The New York Mets are facing the dreaded "R-word" that's practically a forbidden phrase in New York: rebuilding.
In a big market like New York City, it's usually frowned upon to sacrifice the present in order to build a better future. But building a championship-caliber team is no easy feat, and cannot be done in one offseason.
After six seasons of somewhat reckless spending on the free agent market under former general manager Omar Minaya that resulted in just one postseason appearance, the Mets now find themselves under a new regime with a total different team-building philosophy.
The new front office composed of general manager Sandy Alderson and assistants Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi brings a level of competency and legitimacy from the top down that the franchise has lacked since the days of Frank Cashen in the 1980s.
I've never been more confident about the future direction of the team in all my years of being a fan. I am too young to remember the Cashen era. I remember the Steve Phillips era, unfortunately.
It's refreshing to have a front office with a plan, for once. What that plan entails exactly, I'm not sure. But I know it will rely heavily on amateur scouting and building through the draft, paying overslot if needed, and replenishing the farm system.
But even looking at the 2011 Mets roster, there already is a lot of homegrown talent left over from the pre-Sandy Alderson era. Despite the fact that the Mets never had a highly-rated farm system under Omar Minaya, they've gotten a decent amount of Major League talent out of it.
Including some recent call-ups like Dillon Gee, the Mets have had 16 different players on their 25-man active roster this season that either spent time in the Mets farm system or made their Major League debuts with the Mets. (I did not include Jason Bay, as he only spent 4 months in the Mets system before making his debut with the Padres.)
That includes Jose Reyes, David Wright and Ike Davis, of course. But it also includes guys like Angel Pagan (who spent six years in the Mets farm system before making his Major League debut with the Cubs) and Ryota Igarashi, who was a Japanese free agent.
One thing that I've noticed while looking through the roster that's pretty fascinating to me is the fact that exactly 20% of the Mets current 25-man roster (that's five players for the mathematically-challenged) were all drafted in the same draft class.
Yes, the Mets did not draft very well overall under Omar Minaya, as there were plenty of busts as well as very few overslot draft picks during his six seasons as GM. But his success rate in the 2005 draft is pretty remarkable.
I would like to preface this just by listing some of the talent that came out of that 2005 draft. It's pretty ridiculous.
In the first round and sandwich round alone, teams drafted Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Matt Garza, Justin Upton, Clay Buchholz, Andrew McCutchen, Jacoby Ellsbury, Colby Rasmus, Ricky Romero, Jay Bruce, Alex Gordon, Jed Lowrie, Mike Pelfrey, Cliff Pennington, Chris Volstad and Cameron Maybin.
Not to mention Yunel Escobar, Kevin Slowey, Chase Headley, and Nick Hundley in the second round. I think you get the picture. This draft class was LOADED.
With the 9th overall pick in round 1, the Mets selected right-hander Mike Pelfrey out of Wichita State, and he quickly made it the major leagues just a year later in 2006. He is now a fixture in the starting rotation and has been for a few seasons now.
Of course, in a draft loaded with the talent of the players listed above, you expect to get a pretty productive player in the first round of the draft. But the Mets scouts deserve a ton of credit for the hidden gems they were able to draft and develop later on.
With the 209th overall pick in the 7th round of the draft, the Mets selected an 18-year-old left-hander out of Defiance High School in Ohio named Jonathon Niese. He and Pelfrey pitched the first two games of the season for the Mets this year, and I believe Niese has a very bright future.
Two rounds later, with the 269th overall pick in round 9, the Mets drafted hard-throwing right-hander Bobby Parnell, who has become one of the Mets top set-up men this season. Although he's had a few rocky outings, he's shown tremendous potential with his plus fastball and hard slider.
If that's not enough for late round value, this one might just take the cake. With the 389th overall pick of the 13th round of the 2005 draft, the Mets drafted 18-year-old catcher Josh Thole of Mater Dei High School in Breese, IL. Thole has become the Mets' starting catcher, and continues to get better every day.
The fifth and final draft pick is the one that many people may not know about, and maybe some people won't count, considering he did not sign. In the 17th round of the 2005 draft, 509th overall, the Mets selected right-hander Pedro Beato out of Xaverian High School in Brooklyn.
The Mets could not come to an agreement with him, so Beato enrolled at St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg Florida (amazingly enough, the same school that 1986 World Champion Mets teammates Howard Johnson and Tim Teufel attended) and played one season there.
Beato was drafted 32nd overall in the 1st round of the 2006 draft by the Baltimore Orioles the following season, where he played five seasons of minor league ball, never pitching above Double-A ball.
But the new Mets front office saw an opportunity this past winter when the Orioles left Beato off their 40-man roster before the Rule V draft, and the Mets re-acquired Beato's rights and brought the kid who was born to be a Met back home to Queens.
In his first 9 innings in the big leagues thus far, Beato has not allowed an earned run, with only six hits and one walk allowed with six strikeouts. Not bad for a guy who had never thrown a pitch above Double-A ball.
The Mets rebuilding process is far from over, but it's off to a good start under new general manager Sandy Alderson. It may take a few more years before the Mets are serious contenders again, but they've got a nice core of young players to build around.
Alderson and company are two months away from their first amateur draft in their Mets tenure, and have made it known that they intend to aggressively pursue the best players available regardless of cost, something Minaya rarely did.
All it takes is another draft class like the incredible 2005 draft to accelerate the Mets turnaround. Hey, if Minaya can do it, why not Alderson?