Sunday, January 30, 2005

Draft 2004: Pitching is the name of the game [Pt 1]

With the recent signing of 1st round pick Phillip Humber, the Mets have now inked their first seven draft choices. Following a philosophy that focused for the most part on selecting well built right-handers, the Mets stockpiled their system with several interesting arms. For all of you that don't remember, here is what Baseball America's Allan Simpson said about it two days after the draft madness:


Allan Simpson: I like the Mets draft. Humber is very solid, but several other picks have one or two tools that stand out. Matt Durkin (2) has the big 95 mph fastball, Aaron Hathaway (4) is one of the best defensive catchers in the country, Nick Evans (5) has big-time bat speed and Ryan Coultas (6) is one of the nation's best defensive shortstops--with enough arm strength that he could become a pitcher. The sleeper of the group may be righthander Scott Hyde (7), who struck out 191 with a 94-95 mph fastball while leading Oregon's George Fox College to the NCAA Division III national title.


Obviously, half a season is not enough time to analyze how or if these players will ever contribute at the major league level, especially since some of them have not even made their pro debuts yet, but if first impressions mean anything, the Mets seem on the right track. Like Simpson mentions, the Mets drafted a lot of interesting players and some of them have already showed some of their talent. So without further ado, here's the first part recap of the 2004 Mets' draft:

1. Phillip Humber

Selected third overall from Rice university, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Humber was the Mets' first pick this year and the first of three Rice pitchers picked in the first round. In three college seasons, Humber compiled a 35-8 record with a 2.80 ERA and finished second in school history in strikeouts. While not the flashiest pick, the big right-hander out of Texas has all the tools to become a future ace:
Scouts considered Humber the safest pick among the three Rice aces. He has three plus pitches: a 90-94 mph fastball that scrapes 97, a true 12-6 curveball, and a splitter that he uses as a changeup. Strong and durable, he has been injury-free and has the most resilient arm of the Rice first-rounders.
Since he just signed, Humber hasn't been able to make his professional debut just yet, but his college career speaks for itself:

2002
2.78 era 110 ip
10.6 k/9 3.5 bb/9 0.7 hr/9

2003
3.30 era 128 ip
9.7 k/9 2.7 bb/9 0.8 hr/9

2004
2.27 era 115 ip
12.1 k/9 2.9 bb/9 0.5 hr/9

As you can see, Humber improved with every year at Rice. Since his freshman year, he reduced his walk rate and HR rate while also increasing his strikeouts per nine innings. More importantly, in doing so, Humber displayed excellent mechanics. According to several reports from the NY papers, the team had Rick Peterson review film on the pitchers the Mets were considering taking with the 3rd pick and the only one who didn't have any mechanical flaws was the same one the Mets drafted, Phillip Humber. The Mets haven't decided where to send the big right-hander this season, but its presumed he'll make his professional debut in the warm climate and pitching friendly confines of the Florida State League [A-] before moving to AA-Binghampton.


2. Matt Durkin

A product of San Jose State, Matt Durkin had been well-regarded ever since he had a breakout year in his freshman year. After a subpar season in 2004, however, his draft stock fell a little bit and many thought he could be sleeper pick. The Mets overlooked his subpar 04 and drafted him in the second round hoping he'd find control of his breaking ball. Here's what JJ Cooper of Baseball America had to say about him:
Durkin has a very good fastball, but his stuff failed to produce the numbers that you would expect in his final two years in college. The Mets are encouraged that Durkin seems to have found the curveball that he had lost the last two years. If he has a solid breaking ball, Durkin could be an intriguing prospect
Here's a more informative scouting report courtesy of the guys at NYFS.
The 6'4", 220lbs. righthander features a power fastball that generally sits in the 91-93 mph range and can touch the mid-90's. He also has a slider and changeup with good sink. The fastball is his bread-and-butter pitch though, which he throws with confidence and location on both sides of the plate.
So what to make of Durkin's 2004? A closer look into his stats tell us that other than a rise in his ERA, he's pretty much been the same pitcher throughout his three years in college ball. As you can see, his rate stats remained relatively constant:

