or backup at the big league level. I do expect Thole to potentially help the Mets in 2010. Right now the current catching tandem is Omir Santos and Henry Blanco, which I can’t really see lasting the full season, especially if the Mets are getting little production from the catching position and Thole is tearing up the International League (AAA), both of which are realistic scenarios.
2. Jon Niese, LHP (age 23)
As it stands right now, Fernando Nieve is the designated fifth starter; I do believe if Niese is fully recovered from his hamstring injury, then that will change in spring training. Niese isn’t overpowering, he relies heavily on a upper-80’s to low-90’s fastball along with a big, low-70’s curveball. Niese developed a cutter this past year which could really mean the difference of him developing into a good #3 starter opposed to just a fringe back of the rotation guy. Whether or not Niese wins the #5 job out of spring is debatable, but if the Mets don’t add any starters then I certainly believe Niese will get a good number of starts with the Mets in 2010.
3. Fernando Martinez, OF (age 21)
The 21-year old outfielder put up an impressive .877 OPS over nearly 200 plate appearances in AAA last year but struggled quite a bit when he got his first taste of the majors, which is quite understandable for a player his age. Now if all goes well, Fernando Martinez should spend the entire season in the International League, but that is obviously far from a certainty. I don’t expect the injury to Carlos Beltran to affect Martinez; the Mets are already prepared to go to battle with Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews Jr. at that position, not to mention Martinez’s future looks to be at a corner outfield position anyway. If Jeff Francoeur struggles the way he did in 2008 and the first half of 2009, then it’s possible Fernando could come up and steal the job. However I get the feeling the Mets want him to spend the entire season in AAA to develop, which is the right move.
4. Ike Davis, 1B (age 22)
Ike Davis struggled in his professional debut with the Brooklyn Cyclones putting up a meager .652 OPS along with 0 home runs, which made some fans label him a bust after only one short-season of pro ball. Ike quickly made those fans think differently in 2009 by blasting through the Florida State League with an .863 OPS and 7 homeruns in 255 plate appearances. Davis was promoted to the Eastern League and his great hitting continued as he put up a .951 OPS and smacking 13 homeruns, which nearly doubled his homerun output from the Florida State League in 22 less plate appearances. When you hear Ike Davis’ name you immediately think of the first baseman of the future, and I firmly believe that is who he will become. Ike is definitely going to need some reps in AAA before getting a shot at the majors, but with the Mets going a bit conservative at first base with Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis, and Minaya expressing how much he loves Ike Davis, I could see him coming up by midseason and taking the first base job.
5. Brad Holt, RHP (age 23)
Brad Holt is a right-handed pitcher who can dial his fastball up in the mid to upper-90s; his secondary pitches, however, can typically lack consistency. After dominating the Florida State League with a 11.22 K/9 and 3.12 ERA in 9 starts, Holt was promoted to AA where he struggled with command and effectiveness as his K/9 dropped to 6.98 and his ERA rose to an ugly 6.21. He also became prone to giving up the long ball with a 1.40 HR/9 as evidence of that. A bothersome midseason ankle injury and arm fatigue could have been a factor in Holt’s AA struggles. While I’m not quite ready to jump ship and declare Holt a future reliever, I would not surprised to see the Mets call him up in a relief role sometime during the season if the bullpen is struggling.