I mentioned this with the Reds system as well, but I was surprised how strong the Mets system ended up being after I made all of my calls. They have a nice crop of talent on the MLB growth assets list, upper level talent that could be everyday players and some intriguing guys at the lower levels. The organization has been aggressive in targeting top minor league talents in trades (Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, Dilson Herrera), going after top talent on July 2nd and doing well in the draft, with all recent top picks still on the prospect radar.
One thing to keep an eye on in spring training is the MLB/AAA pitching glut. With the big league rotation looking right now like it’ll be Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon, that leaves seven arms with prospect value (Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Dillon Gee, Matt Bowman, Cory Mazzoni, Steven Matz and Gabriel Ynoa) as candidates for five Triple-A rotation spots or the big league bullpen. This logjam is what made Logan Verrett expendable in the Rule 5 draft; it should cause roster crunch issues and also valuable depth to a Mets team on the rise.
Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including a five-part on the ever-complicated hit tool.
Most of what you need to know for this list is at the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.
Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the growth assets that the Mets have in the majors that aren’t eligible for the list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Up next in the series are the Padres, Marlins, Braves and Orioles.
Big League Growth Assets
1. Zack Wheeler, RHP, Age 24, FV: 65
2. Travis d’Arnaud, C, Age 25, FV: 60 (Video)
3. Wilmer Flores, SS, Age 23, FV: 50
4. Jenrry Mejia, RHP, Age 25, FV: 50
5. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF, Age 27, FV: 50
6. Jeurys Familia, RHP, Age 25, FV: 45
7. Matt den Dekker, CF, Age 27, FV: 45
8. Vic Black, RHP, Age 25, FV: 45 (Video)
Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron
If you focus primarily on the young pitching, the Mets future is very bright. If you assume that a team in the country’s largest market can’t possibly continue to spend this little on their Major League payroll, then the future might be even brighter, as distance from the Madoff mess can only help. There are reasons for optimism in Queens. But young pitching is a shaky foundation around which to build, and the Wilpons aren’t acting like they own a team in New York just yet. The arrow is pointed upwards, but 2015 might be another year of climbing rather than enjoying the view from the top. And if the team keeps running payrolls under $100 million, then they better hope all these young arms stay healthy or things could get rough again in a hurry.
50+ FV Prospects
1. Noah Syndergaard, RHP
Current Level/Age: AAA/22.3, 6’6/240, L/R
Drafted: 38th overall (sandwich round) in 2010 out of Texas HS by TOR for $600,000 bonus, Agency: CAA
Fastball: 65/70, Curveball: 55/60, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 45/50+
Scouting Report: Syndergaard was just starting to grow into his 6’6/240 frame when the Blue Jays took him in the 2010 sandwich round as a late pop-up arm off many teams’ radars, due to a velocity spike before the draft. He has shot through the minors, reaching Triple-A by 21 while growing a few inches, putting on lots of strength, developing his command and having his stuff explode. He was dealt in a package with Travis d’Arnaud from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey trade in December, 2012.
He now sits 93-97 with heavy life and hits 98 mph with a curveball that’s progressed the past few years from flashing solid average to consistently flashing plus. Syndergaard also has been more open to using his changeup than Harvey and Wheeler at the same stage, with his changeup flashing above average pretty consistently already.
The tough pitcher’s environment in Las Vegas introduced some statistical noise to his 2014 line, but the K/BB ratio was still solid, indicating that he didn’t let the extreme conditions affect his overall approach to pitching. Syndergaard’s biggest strengths, along with his size and arm speed, are his aptitude and surprising body control, helping him to have better command than most XL-framed pitchers and make adjustments to his repertoire.
Summation: Syndergaard projects as a potential frontline arm and will get tossed into the MLB rotation group in spring training, but the Mets expect him to be the 5th-6th starter given the current roster. This means he’ll go back to Triple-A at least until the 5th starter is needed and maybe longer if there’s a full house in the rotation with veterans.
FV/Role/Risk: 65, #2/3 starter, Low (2 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB, 2016: MLB
Video Credit to Chris Briones
2. Kevin Plawecki, C
Current Level/Age: AAA/23.8, 6’2/225, R/R
Drafted: 35th overall (sandwich round) in 2012 out of Purdue by NYM for $1.4 million bonus, Agency: Lagardere Unlimited
Hit: 30/55, Raw Power: 50/50, Game Power: 30/45, Run: 35/35, Field: 45/50+, Throw: 50/50
Scouting Report: Plawecki doesn’t have huge tools and didn’t come from a baseball hotbed, playing high school in Indiana and college at Purdue, but he has lots of feel for the game to make the most of what he does have. This feel was evident as early as college, which got Plawecki taken 35th overall by the Mets, but his defense and contact abilities have held up more in pro ball than rival scouts expected.
