Appropriately, the guys playing shortstop in the lower levels of the Mets’ minor league system are interesting prospects in their own right.
SSA – Brooklyn
No player had a better professional debut than Danny Muno, the Mets’ eighth-round selection out of Fresno State who hit .355/.466/.514 for Brooklyn in the New York Penn League. Forget the batting average for a moment: he walked (in 16% of his PA) more than he struck out (14.6% of his PA). He led the NYP in OBP and was third in slugging. He rapped out 23 doubles, tied for the NYP lead, and accounted for an extra-base hit in over 10% of his plate appearances. His 43 walks were third in the NYP.
Oh, and he won the NYP batting title on the strength of a .425 BABIP. The walks, the contact will be repeatable skills. The BABIP above .400 won’t be. Expect a fairly sharp regression in the batting average as Muno moves up to full-season ball. In 2010, Darrell Ceciliani ran a .435 BABIP in the New York-Penn League on his way to a .351 batting average. In 2011, his BABIP dropped to .327 for Savannah moving his batting average down to .259 overall.
A third baseman in college, Muno has plenty of arm for shortstop and the Mets will give him every chance to stay at short when he moves to full-season ball in 2012. The only question is whether the Mets will start Muno, who will be 23 on Opening Day 2012, in Savannah or in St. Lucie. The answer to that question will in part be determined by what happens to the other middle infielders above him (Wilmer Flores and Wilfredo Tovar) and below him (Philip Evans).
The Kingsport Mets split the shortstop position, but eventually, 20-year old Yucarybert De La Cruz, who started the season playing mostly second base, took hold of most of the playing time and hit a whopping .251/.293/.335.
Despite playing just four games in the GCL, Philip Evans is the name to know here. The Mets’ 15th round pick, he was a top-five round talent who fell on signability concerns and eventually signed for $600,000, the equivalent of a cheap supplemental first round pick, or second round money. He picked up a nice review as a player who improved during the fall instructional league from outgoing Scouting Director Chad MacDonald. Before the draft, Baseball America, which reported that Evans had below average running times, suggested that Evans have to move across the diamond to second base as a professional.
Evans turned 19 this past September, so it will be interesting to see whether the Mets challenge him with an assignment to Savannah out of spring training, or whether they pursue a slower path.