With the exception of Steven Matz, this Mets system is a bit short on pitching. That would be a problem if the club didn’t already have one of the best young pitching staffs in the game. Most of their impact bats will probably be coming from the low minors, Desmond Lindsay being the most likely exception. Amed Rosario’s bat is still a few years away, but he’s the kind of talent where if/when things click he’s immediately a stud. Don’t sleep on their mid-level bats either, as guys like Dominic Smith, Eudor Garcia, Jhoan Urena and Wuilmer Becerra have quiet profiles that could erupt as they climb the next few levels.
The biggest strength of this group is its shortstop depth. Signing Gregory Guerrero and Andres Gimenez last year only added to an impressive group that will at least give the Mets some high-risk/high-reward trade chips should they need to add to another contender this year. The list goes on with Rosario, Milton Ramos, Luis Carpio, Luis Guillorme… making the defense at every level a nice crutch on which their young pitchers can lean.
The biggest surprises on this list have to start with Guerrero and Guillorme making their way into the top-10. Guerrero is unproven, but I think has the makings of one of the best swings in the system. Guillorme is good enough defensively he only needs to be a man with a bat at the plate to reach the big leagues. Brandon Nimmo is lower here than I have seen elsewhere, and I can’t deny he still has the potential to be an average MLB outfielder. I just don’t see his power showing up enough for his super patient approach to work against big-league pitchers with better command.
Here’s the primer for the series and my scouting thoughts in general. The grades I put on players heavily weight the functionality of each tool in game situations, rather than just pure tool grades. Here is a table to understand the position player grades:
|Grade||Tool Is Called||Batting Average||HR||ISO||Baserunning Runs||Fielding Runs|
As well as one to understand what the overall grades approximate:
|Grade||Hitter||Starting Pitcher||Relief Pitcher||WAR|
|80||Top 1-2||#1 Starter||—-||7|
|55||Above Avg||#3/4||Mid Closer||2.5|
|50||Avg Regular||#4||Low CL/High SU||2|
|40||Bench||Swing/Spot SP||Middle RP||1|
|35||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||0|
One other difference in the way I’ll be communicating scouting grades to you is the presence of three numbers on each tool instead of just two. The first number is the current grade. The second number is the likely future grade; or, if you prefer percentiles, call this the 50th percentile projection. The third number is the ceiling grade, or 90th percentile projection, to help demonstrate the volatility and raw potential of a tool. I feel this gives readers a better sense of the possible outcomes a player could achieve, and more information to understand my thoughts on the likelihood of reaching those levels.
In the biographical information, level refers to where they finished the year, unless they were sent down for injury rehab or other extraneous reasons. Ages are listed as of April 1, 2016. You can also find each player’s previous rank from Kiley’s list last year. Below, Dave Cameron shares his thoughts on the general state of the organization. Returning for his popular cameo, Carson Cistulli picks his favorite fringe prospect toward the end of the list.
Video courtesy of MVPFLF, footage courtesy of Major League Baseball
1. Steven Matz, LHP
Current Level/Age: MLB/24.8, 6’2/200, R/L
Acquired: Drafted 72nd overall (2nd round) in 2009 out of New York HS by NYM for $895,000 bonus
Previous Rank: 7
Culminating in a spot in the Mets’ World Series rotation, Matz had a tremendously successful first year upon which he’ll have some difficulty improving in 2016. He debuted with better command and a more complete arsenal than advertised after he beat up on Triple-A hitters for the first two-and-a-half months of the year. Apart from a lat injury that sidelined him for just over a month, he really could do no wrong in 2015.
Matz throws his fastball anywhere from 91 to 97 mph, and does a great job for a young pitcher locating it on the edges of the zone. His changeup is thrown with great arm speed and has slight fade and occasional cut, which he also locates well. He favored his curveball over his changeup last season, which I think will be better than most people give it credit. He struggled with its consistency in the minors, but its sharper, improved break gave him a swing-and-miss pitch to throw against lefty and righty hitters last year. Even his hangers in the zone showed better bite than most pitchers can create on their best breaking balls.