2002
2.75 era 98.1 ip
7.8 k/9 2.2 bb/9 0.0 hr/9

2003
2.60 era 100.1 ip
9.9 k/9 3.8 bb/9 0.4 hr/9

2004
4.43 era 85.1 ip
8.4 k/9 4.0 bb/9 0.3 hr/9

Not bad. The increasing walk rate is a little bit worrisome, but other than that, Durkin has displayed good strikeout rates and excellent homerun rates. In fact, Durkin's stats were good enough over the past three years that Craig Burley of the Batter's Box ranked him the 14th best college pitcher using his adjusted pitching statistics [note: Humber was ranked 3rd]. Signed late last year, the product of San Jose State still hasn't made his professional debut but he is expected to start the year at the Florida State League.


3. Gaby Hernandez

Drafted in the third round out of Belen Jesuit HS in Miami, Gaby Hernandez made his professional debut with the Gulf Coast League Mets last year. Despite his young age [18], the right-hander forced a promotion to the NY Penn League playoffs with a dominating showing in rookie league. Already the Mets' 3rd best prospect according to Baseball America, Hernandez still has room for growth:
Hernandez has a 90-93 mph fastball, with sinking and running action. In high school, he had a few problems with his curveball. He would choke it off in the dirt or have it sail high and away; this probably hurt his draft status to some extent. But in pro ball, his curveball was much more reliable. Add the better curve to his fastball, changeup and sharp command, and you have a fine young pitcher. Hernandez could still gain some height and weight, possibly leading to increased velocity. If Hernandez can manage to stay healthy, he could definitely be a front-row starter, yes. He could make a lot of noise in 2005.
Considering that Humber and Durkin haven't made their pro debuts yet, it was up to Hernandez to represent the Mets' pitching class of 04 draft. The right-hander didn't dissapoint as he was spectacular in 50 GCL innings. How good was he? He had more strikeouts than baserunners. Yeah, he was that good:

2004
1.09 era 50 ip
10.5 k/9 2.2 bb/9 0.2 hr/9
[GCL-rookie]

Obviously, fifty-innings is such a small sample to draw any meaningful conclusions, but there is nothing about Gaby Hernandez that doesn't stand out. Excellent strikeout, walk and home run rates across the board, and only 4.5 hits per nine innings for the DIPS-haters out there. He's definitely someone who you want to keep an eye on next year. So what can we expect for Hernandez in the future?


J.J. Cooper: It's hard to exactly project Hernandez's ceiling yet, as he has a long way to go, but he could be a No. 2-3 starter it would appear. He has very solid stuff, with a great frame and good mechanics. Scouts in the GCL loved him, as he seemed to fill the role of staff ace with aplomb.


The plan for Hernandez is to start at Brooklyn this year, and eventually move to the South Atlantic League. That is, unless, you know the Cyclones find themselves in another pennant race.

***

In the next and final part of the early analysis of the Mets' 04 draft I'll take a look at the position players and those players who showed some promise last year. If you are more interested on the subject, you can always check the following links:

MLB: Scouting reports and video on Mets' draft picks.
Baseball America: Premiere scouting information source.
NYFS: Best Mets' minor league coverage on the Web.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Catching Up

First thing is first. After failing to acquire Carlos Delgado, the Mets announced today they traded 1b prospect Ian Bladergroen for first-baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. Given that Travis Lee was available for free, I think this is a rather pointless trade. Don't get me wrong, I think Mientkiewicz is the better player, but he is not that much better that he's worth an interesting prospect like Bladergroen.

