Thursday, September 29, 2011

2012 Breakout Candidate: Reese Havens

What a way to end the season.

To start the day with Jose Reyes winning the batting title, and ending it with two of the greatest comebacks in baseball history! Wow. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

As for the Mets, the 2011 season has finally come to a close.

Injuries to key players: Davis, Reyes, Wright, Murphy, Santana, Pagan, Bay, Niese, Chris Young to name a few, derailed the Mets this season. While that should not be an excuse, as the Cardinals made the playoffs despite DL stints to Pujols, Berkman, Holliday, and Wainwright, the Mets simply did not have the depth to keep afloat.

That is where the excitement about next season begins.

For the first time in a long time, the Mets have young players in their minor league system that are generating a lot of excitement around baseball. Throughout the offseason, I will create profiles for players who I believe will breakout in 2012.

For my first breakout candidate, I have to go with Reese Havens.

If you have been following my minor league reports, you know all about my love for Reese Havens and his potential. I think next season, this winter even, he makes his big break.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Ruben Tejada.

Hitting .284 in 328 at bats, as a 21 year old no less, is nothing to scoff at. Combine that with his outstanding baseball instincts and defensive skill set, and you have yourself quite the player.

In fact, if the Mets are unable to sign Jose Reyes this offseason, Tejada and his defense would be a welcome addition to the infield. I know the pitching staff, (especially Mike Pelfrey if he is still here), would certainly appreciate it.

However, this article is about a second baseman with plus power and a great ability to get on base.

Over the course of two injury plagued seasons in AA, Havens hit .307 with a .505 SLG in 317 at bats. If you look at major league second baseman, only Robinson Cano’s .533 SLG was higher. Obviously, AA is a far cry from the major leagues, but at the same time, it shows that when healthy, all this kid does is hit.

For those of you who have never heard of Reese Havens, here is a brief background.

As a junior at South Carolina, Reese played short stop and hit .359 with 18 home runs in 63 games. He was selected by the Mets in the first round of the 2008 draft, 22nd overall (four spots after Ike Davis), and was expected to make it to the majors quickly.

Unfortunately, he has never been able to stay healthy.

200997.247.422St. Lucie
201032.312.592St. Lucie - Binghamton
201161.288.455St. Lucie - Binghamton

While these stats look discouraging, there is reason for hope.

Yes, four years after being drafted, Havens has yet to play 100 games in a single season. Yes, the chart hints that Havens has only had one productive hitting season to date. But, behind those paltry looking numbers, lies the good stuff.

2010 looks like his best statistical season. Hitting .312 and slugging .592 is fantastic no matter which way you look at it, but playing in 32 games is simply not enough. It proves how talented a hitter he is, and how fragile he was.

When comparing his 2011 season with 2010, it looks like he took a step back. Normally I would agree, but trust me, ignore that inclination.

After the 2010 season concluded, Reese had surgery to fix his ribs, performed by what has to be the richest doctor ever, Dr. James Andrews. The rehab from the surgery leaked into the 2011 season and forced Reese to miss the first month, as Mets made sure he took everything slow.

Not only was he unable to play in games throughout April and much of May, but when he came back, he showed a lot of rust. HOWEVER, as the season moved along, his health improved and as the following chart shows, his production followed suit.

Games Played BA HR SLG BB K

Looking through the chart, as each month passes, Havens improves in every important statistic.

The batting average improved dramatically, from a .214 May to .333 August. Hitting four home runs in August doubled the amount he hit in May – June combined. He also drew 12 walks in August, compared to only 13 walks from May – June. In addition, he was able to add this power and patience, while decreasing his strike out rate.

Increased power, with increased patience and strike zone discipline. That is what every organization looks for in a player, especially one with the pedigree of Reese Havens.

Provided he stays healthy, Havens will have his name in the Mets’ lineup card at second base at some point next season. The idea of Havens playing next to Ike Davis on the right side of the infield, across from two former Mets farmhands in David Wright and Jose Reyes, is something Mets fans should be very excited about.

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