Sunday, August 28, 2005

Power Hitting Prospects of The Early 1960's

Over 44 years, the Mets have done an abysmal job in developing power hitters in their organization. Of course, there was Darryl Strawberry and David Wright looks like a real good one, too, but that's been about it.

Back in the early '60's, the Mets thought they had some potential sluggers in Ed Kranepool, Ron Swoboda, Greg Goossen and Danny Napoleon.

Of course, just about every Mets fan knows about Kranepool and Swoboda, although younger fans may not know how much they were hyped when they first came up. Although Kranepool lasted for years and years with the Mets and both he and Swoboda were integral parts of the 1969 Miracle Mets, neither ever became the stars they were expected to be, and other than a few prodigious clouts by Swoboda, neither showed signs of the power they were expected to supply. Kranepool's best home run output in a season was 16, while Swoboda hit 19 in his rookie year, but never came close again, once pitchers figured him out.

The lesser known Goossen and Napoleon were also considered major long-ball prospects. Napoleon had one year in the New York Penn League where he either won, or came close to winning the triple crown and was forced onto the major league roster the following year by the same stupid rule that required the Mets to carry Ron Locke, Jim Bethke and Tug McGraw one year after they made their pro debuts. But unlike them, Napoleon was already 23 years old, which probably meant that his big numbers the year before were probably attributable to the fact that he was a 22-year old with college experience playing against 19 and 20-year olds. Had Napoleon been allowed to progress step-by-step through the farm system, who knows if he may have had a better career. But, rushed to the big leagues, other than one big triple that won a game for the Mets, he did little to prove he belonged. He played for awhile in the minor leagues after that cup of coffee, but was rarely mentioned as a prospect again, either with the Mets or the Cardinals, to whom he was subsequently traded in a big package deal. He NEVER hit a homerun in his big league career.

Goossen was a big catcher who had undeniable power and was a pretty good hitter for average, too, at least in the minor leagues. He came out of the Dodgers' organization as a first-year waiver claim. He did well enough in AAA to get a legitimate shot with the Mets, but never seemed to develop the consistency to stay in the lineup. Plus, it was obvious that the Mets had better defensive options at catcher. After hitting the grand total of 2 homeruns during his Mets career, in early 1969, he was sold to the expansion Seattle Pilots, where he had a .300 season, with 10 HR's in 139 at bats, but that was about it for his career.

Next, I'll look at how the Mets did in the very first free-agent draft, 1965.


Anonymous Scott said...

Yeah, I remember that bases-clearing triple, on a weekend day game at Candlestick. After the game, Napoleon was on Kiner's Corner, of course. I don't recall what he said, but I remember savoring the replay of the triple. Moments like that were few and far between for the early Mets. Too bad that it was Napoleon's only big moment in the big leagues, but at least he had one.

11:31 AM  

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