Plawecki is an offensive catcher, with hit over power due to his contact leaning with a short load, direct path and simple approach. Scouts hang 55 or 60 grades on his bat and he shot through the system in part because he doesn’t strike out and does a good job making adjustments level-to-level.
His raw power is fringy to average but it plays down in games, with most expecting Plawecki to grow into a 10-15 homer type with lots of doubles in the middle of the field. With the comically low bar for offense among everyday catchers, this helps him stand out, along with Plawecki’s polish and closeness to the big leagues. For a nice look at a game swing, here’s a video of his homer in the 2012 Big Ten tourney.
He’s a very good receiver with solid hands; some took his stints at first base in 2013 to mean the Mets doubted his defensive ability, but it was purely due to the heat in the Florida State League. Plawecki projects as a solid average defender with an average arm that’s a little short compared to most catching prospects and he’s working to get his release and mechanics more consistent to allow his arm to play up. It’s worth noting that one scout I talked to has Plawecki over Syndergaard.
Summation: Pitchers like throwing to him and fellow Mets farmhands already see him as a leader that controls the field. He hasn’t really hit that speed bump yet that most catchers hit in their minor league careers, due to all the rigors of catching and learning to handle a staff. He should spend most of 2015 in Triple-A and doesn’t have a clear path to the big leagues with d’Arnaud ahead of him, but Plawecki should be contributing in the big leagues by 2016.
Upside: .280/.345/.420, 10-15 homers
FV/Risk: 55, Low (2 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB, 2016: MLB
3. Amed Rosario, SS
Current Level/Age: Low-A/19.1, 6’2/170, R/R
Signed: IFA at age 16 on July 2, 2012 out of Dominican Republic by NYM for $1.75 million bonus
Hit: 20/50, Raw Power: 45/55, Game Power: 20/50, Run: 55/50, Field: 50/55, Throw: 60/60
Scouting Report: Rosario got the biggest international bonus in club history two years ago and has done nothing but impress since then. Scouts have called him special and the most athletic player in the Mets system. He has the live body, quick hands, instincts and ability to adjust to challenges along with the broad shoulders to project more strength to come. Rosario skipped the DSL and adjusted as older competition came at him; this is the high ceiling guy with feel for the game that you can dream on.
Rosario has feel to stay inside the ball and works the middle of the field in games, with a surprising amount of homers to right-center field already. In 2014, he reduced the amount of times he got himself out compared to 2013 and this is helped by his plus bat speed that gives him margin for error in his timing and should create above average raw power in time.
He has good base running and defensive instincts, which should help him to stick at shortstop long-term. Some scouts assume given his frame and solid but ordinary speed that he would shift over to third base, but his easy plus arm helps make up for whatever quickness he may lose. Rosario is the type that will play deeper and rely on his arm in the hole, with some Mets personnel expecting the arm to play as a 65 or more down the road when he’s done adding strength.
Summation: I fully expect Rosario to be #1 on this list next year after his full-season debut and Syndergaard’s graduation, ranking Rosario alongside his age peers that were top prep prospects in the 2014 draft. Scouts have mentioned Addison Russell, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Beltre with him and each has some things in common with Rosario, but his full-season debut will tell us more about the kind of player he’s becoming.
Upside: .280/.330/.460, 19-22 homers
FV/Risk: 55, High (4 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: Low-A, 2016: High-A/AA, 2017: AA/AAA, 2018: MLB
4. Michael Conforto, LF
Current Level/Age: SS/21.8, 6’1/220, L/R
Drafted: 10th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of Oregon State by NYM for $2.97 million bonus, Agency: Boras Corp.
Hit: 20/50+, Raw Power: 60/60, Game Power: 20/60, Run: 35/35, Field: 45/50, Throw: 50/50
Scouting Report: Conforto was a well-known as an elite hitting prospect early in his career at Oregon State but kicked it into another gear in his draft year. His plus raw power and bat speed from the left side to go with a patient and power-focused approach appealed to a lot of scouts, with the Mets taking Conforto off the board at 10th overall.
