NEW YORK -- Traditionally, the Class A South Atlantic League, or Sally League, has always favored pitchers. Not to the extreme that, say, Triple-A Las Vegas and the Pacific Coast League skews toward hitters, inflating statistics to a transformative extent. But the Sally League's reputation exists for a reason.
So when Paul DePodesta took a look at Class A Savannah's stats earlier this year, the Mets' vice president for amateur scouting and player development widened his eyes. Catcher Kevin Plawecki and first baseman Jayce Boyd, the Mets' supplemental- and sixth-round Draft picks last summer, were each batting well over .300 with power. Former first-round pick Brandon Nimmo was also reaching base more than 40 percent of the time, joining the other two on the South Atlantic League All-Star team.
"We go into the year every year with position players in Savannah having to sort of temper our expectations of what they might be able to do, just because it's such a difficult environment to produce offensively," DePodesta said. "And to see what [Plawecki] has done, and to see what Jayce Boyd has done and what Nimmo has done, it was unbelievable. It was way beyond what I think anyone could reasonably expect out of guys in that environment."
Such are the reasons why DePodesta maintains hope for this farm system beyond its front-line starting pitchers. The Mets added dozens of new names to the system during last week's First-Year Player Draft, taking high school first baseman Dominic Smith with their top pick and adding talented youngsters from there. But they are not about to forget their recent Draft classes, some of which are only now just beginning to shine.
The Mets' farm system still begins with catcher Travis d'Arnaud and starting pitcher Zack Wheeler, both of whom were drafted by different organizations before coming to the Mets. But Wheeler is now days away from the big leagues, and once d'Arnaud recovers from his fractured left foot, he should quickly advance there also. That will leave Plawecki, Boyd, and older players such as Cesar Puello and Wilmer Flores to lead the organization's list of Minor League hitters.
A stigma has existed against that group for years, in part because the Mets have not developed a star position player since David Wright. They are hopeful that more than a few of their current Minor League hitters can crack the mold.
Then there are the pitchers: in particular Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, who headline an organization still flush with arms. The Mets employ a half-dozen starting pitchers in Class A whom they consider future Major Leagues, and while not all of them will work out as starters -- see: Jeurys Familia -- some will.
DePodesta is particularly excited about Montero, whose otherworldly strikeout-to-walk ratios earned him a trip to big league camp this spring, as well as a recent spot start for Vegas. Though Montero may not make the Major Leagues until 2014, the Mets believe he has a chance to be special once he does.
"I'm just proud of our pitchers as a whole," DePodesta said, noting recently that his organization led all others in strikeout and walk rates, despite moving its Triple-A home to hitter-friendly Vegas.
"So that's been terrific," DePodesta said, "and a real testament to our pitching program."
How Smith, 2013 second-round pick Andrew Church and others slot into the system remains to be seen. The Mets do not consider their newest draftees the beginnings of a homegrown renaissance, but as players who can supplement an already-improving core.
Said DePodesta: "I think there are quite a few guys that we're excited about."