NEW YORK -- Since February, Paul DePodesta has flown across the country and back again more times than he can count, scribbling down notes on scores of players. He once found himself at the same car rental counter in the same airport four days in a row, in search of the next high school baseball game or college tournament. His alarm often rings before dawn.
"It's been a bit of a blur," said DePodesta, in his first year as the Mets' vice president of player development and amateur scouting. "It's nonstop."
The goal, for DePodesta and his team of scouts, is to find the next Mets superstar. Most fans only see the end result of the process, which will be on display Monday at the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. But DePodesta has been preparing for Monday's Draft since general manager Sandy Alderson first hired him more than six months ago.
Live coverage of the 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 every Draft-eligible player. Fans can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And they can share their thoughts by tagging tweets with #mlbdraft.
So far, the Mets have been thrilled with their first-round pick from a year ago, right-hander Matt Harvey, who is blazing through the Florida State League in his professional debut. This year, the Mets will make their first selection six spots later, at 13th overall.
For DePodesta, scouting director Chad MacDonald and their team of scouts -- many of whom are also new hires -- the past four months have been a whirlwind of plane rides, car trips and amateur baseball games. The Mets must keep their eyes trained on the 12 teams ahead of them, while formulating a list of a half-dozen players who may ultimately drop to No. 13.
Inevitably, there are surprises.
"Someone's going to get there out of that group," DePodesta said of the players he is targeting. "You just don't know who is going to be there on Draft day. It only takes one team to jump up and grab a guy that will surprise you."
Both he and Alderson believe this year's Draft is deep in pitching; DePodesta called it "an unusual wealth of arms." Although the Mets are perhaps stronger at pitcher than at any other position in their farm system, boasting top-flight arms in Harvey, Jenrry Mejia and up-and-comer Jeurys Familia -- and although Alderson said he will take his current system into account "to a certain extent" on Draft day -- the Mets aren't likely to spend much time fretting over a potential surplus in pitching.
Personally, DePodesta has watched more than 150 pitchers and hitters this spring, scribbling down notes on each one. Alderson has remained relatively aloof from the process, putting his faith in DePodesta to make the best possible decisions with the 13th pick, the 44th pick, the 71st pick and beyond.
If nothing else, DePodesta is prepared.
"There's no doubt it's been fun, and I really do enjoy it," he said. "It's exhausting. But at the same time, I don't think there's anything more rewarding for an organization than to draft or sign a player, a homegrown player, and then develop him through the system. You're excited about when you saw him as an amateur. And then you get to see him grow both as a player and a person in the Minor Leagues, and ultimately realize his lifelong goal of being a Major League player, and at the same time, contribute to the success of the Mets. To me, there's almost nothing better."
Here's a glance at what the Mets have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
This is the first Mets Draft for Alderson and DePodesta, who have enjoyed past successes drafting in Oakland and Los Angeles, respectively. With three of the first 71 picks at their disposal, the new regime could rapidly improve the quality of its farm system with a successful Draft.
Recent Mets Draft picks
|2010||Matt Harvey||RHP||Class A St. Lucie (Mets)|
|2009||Steven Matz**||LHP||Recovering from Tommy John surgery (Mets)|
|2008||Ike Davis||1B||Mets (MLB)|
|2007||Eddie Kunz*||RHP||Double-A San Antonio (Padres)|
|2006||Kevin Mulvey**||RHP||Triple-A Reno (D-backs)|
"If you asked all 30 teams right now, my guess is that all 30 would tell you, 'We need more middle-of-the-order bats.' We all need more middle-of-the-diamond defenders. And we all need more pitching. Because of that, we're really focused on the best player available at a given time." -- DePodesta
Selecting 13th overall does not afford the Mets a clear picture of who will be available when their time comes to pick. If they lean toward pitching, the Mets could select a college arm in Alex Meyer of Kentucky or Matt Barnes of Connecticut. If they want to fill the gaps in their system with an outfielder, George Springer of Connecticut or Mikie Mahtook of LSU are options.
Despite a season-ending elbow injury to Mejia, the Mets remain deep in pitching. But they have few potential impact outfielders in their system and no impact catchers; look for them to start stockpiling bats.
Past trends may not matter much for the Mets, given their revamped scouting staff. But both Alderson and DePodesta characterized this year's Draft as deep in college pitching, an area the Mets have targeted early in recent Drafts.
Recent Draft history
The club's top pick in last year's Draft, Harvey did not play last season after brushing up against the August signing deadline. But he debuted in high Class A St. Lucie this season, and the Mets plan to promote him to Double-A Binghamton at some point this summer. He could make his big league debut sometime in 2012.
Selected in the 12th round of the 2008 Draft, Mark Cohoon enjoyed a breakout season in 2010, firing three straight shutouts for Class A Savannah as part of a 33 1/3-inning scoreless streak. The Mets recently promoted Cohoon to Triple-A Buffalo, putting him on the short list for a callup should more injuries befall the Mets.
In The Show
A 21st-round pick in 2007, Dillon Gee has become a mainstay in the Mets' rotation thanks to his fastball-changeup combination, refined breaking ball and superlative control. And he's far from alone. First baseman Ike Davis, catcher Josh Thole, infielder Daniel Murphy and pitchers Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese -- all drafted within the last six years -- have all played significant roles for the team this season.