It wasn't a great week for the New York Mets top 30 prospects. I struggled to find a multiple players worthy of our hitter and pitcher of the week awards, but here are the few who stood out in this week's Mets Minor League Update.
Pitcher Of The Week: Domingo Tapia (7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, Win)
The 21-year-old was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 and is still raw. He hangs his hat on his fastball, which sits in the high 90s, and touches 100 mph on occasion. The rest of his pitches range from average to below average, but he's always sported a good groundball rate.
Between the Appalachian League and the New York Penn League, Tapia pitched 56 innings in 2011. Despite his plus fastball, he only struck out 36 batters and walked 13. On the bright side, his ground ball to fly ball rate was an impressive 1.89 and his ERA was respectable, at 3.38.
This year he's pitching in Low A, for the Savannah Sand Gnats, in the South Atlantic League – the better-hitting Low A League – where he's pitched 26.1 innings with 23 Ks, only 4 BBs, and an ERA of 4.78. The Mets have to love what they're seeing in the control department – only four walks – and his GO/AO rate is absurd, at 4.30.
Despite his unimpressive ERA, Tapia has pitched great in 2012. The reason his ERA is inflated is because he had one bad start – 8 runs in 1.1 innings. If you remove the bad start from the record books his ERA would be 2.16 on the season.
Because he only has one pitch, he's probably going to be moved to the bullpen as he advances through the system. However; if he improves his secondary pitches he could be a hidden gem in the Mets system. His fastball/groundball combo remind me of Fausto Carmona a bit.
Hitter Of The Week: Cory Vaughn (.241, 1 Doubles, 3 HRs, 6 RBIs, 2 BBs, 8 Ks)
It's hard to believe a guy who hit .241 with 8 strikeouts is the hitter of the week, but like I said, it was a rough week for Mets prospects, and Vaughn's three home runs are hard to ignore.
Cory – a fourth-round pick in 2010 – is the son of former major leaguer, Greg Vaughn. He hit 13 home runs and stole 10 bases (caught eight times) in 131 games between Low A and High A last season, but doesn't really possess any true "plus" tools. He has average-to-slightly-above average power potential, average speed and he's average defensively. His walk rate is decent, but he strikes out too much.
He's showing off his power potential in 2012, as he's already belted eight home runs. That said, his HR/FB percentage is near 30, which suggests his home run pace is unsustainable.
Best case scenario, Vaughn is an average-ish corner outfielder in the Majors – possibly a fourth outfielder.
Top 10 Prospect Spotlight: Zack Wheeler
Wheeler – the Mets top prospect – was in our spotlight last week for his good pitching performance. This week he's in the spotlight for a different reason. A torn nail on the righty's middle finger caused him to miss his scheduled start, and he landed on the 7-day disabled list, retroactive May 2nd. Normally a torn finger nail isn't cause for any concern, but this is the second time in the last calendar year that Wheeler has landed on the DL with a torn nail. When he was in the Giants system, he spent nearly a month and a half on the DL with the same injury. He'll probably make his next start, but it's something to keep an eye on.
Top 10 Prospect Spotlight: Cesar Puello
I could have, and probably should have, named Puello this week's best hitter. In six games he hit .409 with 2 doubles, 2 RBIs and 2 SBs.
Puello – signed out of the Dominican Repbulic in 2007 – is one of the best hitting prospects in the Mets system. He has plus speed, projectable power and a cannon for a right arm. He played 198 games between rookie ball and Low A from 2008 to 2010, and hit a combined 7 home runs. In 117 games in 2011 he belted 10, so hopes were high for Puello coming into 2012. Unfortunately, he's yet to go yard this season and slugging only .407. He's also striking out a bit too much and barely walking.
The good news is, there's still a lot of season to be played and the 21-year-old is very young for his league. He reportedly has a strong mental make-up and his frame/upside are still traits to be excited about. If he "figures it out" he projects as an above average major leaguer. However; at High A, he's still a ways away.
He's been somewhat of a slow starter throughout his career, so if he gets it going fairly soon, he could land in Double A by season's end.