He has a simple, direct delivery that looks smoother and more athletic than it did as recently as 2014, which no doubt contributed to his sustained success. His arm action is clean and doesn’t have a much wasted movement or extra effort. The one thing on which to keep an eye is the abrupt finish with his arm and resulting recoil as he finishes his follow through. It’s not a big red flag, but it could put extra pressure on the muscles used to decelerate the arm and possible injuries due to fatigue. The lat tear gives that concern a bit more weight for long-term considerations.
As much as any prospect in the minors, Matz is ready to become a front-end starter. To really fulfill his promise, he needs to continue working on his curveball command, spotting his fastball to the arm-side corner and keeping his shoulder and upper back strong, whether it’s mechanically or in the weight room. Like any pitcher, there’s always the chance he gets hurt, and his chances may be slightly higher than average with his arm finish and history of Tommy John surgery. That understood, Matz has the potential to pick up right where he left off last year and add to the Mets’ already impressive young rotation.
Fastball: 60/60+/65 Curveball: 55/55-60/60 Changeup: 60/60/60 Command: 50/55/60
2. Desmond Lindsay, OF
Current Level/Age: Low-A/19.2, 6’0/200, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 53rd overall (2nd round) in 2015 out of Florida HS by NYM for $1.1427 million bonus
Previous Rank: NA
Lindsay may have been unavailable to the Mets last June if it weren’t for him missing most of his senior year with a hamstring injury. He has a super quick bat with exceptional knowledge of the strike zone for a young hitter. The Mets think he will end up with a solid mix of hit and power tools. They have him as a 65 runner with excellent overall athleticism, and are trying him out in center field to start his career. The hope is that his speed and average arm will translate into a solid center-field kit, though as an infield convert, he has work to do on the technical side. Despite the raw speed grading out higher, his impact on the bases is likely to be more in the plus range.
I like his abilities at the plate, and I definitely see him making an impact with his power and on-base abilities in the future. He takes nice cuts for a teenager, and any strength gains he has will propel his home-run power upward easily. The strikeouts are a minor yellow flag, but not unexpected given his lack of professional experience and absence due to injury heading into the draft. We will have to monitor how his contact progresses this year as well as his outfield defense, but this guy has a chance to be really good. He gets nice praise for being a very hard worker, as well.
Hit: 30/50/60 Power: 35/50/55 Run: 55/60/60 Field: 45/50/55 Throw: 50/50/50
Rosario at 1:58; Video courtesy of YoSoyLeña
3. Amed Rosario, SS
Current Level/Age: Double-A/20.4, 6’2/170, R/R
Acquired: Signed in 2012 out of Dominican Republic by NYM for $1.75 million bonus
Previous Rank: 3
Rosario has impressed scouts since his debut in 2013, playing against age-advanced competition and holding his own every step of the way so far. His solid 2015 ended with a promotion to the Double-A Eastern League, placing him right into the playoffs. He likely starts there in 2016, with the goal of continuing to improve his approach and possibly adding some of his raw power into his game swing.
While his offensive numbers have been merely respectable, it’s his potential that has evaluators excited. He has a quick bat and an athletic swing out of a body that has lots of physical projection left to fulfill. He isn’t going to hit for a ton of power until he gets his legs under him more consistently. He gets jumpy with his hands and rushes them to the ball, taking the lift out of his swing. When he stays relaxed and lets the ball get to him, though, his hands work much better with plenty of hard-fly-ball potential. It’s a matter of adding lower-body strength and gaining comfort in the box. So, as long as he isn’t pushed too hard against older competition, I think he’ll find his way to some solid all-fields power.
In the field, Rosario has shown good instincts and a plus arm, giving hope that he can stick at short. Based on his footwork, he probably fits better as a third baseman, but he has the arm strength to make up for plays his feet couldn’t with an average arm. He has a similar defensive future to Corey Seager in my opinion, where he could probably play an average shortstop in the early going before transitioning to third.
