St. Lucie Mets Roster Breakdown
The St. Lucie Mets were a playoff team last year, being carried by good pitching in the pitcher friendly Florida State League. This year they’ll look to get back to the FSL playoffs under new manager Ryan Ellis using a whole new crop of pitchers. It all starts with the rotation, which will be headlined by last year’s second-round pick Cory Mazzoni. Mazzoni struck out 18 and only allowed 15 base runners in 13 innings of relief between Brooklyn and St. Lucie after completing his season at N.C. State. Mazzoni doesn’t have the ceiling of Matt Harvey, but he has a chance to move just as fast through the system. He could really excel for St. Lucie this year. Another starter to watch is Erik Goeddel. Goeddel was a nice present from the Minaya regime, paid over slot money in the 23rd round in 2010. He has a history of shoulder issues, which kept him out for an extended period of time in Savannah last year, but before the injury he was having a great season. Goeddel has two plus pitches and if he he’s healthy he’s capable of having a big year. The rest of the starting rotation should be Taylor Whitenton, Chase Huchingson, and Yohan Almonte. After spending two full seasons in Savannah Whitenton is finally ready to move up to the next level after being one of the top pitchers in the South Atlantic League last year and putting together a solid performance in the Arizona Fall League. Huchingson is a big lefty that somehow went on drafted, but managed to make the South Atlantic League all-star team last year. He finished 7-2 with a 1.82 ERA for Savannah last year, mostly out of the bullpen, but he should get more time as a starter this year. Almonte doesn’t have overpowering stuff but he has put up solid numbers and gotten the job done in his first four minor league seasons. We might also see some piggybacking starts in St. Lucie with guys like Angel Cuan, Ryan Fraser, and Gonzalez Germen, all of whom have starting experience. The lefty Cuan doesn’t have major league stuff but has always performed well in the minors; Fraser has pitched out of both roles but has been better when coming out of the bullpen, including a summer as Brooklyn’s closer in 2010; and Germen has a nice changeup and is an intriguing pitcher. Overall, this year’s St. Lucie rotation may not be as good as the one that took them to the playoffs last year, but it has good potential, especially if Goeddel can stay healthy and form a great 1-2 punch with Mazzoni. On the disabled list is Jimmy Fuller, who missed all of last season and doesn’t appear to be ready to return to the mound yet. The St. Lucie bullpen looks to be in good shape as well, with a few talented arms that are new to this level along with some that have pitched at high-A in the past. Kyle Allen, Eric Beaulac, John Church, and Jeffrey Kaplan are the guys that have pitched extensively for St. Lucie in the past. Kaplan closed for St. Lucie last year and should find himself in a late-inning role again this year. Allen has spent the last two seasons in St. Lucie and appears to be regressing as a pitcher. Beaulac has struggled with injuries but does have the fastball-slider combination to potentially move up the system as a middle reliever. Church was solid for St. Lucie last year and should be again this year as a middle reliever, but he’s unlikely to move up the farm system much. Hamilton Bennett, Adam Kolarek, and Adrian Rosario will round out the bullpen and are relatively new to the Florida State League. Rosario, who was acquired in the Francisco Rodriguez trade, is a high-ceiling flamethrower that is yet to put it altogether and take off. Bennett and Kolarek are both lefty relievers that had great seasons in Savannah last year. They are part of a group of several potential LOOGY’s making their way through the farm system. On paper, this doesn’t look like a great bullpen. If the Mets use 7 or 8 starters that piggyback one another in a 5 day rotation they should be fine, but if not there could be a lot of uncertainty in their middle relief that could hold the team back. The infield of the St. Lucie Mets should be interesting to watch this year. It starts at the hot corner where Wilmer Flores will transition from shortstop to third base. Flores has already spent a year and a half in St. Lucie, but he won’t turn 21 until August so there is no hurry to push him to AA. He didn’t have a great year swinging the bat last year but he should be well prepared to handle FSL pitching this year, and the move to third is just one more reason to keep an eye on a guy who is still one of the Mets top prospects. Richard Lucas, a former third baseman, should handle first base for the Mets. Lucas, a fourth round pick way back in 2007, spent 2010 in St. Lucie but was in way over his head; now he’ll get a second chance in a season that will likely be his last chance to turn himself into a legitimate prospect. Joe Bonfe will back up both first and third, and should see some time in the outfield as well. Robbie Shields, if he can stay healthy, should play second base for St. Lucie this year, as he continues his transition from short to second. Shields was a South Atlantic League all-star in Savannah last year, but missed time later in the season due to injuries and ended up playing only 80 games. Shields underwent Tommy John surgery early in his career and has missed a lot of time and grown old, but he has produced when he’s played and needs to stay healthy so he can move to the upper levels as quick as possible if he’s going to have any kind of big league future. Wilfredo Tovar should get a majority of the time at shortstop. He’s small, but he is easily the best defensive middle infielder in the organization and he has done a much better job at making contact at the plate. If he hits enough his defense makes him a prospect to watch. Danny Muno is also a part of St. Lucie’s middle infield. Muno was fantastic at Brooklyn last year hitting .355/.466/.514, so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the jump to advanced-A ball and whether or not he can challenge Tovar and Shields and earn significant playing time. Defensively, the St. Lucie infield will be strong up the middle and questionable at the corners. Offensively, there are no guarantees but plenty of potential, which should keep things interesting. The St. Lucie outfield will bring a lot of excitement with Cesar Puello, Cory Vaughn, and Darrell Ceciliani. Puello spent all of last season in St. Lucie and is now on the 40-man roster, but he’s still young enough to spend another half season in A-ball with no harm done. He was greatly improved in the second half of last season and finished the year with 10 homeruns in the FSL at the age of 20, which is something only a handful or so of players have done. Puello has a real chance to be a five-tool big leaguer and it should be fascinating to see how he develops over the course of the season. Vaughn struggled the second half of last season in St. Lucie after making the all-star team for Savannah the first half. He’s back in St. Lucie to start 2012 and the word coming out of spring regarding Vaughn is all positive, as he has gotten stronger and more flexible and seems ready to have a big year. Ceciliani was injured early in the season last year and missed most of April, but he got increasingly better as the season went on and was virtually impossible to get out during the Gnats playoff run. He should be ready for the Florida State League and will complete a great looking St. Lucie outfield. Rafael Fernandez and Alonzo Harris will be the backup outfielders. Harris is a former infielder with a lot of versatility and a lot of athleticism, but with three guys like Vaughn, Puello, and Ceciliani playing time could be hard to find, and for good reason because St. Lucie’s outfield could be one of the most intriguing units in the organization this year. The main catchers for St. Lucie this year will be Blake Forsythe and Francisco Pena. Forsythe has good power potential, but he’ll have to do better than the .235/.334/.395 line he put up in Savannah last year, while also striking out a lot less. Pena has been around a while and has been written off by many, but he’s still only 22 so age-wise he’s at the right level, despite spending most of the last three seasons in St. Lucie. He has the genetics and the catching abilities to become a known prospect again, but he has to start to hit, and this is the year he has to do it and re-emerge as a legitimate catching prospect, which is something the Mets desperately need. So that is your opening day roster for the 2012 St. Lucie Mets. This looks like a solid team, but not one that will cruise to a playoff spot like last year’s team; they just don’t appear to have the pitching needed in a pitcher-friendly league. However, the outfield is loaded with talent and should be exciting to watch. They have a shot to be good, but they’ll have to pitch better than expected.