Remember when Lastings Milledge was a thing? Fernando Martinez?
Me neither. That was like, so mid-2000s. Well these aren’t your grandfathers New York Mets, and this isn’t Omar Minaya’s farm system. This is Sandy Alderson’s team and his fingerprints are all over an improved minor league pipeline and an added emphasis on player development.
So say what you want about how he handled Jose Reyes’ free agency, and curse him for refusing to part with a top pick to sign 30-year-old Michael Bourn and his .314 OBP. But this year, while you’re writing your Christmas “thank you” letters, remember to mail one to the GM’s office as gratitude for a surfeit of power arms throughout the system and a few promising position players in the lower levels.
The Yankees are still fighting for a Wild Card spot, but it’s the Mets who have the brighter future. Alderson has promised to spend money as it becomes available, and figures to make significant upgrades this offseason. He’ll likely never outspend the Yanks, but more importantly, the Mets have legit pieces clawing their way up to The Show. So here’s a slightly before-the-gun look at the year-end Mets prospects rankings to prove it.
Rankings explanations after the list.
1) Noah Syndergaard, RHP (double-A)
No surprise here, Syndergaard keeps getting better every year. Dominated high-A ball before promotion to Binghamton where he post a career-high 32.2 K% and career-best 5.6 walk rate. Consensus top ten RHP prospect in baseball. Has plus FB, good CU and curve with plus command. Outstanding mound presence. Similar path to the show as Wheeler and Harvey – Triple-A in April, Flushing by mid-July.
2) Travis d’Arnaud, C (MLB)
Staying healthy is a skill that d’Arnaud needs to prove he has. As expected, hit well in Vegas when healthy. Slow start to ML career, and power hasn’t shown up yet, but growing pains are unavoidable. Showing better-than-advertised defense and exceptional pitch-framing skills. Pitchers like working with him. A natural, quiet leader and future All-Star catcher – two-way catchers are a commodity in this post-roids era.
3) Rafael Montero, RHP (triple-A)
Did nothing to hurt his prospect status. Undersized fast-riser signed in 2011. Fastball sits 92-93, breaking ball is still improving, but with a strong CU and outstanding command to both sides of the plate. 150:35 strikeouts-to-walks will stand out in any league, but that’s spectacular for half a season in the Pacific Coast League. Struggled a bit after promotion, but has a 2.18 ERA and a .219 BAA over his last ten starts with the 51′s. Will see Citi Field in ’14. High floor, mid-rotaion grade.
4) Kevin Plawecki, C (double-A)
Probably benefited most from d’Arnaud trade. Without Mets fans expecting him to be the catcher of the future, Plawecki had one of the best season’s in the system. Way too good for the Sally, still better than FSL pitching. Bat control and Exceptional OBP skills with improving defense makes a potential Plawecki/d’Arnaud logjam a very welcomed problem for the Mets.
5) Dominic Smith, 1B (rookie)
2013 top pick, Smith was one of the youngest players in the draft. Very long way from Flushing. Scouting reports agreed he had an advanced bat and potential for plus power and plus defense as he matures. Is likely locked in at first base, so power needs to show up – .288/.387/.411 is a good start for a 17-year-old.
6) Steven Matz, LHP (A)
I love Matz. Guilty. Rule five eligible, may need to be added to 40-man roster. top draft pick in ’09, finally healthy after Tommy John surgery and shoulder tendonitis. Lefty, 92-96 mph with his fastball, dominated A-ball hitters most of the year. Could be anything from mid-rotation starter to a Rob Carson (lefty, +velo, no FB movement, too hittable). Needs to throw slider more and stay healthy. LI kid. Raw.
7) Brandon Nimmo, OF (A)
Up-and-down year for the 2012 top pick. Nimmo, 20, spent time on the DL for a bruised hand. Says he spent the summer working on letting the ball travel deeper and driving pitches the other way. High K% is concerning, but a second straight 14 percent walk rate is exciting. Power will come. If he can stick in CF, he’s a terrific all-around prospect, although LF seems more likely given his average arm.
8) Cesar Puello, OF (AA)
Best power/speed combo in the system (16 HR, 25 SB). Should be higher but prospect status took a hit after suspension for connection to Biogenesis. His stellar 163 wRC+ was best in the Eastern League before suspension.
9) Dilson Herrera, 2B (A)
Main piece in the Buck/Byrd trade. Intriguing power/speed combo. 19-year-old Colombia native has a chance to be an above-average hitter with speed in the field and around the bases. Surprising pop (11 HRs) for a guy his size – he’s listed at 5’10”, 150 pounds.
10) Michael Fulmer, RHP (high-A)
Disappointing year for Fulmer. Third pitcher selected from the outstanding 2011 class of Oklahoma prep pitchers. Spring Training surgery on a torn meniscus kept him out till mid-summer. Made a few rehab appearances in the low minors before being hit with a comebacker and returning to the DL with bicep tendonitis. Still has a chance to develop into a solid mid-rotation pitcher.
11) Gabriel Ynoa, RHP (A)
Voted SAL Most Outstanding Pitcher. Solid frame. Led SAL in walk rate (3.0%), and ranked fourth and sixth in ERA (2.72) and FIP (2.88). 20-year-old Dominican prospect has an ML fastball and a developing change-up and slider. Could develop into a league average starter down the line.