Add to the mix a strong feel for putting the bat on the ball and at least above-average speed, and the excitement around Rosario starts to really make sense. The power is the farthest away of his tools, but I’m more confident in his athleticism getting him there than most young hitters with untapped raw power. He has room to improve his plate discipline, but again, it comes back to his youth relative to the opposing pitching. There’s enough promise at the plate to give him some leeway as he starts to mature.
Hit: 35/50/55 Power: 30/40/45+ Run: 55/55/60 Field: 50/55/55 Throw: 60/65/65
Guerrero could end up being one of the better hitters to come out of last year’s international class. His movements got a little big at the plate, but it looks to be mostly due to showcase syndrome, an overswinging affliction all amateur players seem to catch at some point. I don’t have a great sense for how much contact he will make, but he has a great, athletic swing to build on. His swing path is perfect for giving him room for error and generating some lift, and the physical projection adds up to see a solid offensive future for him. It really just depends on his bat-to-ball skills.
He has decent actions in the field, though when his body fills out a bit, it’s nearly a guarantee he moves off short to third base. Maybe second base would be a fit if his footwork shows improvement. He has plus arm strength, though he’ll have to improve his quickness getting rid of the ball on stand-up throws to really use it in games. He has slightly below-average to average hands, but there’s enough potential to see a solid-average fielder overall. He’s somewhere between a 40 and 45 runner, but there’s enough potential elsewhere that he won’t need to do much on the bases.
Hit: 30/50/55 Power: 25/50/55 Run: 40/40/45 Field: 45/50/55 Throw: 55/55+/60
Smith’s bat continues to look like a legitimate major-league asset, though his doubles power and lack of defensive skills to play anywhere but first base have many wondering how much value he’ll ultimately be able to provide. I’m buying into his future as an excellent professional hitter with gap power, but I’m not too bullish on him turning his doubles totals into a high amount of home runs. That said, he’s certainly going to add some more strength despite being pretty mature physically, so it would be foolish to completely write him off as a power threat in the future.
He has an excellent approach at the plate, showing the ability to shoot line drives from foul line to foul line. He can get under balls for some home-run power, but his swing is mostly geared for a higher batting average than pure distance. While his swing works well to let balls get deep and still square them up, there’s not a lot of flexibility in his core to really explode on the ball with good sequencing.
He may just add enough raw strength to turn his gap shots into home-run power, but I think it’s less likely than a young hitter with greater athleticism. It wouldn’t take a big adjustment for him to put more balls in the air with authority, though I do believe it would come at the expense of his batting average. Whether he can do that and have it be a net positive or not, I’m not so sure.
Smith is a great fielder at first and has deceptive speed, so although his value is tied to his bat as a first baseman, he has a better safety net than most at the position. His bat will play, so we’ll just have to see to what degree it works. Overall, he’s a good upside prospect with a fairly high floor on account of his bat.
Hit: 45/55/65 Power: 40/45/50 Run: 40/40/40 Field: 45/45/50 Throw: 55/55/60
Cecchini’s breakout 2015 season and future potential are both tied to his contact and approach at the plate. If he can maintain a low strikeout rate and respectable walk totals, he has a chance to be a starting infielder. His power is going to manifest itself more in the form of doubles than homers, which is also strongly tied to his contact. He has a quick enough bat, but a direct-to-ball swing that won’t be granting a lot of room for error hitting balls to the deep parts of the field.
The rest of his profile is a bit underwhelming, but he’s never been a toolsy prospect, anyway. There’s more risk here than you might think a middle infielder with a good bat would have. He’s likely to be a bit below-average on the bases, and his defense was a little rough last year at short. His fielding has always been fringy for shortstop, but he has made up for it with good hands and instincts. He may just have to slide over a spot to second or possibly third. I’m giving him a pass on his 2015 defensive work, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on this year.
Hit: 50/50-55/60 Power: 35/40/40 Run: 45/45/45 Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 55/55/55
Molina will be out for most or all of the 2016 season rehabbing from elbow surgery, so he’s a bit on hold for now as a prospect. There were plenty of signs before getting hurt that he may have to move to the bullpen – arm-heavy delivery with effort, tiring after one or two innings – but there’s no rush having that conversation until he’s back in the mix. If he returns fully healthy and with the same stuff, he’s in the 50+ group with three pitches that all play above-average at points.
