The New York Mets boast an underrated system that has both impressive arms and intriguing hitters. Quite a few of the prospects should be ready to contribute at the big league level within the next two seasons.
The Year in Review: The key to the late 2012 trade that sent former Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto, Syndergaard’s timetable was accelerated in 2013 and his split the season between High-A and Double-A. In total, he struck out 133 batters in 117.2 innings and walked just 28. His increased fly-ball rate in 2013 caught up to him at the Double-A level when his home run rate jumped significantly from 0.42 to 1.33 HR/9.
The Scouting Report: Syndergaard’s most talked about attribute is his mid-to-upper-90s fastball but he also has above-average control for a 21-year-old with less than four years of professional experience. The right-hander pairs his heater with an above-average changeup that flashes plus potential and his breaking ball has improved enough to place a future average grade on it. Standing 6’6”, the Texas native needs to do a better job of leveraging his height to his advantage and pounding the lower half of the strike zone.
The Year Ahead: Because he’s so young, and didn’t turn 21 until the end of August, Syndergaard could head back to the Double-A level where he made 11 starts last season. He should reach Triple-A before the end of June and could be pitching in the Majors by the end of August.
The Career Outlook: The lack of a consistent breaking ball is holding back Syndergaard from being projected as a future No. 1 starter. Nonetheless, in his prime he could be a dominating No. 2 starter capable of providing a plethora of innings.
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The Year in Review: Another piece of the loot that the Mets scored in the R.A. Dickey trade, d’Arnaud looked poised to take over the starting catcher’s gig at the big league level before the beginning of the summer but a broken foot put the end to that dream. He finally made The Show in mid-August but struggled in 31 games. He hit just .202 with four extra base hits and struck out 21 times.
The Scouting Report: Despite his struggles in 2013, d’Arnaud projects to develop into an above average hitting catcher and could provide 15-20 home runs in a full season’s worth of work. He showed some signs of curbing his aggressive nature at the plate but he’s gotten himself into trouble in the past by swinging at too many pitcher’s pitches. Perhaps the biggest concern with d’Arnaud is the litany of injuries that he’s already sustained in his seven-year career.
The Year Ahead: As it stands, d’Arnaud is being handed the undisputed role of starting catcher for the Mets and he’ll be backed up by either defensive whiz Juan Centeno or sophomore journeyman Anthony Recker. Either way, the Mets could have a very inexperienced tandem in 2014.
The Career Outlook: The young catcher has all-star potential but he’s got to stay healthy and behind the plate long enough to realize his full potential.
The Year in Review: Drafted 11th overall out of high school in 2013, Smith entered pro ball and was rarely fazed. He produced a .384 on-base percentage while displaying flashes of his power potential. He also impressed with his defensive work. After 48 games in the Gulf Coast League, he earned a late promotion to the advanced-rookie Appalachian League where he appeared in three games.
The Scouting Report: Smith was even more advanced at the plate than expected. He should hit for average and power while also getting on-base at a healthy clip. His power is generated by quick bat speed and he doesn’t have to pull the ball to hit it out of the park. Like many young hitters, he has work to do against same-handed pitchers. At first base, he could develop into on of the best fielder in the game at his position thanks to his athleticism around the bag and soft hands.
The Year Ahead: Smith is advanced and mature enough to handle a jump to full-season ball in his first full pro season. He could move fairly quickly for such a young player and could reach the Majors in late 2016.
The Career Outlook: Smith has a chance to be an impact player both as a middle-of-the-order hitter and as a defensive whiz at first base.
The Year in Review: One of the most exciting prospects in the Appalachian League based on his raw tools, Rosario showed his inexperience at the plate with a .637 OPS and 43 strikeouts in 58 games. The right-handed hitter struggled mightily against southpaws — likely due to the lack of experience — but he made noticeable improvements in each of the three months he played in 2013.
The Scouting Report: You wouldn’t know it to look at his numbers but Rosario has average or better tools across the board and projects to develop into an above-average hitter both in terms of batting average and power. He also has above-average speed but needs to improve his reads and jumps. Defensively, he has a strong arm, good range and soft hands so he should stick at the position long term.
The Year Ahead: Rosario turned 18 in November and still has a lot of polish to add to his offensive game so he’ll likely open the 2014 season in extended spring training before moving up to either the New York Penn League or South Atlantic League in June. He’s at least four seasons away from reaching the Majors.
