Back in 2005, the Mets spent their 17th-round pick on Pedro Beato, a tall and gangly pitcher out of Xaverian HS in Brooklyn, NY. It was a “draft-and-follow” choice, meaning the Mets retained the rights to sign him until one week before the next year’s draft.
As it turned out, Beato held out for a million-dollar deal, while MLB “recommended” that the Mets not offer him more than $800K. The Mets’ decision to take that recommendation and hold firm resulted in Beato not signing with the Mets and returning to the draft in 2006 — where the Baltimore Orioles made him the 32nd overall pick and signed him to the $1M he originally sought from the Mets.
This turn of events was randomly criticized by pundits of both the Mets and the Orioles; the Mets for adhering to the “slotting” recommendations of MLB, and the O’s for choosing Beato so high. Mets fans were frustrated with their team for listening to MLB and “cheaping out”, and perhaps also for denying destiny: Beato was a New York native born on October 27, 1986 — the day the Mets won their last World Series Championship.
As it turned out, MLB was probably right — Beato has yet to evolve into a pitcher worth a $1M bonus. Though, he has been steadily improving over the past five years. Originally considered a top prospect with the potential to someday become an ace starter, he has since settled into a relief role — which is usually the death knell for a minor league pitcher. However, Beato had a strong year in AA last year, saving 16 games and posting a 2.11 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 43 appearances, striking out 50, walking 19, and allowing 4 HRs in 59 IP. A stringbean in his youth, Beato has filled out his 6’6″ frame with 240 pounds and relies on a hard low-90s sinker, mid-90s four-seamer, and a hard-breaking 12-6 curve.
Because the Orioles are stacked with more promising pitching prospects, Beato was left off their 40-man roster and is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft that takes place at the end of the Winter Meetings in December. Beato was also available as a Rule 5 pick last year, but was coming off a poor season as a starter. 2010 was his first full year in the bullpen, and his numbers suggest that he may have found his niche.
Considering that the Mets are looking toward 2012 and beyond, it might make sense to use a Rule 5 pick on a potential middle reliever / possible setup man or closer such as Beato, who just turned 24 in October and may still have room for improvement. He already has good velocity and movement on his fastball and a plus curve; if he can concentrate on those two pitches rather than dabbling on 5 or 6 — something he’s done since high school — he could develop into a solid setup man one day.
Even if the Mets don’t pick Beato, I assume they will do their best to make the most of the Rule 5 Draft — it is an efficient vehicle for stocking up on talent that may not be ready today, but could be useful in the near future, for a team that has the room to carry not-ready-for-prime-time talent. Since the Mets are more or less unconcerned with making the 2011 playoffs, they have the room and the risk to gamble on players like Beato.