Fastball: 55/60/60+ Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 40/45/55 Command: 40/45/50
Becerra is a great athlete with at least average potential with every tool, but he’s still a borderline prospect to me. He has average speed, but it’s more straight-line speed with a below-average first step. He has a plus arm with a quick release, yet his accuracy doesn’t play at the same level. As a result, his defense has the potential to play anywhere from fringe-average to above-average.
Then on offense, his raw power grades out as plus at its best, and his hitting ability shows signs of being above-average if his contact rate continues to improve. He has great balance at the plate after simplifying his gather and stride the last year or two, but his bat path starts out steep to the ball before leveling out in front of the plate. He doesn’t have great separation of his hip and shoulder rotation, so he has to start exactly on time to tap into his ability to drive the ball. In all, he’s in a better position than previous years to do consistent damage against advanced pitching, though he is still more reliant on his hand-eye coordination and raw strength than most guys who end up being above-average hitters.
The most impressive development last year for Becerra was the improvement in his approach, resulting in fewer chases out of the zone and his best strikeout rate in three years. His slight swing changes have helped him make more contact, but he has more work to do to ensure he can handle the better command and offspeed stuff he will face over the next three levels. With average speed and a strong but inconsistent arm, he fits the prototypical right-fielder mold as long as the bat develops.
Last year could end up being the turning point of his young career toward becoming an everyday player, or it could be his best statistical year that he never repeats. I’m less confident in this evaluation because of the collection of positives and negatives in his profile. I think he’s at least going to be a solid platoon player, since facing lefties will mitigate any weaknesses he has with higher level offspeed. He’s a player I will be keeping an eye on early this year to monitor his progress.
Hit: 40/45+/50 Power: 40/45-50/55 Run: 50/45/50 Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 50/55/60
Guillorme is the best defensive shortstop in the system, and may be one of the best in the minors altogether. He won the Most Valuable Player Award in the South Atlantic League last year, as his high-contact bat and base-running ability produced an awesome .318 average and 18 stolen bases to go with his defense.
The Mets are happy with how well he’s done so far, having been just a 10th-round pick in 2013. He will play in the big leagues in some capacity. How far he goes will depend on how well he can translate his contact and line-drive swing against better pitching, since he has bottom-of-the-scale power. His ranking here is a reflection of just how good his defense is.
Hit: 40/45/50 Power: 20/25/25 Run: 50/50/55 Field: 65/70/75 Throw: 55/55/55
Carpio is a solid defender who will stay at shortstop, though he also spent some time at second base alongside Milton Ramos. He’s very mature for his age and shows a good understanding of the zone. He has an athletic swing with fast hands, and with some added strength and slight attempt at lifting more balls, he could have 40 power as a finished product.
Hit: 35/50/55 Power: 25/35/40 Run: 45/50/50 Field: 50/55/55+ Throw: 55/55/55
Ramos will be an excellent defender at shortstop, and he made great strides offensively last year across two levels of Rookie-ball. He has gotten more physical each year since he was drafted, and just needs to get more at-bats and plays to gain experience and find consistency. With great overall athleticism, the hope is that continued physical growth will help him hit with more authority and possibly leak into some power production. He has work to do on his approach, though being so young, it’s not behind schedule by any means.
Hit: 35/45/45+ Power: 30/35/40 Run: 55/60/60 Field: 55/60/65 Throw: 50/55/55
Lugo has a three-pitch mix of average to slightly above offerings, and shows a strong aptitude for knowing how to use it. His fastball works in the 90-92 range but can reach 95, and his curve and changeup show signs of being effective weak-contact-inducing pitches. His curve can be very tough to pick up out of his hand, particularly because of his good command. The fastball at the knees and the 55-foot curve in the dirt come out with the same arm speed and angle. He could end up being a reliable back-end starter or a solid reliever.
