A Look into the Future: Top Shortstop Prospects
The ground is full of dirty,
dirt that is full of memories.
Do you know how many played on this dirt before?
Ordonez, Olerud, Bordick, etc…
Maybe one day I can play on the dirt.
I’ve heard it’s softer than a mattress.
Short poems can explain a lot. If this poorly constructed poem did not inform you of what the article will be about, it is about the New York Mets infield prospects.
Before I try to convince you that these few will wear the blue and orange in the coming years, let me advise you, I am no expert. I do not hold a degree in predicting where and how a prospects career will play out. Maybe player X becomes the next big shot (cough … Nelson Cruz). Maybe player Y becomes a huge bust (cough … Fernando Martinez). But as fans, we love reading about the future. We hope that these teenagers and young adults can bring us something to be proud about.
For now, let’s focus on the left side of the infield. If you think back 3 years ago, you’d be sold that David Wright and Jose Reyes would be the face of the franchise for 10 years to come. Now to the present, David Wright is constantly being rumored around the trading market and as of right now, Jose Reyes is a free agent.
Ruben Tejada is nice shortstop who could blossom into an okay hitter, but he’s not Jose Reyes. Quite frankly, I do not think there will be another Jose Reyes in baseball, in the sense of what he brings to the plate each time he steps up. As it looks right now, the Mets answer might not be in their farm system to replace Jose Reyes. Sure Ruben Tejada could fit, but fans will just complain about his production. Hopefully I am wrong, but here’s my best shot at providing some insight on the shortstops of the future.
3. Juan Carlos Gamboa
Birthplace: Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico
I think the Mets have a problem when it comes to scouting Latin America. Yes, they’ve found diamonds in the rough (cough again… Nelson Cruz) but management often signs kids who just make you scratch your head. Exhibit A: Juan Carlos Gamboa.
Gamboa was not on anyone’s radar prior to this season and he is still not on anyone’s radar. He’s your “little engine that could” story. The first thing that jumps out is his height: 5’7”. Right away, you might think of Jose Altuve, the dynamic second basemen for the Houston Astros who proved everyone wrong this season. But this is Gamboa’s first real season. He’s got a ways ahead of him.
With his height, you cannot project power. He jumped between 4 leagues this season, starting out in Mexico (no idea there was a team there), to Gulf Coast, to Kingsport, to Savannah. In a combined 61 games, Gamboa hit .293 with 5 homeruns, while driving in 25 runs. He struck out 41 times in 191 at-bats, which is worrisome, but he’s only 20 years old.
It’ll be interesting to see what Gamboa can do in a full season. He’ll probably start off in Savannah.
2. Phillip Evans
Birthplace: Carlsbad, CA
For a second, I was thinking about ranking him over Wilmer Flores. But because it would cause a ruckus, I’ve placed Phillips Evans at number 2. He played a very, very small sample of games (9) but Evans is someone to keep a close eye on for years to come.
I’m not going to even talk about his stats because they are irrelevant since he only played 9 games. However, he did reach Brooklyn, something Brandon Nimmo did not do. When the Mets snagged him on the signing deadline day, I remember rejoicing that we did not let him go. He’s practically my age and I’m praising him.
His frame is pretty much maxed out at this point. It’s impossible to predict growth spurts, but you never know. Evans reminds me of your classic shortstop, who has potential to hit a few homeruns while being a solid gap hitter. He represented the west coast in the 2010 AFLAC All-American game, where he snagged the MVP honors in front of his hometown fans.
According to Replacement Level Baseball, they clocked Evans in high school at 4.1 from home to first, predicting that he can be an “admirable base stealer at the next level”. RLP also said that Evans’ arm could be projected at a 65, well above average on the scouting scale. He’s what you want a high school prospect to look like. It’s not going to take him much time to fit into the system because he has the tools to succeed.
It’s to be seen if he sticks at shortstop or is moved somewhere else. Reports indicate that he might have to move because of his glove, possibly to the catching position like Josh Thole. But what do they know? Evans is my favorite draftee in the 2011 draft class. Yes, over Brandon Nimmo and everyone else. There’s a reason that the front office dished out that kind of money to steal him from a commitment at San Diego State.
Projected start: Savannah
1. Wilmer Flores
Birthplace: Valencia, Venezuela
And here we go, again. I’ve shown my lack of confidence in Wilmer Flores in the past. The fact that he is number one is because he’s the only one who can be number one. Am I going to throw Robbie Shields here? I’d put Tejada but he’s spent most of his time at the big league level.
I know it is not fair to write off a player at the age of 19 (cough, cough, cough Nelson Cruz) but I have to. By now, Flores is supposed to be Detroit Tigers first basemen Miguel Cabrera. He’s supposed to be knocking over 20 homeruns, showing great plate discipline. But it’s just not there yet. I think Flores is not responsible for the disappointment. You can blame publications like Baseball America for over-hyping someone, as they did with Alex Escobar and Fernando Martinez.
Flores had a pretty decent season at high-A St. Lucie, hitting 9 homeruns while driving in 81 runs. He hit .269, which was a bit disappointing. That’s all I really have to say about him. I hope he proves me wrong. He will not be at shortstop if he makes it to the big leagues. He’ll be in a corner outfield spot due to his lack of speed and mobility.
He’ll be 19 at the start of the 2012 season, presumably back in St. Lucie. This will be a huge test to determine if he is indeed the future of the Mets.
What are your thoughts on the shortstops in the Mets minor league system?