In an ideal world, any organization, regardless of market size, should have reinforcements to call upon from down on the farm when the need arises at the big league level. To be fair, there's likely no system in baseball that could have filled in all the holes created by the injury epidemic that hit the Mets in 2009.
But the Mets' system really didn't have any truly ready options over the course of the year. While the system still isn't deep, there do seem to be a few more players on the rise who could help soon. Most of the talent is still a ways away, largely via international scouting efforts, Mets fans could see the likes of 2008 first-round pick Ike Davis and international find Jenrry Mejia sooner rather than later. And the ever-present Fernando Martinez, if he can stay healthy, might be finally ready to break out.
It's not a lot to hang one's hat on, but it's better than it has been in recent years. There's more hope for the future, both in terms of providing short-term help and in finding long-term answers. Because, if last year proved anything, it's that simply spending a ton of money on a big league roster isn't always enough to be competitive.
Ike Davis, 1B
He's had just one full season of pro ball under his belt, but the ASU product and son of Ron Davis is just about ready. With a sweet swing from the left side, plenty of pop and a good approach, don't be surprised to see him manning first in 2010 and for many years to come.
Ryota Igarashi, RHP
He throws in the mid-90s, he's got a nasty splitter and he's two years removed from Tommy John surgery. At age 30, the Japanese import isn't exactly a "prospect," but he's set to make his MLB debut as one of the Mets' prime setup men.
Fernando Martinez, OF
Yes, it seems like he's been "coming soon" forever. And yes, there doesn't seem to be room for him in the Mets' outfield. And yes, he hasn't stayed healthy for a full season. But he's only 21 and got off to a torrid start to the spring after an outstanding winter ball campaign. It's time for Martinez to start living up to his massive potential and this could be the year it happens.
Jon Niese, LHP
He was about to settle into the rotation last summer when he tore his hamstring, ending his season in August. He's back and healthy and competing for the No. 5 spot in the Mets' rotation. Assuming he pitches the way he's capable, he should be the one to break camp with a big league job.
Josh Thole, C
After another Minor League season that saw him hit .328, Thole went to winter ball and hit some more. The Mets' signing of some catching this offseason means he's ticketed for Triple-A, but he'll be a phone call away if and when the need arises.
Jeurys Familia, RHP
Mejia gets most of the buzz surrounding young arms in the system because of his electric stuff, but it's hard to ignore Familia's results in 2009. His 2.69 ERA was second best in the organization and third in the South Atlantic League. He held hitters to a .221 average against as well. And he'll pitch all of 2010 at age 20, moving up a slot to the Florida State League.
Robert Carson, LHP
A 14th-round pick out of high school in 2007, Carson has crept slowly and quietly through the lower rungs of the system. At 20 years old, he spent all of 2009 in the South Atlantic League and finished fourth among Mets full-season pitchers with a 3.21 ERA. The lefty throws a heavy fastball which induces plenty of ground-ball outs. He'll move up one more notch to Class A Advanced St. Lucie.
Jordany Valdespin, 2B/SS
It was a bit of a whirlwind for the middle infielder in 2009, as combination of injuries and some disciplinary action saw him see time in full-season Savannah, short-season Brooklyn, the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and even the Dominican Summer League. Overall, he hit .298 and stole 13 bases while playing shortstop and second base. He seems to have his act together now and even got some time in big league camp this spring. He'll stay there to be a part of St. Lucie's infield at age 22.
The Mets didn't have a first-round pick last June and their second-rounder, LHP Steven Matz, signed too late to make his debut last summer. ... OF Darrell Ceciliani (4th round) didn't hit much (.234/.313/.310), but he was successful on 14 of his 16 stolen base attempts. ... Ronald Harris, an outfielder taken in the 14th round out of Northwood University in Texas, hit .292/.378/.415 with 13 steals, mostly with Kingsport, though he earned a late promotion to Brooklyn. ... 3B Joseph Bonfe went from Sierra Junior College in California to Kingsport in the Appalachian League as a 21st-round pick and hit .327/.426/.462 over 40 games and even got a little taste of the NY-Penn League. ... OF Kurt Steinhauer (27th round) came from the NAIA's Point Loma Nazarene University and hit .328/.428/.525 in 36 total games between the Gulf Coast League Mets and Kingsport. At age 23, he'll have to show he can do that for a longer period of time and at a higher level. ... Brandon Sage is a lefty taken out of the University of South Alabama in the 37th round who posted a 2.03 ERA and .224 batting average against in 31 relief innings for Brooklyn. He had a .205 BAA and 0.84 ERA vs. left-handed hitters, perhaps a sign of his future role.
Hitter of the Year -- Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF
It'd be hard to expect too much more out of the 2008 third-rounder, considering he made it to Double-A at the end of his first full season and finished the year with 17 homers and 17 steals. He'll start the year in Double-A and look for him to go 20-20 and be among the system's leaders in a host of offensive categories.
Pitcher of the Year -- Jenrry Mejia, RHP
The one thing that could keep him from this honor would be too much time in the big leagues, where it's conceivable the Mets would consider him in a bullpen role. Here's thinking he'll spend most of the year in the Minors, where he'll start to harness his command and compete for the organizational pitching triple crown.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.