It’s easy to appreciate Conforto’s bat and scouts all seem to agree he’s elite in this regard, but even the Mets admitted they had some digging to do pre-draft to figure out his defensive fit. He was a shortstop in high school and he would admit he wasn’t good in his first exposure to the outfield as a freshman at OSU, having trouble reading slicing/hooking balls.
He earned a shaky defensive reputation and when I saw him in the summer after his sophomore year for Team USA, his arm was a 40 or 45 and he was still having some difficulty getting good jumps. He took a step forward in his draft spring, looking about average defensively with his arm suddenly playing average to solid average. The idea that he was a first baseman was gone and the coaches in Brooklyn raved about Conforto’s defense after he signed. The tools are good enough to even play him in right field, but he’s just getting settled in left field, which is where he’ll stay for the time being.
Summation: Conforto has a middle of the order bat and could move quickly through the system, likely starting 2015 in A-Ball, but he may not last long.
Upside: .275/.350/.460, 22-25 homers
FV/Risk: 50, Medium (3 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: High-A/AA, 2016: AA/AAA, 2017: AAA/MLB
Video Credit to Jeffrey Paternostro
5. Dilson Herrera, 2B
Current Level/Age: MLB/20.8, 5/10/180, R/R
Signed: IFA at age 16 on July 29, 2010 out of Colombia by PIT for $220,000 bonus, Agency: Praver/Shapiro
Hit: 45/55, Raw Power: 50/50, Game Power: 45/50, Run: 50/50+, Field: 45/50, Throw: 45/45+
Scouting Report: Herrera is a bit of a grinder, with one scout comparing him to Mark Ellis. That may not be what Mets fans are hoping for from a hotshot prospect that hit his way from A-Ball to the big leagues in his age 20 season, but part of the appeal with Herrera is how quickly he reached his ceiling (or close to it).
He was a known prospect on the July 2nd circuit from Colombia but only got a $220,000 bonus, with multiple millionaires from him class looking like total busts already. This was due in part to Herrera’s 5’10 stature, the fact that he wouldn’t fit at shortstop in the big leagues, he isn’t a quick-twitch athlete and his swing is a little funny. He’s worked his way to being an average second baseman, which was also in doubt at one point, and will post average to slightly above run times.
Herrera loads his hands up (behind his ear) rather than back (at or below shoulder height) like most hitters do. This normally creates length to a swing, with the quick downward motion to start a swing often leading to more downward motion than is necessary and a loop to the swing path. Herrera has had to prove it for the past few years, but he has very good awareness of the bat head and feel to hit: he makes more consistent hard contact that almost any other hitter with this swing.
The Mets worked with him on pitch selection after the trade, as he can sometimes expand his zone and as long as the load isn’t affecting this, they don’t plan on trying to tweak his mechanics. His hit tool could end up being a 60 and that may allow his power to play even higher than his average raw power.
Summation: Being this advanced at the plate at 20 often leads to All-Star upside, but as I mentioned above, Herrera isn’t that kind of guy physically. He may reach that ceiling by 2016 but there isn’t a clear path for playing time in 2015, so he may spend a good amount of the season in Triple-A. Not bad for one of the two players (along with Vic Black) the Mets received from Pittsburgh last season in exchange for two rentals (Marlon Byrd and John Buck).
Upside: .280/.345/.440, 15-18 homers
FV/Risk: 50, Low (2 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB, 2016: MLB
6. Brandon Nimmo, RF
Current Level/Age: AA/21.7, 6’3/205, L/R
Drafted: 13th overall (1st round) in 2011 out of Wyoming HS by NYM for $2.1 million bonus, Agency: Relativity
Hit: 20/55, Raw Power: 45/50+, Game Power: 20/50, Run: 50/50+, Field: 50/50+, Throw: 55/55
Scouting Report: Nimmo was drafted in the first round out of a Wyoming high school, a state where they don’t even have high school baseball. He played American Legion and travel ball, leaving him less experienced against top shelf arms compared to his draft peers, but Nimmo has a refined approach at the plate and a pretty left-handed swing, so you wouldn’t necessarily guess at his background given what you see on the field.
Nimmo draws comparisons to a multitude of bigger-framed, athletic corner outfielders like J.D. Drew, Andre Ethier, Trot Nixon, Christian Yelich and Nick Markakis. His long strides, good instincts and solid average speed allow him to play center field now and for stretches in the big leagues, but he fits best in right field long-term, where his above average arm, a tick or two better than as an amateur, profiles well.
