January 11, 2007

Top 10 Prospects: 1. Mike Pelfrey

I will be posting on the Mets top 10 prospects through the course of the the next couple of days, so look for them. Over at Baseball America, they take a look at the Mets top 10 prospects:

1. Mike Pelfrey, rhp Born: Jan. 14, 1984; B-T: R-R; Ht: 6-7; Wt: 210
Drafted: Wichita State, 2005 (1st round); Signed by: Larry Chase

Background: After going 33-7 with a school-record 2.18 ERA in three seasons at Wichita State, Pelfrey was Baseball America's top-rated pitching prospect heading into the 2005 draft. The Diamondbacks considered him for the No. 1 overall pick, but he ultimately dropped to the Mets at No. 9 because of signability concerns. He didn't sign until January, when he received a club-record $3.55 million bonus as part of a $5.25 million big league contract. Pelfrey showed no ill effects from his layoff and needed just four starts at high Class A St. Lucie to earn a promotion to Double-A Binghamton. Pelfrey credits veteran catcher Mike DiFelice--whom the Mets sent to Binghamton solely to serve as mentor--with helping him gain confidence in his secondary stuff. He earned a major league callup when Pedro Martinez first went on the disabled list in July and won his first big league start before being sent to Triple-A Norfolk. If not for a sore back that limited him late in the season, Pelfrey would have been in the mix for a spot in the postseason bullpen. He might have gotten a playoff start, considering how beat up New York's starting pitchers were.

Strengths: There are few pitchers in the minors whose fastball can rival Pelfrey's. His two-seamer sits at 92-95 mph with fierce sink and late life and rates as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He throws it effortlessly from a 6-foot-7 frame on a steep downhill plane with great extension and solid command. He also has a four-seamer for extra velocity higher in the zone. Though Pelfrey barely needed to use a changeup as an amateur, he already has a good feel for it and it's his No. 2 pitch. He fiddled with his grip in 2006 and improved his command of the pitch. He fields his position well and has a good pickoff move, though the Mets would like to see him get faster to the plate from the stretch.

Weaknesses: A lack of a reliable breaking ball is the biggest thing holding Pelfrey back. He has thrown both a curveball and a slider but now favors the slider, which is better suited for his power arm. He throws it at 84-87 mph with some depth, and he can reduce the break on it to give it more of a cutter look against lefthanders. He has yet to learn how to command his slider consistently, and it probably always will be his third-best pitch. Though his mechanics are clean, he tends to over-rotate his lower half in his windup, which hurts his ability to locate his pitches.

The Future: Though he needs better command of his secondary stuff, there's little left for Pelfrey to prove in the minors. With Martinez out until at least the all-star break, Pelfrey will definitely be in the mix for the Opening Day rotation. He should be in the Mets rotation for years to come and has the potential to be a legitimate No. 1 starter.

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