Over the past several seasons, the New York Mets have not been an organization that has drafted very well. While the MLB Draft is certainly a crapshoot and very, very difficult for teams to pin down sure-fire talent, the early rounds -- especially the first -- are ones in which organizations almost have to get right. Just taking the past decade into account, the Mets have not been a team that's been able make that true impact-level choice. This year they have the 13th overall pick.
Here's a list of the past first-round draft selections over the past 10 years:
2001 -- Aaron Heilman
2002 -- Scott Kazmir
2003 -- Lastings Milledge
2004 -- Philip Humber
2005 -- Mike Pelfrey
2008 -- Reese Havens
2008 -- Ike Davis
2010 -- Matt Harvey
2011 -- Matt den Dekker
For a number of years, the Mets did not even have a first-round pick, but as of now, New York has "hit" on maybe two draft selections this early on -- Pelfrey and Davis. Havens has been so injury prone and is teetering as a "bust" draft pick, Harvey is progressing well in the minors and looks to make an impact relatively soon, and den Dekker is just too early in his career (despite being already 24) to call right now, though it doesn't look too promising. The rest have barely been able to stick in the big leagues as regulars (with Humber making a case now with the White Sox as a 28-year-old)
While this is only a small look at the Mets' picks, you can just look at New York's system, which has ranked in the bottom of the pack for several seasons now, to realize their young talent is lacking. Even a more telling sign is that in such a big market like New York, the Mets have (had?) the ability to keep their best guys in uniform.
Besides just poor talent evaluating, a big reason why the Mets have not been very successful in the draft is because they tend to be very conservative. They rarely ever go above slot in the Draft, meaning they stick to the bonus that Major League Baseball recommends for each of their "slots" in the Draft and it's hard for them to entice a player who may to sign with more money. Often times if a player believes a team will pay "over slot" to get him, the lower-spending team will be scared off because they feel that they will not be able to sign him for what they're willing to pay. That means these teams are often unable to land real toolsy/projectable guys and instead make very safe picks and that talent shows. The obvious teams have been able to take advantage of paying above slot: Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Braves ... but the Mets have not been willing to in recent years.
Will the Mets change their draft doctrine, so to speak, now? Sandy Alderson, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi have been quoted as saying they'd pay over slot if the player they wanted necessitated it, but can we expect that now, with the financial woes creeping into the picture? I really do not believe many of those type of picks will be made ... but nobody truly knows until the picks are completed. Either way, with the talent evaluators in place right now -- intelligent and solid track records -- you have to think some killer draft picks will be made, even if they can't go above slot to get him.
There's no real choice: the Mets apparently don't have the money to keep their in-house stars or go after free agents, so they have to build up their farm system. It's the cheap way to survive in the MLB -- teams like the Twins, and A's (plus others like the Braves, and even the World Series-winning Giants) have all proven to an extent that it's an advantageous way to live as franchise in the major leagues. There really is no better asset than a stockpile of young talent. And this may be one of the most important drafts in years for the Mets, who look to be living on the sales rack for the foreseeable future.
Stay tuned to SB Nation NY as we profile some of the top high school and college prospects in terms of how they'd fit the Mets' many needs.