Mets' first pick a reliever with upside
Beginning with righty closer Kunz, team goes big on Day 1
NEW YORK -- If size matters -- and the Mets evidently believe it does -- then they had a successful first-day run at baseball's annual amateur smorgasbord. Indeed, the Mets may reach new heights if they sign the first three players they selected Thursday in the First-Year Player Draft.
Of course, talent, potential and signability are the primary considerations in the Draft, but what makes the Mets' first three selections conspicuous is their size. Eddie Kunz, the relief pitcher from Oregon State they made their first selection -- and the 42nd overall pick in the Draft -- is 6-foot-5 and weighs 250 pounds. And left-handed high school pitcher Nate Vineyard, the 47th player selected, is a mere 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds.
Each of those players is small compared with the players the Mets selected third and fourth -- 6-foot-10, 250-pound high school pitcher Scott Moviel, and Brant Rustich, a 22-year-old right-handed relief pitcher from UCLA who is 6-foot-6 and weighs 225 pounds.
No matter how things work out for Moviel and Rustich, the Mets must have big plans for them.
Kunz, of course, is the critical choice, because he was their first pick and because he is relatively close to being big-league ready.
"We don't want to predict a Joe Smith [type] rise for him," said Mets assistant general manager John Ricco on Thursday. "But he is a developed talent. He shouldn't need a lot of time."
Smith, of course, moved from the third round of the 2006 Draft to the Mets bullpen in less than a year. And he was nearly promoted before he had two months as a professional under his belt.
Kunz, if he signs, will come to the organization as a time when there are few bullpen needs at the big-league level. In that regard, his scenario is unlike the one in place when Smith signed -- and he needs polish.
Kunz, 21, throws a heavy fastball, similar to that of Mike Pelfrey. Teammates call Pelfrey's pitch "a bowling ball." Kunz has comparable velocity -- 93-94 mph, according to Ricco. He also throws a late-breaking slider that tops off in the low 80s.
Usually, top-flight relievers rely on only two pitches. But in Kunz's case, some scouts believe an off-speed pitch may be necessary for him to be a successful Major League closer. He has used a changeup against left-handed hitters, and that pitch is said to be improving.
|42||Kunz, Edward||Oregon St U||RHP|
|47||Vineyard, Nathan||Woodland HS||LHP|
|77||Moviel, Scott||Saint Edward HS||RHP|
|93||Rustich, Brant||UC Los Angeles||RHP|
|99||Niesen, Eric||Wake Forest U||LHP|
|123||Clyne, Stephen||Clemson U||RHP|
|153||Lucas, Richard||Wolfson Senior HS||3B|
|183||Lutz, Zach||Alvernia Col||3B|
"He keeps his pitches down in the zone," Ricco said.
Scouts like Kunz's poise, his size and his command, and they believe he is most likely to develop into a setup man. He will, of course, come under the guidance of pitching coach Rick Peterson once he is signed, and there is a sense that an adjustment in his arm angle, making it higher, could add velocity.
"It definitely blew my mind when I saw my name come across on the scroll on my computer," said Kunz, "It's a very exciting day for me and my family. I'm thrilled to be part of the Mets."
Kunz has a 3-1 record with 10 saves for Oregon State University. He has pitched 44 1/3 innings in 28 appearances, allowing 29 hits and 18 walks, while striking out 37.
Oregon State is trying to defend its NCAA title and will play in Super Regionals on Saturday. Kunz was the setup man on the Beavers' championship team last season, putting together a 5-1 record and 3.61 ERA in 29 games, allowing 39 hits and 21 walks and striking out 30 in 42 1/3 innings.
|"We don't want to predict a Joe Smith [type] rise for him," said Mets assistant general manager John Ricco on Thursday. "But he is a developed talent. He shouldn't need a lot of time."|
|-- Mets assistant general manager John Ricco on first pick Eddie Kunz|
Vineyard, 18, is from Woodland High School in Emerson, Ga. He is considered to have an average fastball, an improving slider and a below-average changeup that scouts believe will improve. He had an 8-2 record with a 0.84 ERA in 10 games with Woodland this year. In 59 innings, he allowed 29 hits and 12 walks and had 105 strikeouts.
The Mets were quite pleased that Kunz and Vineyard were still available when they were in position to make their selections. The Mets had no first-round pick because they forfeited their spot to the Giants when they signed Moises Alou as a Type A free agent last season. Type A players require greater compensation.
"We weren't sure we'd get one [of the two pitchers]," Ricco said. "And when we got both, we were pleasantly surprised. There were a lot of handshakes in the room."
The Mets staff, with Fred and Jeff Wilpon, the owner and COO, in attendance, operated in the Director's Room at Shea Stadium with Ricco, general manager Omar Minaya, vice presidents Tony Bernazard and Sandy Johnson, scouting director Rudy Terrasas and a number of area scouts and cross-checkers in attendance.
Scout Jim Reeves and supervisor Fortugno did most of the early scouting of Kunz.
The Mets' other selections on Thursday include:
Round 2, No. 77 -- Scott Moviel, 18, right-handed pitcher, 6-10, 250 pounds, St. Edward High School, Berea, Ohio.
Moviel, a former basketball player, could be bound for NC State -- to play baseball. The Mets are encouraged that he added two mph to his fastball in the last year.
Round 2, No. 93 -- Brant Rustich, 22, right-handed relief pitcher, 6-6, 225 pounds, UCLA.
Rustich is a redshirt junior who missed most of the 2006 season because of a finger injury that required surgery. He had trouble with his command this year.
Round 3, No. 99 -- Eric Niesen, 21, left-handed relief pitcher, 6-0, 185 pounds, Wake
He has gained velocity since moving to the bullpen, but his secondary pitches are nothing special.
Round 3, No. 123 -- Stephen Clyne, 22, right-handed pitcher, 6-1, 205 pounds, Clemson University.
Round 4, No. 153 -- Richard Lucas, 19, right-handed-hitting third baseman, 6-0, 205, Wolfson High School, Jacksonville, Fla.
Round 5, No. 183 -- Zach Lutz, 20, right-handed-hitting third baseman, 6-2, 215 pounds, Alvernia College, Reading, Pa.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.