The Career Outlook: The shortstop position in New York is a bit of a black hole right now and Rosario might end up being the answer to the problem but i’s going to be a while before he punches his ticket to Citi Field.
The Year in Review: Montero, 23, split the 2013 season between Double-A and Triple-A. He compiled a total of 156 innings — despite concerns over his modest frame — and struck out 150 batters. He walked 35 batters and allowed just six home runs.
The Scouting Report: Montero is a rare Latin prospect who has a high ceiling despite being a late bloomer and not signing until he was 20 years old. His strengths as a pitcher are his above-average command and control, which help all three of his pitches play up. He possesses a low-90s fastball, slider and changeup. He needs to stay on top of his pitches more and try to create more of a downward plane.
The Year Ahead: The young pitcher will challenge for the fourth or fifth starter’s role on the 2014 Mets but a slow spring could see him return to Triple-A for some more seasoning.
The Career Outlook: Montero cannot challenge the ceilings of Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard but he has the potential to develop into a solid mid-rotation starter.
The Year in Review: The 35th overall selection out of Purdue University during the 2012 amateur draft, Plawecki had a breakout season in 2013 and performed well in both levels of A-ball. He slugged 47 extra base hits and struck out just 53 times in 125 games.
The Scouting Report: Plawecki is a strong-bodied catcher who should be capable of playing a ton of games behind the plate and his durability could eventually make the more frail Travis d’Arnaud expendable. If he learns to generate a little more loft with his swing, some of the Indiana native’s doubles could turn into home runs. Plawecki does a nice job of making contact and has a good eye at the plate so he could continue to hit for a solid average as he moves up the organizational ladder.
The Year Ahead: Plawecki will move up to Double-A in 2014 and will look to quiet the critics who doubt his ability to stick behind the plate due to a modest arm and blocking skills. Don’t be shocked if he reaches the Majors by mid-2015.
The Career Outlook: Plawecki has a good chance to settle in as a fringe-average defender who sticks behind the plate for a while on the basis of his above-average bat. He may eventually spend more time at first base but his power needs to develop further for him to truly be asset there.
The Year in Review: A former ninth round draft pick out of Stetson University, DeGrom has made incredible progress since missing all of 2011 due to elbow surgery. He played at three levels in 2013 and finished the year in Triple-A. In total, he provided more than 147 innings of work.
The Scouting Report: DeGrom gave up a lot of hits in 2013 because he’s around the strike zone a lot but lacks command at times. He also needs to solidify an out pitch to pair with his low-to-mid-90s heater as his changeup shows potential but his curveball lacks consistency. He’s been durable since returning from Tommy John surgery and his athleticism should help him provide a lot of innings.
The Year Ahead: The Florida native will return to Triple-A to open the 2014 season but is just a phone call away if someone struggles in the bottom half of the Mets’ starting rotation.
The Career Outlook: DeGrom, 25, has the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter, especially if he improves his breaking ball.
The Year in Review: Matz, 22, finally had the year the Mets were waiting for when he made 21 starts and broke the 100-inning threshold. The Tommy John survivor overpowered hitters with 121 strikeouts in 106.1 innings while allowing just four home runs. His control slipped a bit late in the year, which is not surprising considering it was his first full pro season in four years.
The Scouting Report: Matz has very good stuff from the left side. His fastball ranges from 89-94 mph but can occasionally touches the mid-90s. He flashes a solid changeup and has made strides with his curveball. His command and control both need polish but they’re not as bad as you might expect considering he made just six appearances between 2010 and 2012. Matz does a nice job of staying on top of the ball and induces a lot of ground balls to complement his high strikeout rate.
The Year Ahead: The New York native will look to stay healthy for a second straight season when he moves up to High-A ball for 2014. Now 22, the organization may try and push him for Double-A in the second half of the season.
The Career Outlook: If he can avoid the doctor going forward, Matz has the makings of a solid No. 3 starter of high-leverage reliever. If all goes well, he could reach the Majors in late 2015.
The Year in Review: The 19-year-old Cecchini was assigned to a short-season club for a second straight season after beginning the year in extended spring training. He managed just eight extra base hits in 51 games but showed improvements at the plate while performing very well in the field.