Fastball: 50/50/55 Curveball: 50/50/55 Changeup: 45/45+/50 Command: 50/50/55
Gimenez was another solid shortstop signing out of last year’s international class for the Mets, giving them yet another up-the-middle infielder with solid defensive skills and a chance to hit. He projects to be lighter on power, but scouts think his bat will play well enough to allow his above-average speed and defense to carry him in professional ball.
Hit: 30/50/55 Power: 25/30/35 Run: 55/55/55 Field: 50/55/55 Throw: 55/55/55
Urena battled nagging injuries nearly all of 2015, suffering broken hamate bones in both wrists. I wasn’t really sold on his power potential before last year because of a lack of lift in his swing, but his offensive struggles in High-A have to be almost completely ignored until he’s back healthy this year. He is still a projectable switch-hitter with strength and bat speed from both sides of plate.
With good hands, fringy range and a strong arm, he projects as an average defender at third base. The best thing to do with his offensive projection is pretend last year never happened, though I did think it was a positive that his strikeout rate remained the same despite his overall struggles.
Hit: 40/50/55 Power: 35/40/45 Run: 40/40/40 Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 55/55/60
Nimmo is similar to Cecchini in how the offense projects at the next level, though he has much more raw power and less in the way of contact skills. His swing and approach may lead to less game power than Cecchini, however, and I’m less sold on his on-base abilities translating to the big-league stage. He has the tools to play a serviceable outfield with average speed and an average arm. He profiles to offer less-than-average base-running value, with the stolen base likely not a big part of his game.
Ideally, Nimmo starts being a bit more selectively aggressive rather than just getting deep in counts. He can wait minor-league pitchers out for mistake pitches late in at-bats or simply take his walks, but major-league competition won’t give in as easily. Plus, until he shows he can bring his power into games consistently, pitchers aren’t going to be afraid to live on the edges of the zone without the threat of doing real damage. I can still see a scenario play out where Nimmo realizes he needs to hit for more power and adds some lift to his swing, but a downward-to-level plane results in a lot of balls getting lifted to the outfield rather than driven.
His defensive skill gives him the opportunity to be a possible fourth outfielder or platoon partner, though even that hinges on him continuing to get on base at a high rate. More likely, he will have to go on the attack earlier in the count to avoid major-league pitchers getting ahead with well-spotted strikes. Then the question becomes whether his contact or power will improve enough to make up for the reduced walk rate. Reports are that a torn muscle could keep him out for the start of the season, though he’ll end up back in Triple-A once he’s healthy.
Hit: 45/50/55 Power: 30/35/45 Run: 45/45/45+ Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 50/50/50
Garcia had a great year in the South Atlantic League last season, showing off an excellent ability to hit and flashing some power. He has an 80-game suspension waiting for him when the season starts, which cuts into valuable development time, but I like his future at the plate. Defensively he’s a stretch at third base, and his power may only be average or a tick above in the end, but his ability to hit for average will continue to make him a viable prospect even with the red mark on his record.
He reminds me of the kind of hitter you picture the St. Louis Cardinals targeting – a simple, line drive swing with enough strength to hope his hit tool provides some power in the long-term. Apart from some strike-zone-judgment questions, I think he’s a safer bat than most give him credit. The defense keeps him from projecting as a starter, but it’s not impossible his power creeps up into the plus range as he unleashes his swing a bit. The swing and strength are there.
Hit: 45/55/60 Power: 40/45/50+ Run: 30/30/35 Field: 40/40/40+ Throw: 50/50/50
17. Ali Sanchez, C, Rookie
Sanchez has all-around great tools that could give him better ability than any catcher in the system — including the big-league team — when he’s ready. He’s a plus defender with a plus arm behind the plate, already showing advanced polish for a young backstop. He has some ability with the bat, as well, profiling as a solid high-contact line-drive hitter. He is getting close to making the jump to full-season ball, where we can get a better idea of his timeline.
Hit: 30/40/45 Power: 25/35/40 Run: 40/40/40 Field: 55/60/60 Throw: 50/55/60
Reynolds has a little of everything, but no one tool to really carry him. There’s some pull-side power with an average ceiling on his hit tool with good contact and a low-line-drive approach. He has below-average speed, but picks his spots well enough to be around an average runner. His defense is a little light at short, but good enough to play there or second, with an above-average arm that would allow him to slide to third as well. A solid utility profile, but likely not enough to start regularly.