Nimmo’s raw power is fringy now with some projection to slightly above average, but his approach is more of an all fields lined drive type now, with the game power expected to come later. Some scouts point to his low homer totals but the offensive environments in Low-A and High-A were understandable hinderances, especially given his age. He’s improved versus lefties, an expected weakness given his lack of at bats versus elite southpaws early in his career. Nimmo has a patient approach and grinds out at bats; some scouts see this as a problem, that he’s being too passive.
Summation: There’s likely something to the passive comment that Nimmo can address, but his low homer totals and low energy approach to the game contribute to the underachiever label that will magically disappear if he rake in Double-A in 2015. He’s younger than Conforto with a wider toolset and above league average performance in a half-season at Double-A, so there’s plenty to get on board with before a potential leap forward.
Upside: .280/.375/.460, 15-20 homers
FV/Risk: 50, Medium (3 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AA/AAA, 2016: AAA/MLB, 2017: MLB
Video Credit to Christopher Blessing
7. Steven Matz, LHP
Current Level/Age: AA/23.6, 6’2/200, R/L
Drafted: 72nd overall (2nd round) in 2009 out of New York HS by NYM for $895,000 bonus
Fastball: 55/60, Curveball: 40/50, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 40/50
Scouting Report: Matz was a high school draft out of New York state that was a raw talent to begin with, but he then lost about two years of development time at the beginning of his career, due to a Tommy John surgery and some complications. He did well in Low-A last year, then took a big step forward this year over High-A and Double-A, putting him in conversation of the Mets deep upper levels of pitching.
Matz works 91-95 and hits 96 mph with an above average to plus changeup and a curveball that’s improved dramatically to now flash average to slightly above. He’s an excellent athlete that commands his fastball well and his maturity and ability to improve has impressed the Mets. There’s a #3 starter in here if it all comes together, but the curveball and command of his off-speed is still inconsistent, not to mention his age and injury history give scouts some pause.
Summation: Matz will pitch at Double-A and Triple-A in 2015 and could be in line for some big league time depending on his development and how the pitching depth chart shakes out. If all goes to plan, he should be a factor in the 2016 rotation.
FV/Role/Risk: 50, #4 starter, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AA/AAA, 2016: AAA/MLB
8. Rafael Montero, RHP
Current Level/Age: MLB/24.2, 6’0/185, R/R
Signed: IFA at age 20 on January 20, 2011 out of Dominican Republic by NYM for $80,000 bonus, Agency: Legacy
Fastball: 55/60, Slider: 50/50+, Changeup: 50/50+, Command: 50/55
Scouting Report: Montero was a late bloomer, signing at age 19 for just $80,000 out of the Dominican in 2011. After such a meager beginning, he blew through the system: he was in the DSL in 2011 and in Triple-A in 2013, with a big league audition in 2014. He had an oblique issue that bothered him in 2014 and he didn’t get the bulk of starts in one place afforded to Jacob deGrom, but he found his stride late in the season.
Montero works 90-94, hitting 95 mph with a slider and changeup that both flash solid average and play up due to his above average command. His slider is a little more advanced than his changeup, which he doesn’t always throw as often as he should. Montero is a flyball guy that needs to have good command to limit damage done via the home run and will rely on high pop-up rates to do this and keep his rotation spot.
Summation: Montero isn’t an upside play, but rather a close to ready-made #4 starter that likely doesn’t break camp in the big league rotation. He’ll probably start in the bullpen but be first to take an open rotation spot.
FV/Role/Risk: 50, #4 starter, Low (2 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: MLB
45 FV Prospects
9. Dominic Smith, 1B Video: Smith is unique as he was a 6’0/185 high school first baseman that went 11th overall in 2013, signing for $2.6 million. He has above average raw power, but is noted more for his advanced lefty bat, feel to hit and his plus glove, drawing comparisons to Adrian Gonzalez. Smith’s full-season debut came this year as an 18/19 year old and many saw it as a disappointment because he only hit one homer, but his home park in Savannah has hilariously huge grounds and past Mets prep 1st round bats Nimmo and Cecchini didn’t go to Low-A until their second pro season because of that mental challenge. The Mets thought Smith could handle the challenge and the bat performed as expected. Smith had some troubles beyond power, putting on what one scout called a “freshman 15” during the season, he’s already lost it during the off-season. He seems to have responded well to a tough season, but some scouts are slower to get on board as Smith is a slower tempo guy on the field and his all fields approach means his consistent game power will show up years down the road.