With that being said, I think this isn't such a bad deal. Mientkiewicz has his faults, but he brings some positives to the table. For starters, he is outstanding defensively. His UZR from 00-03 shows he saved 17 runs per 150 games, or worth roughly 2 wins on defense. He'll definitely help a Met club that allowed more balls through the right side of the infield than any team in the National League. While certainly his defense is great, his offense is below average for a first baseman. That doesn't mean Mientkiewicz is completely useless at the plate, however, as he's always hit for a relative high AVG and shown some good-to-great plate discipline.
"Doug Mientkiewicz will solidify our infield with his brilliant defense and brings a .363 career on-base percentage to our line-up," said Mets General Manager Omar Minaya in making the announcement.
I think given the low expectations, most Met fans will be happy with Mientkiewicz this year. Who knows, maybe he'll even surprise us and have a good year. I mean, this is a guy who is a season removed from a 300/393/450 line. Here is what some of the projection systems expect him to do this year:

ZiPS - .275/.372/.408
TonyJ -.259/.364/.390
PECOTA - .272/.364/.410

ROOGY. Earlier today I mentioned that since Koo could be an excellent option against left-handers, the team could pair him up with Scott Strickland to form a pretty good one-two punch. Acquired from the Expos in 2002, Strickland has struggled with injuries during the past two years. Finally healthy, he can be a darkhorse for a spot in the depleted Mets' bullpen this year.
"Barring lightning striking my forehead, I should be ready to roll," said Strickland, who returns on a minor-league contract.
Using a fastball/slider combo, Strickland has been murder against right-handed batters throughout his career. Possessing an above average fastball, Strickland was thrust into a closer role in Montreal, but struggled because of his inability to get left-handers out.

vrs RHB
158.0 ip 103 hits 50/204 bb/so 10 HR
1.00 WHIP .185 BAA

vrs LHB
78.0 ip 94 hits 56/37 bb/so 12 HR
1.92 WHIP .292 BAA

If used correctly, Strickland can definitely be an asset to a Met bullpen that while not bad certainly lacks a dominant reliever who can shut down potential rallies in 7th and 8th innings. He and Koo could definitely combine to pitch 70-80 high-leverage innings and excel in that role.
With the roster pretty much set, the bullpen competition is probably the most interesting thing to look for this Spring Training. Aside from these two, here are the other guys looking to earn a spot this February.

Bullpen Bloc

Orber Moreno. Definitely a favorite of this site. Moreno has a 90 mph fastball and a heavy sinker that allows him to be stingy with HRs and extra-base hits. Non-tendered and signed to a minor league deal, he needs to prove he's healthy to earn a job this spring. One little tidbit that I always like to mention when talking about Orber is that last year, he was 2nd only behind Anaheim's F-Rod in SLG% against among major league relievers. He's definitely a keeper.

Mike DeJean. DeJean is a lock to be in the Met bullpen this year. Acquired from Baltimore in exchange for Karim Garcia, the former closer impressed Met brass by pitching brilliantly during the last two months of the season. Under the tutelage of Rick Peterson, DeJean found the strike zone and promptly started getting groundball outs with his low-90s sinker and strikeouts with his hard splitter. He should benefit from the improved infield defense and the Mientkiewicz acquisition.

Tyler Yates. Hailed as a future closer, Yates surprised everybody by earning a spot in the Met rotation last spring. The experiment was a disaster as the big Hawaiian right-hander lacked the stamina to pitch enough innings. Moved back to a relief role, Yates had a modicum of success as a middle reliever. He has a fastball in the low 90s and a slider that's very inconsistent. More hype than anything else, Yates hasn't shown much to make anyone believe he's better than some other the guys on the staff. He's a favorite of Rick Peterson, so odds are he'll go north with the big league club.

Heath Bell. The best Mets' reliever you've never heard about. An undrafted free agent from Oceanside California, Bell has come a long way to make the big leagues. His minor league stats are impeccable. Bell doesn't have plus stuff like Yates does, but he doesn't need to. Using an unorthodox delivery, he's managed to strikeout better than a batter an inning while also being on the stingy side with walks and HRs. He at the very least deserves a long look this spring.

Blake McGinley. Another favorite of this blog. McGinley is a left-hander reliever with fringe stuff but with fantastic results. In four professional seasons, the product of Texas Tech, has managed to average 10.23 strikeouts per nine innings and only 2.22 walks in the same span. Unprotected by the Mets for the Rule V draft, it doesn't seem as if he'll get a chance to displace Felix Heredia in Spring Training but given the "magical" tendencies of the Run Fairy, he'll probably get a chance to prove his numbers are no fluke at some point this year.

