ALL STATS IN TABLES ARE AS OF JULY 1, 2009.
After leading the Eastern League in batting average for much of the spring, Thole has answered any questions about his hitting ability. Note that his walk, strikeout and extra base hit rates are essentially unchanged as he moved up from FSL to the EL, that in itself is some kind of accomplishment. However, there are still major questions surrounding Thole's defense, mostly about his arm. He's improved his receiving skills to be adequate. However, if he can't stick behind the plate, his value drops dramatically. As much as I love an OBP above .400 and a hitter who walks almost as much as he strikes out, he doesn't have the power to profile as a classic firstbaseman. Working in Thole's favor at this point is his age (22), underlying hitting ability and work ethic, as even those who question his tools praise his effort.
The Mets assigned Puello to Kingsport, a perfectly age appropriate level for the 18-year old. Puello struck out a fair amount, in 20% of his PA in 2008, so this could become an issue for him as moves up. Of course, to be a productive MLBer, he will also need to hit for more power and walk more than once every 30 AB or so.
Stock: Down or Holding
Carson's pretty 2.39 ERA masks the 17 unearned runs he's allowed, which push his total RA to 4.42. Ultimately, the pitcher is responsible to some degree for all baserunners, although the defense the Sandgnats have fielded behind him has been quite poor. While Carson has dropped his walk rate since a wild run over his final six starts in the Appalachian League last year, his strikeout rate remains a pedestrian 6.11. He must start missing more bats if his prospect status is to rise again. His groundball rate of nearly two is still strong and he doesn't allow homers, which leaves some room for optimism that the young southpaw will learn to put hitters away in the coming years.
Fans who want to feel good about the Mets farm system will point to Ruben Tejada holding his own at AA at the tender age of 19. The problem is that he's still the player he was last year. Tejada hits out of a slightly open stance and uses a leg kick (seen at right) to generate well below average big league power, so pitchers are willing to challenge him. As a result, he rarely strikes out because there are so many pitches in the strike zone. His plate discipline is impressive for a player of his age, but until he fills out and starts driving the ball, his offensive ceiling will remain very limited. His hands and arm are just good enough to play shortstop at the next levels, although he still has a little trouble on his backhand. I view his absolute ceiling as a regular whose offensive value derives from his contact ability with some OBP. At worst, he looks like a utility infielder.
Doyle's stock is way down simply because he hasn't played much, and when he has, he's been too old for the level. I expected him to break camp with Savannah, but instead a pair of guys who I left off my top 41, and have done little to change my mind, Kai Gronauer and Jean Luc Blaquiere, have been the Gnats' primary backstops. Instead, Doyle has reported to Brooklyn with the Cyclones as a 23-year old. If the organization can't find a spot to play their fifth round pick from last June in a full-season league, well, he doesn't deserve a top 20 ranking. Unless there's an injury which was never reported, I don't get the Mets handling of Doyle. I'm not arguing that Doyle's a future star, or even big league regular, but I really don't understand why the Mets won't give themselves a chance to find out. Why spend a fifth round pick and $167,000 on Doyle in June 2008, play him nearly every day that summer, and then send him to Brooklyn, where he's way too old for the league? I could find a much more fun way to waste $167K.