Here’s a Thanksgiving mailbag for you… Reader Danny Donovan wrote: What are your thoughts of prospect Nelfi Zapata?
To answer this question I decided that I haven’t kept up with the Appalachian League enough to answer this question thoughtfully. So I went to Nick Migliore from the Get It Right baseball blog. Nick is a faithful follower of Mets prospects and a tremendous writer. Here are Nick’s thoughts on Nelfi Zapata:
Nelfi Zapata is a catcher in the Mets’ system that was drafted in the 19th round of the 2009 June draft. As an 18-year old in the Gulf Coast League, Zapata had a decent debut, hitting an overall line of .261/.341/.370 with 1 homerun in 135 plate appearances. This year however, Zapata hit a less-than-stellar .247/.327/.312 with 2 homeruns in 208 plate appearances as a 19 year old in the hitter-friendly Appalachian League. While the numbers this past season weren’t very good, the plate discipline numbers were a definite positive sign. Zapata walked 8.1% of the time in the GCL in 2009 and he was able to maintain a similar walk rate (8.2%) in the Appy League this season. More encouragingly, he slashed his strikeout rate from 21.8% in 2009 to 14.6% in 2010. While Zapata is still very raw, its good to know that catchers who are willing to take walks and put the ball in play at a decent rate will have a spot on a big league roster, so hes on the right track.
One area of improvement, however, should be the power. It seems as if Zapata focused more on putting the ball in play and making contact in 2010, which reflected in his lowered strikeout rate (as noted above), but it also lowered his power numbers, going from a .109 ISO* in 2009 to .065 ISO in 2010. With that said, Zapata has been lauded for his power potential, which makes one believe that he can up those power numbers the more he develops as a hitter. Another area of improvement will have to be his defense; Zapata’s caught stealing% was strong in 2009 (45%) but dropped to a rather poor 21% in 2010. He also has major issues with passed balls – 12 in 2009, 16 in 2010. However, its important to reiterate that hes raw, and these are simply areas for development, not negative things that will stick with him his entire career. If Zapata taps into his power potential and cleans up his defense, hes undoubtedly going to shoot up the Mets’ prospect list. But for now, hes just another raw guy to keep an eye on and let develop.
*For those curious: ISO stands for “isolated power”, which is a good measure of a player’s power output instead of just looking at somewhat-deceiving stats such as homeruns or slugging percentage. The formula is SLG% minus AVG.