Choosing ninth, the Mets selected Mike Pelfrey, a 21-year-old right-handed starting pitcher who has made his amateur mark with Wichita State University and whose next day in New York City will be his first.
Widely regarded as the most promising starting pitching prospect in the nation, Pelfrey was the third pitcher chosen in the first round, behind left-handed Ricky Romero of Cal State Fullerton and Wade Townsend, formerly of Rice. That he remained available until the ninth selection delighted the Mets, who understood Pelfrey's availability was tied to the identity -- and reputation -- of his agent, Scott Boras.
Boras is as demanding as Pelfrey is promising, so the Mets' investment in the Wichita native will be significant. But the club's regard for Pelfrey is such that overpaying won't be so distasteful as it would be for almost any other pitcher selected Tuesday.
A person familiar with the club's thinking noted another highly regarded Boras client, St. John's reliever Chris Hansen, wasn't taken until the 26th selection (Red Sox) because the likely overpayment they expected Boras to seek couldn't be justified by pitchers' potential.
Hardly a favorite of most clubs, Boras is quite familiar to this Mets administration, having negotiated with general manager Omar Minaya, his assistant, Tony Bernazard, and the Wilpons -- owner, Fred, and son, Jeff, -- in December when the Mets pursued and signed free agent Carlos Beltran. Signability, an issue essentially created by Boras, is not an overriding concern for the Mets.
Gary LaRocque, the Mets vice president of player development and scouting, said the club's primary consideration always is "taking the best player available." Finances are considered, but they went unmentioned Tuesday as the Mets gushed about their selection. And Pelfrey seemed unconcerned about money -- he referred to it as "the business part." That's why he had Boras.
The agent already had contacted the Mets before the third round began Tuesday.
"There are a lot of teams interested in him," Boras said. "But, right or wrong, in the baseball draft, the best players aren't always the first ones picked. They can't trade picks, which befuddles me."
Speculation had the Mets selecting Hansen, the closer they could readily scout because of St. John's proximity to Shea Stadium. Only Hansen was considered by some to be ahead of Pelfrey in terms of Major League readiness. Some thought Hansen could pitch in the Major Leagues this season.
Pelfrey's coach at Wichita State, Gary Stephenson, noted his former pitcher had matured dramatically in his time at the university and could be ready to handle Major League life on and off the mound rather quickly. "He's the most consistent starting pitcher we've ever had here," Stephenson said. "He's a great starter and a greater finisher. He commands three pitches for strikes, and he's got real bulldog in him."
Pelfrey said he had heard of the Mets' interest in him only recently. "I grew up a Royals fan," he said. "But honestly, today I'm the biggest Mets fan."
Position: RHP B/T: R/R
H: 6'7" W: 210
Born: 1984-01-14 Class: 4YR
Tall RHP w/ long limbs. Throws a FB that bores into hitters when up in the zone, sinks when down in the zone. Throws a power CB w/ some slider-like action. Also has a change-up.
The Mets' first-round selection in the 2004 draft, right-handed pitcher Philip Humber, was the third player selected, so, if the club signs Pelfrey, it will have two of the top five pitchers taken in a two-year sequence. A person familiar with the club's thinking said the Mets believe Pelfrey as having a slightly higher ceiling -- scout talk for "potential" -- than Humber.P> Pelfrey is 6-foot-7, 210 pounds and is said to have a "pitcher's body." He has a natural sink on his fastball that has been timed at 97 mph and usually is in the mid 90s. He also throws a changeup, one he has mastered in the last two years that can unsettle left-handed hitters. His breaking ball is a curve, which puts less stress on the elbow than a slider.
His fastball is considered above average, his changeup projects to be above average as well. The breaking ball, tighter than it was when he entered college, is his No. 3 pitch and needs work.
He had an 11-2 record and 1.47 ERA in 16 games this season, his junior season, with Wichita State. He struck out 121 batters in 117 innings, allowed 24 walks and 75 hits.
The Mets had no selections in the second and third rounds because of the signings of Beltran and fellow free agent Pedro Martinez. Their second pick was in the fourth round, the 119th selection. They used it to draft the rights to 18-year-old second baseman Hector Pellot, of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy.
The club took eight school players, five pitchers and three outfielders, among them, four college players -- including one catcher -- and two junior college players.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.