12) Gavin Cecchini, SS (low-A)
Numbers don’t match the promise yet, but if you’ve seen him, you see it. Smooth defensive actions, arm enough to throw across the diamond, and terrific footwork around the bag turning double plays. Range to his left and right. Still tends to get too anxious at the plate and lose balance through his swing, but when his timing is on, he barrels line drives to center field effortlessly. Don’t be fooled by the numbers in a pitcher-friendly league. Still a very legit prospect.
13) Vic Black, RHP (MLB)
ESPN’s prospect guru Keith Law called Black’s delivery, “brutal.” It ain’t pretty, but Black has serious velo. PTBNL in the Byrd/Buck deal, inconsistent slider. Compelling back story, immediately slides in as a hard throwing middle reliever. Improved command could tab Black as a future late-inning/closer option.
14) Jacob deGrom, RHP (triple-A)
Perennially underrated. Athletic (pitched and played shortstop at Stetson University), repeats delivery and fastball sits comfortable in 92-94 with life. Raced through lower minors after 2011 Tommy John Surgery. Effective slider and change-up. Starter ceiling, but more likely a useable bullpen piece as early as 2013.
15) Jeff Walters, RHP (double-A)
Set B-Mets single-season saves record. 25, drafted each year from 2006-’09. Finally started striking out batters at a rate consistent with top reliever prospects (9.6 K/9). Hard thrower, good command. Promoted to Vegas for playoffs. Decent beard game, legit bullpen candidate in 2013.
16) Corey Vaughn, OF (double-A)
After Puello, best outfield prospect in the upper minors. Rule-V eligible. Some speed, but only an average defender. More power than Bingo numbers suggest (.424 SLG). Spent time on DL with an elbow injury. Headed to the Arizona Fall League.
17) Jack Leathersich, LHP (triple-A)
Eventually he had to struggle, right? Improved command disappeared in Las Vegas after promotion. Same silly strikeout numbers (14.6 K/9), but needs to stop walking batters. 4.17 FIP is not good (even in the PCL). Closer stuff plays up thanks to deceptive delivery, but will not succeed at the next level with a 1:1 walks-to-innings ratio. .448 triple-A BABIB for whatever that’s worth.
18) Cory Mazzoni, RHP (double-A)
Fast-tracked after being selected in the second round in 2011. Spent time on the DL and only made 13 starts this year. Strikeouts finally improved after poor 6.25 K/9 rate in 2012. MLB bullpen by September ’13.
19) Allan Dykstra, 1B (double-A)
Mad power, 26, not related to Lenny. MONSTER year in Binghampton (albeit in his third stint in the level). Led the Eastern League in BB%, OBP, SLG and wRC+. I admit that I don’t know what to make of him. Is age the only knock on his prospect status?
20) Matt den Dekker, CF (triple-A)
Glimpses of power, including the BOMB he hit off Ross Ohlendorf. Calling card will be his plus-plus range in CF. History of struggling after a promotion, making adjustments, then putting up stellar numbers. Contact issues indicate a career 4th OF/lefty bat/late-game defense/speed replacement. Will battle with Cap’n Kirk for that spot next year.
21) Jayce Boyd, 1B (high-A)
Huge stock boost in 2012. Solid defender, strong approach (86:91 K-to-BB ratio in pro ball), line drive swing, uncanny hand-eye coordination. Limited power. Batted .330/.410/.461 between Savannah and St. Lucie. Think Satin with less eyebrow power.
22) Adam Kolarek, LHP (double-A)
Low-90s FB with tilt, change-up and slider. Aggressive approach. Held lefties to a .537 OPS. Called up to Vegas for playoff run. Could have slotted teammate Chase Huchingson here also. Was also effective against righties (.209/.293/.356) but probably future LOOGY.
23) LJ Mazzilli, 2B (low-A)
Bloodlines + teamlines. Quietly had himself a solid professional debut season. Athletic, capable second basemen; compact, easy swing. Should continue to hit and move through system fairly quickly. Just looks like a future ML middle infielder – sons of 2x World Series champs often do.
24) Dustin Lawley, OF (high-A)
His 26 home runs were most in the Mets farm system. He’s 24-years-old, so his numbers in St. Lucie are slightly little less impressive. Promoted to AAA for playoff run. Could end up a quadruple-A guy, or an MLB utility bat spending time at each of the four corners.
25) Jared King, OF (low-A)
Fringe prospect. Here largely because of the almost unanimous post-draft murmur – writers agreed that the Mets committed draft-day larceny when they selected switch-hitting King in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. Decent debut. Solid tools across the board, solid build. Will know more next year one he reaches full season ball. Would have ranked much higher on this list two years ago. Speaks volumes to the improvements in the system.
Honorable Mention: Matthew Bowman, RHP; Chase Huchingson, LHP; Louis Guillorme, SS; Wuilmer Becerra, OF; Aderlin Rodriguez, 3B/1B; Amed Rosario, SS; Akeel Morris, RHP; Hansel Robles, RHP; Rainy Lara, RHP; Vicente Lupo, OF; Luis Mateo, RHP; Domingo Tapia, RHP; Logan Verrett, RHP; Travis Taijeron, OF; John Gant, RHP; TJ Rivera, 2B; Darin Gorski, LHP
* prospects are ranked by upside, proximity to major league readiness and MiLB statistics.
** team in parenthesis is the level the prospect last spent time as an everyday player.
*** as far as I’m concerened, Familia, Mejia and Germen are MLB relievers despite actual rookie status.
**** major injuries or significant time missed tend to drop guys down the list (Mateo etc..)