Hit: 45/45/50 Power: 40/40/40 Run: 45/45+/50 Field: 50/50/55 Throw: 55/55/55
Wotell may be the pitcher I’d least like to face as a hitter from last year’s draft class. He has a funky delivery with a lot of side-to-side movements, but has a three-pitch mix the Mets think could all be above-average offerings. He’s very athletic, so the mechanical work he has in front of him is more likely to help than most. Club officials praise his on-field makeup and competitiveness. He’s definitely one to watch at the lower levels. Like many young pitchers, his command shows the biggest need for improvement.
Fastball: 45/50/55 Curveball: 45/50/55 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 40/45/45+
20. Josh Smoker, LHP, Triple-A
Smoker revived his career last year after being out of affiliated ball since 2012. He’s back with a big fastball up to 97-98, complemented by a slider and splitter, the latter representing his best secondary pitch. His command still isn’t the greatest, but lefties with that kind of velocity have more room for error. He may be a weapon out of the pen for the Mets this year.
Fastball: 60/60/65 Slider: 45/45/50 Splitter: 45/50/50+ Command: 40/40+/45
Morris has a live arm with setup potential, but he is very reliant on his arm speed to generate his stuff. He lands on a stiff front leg without much hip rotation, resulting in a lot of effort and rigidity in his upper body and arm. His fastball looks faster than it actually is with his quick arm action, and he has a solid changeup with good run. If he can improve his control, there’s nothing stopping him from settling into a seventh- or eighth-inning role.
Fastball: 55/55/60 Slider: 40/40/40 Changeup: 55/55/60 Command: 40/40/45
Not much upside here, but Alvarez has some velocity from the left side and can be tough to pick up. His above-average to plus slider gives him potential in the middle innings or as a matchup lefty.
Fastball: 50/50/50 Slider: 55/55/60 Command: 45/50/50+
Flexen had just fringy stuff before going down for Tommy John surgery in the middle of 2014. He came back in 2015 with reasonable success. By his last few appearances, he reportedly ran his fastball up to the mid-90s, possibly adding a real weapon to his decent slider and good command for a young pitcher. He’s probably still just a future bullpen candidate, but his improved stuff after surgery paired with good control requires keeping an eye on him this season.
Fastball: 50/55/60 Slider: 40/45/50 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 45/45+/50
Ynoa has a very similar projection to Gsellman below, likely ending up in the bullpen as a good strike-thrower with limited upside but a high floor. He too could start in a pinch. He may end up having a little better command and has an extra secondary pitch to work with, but only his changeup has a real chance of being above-average.
Fastball: 50/50/55 Curveball: 40/45/50 Slider: 40/40/45 Changeup: 45/50/55 Command: 45/50/55
Gsellman pitched well in High-A before getting promoted to Double-A last season. He may continue starting in the short-term, but the Mets see him as a future bullpen option with an above-average fastball and above-average command. There’s a chance he could start for a lesser rotation in the big leagues, but he lacks the secondary stuff to stick there long-term. He has good sink to his fastball, paired with two approximately average pitches in a curve and changeup.
Fastball: 50/50/55 Curveball: 40/45/50 Changeup: 45/45+/50 Command: 45/50/50+
Mazzilli may have enough bat to carve out a bench role, though there isn’t much upside unless his defense or his power takes a step forward. He’ll likely be in Triple-A at some point this year with a chance to see big-league time if it goes well.
Hit: 45/45+/50 Power: 35/40/45 Run: 40/40/45 Field: 45/50/50 Throw: 55/55/55
Kaczmarski was the Mets’ ninth-round pick in 2015 as a senior sign after doing nothing but hit at Evansville College. He’s a tweener on defense, more likely settling into left field as his best full-time spot. He hit a ridiculous .465 in conference play last year, then hit .355 with some pop in Rookie-ball. He’s on the older side, so his timeline will have to be accelerated to face more age-appropriate competition, but he may have the hitting ability to be a bench bat or fourth outfielder. His lack of home-run power keeps him off most evaluators’ radars, but if his skills translate to full-season ball, he could see the upper minors by the end of this season.