10. Marcos Molina, RHP Video: As a 19-year-old this year, Molina tore through the New York-Penn League, facing hitters that were mostly 2-3 years older than him. The 6’3/185 righty works 91-94 and has hit 97 mph, but has surprising feel to pitch and a developed slider and changeup because he threw 85-86 mph when he signed at age 16. Last year Molina flashed 1st round type stuff for an inning or two before tiring, but he learned to be more consistent and pace himself this year. He uses his changeup more than his slider right now and either pitch may look like the better offering depending on the day, with both flashing above average at times. With a potential plus fastball, off-speed that flashes above average potential and command that should be at least average, there’s a potential mid-rotation starter here, but the normal young pitcher concerns apply. Some scouts have tabbed Molina as the sleeper to watch shoot up this list next year and heading to pitcher-friendly Savannah won’t hurt.
Note: Both Smith and Molina were very close to being 50 FV, and a couple sources argued for Molina to go ahead of Smith.
11. Jhoan Urena, 3B Video: Urena outperformed Rosario at the plate for Brooklyn this year and, at age 19, Urena was another high upside teenage prospect on the loaded squad. The switch hitting Dominican signed for $425,000 at age 17 and hasn’t stopped hitting since. At 6’1/200, he’s already maxed-out physically but has solid average raw power that’s plenty to profile at the position to go with with the above average arm, good hands and enough range to stick at third base. Urena is a bat over power prospect and is spending this offseason as his first full-time with a trainer, increasing the odds that he could take another step forward in 2015.
12. Michael Fulmer, RHP Video: Fulmer was a sandwich rounder out of high school in 2011 and the 6’3/200 power righty sits 92-96 mph with above average life. His low-80’s curveball is above average to plus and his high-80’s slider/cutter is also above average while his high-80’s changeup is fringy. Fulmer’s delivery is higher effort with a spinoff to first base and he’s had a torn meniscus in his knee in 2013, so, despite improving command, it seems likely that he’ll end up his relief at some point. The stuff, frame, command and knee issues are all similar to Joba Chamberlain and that may be what Fulmer’s career ends up looking like.
13. Akeel Morris, RHP Video: Morris was a 10th rounder in 2010 out of a Virgin Islands high school and the 6’1/170 righty battled command issues in short season leagues until his breakout this year in the bullpen at age 21 in Low-A. Morris’ velocity ticked up this year, sitting 92-95 mph with a plus changeup in the low-80’s and deception from his overhand slot. He’s improved his slider to be a fringy to average, usable third pitch, but he’s thrived in short stints out of the bullpen where the slider isn’t needed much. Morris took such a big step forward with his stuff and command this year that even the Mets were surprised they needed to add him to the 40-man after the season. He’ll head to High-A next year, but could be in line for a promotion by mid-season if he keeps dominating like he did in 2014.
14. Gavin Cecchini, SS Video: Cecchini was the 12th overall pick in 2012 and got his first taste of full-season ball in 2014, but jumped from Low-A to High-A at midseason, with a one game appearance in Double-A, where he’ll start in 2015. He hit well at Savannah, considering the park and his early struggles, and was good at High-A when adjusting for league and age. Cecchini doesn’t have huge tools (same goes for his older brother Garin, who ranked high on the Red Sox prospect list) but Gavin looks like he can stick at shortstop with solid instincts and a plus arm, average speed, power to eventually hit 10-15 homers annually and good feel to make contact. The upside may only be a low-end everyday shortstop, but those are worth plenty these days.
15. Hansel Robles, RHP Video: Robles was a starting pitcher most of his career until the middle of 2014, when he shifted to relief and his stuff exploded, sitting 93-97 mph with an above average slider/cutter and changeup. Robles had a checkered past as a starter, battling shoulder discomfort in High-A when his velocity dropped from 90-94 to 88-91 with no life. He was working at that lower range in 2014 until the move to the bullpen when everything changed. He has more command than Morris and has a chance to break with the big league club in 2015, but lacks to second plus pitch to project for the 8th/9th inning.
16. Matt Reynolds, SS Video: Reynolds was a 2nd rounder in 2012 out of Arkansas and in two years he’s worked his way through the system, with a nice half-season in Triple-A to close out 2014. He can play a good enough shortstop to play there in the big leagues, but is more of a second baseman on an everyday basis. Reynolds can play anywhere on the field, which helps his utility value if the bat is a little light; he has a simple contact-oriented swing and fringy raw power that plays down in game situations. Mark Ellis, Mark Loretta and Randy Velarde all came up from scouts as comps as the utility guy or low-end starter type and Reynolds may be ready for that role as early as 2015.
