NEW YORK -- Paul DePodesta was among the first to admit it, mere hours after selecting Brandon Nimmo with the 13th overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
"This certainly isn't without risk," the Mets' scouting director said of taking Nimmo, a raw 18-year-old outfielder whose Wyoming high school did not even offer a baseball program.
It was so out of character that with that one bold pick, the Mets transformed a reputation more than a half-decade in the making. No longer would the Mets be risk-averse in the Draft, avoiding the types of high school talents that have a greater risk of never cracking the big leagues. No longer would the Mets lean on college pitching, even if that meant sacrificing upside for apparent safety.
Instead, the organization's first Draft under DePodesta's watch proved that the Mets were willing to select whomever they felt could best help their team. If that meant a college pitcher, so be it. But if it meant a raw outfielder years away from the big leagues, that would be fine as well.
So keep that in mind Monday evening, when the Mets pick 12th overall in this year's First-Year Player Draft. The only consensus on what they might do is that there is no consensus at all.
Live coverage of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 6 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Fans can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following@MLBDraft on Twitter, and can join the Draft conversation by tagging tweets with #mlbdraft.
The Mets had gone conservative for years before selecting Nimmo, who singlehandedly altered the organization's Draft Day character. Perhaps not coincidentally, while the Mets produced plenty of big leaguers under former general manager Omar Minaya's watch, most of them lacked the star upside that teams crave in the Draft.
Nimmo possesses it. So does starting pitcher Matt Harvey, Minaya's final first-round pick as GM in 2010. And so does Zack Wheeler, the pitcher the Mets received from the Giants last summer in exchange for Carlos Beltran. Those three highlight a much-improved system for the Mets, who will look to enhance it even further on Monday.
Here's a glance at what the Mets have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
The Mets made waves when they spent their first-round pick last year on Nimmo, one of the most talented but raw prospects in the entire Draft. After years of playing it relatively safe on Draft Day, the Mets could further reshape their scouting reputation with another big gamble.
After selecting Nimmo 13th overall last year, the Mets actually proceeded quite conservatively, taking college pitchers with each of their next four picks. Partially as a result of that, it would make some sense for them to consider leaning heavily on position players -- particularly infielders -- to balance out their pitching-heavy system. But the Mets are also like most teams in their desire to take the best player on the board at any given time. DePodesta has already been linked to some of the top college arms in the country, meaning the Mets could spend their early picks just about anywhere.
In years past, the Mets would not have been plausible candidates to land someone like Gavin Cecchini, an 18-year-old high school shortstop with plenty of upside -- and just as much bust potential. But the Mets have developed a different reputation under DePodesta, and have been linked to Cecchini in just about every major trade publication.
If they decide to go with a more advanced shortstop, Arizona State's Deven Marrero would make sense. A college pitcher such as Texas A&M's Michael Wacha would also fit their mold.
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
Shortstop is a big need for the Mets, which is why they have been linked so frequently to Cecchini and Marrero. Catcher is also a significant need, but the only obvious first-round talent available, Mike Zunino, will likely have whizzed off the board by the time New York picks at No. 12. The Mets are relatively deep in the outfield and on the mound, though any scouting director in the league will tell you pitching is always in demand.
As usual, the Mets are committed to selecting the best player available. But all things being equal, a solid middle-infield prospect would go a long way toward balancing out their system.
College pitching, college pitching and more college pitching used to be the annual tradition for the Mets, until they broke the mold with Nimmo last June. Now it's anyone's guess. It's not as if the organization completely abandoned its old strategy last year, taking college pitchers with four of its first five picks. But the Mets also showed a willingness to head in uncharted directions during their inaugural Draft under DePodesta's watch. It would surprise few to see them make another risky first-round splash -- all of which is to say that trends are not that useful when forecasting what the Mets will do.
Recent Draft History Rising fast
Harvey opened last season in Class A ball, but motored through the system and has been pitching effectively at Triple-A Buffalo this summer. Though the Mets want to see their 2010 first-round pick establish a bit more consistency in the Minors, Harvey should be in New York by September and could seriously challenge for a rotation spot next spring.
Harvey, Jeurys Familia and Wheeler have given the Mets their best trio of starting pitching prospects since Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson in the late 1990s.
Mets' recent top picks
Expected to join Class A Brooklyn (Mets)
Triple-A Buffalo (Mets)
Recovering from Tommy John surgery (Mets)
Double-A San Antonio (Padres)
The Mets may have found a late gem in left-hander Josh Edgin, who nearly broke camp with the big club this spring. A 30th-round pick in 2010, Edgin has vaulted from low Class A Savannah to Buffalo in barely more than a year, and could develop into a long-term solution at the back end of New York's bullpen. Physically, the 25-year-old reliever compares favorably to former Mets closer Billy Wagner, though with more bulk on his 225-pound frame and less velocity on his fastball.
In The Show
For all the criticism the Mets have endured in recent years regarding their farm system, they have managed to field a competitive team almost entirely out of prospects. Homegrown players Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Daniel Murphy, Josh Thole, David Wright, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee have all played significant roles on the Mets this summer, with more reinforcements -- Harvey, Familia, Jenrry Mejia and others -- potentially on the way. Earlier this season, the Mets fielded a lineup of nine homegrown players for just the third time in franchise history.