The Scouting Report: The brother of fellow Top 10 prospect Garin Cecchini (Red Sox), Gavin will reach the Majors on the basis of his defensive skills. He’s a steady and reliable, but unspectacular, defender with good arm strength, above-average actions and solid range for the position. At the plate. the Louisiana native shows 30 grade power and will never hit a ton of extra base hits. He’s fairly aggressive at the plate so he doesn’t walk much either, which will likely result in a low on-base percentage. He could end up hitting in front of the pitcher a lot.
The Year Ahead: Cecchini, who turns 20 in December, should get his first taste of full-season ball in 2014 when he moves up to the South Atlantic League. He’ll look to continue to get stronger with an eye on reaching the Majors by the end of 2016 or some time in 2017.
The Career Outlook: Cecchini has a chance to develop into a solid big league shortstop who hits near the bottom of the batting order. It doesn’t sound sexy but a lot of clubs would be thrilled to trot out a reliable defender with a (potentially) fringe-average bat at the key infield position.
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The Year in Review: Flores’ arrival in the Majors had been highly anticipated since he signed out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old back in 2007. He finally reached The Show in 2013 as a 21-year-old but struggled with a .542 OPS and 23 strikeouts in 27 games. That came on the heels of his best minor league season when he posted an .887 OPS with 55 extra base hits in 107 games at the Triple-A level. Flores spent much of the year in the minors at second base but saw most of his big league action at third base.
The Scouting Report: Formerly a shortstop, Flores now mans the hot corner and could eventually make his way across the diamond to first base due to his large frame and decreasing range. As mentioned, he spent time at second base in the minors but lacks the fluidity to remain there long term. At the plate, he’s an aggressive hitter who has never walked more than 38 times in a full season but he also puts a lot of wood on the ball and doesn’t strike out much — especially for a player with impressive raw power. Flores has started to tap into his power reserve outside of batting practice but he’s currently providing more gap pop than over-the-fence heroics.
The Year Ahead: David Wright is a significant roadblock to playing time at the hot corner in New York. First base could be the easiest route to playing time for Flores but he’ll have to push his way past both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda. More than likely, the young Venezuelan will spend the majority of 2014 back at the Triple-A level, barring a significant injury.
The Career Outlook: Ceiling projections have been tempered for Flores, who was originally heralded as a future perennial all-star. He could be a solid big league third baseman once he puts a few more balls over the fence but if he moves across the diamond he could end up as more of a fringe-average to average first baseman. There’s also a chance to he turns into an offensive-minded utility player capable of playing first, second and third base.
The Next Five:
11. Dilson Herrera: The Pirates have had a lot of success with scouting and signing international free agents in recent years and that could significantly benefit the Mets if Herrera reaches his ceiling. The teenaged second baseman came over to the organization last season (along with No. 15 ranked Vic Black) in the Marlon Byrd swap. Herrera has a chance to develop into an above-average hitting middle infielder with more pop than you’d expect from his modest frame. He’s still a long-term project, though, and is about three years away from reaching the Majors.
12. Michael Fulmer, RHP: Fulmer missed most of 2013 with knee problems but, when healthy, he’s one of the best arms in the system. The right-hander backs up his above-average heater with two other pitches that project to be average or better: a slider and a changeup. The 20-year-old prospect has a big, strong frame and could eventually develop into an innings-eating No. 3 starter if his knee rebounds.
13. Domingo Tapia, RHP: The right-hander can reach triple digits with his heater and backs it up with an average or better breaking ball. However, Tapia doesn’t repeat his delivery, which significantly hampered both his command and control in 2013. He utilizes his 6’4” height to create a downward plane on his heater, which induces a lot of ground-ball outs. Almost exclusively a starter in the minors, the 22-year-old’s big league role will likely be a high-leverage reliever.
14. Brandon Nimmo, OF: Raw even for high school standards when he was drafted, Nimmo continues to be a long-term project. He’s unusually patient for such an unfinished and inexperienced prospect but the 20-year-old showed his poor pitch recognition by striking out 131 times. At 6’3” 185 lbs, he has a lot of raw left-handed power to tap into but he went deep just twice (with a total of 24 extra base hits) in 395 at-bats in 2013 and is still learning to drive the ball with authority.
15. Vic Black, RHP: Acquired in the same deal that netted the organization Dilson Herrera, Black is an intriguing relief prospect because of his power fastball and ability to overpower hitters when everything is clicking. It remains to be seen, though, if he can command his fastball and throw enough strikes to left-handed hitters to be trusted with ninth-inning duties. He could earn a spot in the Mets’ opening day bullpen with a strong spring showing.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.