Felix Heredia. Dubbed The Run Fairy™ by Yankee fans, Felix Heredia was one of the worst relievers in baseball last year. He strikes out too few batters, walks too many and gives up a lot of bombs. In other words, he's everything you don't want in a reliever. Frankly, the only thing keeping him in the major leagues is his salary. The best we can hope for is an awful Spring Training performance and a release before the games start counting.

Bartolome Fortunado. Acquired in the stupidity known as the Kazmir trade, Fortunato made his major league debut with the Mets last year. A right hander reliever with a good fastball and a filthy palmball, he keeps hitters off-balance and has shown some decent strikeout numbers. Unfotunately for the Mets, he's also 29 and not likely to get that much better. His control is a bit worrisome, but he's a good bet to be a decent third or fourth option in the bullpen.

To this bunch you can add "Proven Closer" Roberto Hernandez, Cuban fireballer Alay Soler and minor league castoffs Juan Padilla, Grant Roberts, and Manny Aybar.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Koo

Last time, I talked a little bit about Dae Sung Koo and how he might turn out to be a very underrated acquisition. The biggest reason I liked the signing were the glowing scouting reports about his ability to get left-handers out:

The reason why [teams are] interested in Koo is his unique pitching form and the nasty stuff that makes the ball very difficult for left-handed batters to hit. He hides the ball behind the glove until he starts a pitch, even after the wind-up, making it extremely difficult for left-handed hitters to beat.
Koo's stats didn't justify the hype, of course, but like I mentioned, most of them were compiled as a starter and thus not really relevant when discussing his ability to get left-handers out. Well, lucky for us Matt found out his L/R splits on a Japanesebaseball.com discussion.

236/284/339/624 94 hits 10 HR 96/25 K/BB 398 ABs vrs LHB
256/339/458/797 264 hits 50 HR 269/117 K/BB 1032 ABs vrs RHB

With numbers like this, Koo certainly projects to be one of the best, if not the best, option against the likes of Jim Thome and Carlos Delgado the Mets have in their bullpen this upcoming season. Combine him with a ROOGY like Scott Strickland, and I think the Mets' pen isn't looking as bad as people make it out to be.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Capitan America

With rumors of an impending trade everywhere, there has been a lot of discussion around Met fans about the merits of Eric Byrnes and Mike Cameron. Well, maybe its time I chimed in.

As someone who doesn't get to watch the Oakland A's often, I always thought Byrnes was a good player. The few times I've seen him, he has made spectacular diving catches and always exhibited a devil may care attitude. With attributes like these, its no surprise he has become a fan favorite everywhere he's played. Nicknamed Capitan America in the Dominican, Byrnes has charmed an entire country with his golden hair and reckless style of play.

"It's awesome," Peña said. "Eric's come to another country, and people embrace him even more than one of their own. If he runs for president, he would win. They will never forget him for what he's done for this team and for this country. It's the coolest thing."
Coming off his best season in the major leagues, Eric Byrnes seems to be on a different path than the recently displaced Mike Cameron, who at age 32, is coming off one of his worst seasons ever. Common knowledge would indicate that Byrnes' best years are ahead of him, while Cameron has nowhere to go but down. Yet, the Oakland A's, seem more than willing to exchange the two even though the latter is older and more expensive. Why would Billy Beane do this? Glad you ask.

Eric Byrnes
age 28 position LF
333/474 1196 ABs

Mike Cameron
age 32 position CF
335/450 1572 ABs

If you take a quick glance to their 3 year splits, you may come to the conclusion that Byrnes is the better hitter. Of course, that doesn't take into account the fact that 119 of Byrnes ABs were compiled at the hitter friendly PCL [AAA], or the fact that Byrnes seems to have been protected by the A's against RHP. Essentially, they don't seem to be that far apart when it comes to hitting. If anything, regression towards the mean gives the edge to Cameron since we would expect him to rebound from his horrible season, while we'd expect Byrnes to either regress or stay in the same 800 OPS range.