17. Cory Mazzoni, RHP Video: Mazzoni was a 2nd rounder in 2011 out of N.C. State and has worked through the system as a starter, though his ultimate MLB fit may be in relief. His 90-92 sinker is above average, hitting 94 mph as a starter with an above average slider and an inconsistent splitter that’s solid average at times: he projects as a nice back-end starter if it all comes together. In relief, everything plays up and he sits 93-95 mph with the same life and the off-speed pitches are a notch crisper. With the deep AAA/MLB pitching staffs, Mazzoni’s 2015 big league chance is likely in relief, but the Mets still think he could stick in a rotation spot if given the chance.
40 FV Prospects
18. Matt Bowman, RHP Video: Bowman is an unusual case: he was a 13th rounder out of Princeton in 2012 that stands 6’0/165 and was a primary shortstop in college; he sat 89-91 in college and then sat 94-95 in a predraft workout at Citi Field, with the Mets admitting they were lucky he was local. He then moved to the mound full-time in pro ball, molded his delivery after Tim Lincecum and then his stuff ticked up a few notches. He’ll flash three above average pitches at times, sitting 90-93 with good life and a slider and changeup to go with a lesser fourth pitch curveball. Bowman is tenacious and aggressive but is buried a but in the upper level pitching depth for the Mets; he should find some big league in 2015. His upside is a back-end starter but everything may play better in short stints.
19. Milton Ramos, SS Video: Ramos was a known, Colombian-born high school defensive whiz in the Miami area but the fall before his senior spring, he put on some muscle and transformed into an all-around prospect. He’s a plus runner with a plus glove and above average arm, so speed and defense are his strengths. At 6’0/165, Ramos’ power isn’t a big part of his game yet, but he has above average bat speed that could help him hit double digit homers down the road. Some scouts questioned Ramos’ makeup after he went to four high schools, but the Mets didn’t have any problems with him before or after the draft and all scouts agree his talent belonged higher than his 3rd round selection in 2014.
20. Champ Stuart, CF Video: Stuart also comes from an obscure background, as a Bahamas-born prospect with limited baseball experience that went in the 6th round in 2013 out of Brevard College in North Carolina. He’s easy to like as an 80 runner that’s 6’0/175 with more pop than you would expect for someone with that speed. Stuart has made lots of progress in a short time: he has good feel for base running and defense already and is learning when to tap into his power in game situations but has lots of reps to make up versus his age peers.
21. L.J. Mazzilli, 2B Video: Mazzilli was a well-known senior sign out of UConn with unspectacular tools but good bloodlines as the son of Lee Mazzilli. L.J.’s power, speed and defense at second base are all below average to fringy, but he has an above average arm that can play anywhere and his bat has played more than expected as an amateur. He doesn’t have huge bat speed but is good at making quick adjustments and shortening his swing to make contact, with the power for 10-15 homers annually. With Herrera ahead of him in the second base pecking order, Mazzilli likely fits more in a corner utility role with the ability to also play second base. One scout pushed for Mazzilli to be around 10 on this ranking, arguing that he was an everyday second baseman, he really believes in the bat and Mazzilli will play for 10 years in the big leagues.
22. Casey Meisner, RHP Video: Meisner is a 6’7/190 righty that went in the 3rd round in 2012 out of a Texas high school. He sat 88-92 in high school and is now 90-94 mph, with good downhill plane; his curveball and changeup are both around average now and flash better, with so much projection it’s hard to say exactly what Meisner’s upside really is. He’s a solid athlete for his size and is pretty coordinated, so the typical super-lanky pitcher command concerns haven’t applied yet.
23. Cesar Puello, RF Video: Puello has been on Mets prospect lists for awhile and it seems like his stock is tied to what you think about the Biogenesis scandal that he was involved in. He was the best player in the Eastern League in 2013 during the season when the revelations came out, with a 50-game suspension coming at the end of the year and following an injury-riddled 2012 campaign. Puello went from hitting 16 homers in a neutral park in 2013 over 377 PA to hitting 7 homers in 2014 over 371 PA in an offensively-charged Las Vegas park and Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Assuming 2014 represents the real Puello, he looks like a toolsy 4th outfield whose erratic tendencies at the plate hold back his everyday player tools. He’s a solid average runner that can play center field for stretches, but Lagares, Nieuwenhuis and den Dekker are all above him in that regard. Puello has the above average arm for right field and average raw power, but he has trouble laying off the right-on-right slider and that undermines the whole package. It’s unclear where his career will end up, but Puello could be an everyday player if it all clicks.