Hit: 40/45/50 Power: 40/45/45 Run: 50/50/50 Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 45/45/45
Jannis was a fun change of pace to see in the Arizona Fall League, unleashing his high-70s knuckleball amidst the mid-90s reliever carousel that mostly occupied the mound. He threw a few that flashed plus with surprisingly good athleticism, though it was inconsistent enough that he doesn’t look ready yet for big-league hitters. His fastball came in around 90 with fringy command, though it had enough run not to be a meatball pitch he could only throw in three-ball counts. Overall, there was enough skill with his knuckleball to be of interest in the next couple years, but nothing on which to really hang his hat yet.
Fastball: 45/50/50+ Knuckleball: 45+/50/55 Command: 45/45/50
Many of the players who appear on these lists as Cistulli’s Guy are so designated because a combination of statistical indicators and physical tools suggests that the prospect in question is a candidate to experience some success, however modest, at the major-league level. That’s the case, for example, with outfielder Ramon Flores of the Milwaukee Brewers and second baseman Sherman Johnson of the Los Angeles Angels and outfielder Jose Martinez of the Kansas City Royals.
It’s less the case with Jonathan Johnson, however. Rather, this Johnson belongs to a second class of Cistulli’s Guy: those whom the author has chosen in part due to that combination of stats and tools, but also in part to a compelling feature in his biography.
This isn’t to suggest Johnson hasn’t exhibited some promise. Consider: he’s produced walk and strikeout rates of 15.8% and 9.9%, respectively, with Class-A Savannah, while also adding 31 stolen bases on 40 attempts and recording over 90% of his starts at second base. That he’s done this as a 25- and 26-year-old, however — in a league whose batters average a collective age of 21.5 years old — is less encouraging.
For Johnson, however, there’s also this: before signing with the Mets, he played Independent League ball over parts of four seasons, first with Shreveport-Bossier of the American Association and then with Gateway of the Frontier League. And actually, his numbers with Savannah are almost exact replicas of the lines he recorded as an Indy Leaguer — just as those Indy League lines closely resembled the sort he posted over his last three seasons as a collegiate with Loyola Marymount. Nor is all hope lost for Johnson’s future: he appears to have been invited to the Mets’ major-league camp for spring training.
In any case, here’s footage from this past year, which reveals not only that Johnson is capable of hitting a ball almost out of the park, but that the camera angle at the Charleston RiverDogs’ home park is excellent relative to its minor-league peers:
Lower level hitters: 3B David Thompson (VIDEO) has a chance at above-average power from the right side, but defensive questions and a murky future hit tool keep him off the list for now. He could jump up the list if he can figure out pro pitching in his first full season this year. CF Raphael Ramirez (VIDEO) has some good and bad length to his swing – he takes a while to get to the ball but stays through it nicely. Contact has been an issue in the early going, but he could develop some pop in the future and has the tools to stay in center. OF Ricardo Cespedes (VIDEO) has a good approach for a young hitter, and some contact skills with flashes of power. Even if he moves off center, he has a chance at average tools across the board, but for now he has a ways to go.
C Patrick Mazeika (VIDEO) isn’t the most athletic-looking guy when he swings the bat, but you have to appreciate the solid numbers he put up in Rookie-ball. He’s a mild follow as he heads toward his full-season debut. OF John Mora (VIDEO) has a quick bat with a good eye at the plate, though an exaggerated chop to his swing limits his power to gap shots on balls up in the zone. His average speed and defense isn’t quite enough to make him a bench option, so he’ll have to continue stepping forward offensively to reach the big leagues.
Lower level pitchers: LHP Thomas Szapucki (VIDEO) is a good lefty arm taken in the fifth round last year. He has the makings of a good fastball and slider, but needs more experience working his arsenal out with the Mets’ pitching coaches.