For years, defense has stood out as the final frontier of statistical analysis. Sabermetricians like Bill James and the people at STATS inc introduced and tracked Range Factor and Zone Rating as ways to get a better feeling of a defender's range. Range Factor measures the number of outs made per game while Zone Rating the total number of outs per ball in a fielder's zone or area of responsability. Obviously both systems had their flaws since they did not account for the probability of a play being made. To account for this, Mitchel Lichtman or simply MGL as he is known around baseball circles, developed his own probabilistic model to evaluate defense. UZR, or ultimate zone rating, uses 64 zones to determine runs saved or cost in comparison to an average fielder. Obviously, the process is a little more complicated than that, but if you are interested you can check MGL's exact explanations on the subject in part 1 and part 2 of study.

So how is this relevant when discussing Cameron and Byrnes? Well, according to UZR, Cameron from 00-03 saved close to 30 runs every 150 games over the average fielder. Thats obviously an outstanding amount and worth around 3 wins per season. Byrnes' UZR, on the other hand, every single year at any OF position has been pitiful. In 04, for example, Cameron's UZR [+8] was still worth 3 wins over Byrnes' -21 UZR mark. Moreover, according to Tangotier's Fan Scouting Reports, Byrnes came in at a below average 44/100 while Cameron had a very impressive 68/100.

Many Met fans are skeptical of Cameron's greatness and wonder if age and the potential shift to RF may be a reason for concern. Well, here is what MGL has to say about it:
"Cammy is of course one of the best defensive CF'ers in baseball, and should, by all rights be one of the best in RF or LF. Remember that even if you are not used to RF or LF, it is still easier to play those positions AND, more importantly, your defense is measured against MUCH worse defenders. I would be surprised if Cameron's UZR in RF or LF were not +10 to +15."
As MGL mentions, the difference between Byrnes and Cameron is so great that it'd make absolutely no sense to exchange the two. Even in right, Cammy's defense would be a tremendous asset to the Mets, and this is without accounting the fly-ball tendencies of the pitching staff. Cameron's defense is the most compelling reason not to make the trade, but if nothing else, the fact that Billy Beane wants to acquire Cameron this badly should be more than enough reason to hold on to him.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Cameron

According to a Newsday report, Mike Cameron isn't so thrilled about moving to RF for Carlos Beltran.
With Carlos Beltran taking his centerfield job, Cameron has conveyed to the Mets that he’d rather play centerfield elsewhere than play rightfield for them, according to an industry source.
Cameron is by far one of my favorite players in baseball, so I would be sad to see him go. However, if moving him allows the Mets to afford Delgado and also get something useful back, I'm fine with it. So with that thought in mind, who should the Mets trade him to? Personally, I'm leaning to a Cameron for Termel Sledge trade. What do you think?


Sunday, January 09, 2005

Centerfield, Centerstage

Obviously, the biggest news of the weekend is the signing of Carlos Beltran. By paying him $120 million over 7 years, the Mets lured in the 27 year old switch-hitting centerfielder to Flushing. Showing remarkable improvement in all areas of his game, including walks, SLG, OBP, SecA, and OPS+, there is no questioning that Beltran is a player on the rise. He can hit, he can play defense, and he is arguably the best base-runner in major league history. All of these attributes make Beltran one of the most complete players in the league and according to SLWTs, one of the 10 best players in baseball. Did the Mets overpay? You bet. But when dealing with big-market clubs, I don't think thats the appropiate question. To me, the question one should be asking is, does the Beltran limit the Mets' from going out and sorrounding him with other above average players? Given all the money coming off the books next offseason and in 06, I don't think it does, and therefore, I think this is a good deal. I've exhausted pretty much all of other my comments on the Beltran subject on Primer, but you can always check the sidebard for better and more accurate analysis by the other Met bloggers.