24. Vicente Lupo, LF: I mentioned on twitter that Lupo’s hands are so strong that a scout told me he’s seen Lupo tear a pineapple in half with his bare hands. He’s backed into a profile corner as a left fielder that improved to now be just a 45 fielder, so there’s never going to be much base running or defensive value. The good news is Lupo has easy above average raw power and an advanced approach that has him working deep counts. He could stand to make more contact and he’ll make his full-season debut at 21 next year, so he’s one to keep an eye on in 2015 because he could move up or down this list 5-10 spots.
25. Rob Whalen, RHP Video: Whalen was part of a bumper crop in 2012 of talent from the normally scarcely-talented Lakeland, FL area, between Orlando and Tampa. Prep arms LHP Tyler Pike went to Seattle and RHP Jon Sandfort went to Pittsburgh, both in the 3rd round, Rangers RHP Alec Asher went in the 4th round out of a local JC and RHP Carson Fulmer turned down big money from Boston and now is a likely first rounder in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. Whalen looked to be in that group, but his solid average stuff backed up in the spring and he signed with the Mets for $100,000 in the 12th round, but the stuff has steadily come back. The 6’2/200 righty sits 89-93 mph with sink and an above average curveball; the command and changeup are both just okay for now. There’s enough here to develop as a potential back-end rotation piece, but it could play up 7th/8th inning relief; Whalen will head to High-A for his age 21 season.
26. Gabriel Ynoa, RHP Video: Ynoa gets some comparisons to Rafael Montero for his above average fastball (90-93 with sink) and command, but Ynoa’s secondary stuff is more fringy to average, so he lacks the slam dunk rotation projection of Montero. Ynoa’s changeup is ahead of his slider and both will flash average at times; he’ll continue to be developed as a starter, but likely fits better in a middle relief or long man roles in the big leagues.
27. Luis Cessa, RHP: Cessa signed as a third baseman but couldn’t get out of the DSL until he shifted to the mound; he’s developed as a starter but his potential big league fit is in the bullpen. The 6’3/190 righty will run it up to 96 mph early in starts but would settle around 90 mph. His curveball is ahead of his slider and he also has a changeup is good at times, all flashing average to slightly above for scouts, with the ultimate fit likely a multi-inning swing man or middle reliever. He’ll head to Double-A next season and may still pitch as a starter to get the innings to develop his stuff.
28. Ivan Wilson, CF Video: Wilson is an exciting athlete that draws Preston Wilson comps from Mets personnel. He stands at 6’3/220 with plus speed and good defensive instincts in center field to go with above average arm strength and raw power. The problem is the other tool, as Wilson is young for his prep class, didn’t see lots of high end pitching in high school and looked overmatched at times this year in Rookie-ball. The 2013 3rd rounder has enormous upside, but needs to learn to make adjustments versus pro pitching and tighten his two-strike approach or he might not get out of A-Ball.
29. Sean Gilmartin, LHP Video: Gilmartin was a recent Rule 5 pick from the Twins, so he needs to stay in the big leagues to remain Mets property. He’s a prototypical crafty lefty that probably fits best as a spot starter/swing man, but the elements are here to start if the athletic lefty’s command plays up. Gilmartin normally sits 86-91 mph with some life, an average curveball and a plus changeup.
Miller Diaz, RHP
It’s maybe cheating to announce that, in addition to right-hander Miller Diaz, that infielder Danny Muno would also serve as a reasonable selection in this space. He appears to play either second or third base competently, controls the strike zone well, and has probably the capacity to hit 10 home runs in a season. Not a future star, Muno, but (at the very least) of some value to a club protecting against the awful. With regard to Diaz, he’s younger and less refined and also a pitcher. He’s recorded exactly a 30% strikeout rate over the past two seasons at Low- and then Class-A, is what’s notable about him — and, according to multiple reports, sits in the low- and mid-90s, suggesting that he’s not benefiting merely from polish. He also has a changeup which has the possibility of developing into an outpitch — or which at least was used as an outpitch once, as the GIFs below illustrate.
