The Buffalo Bisons have had a rough time during their tenure as an affiliate of the Mets. The organization has had a thin farm system for quite some time and as a result there have been few quality prospects making their way up to AAA to help the Bisons. However, now in the second year under Sandy Alderson the tide has started to change. It starts in the rotation, where top prospects Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia will highlight the pitching staff. Both guys will be in AAA for the first time, so there is likely to be some growing pains, but both have great stuff and are likely less than a year away from their major league debut. The two elite prospects may not stay in Buffalo all season, but while they’re there both Harvey and Familia should be a great asset to the Bisons cause. Joining them in the rotation will be AAA veterans Chris Schwinden and Jeremy Hefner, who are both on the 40-man roster and will be battling for a major-league call up if a need arises. They will also be battling not to be put on waivers if the Mets need to free up space on the 40-man roster. Both guys should be as motivated as Harvey and Familia to do well, which in the end will benefit both the Bisons and the Mets. The rotation will be rounded out by lefty Garrett Olsen. Waiting in the wings, or more accurately the disabled list, are Jenrry Mejia and Chris Young. Mejia is recovering from Tommy John but is projected to be in minor league games by May. Young meanwhile has a less certain timeline, but if he can get healthy and do some good work in the minors he could be an asset to the big league club at some point this season. The Buffalo bullpen is not quite as young and promising as the rotation, as it is filled with minor league veterans and AAAA players. Most guys are mere space fillers, especially with the loss of Josh Stinson to the Brewers after he was placed on waivers. Dylan Owen is the only homegrown pitcher coming out of the pen, and he is a long shot to get a big league promotion, although he should be a solid performer for Buffalo. Danny Herrera may be one of the guys worth watching, because he may be needed as a lefty reliever in the majors at some point this year. Catchers Rob Johnson and Lucas May definitely fall into the category of AAAA players, but because of the Mets lack of organizational depth at catcher they may be needed at some point this season for something more than space fillers at Buffalo. It’s not a great situation for the Mets to be in, but for the moment Johnson and May are all they have if they need a replacement for Josh Thole or Mike Nickeas at any point this season. The Bisons infield is not all that different from the bullpen or the catchers. Wily veteran Val Pascucci will man first base while Omar Quintanilla will play shortstop. Jordanny Valdespin will play mostly at second base, but he will also see time at shortstop and in the outfield. It will be interesting to watch position in the field Valdespin plays from game to game, but his performance at the plate will be equally important. He needs to perform at a high level this season not only to get himself to the big leagues but also because he will be the main catalyst in the Bison’s lineup and a big part of the team’s success or failure. Also helping out will be Zach Lutz, if he can stay healthy, and Josh Satin, both of who can really hit. Lutz will play both corner infield positions while Satin will play every infield position except shortstop. Utility man Michael Fisher should also see time at a number of positions for the Bisons this year. Valdespin, Lutz, and Satin being on the 40-man roster will make them important players to watch this year, not only because of the Mets propensity for needing injury replacements, but because their 40-man roster is full and Lutz and Satin could be candidates to be waived if necessary, because they’re starting to get old and their future role in the big leagues is murky. With Valdespin, Satin, Lutz, and Pascucci the Bisons will have some solid bats in the infield, and the same can be said for the outfield as well. It starts with centerfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who may be about to embark on the most important year of his career following an injury-shortened 2011 campaign. Nieuwenhuis is nearly ready for his big league debut and if he can play well over the first couple months of the season he can push the issue when it comes to getting his call up to Queens. Veteran Vinny Rottino won over some people during spring training and will not only provide the Bisons with a versatile defensive player and a solid middle-of-the-lineup bat, but he will also give the Mets an option to go to if a need arises. After losing out on a major league roster spot to Mike Baxter, Adam Loewen is in Buffalo and will give the Bisons a big bat in their lineup to round out a strong outfield. This may not be a team that can win the International League this year, or even make the playoffs. However, with a good-looking rotation and several capable bats in the lineup, the Bisons should be able to avoid being the laughing stock of the league this year. The Mets are slowly getting some quality prospects into the upper levels of their farm system, which will not only pay dividends for the major league club, but for the Buffalo Bisons as well.