Moving on, in a move that will no doubt receive less fanfare than the Beltran signing, the Mets announced they had come to terms with Korean left-handed pitcher Dae Sung Koo. Despite reports he was headed to the Yankees, the Mets signed Koo to a one-year Major League contract with a club option for the 2006 season that will pay him $400k if he makes the big league club, and a little over a million including incentives.
"Dae Sung is a versatile pitcher who can start or pitch out of the bullpen," said Mets General Manager Omar Minaya. "I was in Sydney for the Olympics in 2000 when he beat Japan to win the Bronze Medal for Korea. He's a veteran pitcher who can help our staff in a variety of ways."
As Minaya mentioned, Koo can be used both as a starter and a reliever. In his four years with the Buffalo Orix of the Japanese Pacific League, he started 63 games and entered the game as a reliever for 47 other. The most intriguing part of Koo's signing is not his versatility, but rather his unique pitching style:
The reason why the Yankees is interested in Koo is his unique pitching form and the nasty stuff that makes the ball very difficult for left-handed batters to hit. He hides the ball behind the glove until he starts a pitch, even after the wind-up, making it extremely difficult for left-handed hitters to beat.
So why I'm spending most of my time talking about a pitcher who might not be more than a LOOGY? The answer is Shingo Takatsu and Akinori Otsuka. Last offseason, in two basically minor moves, those two were signed by the White Sox and Padres, respectively and both moves paid off as those two were among the best relievers in baseball. So how does Koo compare to them?

Otsuka
180.2 ip 126 hits 18 HRs with 36/241 k/bb
12.05 k/9 6.69 k/bb 0.9 hr/9
Ridiculous stats. Wow.

Takatsu
170.2 ip 160 hits 20 HRs with 53/122 k/bb
6.43 k/9 2.30 k/bb 1.05 hr/9
Not great, but not bad.

Koo
503.0 ip 454 hits 73 HRs with 213/504 k/bb
9.01 k/9 2.36 k/bb 1.30 hr/9
Man, thats a lot of HRs

As you can probably tell, Otsuka was phenomenal in Japan so his season shouldnt have been a surprise. A 6.00 k/bb ratio is great anywhere, even in little league baseball. I saw Otsuka pitch early in the year when the Mets came into town, and he was untouchable. His unique windup where he hides the ball in his glove with his front foot lifted before striding to the plate even forced Art Howe to protest the game. Given the scouting reports I have to believe Koo's and Otsuka's deliveries are somewhat similar although considering the discrepancy between their Japanese stats its difficult to imagine him achieving the same level of success. Koo's HR rate is very worrisome, but both his K/9 and K/BB are solid and compare favorably to Takatsu's. The caveat in Koo's performance is that he achieved all of this as a starter, and not a reliever. This means he faced both right-handers and left-handers and also pitched a lot more than both Takatsu and Osuka presumably allowing hitters to get a better look at his delivery.

The Mets plan to use Koo as a specialist against left-handed hitters so we can expect a rise in his strikeouts per nine innings, and if we are to believe the scouting reports, even better results. Koo is by no means a sure thing, but given the low-risk involved in the transaction, I think its a good one. I mean, he can't be any worse than The Run Fairy, right?

For more information on Japanese relievers, you can check an article written by Thomas at the Batter's Box as well as Japanesebaseball.com

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Hitting Machine

On Thursday, Baseball America released its Mets' top 10 prospect list, and here it is:
1. Lastings Milledge, of
2. Yusmeiro Petit, rhp
3. Gaby Hernandez, rhp
4. Ian Bladergroen, 1b
5. Ambiorix Concepcion, of
6. Alay Soler, rhp
7. Shawn Bowman, 3b
8. Victor Diaz, of
9. Jesus Flores, c
10. Matt Lindstrom, rhp
As most of you know, the Mets' system took a big hit in the last couple of years with both promotions [David Wright and Jose Reyes] and asinine trades [Jason Bay, Scott Kazmir, Justin Huber, and Matt Peterson] so its no surprise this list looks less than thrilling. With most propects playing below AA, the list reflects the fact that "the Mets’ future is now playing elsewhere and the present doesn’t look too appealing." Sadly, thats nothing but the truth. Either way, these lists are interesting because they provide with great topics. The most surprising thing on the list to me was Victor Diaz's low ranking and I guess it provides a good introduction for the number three prospect in my list.