Here’s that changeup at full speed, striking out Royals hitting prospect Chad Johnson:
Others of Note
I already ranked 30 players and 8 MLB growth assets, so there can’t be much else in the upper levels of the system, but there are five more prospects I wanted to mention: LHP Jack Leathersich (heavily relies on deceptive 91-94 mph heater, learning to pitch at upper levels and to trust solid average curveball more), RHP Matt Koch (Video power reliever was 92-95 in college, moved to the rotation in pro ball and has been 88-92, then went back to 92-95 mph in pen for the Double-A playoffs; slider is above average and pen looks like eventual home, but likely goes back out as a starter in 2015), LF Jared King (Video he isn’t exciting, but the bat is average or better with the other four tools fringy to average; line drive approach undermines game power, but he has a good shot to become switch hitting corner bench bat), 1B Aderlin Rodriguez (Video huge dude has 70 raw power and 60 arm, but contact, health and speed issues mean he’s a first baseman that needs to stay healthy and rake) and OF Darrell Cecilliani (grinder with good instincts could be nice reserve outfielder that finds ways to contribute).
The lower levels have five more bats that could jump onto the list next year: C Brandon Brosher (Video high school infielder/pitcher has 55-60 arm and raw power and was moved to catcher after signing; he took to it well before a broken foot ended his season early), CF Raphael Ramirez (Video draft sleeper had great summer and tough spring, signability scared off some, but turned out he just wanted to play: 55-60 runner can play center fielder and shows flashes of advanced bat), 3B Eudor Garcia (2014 4th rounder has solid lefty bat with 55 raw power and can play third for now, but range may come up short), RF Wuilmer Becerra (Mets’ 4th piece of Dickey deal that netted d’Arnaud and Syndergaard; 6’4/190 athlete has 55 raw power and solid average arm, showing flashes with the bat) and RF Eudy Pina (6’3/190 athlete has average raw power, above average speed, solid average arm and chance to breakout if it click at the plate).
The lower levels have a number of interesting arms to monitor: LHP Blake Taylor (6’3/220 lefty was acquired for Ike Davis and hits 95 mph with life and above average curveball that helped him go in the 2nd round in 2013, but command, changeup and consistency lag behind), RHP Corey Oswalt (6’4/200 righty was new to pitching when drafted in 2012, now sits 90-93 mph and flashes above average curveball but needs consistency), RHP Erik Manoah (Video 6’2/215 righty sat 90-93 with above average curveball last fall but stuff backed up in prep senior spring as he opted for pitchability) and RHP Gabe Llanes (6’3/185 athletic projection prep guy in 2014 draft is still raw, but average sinker/slider is good place to start).
There’s four more lower level arms to keep an eye on: RHP Domingo Tapia (Video 6’4/185 and sits mid-90’s with plus-plus life, hitting 100 mph but low slot and command/delivery issues undermine arm speed; slider is fringy but changeup flashes above average), LHP Brad Wieck (2014 7th rounder is 6’9/255 lefty that sits 90-93 mph with solid average slider and could move quickly as matchup guy), RHP Andrew Church (2013 2nd rounder has three average pitches and throws strikes with some life to the heater) and LHP Dario Alvarez (lefty shot from Low-A to the majors in 2014 with matchup lefty value, sitting 89-91, touching 93 mph with 55 slider at times).
The Latin program is doing well, with six prospects still at the lower levels worth monitoring: SS Kenny Hernandez (Venezuelan shortstop got $1 million this July 2nd; advanced lefty swing and projection in 6’0/160 frame likely shifts over to third base and could be everyday guy), C Ali Sanchez (Venezuelan catcher got $690,000 in 2013 and is 3rd behind d’Arnaud and Plawecki on org catching chart; advanced offensive catcher with tools to stick behind the plate at 17), LHP Luis Silva (Venezuelan signed for $275,000 and had Tommy John surgery recently after impressive stint in extended spring training; worked low-90’s with an improving curveball and feel to pitch), CF Ricardo Cespedes (Dominican signed for $725,000 last year and has solid lefty stick, fluid actions, projection and plus speed to play center field), SS Cecilio Aybar (Video former Obispo Aybar faked his identity, but was caught months before he would’ve been eligible to sign; the Mets got him for $251,100 after his year-long suspension; he recently turned 21, is an easy plus runner with actions for shortstop, but the bat is light, given his new age) and 3B Yeffry De Aza (Video Dominican got $475,000 last year and isn’t pretty, traditional July 2nd kid but has instincts, some pop and feel to hit/defend).
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.