NEW YORK -- When Johan Santana finished the first no-hitter in Mets history on Friday, it marked a changing of the guard. Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran, the face of the Omar Minaya era in New York, was playing in his first game at Citi Field since a trade sent him to the San Francisco Giants last July. Beltran's homecoming ended with the Mets' new-look lineup dog-piling Santana in front of the mound, with the 35-year-old outfielder a distant memory.
But Beltran's legacy with the Mets could just be beginning, as it lives on through the right arm of New York's elite prospect, Zack Wheeler. The 22-year-old, ranked as the 25th best prospect in baseball, and was the return for Beltran in the deal with the Giants.
Wheeler now profiles as the face of the Mets' youth movement under new general manager Sandy Alderson.
Wheeler's been nothing but spectacular since landing in the Mets' system. With a mid-90s fastball and a breaking ball that has drastically improved, Wheeler is tearing up Double-A with a 5-2 record, a 1.88 ERA and 60 strikeouts over 52 innings. With his success in the Minors, Wheeler could be in the Majors as soon as September, and he could land a spot in the rotation as soon as next year.
The knock on Wheeler was his struggle with his command in the Giants' system. In 88 innings of High-A ball, Wheeler walked 47 batters, averaging 4.8 walks per nine innings. But since arriving in New York's system, his wild tendencies have subsided. In 27 innings after the trade last season, he walked just five batters while striking out 31.
The sixth overall Draft pick in 2009, Wheeler has another live arm tailing him to the big leagues. The Mets' 2010 first-round pick, Matt Harvey, appears close to making his debut with the Mets in the near future.
Harvey, ranked the 34th overall prospect in baseball, is 5-1 for Triple-A Buffalo this season with a 3.69 ERA. Last season, the Mets were deciding whether to move the North Carolina product to the bullpen after he struggled with his command in his first season in Double-A. But he's quieted his critics with a strong year in 2012 thus far. While there's room to grow, his plus breaking ball matched with an improved fastball has him on track for a visit to Citi Field this September.
And then there's Jeurys Familia, who was signed by the Mets in 2007 as a 17-year-old. Now at age 22, the power right-hander from the Dominican Republic is rated the third-highest prospect in the Mets' organization.
There's never been a question about Familia's talent, as he consistently hits the upper-90s with his fastball. However, he is struggling at Triple-A Buffalo this season with an ERA climbing into the high fours. Still, Familia is expected to be up in the Major Leagues relatively soon, as his power arm is one of the best in the system.
With the organization front-loaded with pitching talent, the additions of shortstop Gavin Cecchini, Purdue catcher Kevin Plawecki and Arkansas utility man Matthew Reynolds in the early part of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft helped the Mets restock their young crop of position players.
Last year, with the first pick of the Alderson era, the Mets selected outfielder Brandon Nimmo. The first first-round pick to hail from Wyoming, Nimmo was viewed as a risky pick, straying from the Mets' usually conservative approach to the Draft.
But the Mets took the 19-year-old for his upside, and they'll have to wait for his talents to develop before receiving significant contributions from their young outfielder. Nimmo has been working in extended spring games in Port St. Lucie, Fla., this season, and is still a few years away from making a Major League impact.