3. Victor Diaz

Acquired in the Jeromy Burnitz trade, Victor Diaz came with the reputation of being a good hitter since the day he was born. Selected as a "draft and follow" in 37th round of the 2000 draft by the Dodgers, he has done nothing to dispell that notion as he has hit for a high average in all but one of his minor league stints [a 150 AB trial as a 20 year old in one if not the toughest hitter's league in the minor league- the Southern League].

Age 19 354/403/533 16/23 bb/so 27 XBHs 195 ABs
Age 20 350/412/521 27/69 bb/so 38 XBHs 349 ABs
Age 20 211/259/336 07/42 bb/so 11 XBHs 152 ABs
Age 21 291/358/462 27/60 bb/so 32 XHBs 316 ABs
Age 21 354/386/520 08/32 bb/so 17 XHBs 175 ABs
Age 22 291/333/491 33/133 bb/so 56 XBHs 528 ABs

With batting averages that were north of 350, it was no surprise Diaz has had his share of batting titles. He won one while making his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League, and was leading the South Atlantic League in the same category before being promoted in 2002. As a doubles hitter who hit line drives into the gaps, there was some question as to whether he'd ever develop consistent 20 HR power. Diaz erased those doubts by posting a 27 HR campaign this year between Norfolk and the major leagues. Obviously, if you are being traded for Jeromy Burnitz, that means not everything is perfect with you. With Diaz, that problem is two-fold: plate discipline and lack of postion.
Weakness: Diaz will never be a selective hitter. His increased power came with a corresponding jump in strikeouts. He doesn't run well and that shows in the outfield, where he makes the routine plays but little more. Conditioning never has been his forte.
Drafted as a second-baseman, the Mets moved Diaz to the OF because they figured his defense in the OF would be less of a problem. The problem with doing that was that they effectively reduced his value by moving him to a less demanding position. As a second-baseman, even with terrible defense, Diaz projected to be an elite secondbaseman in the Jeff Kent-mold. As an OFer, he projects to be average and he still brings bad defense to the table. With that being said, thats no reason to rank him below Ambriox Concepcion on a prospect list. J.J. Cooper of Baseball America thinks differently, and gives us his reason for such ranking on his Met prospect chat:

Q: Ricardo from Los Angeles asks:
Why is Concepcion ranked above Diaz?

A: J.J. Cooper: Diaz has produced more than Concepcion, obviously. But I put Concepcion about Diaz because, as I see it, Concepcion's ceiling is higher. We're talking about the difference between an athletic corner outfielder (who can handle center field) with a potentially strong bat, and a poor defensive left fielder who still has questions about if there really is a position for him. The questions about Diaz' defense mean that he has to really produce with the bat to start at the major league level, and with his free-swinging ways, he'll have to show major power production to make up for what projects to be a .330-.340 OBP. Concepcion also has some questions, but his ability to be a solid defensive outfielder with some more versatility gives him a little more leeway.
Certainly defense has its value, but honestly, I don't see any reason to say Ambiorix Concepcion is in any way better than Diaz at this point. Nevermind the fact that Diaz is in AAA and has proven he can hit in difficult hitting environments while Concepcion has yet to play in A ball. Nevermind that Concepcion's walk ratio wasn't any better than Diaz's last year. This whole discussion can be put to bed with one single sentence: Diaz's OPS in AAA was higher than Concepcion's OPS in Rookie Ball. Think about that for a minute. Still not convinced, well okay:

Diaz, Victor
SAL [A-]
Age 20,
350/412/521 27/69 bb/so 38 XBHs 349 ABs

Concepcion, Ambiorix
GCL, [R]
Age 20
305/338/475 13/27 bb/so 25 XBHs 259 ABs

So at the same age, Diaz had the edge in average, plate discipline, and power while also playing against tougher competion. When confronted with these stats, I don't see how anyone can think Concepcion at this moment is a better prospect than Victor Diaz. Maybe he'll be next year with a good showing in an actual full-season league, but not right now. Not when compared to a guy who has 310/358/486 minor league career line in over 1000 ABs. Not when compared to the guy who should be the Mets' opening day RFer next year.