The New York Mets’ top prospect list is a lot stronger now than it was when the off-season began, thanks to the R.A. Dickey trade with Toronto that brought two of the club’s Top 3 prospects into the system. The club lacks impact bats but it has a plethora of high-ceiling arms.
Organizations have to make bold moves at times when trying to win championships and the Mets’ top prospect list has benefited from that, both with the R.A. Dickey trade with Toronto, as well as the deal that saw veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran head to the San Francisco Giants, an organization that has won the World Series in two of the past three seasons. That latter trade netted Wheeler, a pitcher with the upside of a No. 1 or 2 starter.
The right-hander has plus fastball velocity that sits in the mid-90s and touches the upper 90s. He also flashes a plus curveball, a solid slider and a changeup that should become at least average. When asked about Wheeler’s stuff, a talent evaluator had very good things to say about his fastball-curveball combo, “They’re going to generate a lot of swings and misses,” he said. Wheeler has an easy delivery and get a solid downward plane on his offerings with at least average command and control. The contact I spoke with said the pitching prospects biggest needs are to improve his changeup, continue to become more efficient and learn when/how to properly use his weapons.
Wheeler, 22, spent the majority of 2012 in double-A before receiving six late-season starts in triple-A where he performed quite well. He’ll return to triple-A but will face a stiffer test while pitching in the offense-boosting Pacific Coast League. The Georgia native is almost ready to assume a permanent role in the big league rotation and that could come as soon as mid-to-late 2013. Wheeler and Matt Harvey could form a tantalizing one-two punch for years to come at the top of the starting rotation.
As I stated Monday, I love what Wheeler brings to the rotation. Over the years he has simplified the moving parts in his mechanics and features arguable the best fastball in the minors. Add in a slider, curveball and changeup that are all average or better and the you’ve got the second or third best starter in the minors. Mets fans will never bad mouth Carlos Beltran again after they witness Wheeler’s greatness this summer. (JD Sussman)
The young catcher entered 2012 as the Jays’ top prospect and he did nothing to change the lofty status, although a knee injury ended his season prematurely in June. Had he not been injured, d’Arnaud likely would have made his big league debut last year when MLB incumbent J.P. Arencibia suffered a fracture in his hand. After the season, Toronto shocked the industry by acquiring NL Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey but it cost them the talented catching prospect
d’Arnaud has the potential to be both an above-average hitter and fielder. He has enough power to predict 15 home runs in his prime and he could hit for a decent average, thanks to his good bat speed and short stroke. Behind the plate, the California native shows an above-average arm that helps him control the running game and he’s at least average in every area, including blocking, receiving and game calling. One talent evaluator said the prospect was close to being ready for the big leagues and the trade to New York gives him a much clearer path to a big league job — especially after both Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas were included in the Dickey deal.
When I saw d’Arnaud play I was a little surprised by his lack of energy on the field – both on offense and defense. With that said, he showed good athleticism sliding to his right to block a wild pitch and also while fielding a ball out in front of home plate. In speaking with the New York organization, I was told that — in a perfect world — d’Arnaud would be allowed to gain a little more seasoning at the triple-A level before assuming the full-time gig at the big league level, but a strong spring could force the club’s hand.
The Mets top prospect is a strong, sturdily build right handed hitter with considerable upside. In a perfect world, d’Arnaud projects make numerous all-star games on the back of plus power and defense. But, it’s hard to say that will happen. Injuries have cost him valuable experience and hindered his development making is future more uncertain than most top prospects. (JD Sussman)
Syndergaard has come a long way since being considered a “signability pick” during the 2010 draft. A late bloomer in high school, the tall Texan’s velocity now sits in the mid-to-upper 90s and can touch triple-digits. He also possesses above-average control for both his age and experience level. Those attributes made him attractive to New York and he was an impressive addition to the organization during the R.A. Dickey trade that also netted the organization its No. 2 prospect in catcher Travis d’Arnaud.
The issue with the right-hander, though, is his secondary stuff. Both his curveball and changeup currently grade out as below average and questions remain about their future potential. A talent evaluator asked about Syndergaard’s secondary stuff commented, “The curveball has come a long, long way… it is, at times, average,” He also stated that the young pitcher is toying with a slider and referred the changeup as “OK.” If the secondary pitches don’t improve then Syndergaard could develop into a shut-down, high-leverage reliever who could dominate on the strength of his ground-ball-inducing fastball.
When I saw him pitch in May it looked like he was getting out in front of the curveball and dragging his arm behind him — making it almost impossible for him to throw it for strikes. He also was not doing a good job of holding base runners. The tall Texan should move up to the Florida State League in 2013 and could eventually join a dominate, hard-throwing young staff with the likes of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.
Two weeks ago we had a great discussion about Syndergaard. He works off a two pitches, a big fastball that will make him a ground-ball machine at higher levels and an above average change. It will be interesting to see how the Mets handle the young right hander after the Blue Jays were cautious. (JD Sussman)
Flores is one player that perhaps suffers from Over-Exposed Prospect Syndrom. Signed at 16, Flores — now 21 — has been on top prospect lists since that time and has developed at a steady pace. A former shortstop, he’s now splitting time between second base and third base. After spending parts of five years in A-ball and below, Flores finally reached double-A in the second half of 2012 during a breakout season. At that level, the young Venezuelan hit more than .300 and started to tap into his raw power more consistently than ever before. He does a nice job of barrelling the ball and making contact, but he’s still too aggressive at times, and could stand to improve his pitch selection when looking for balls to drive.
In the field, the 6’3” infielder just got too big for shortstop, where his range dwindled. He doesn’t have the body of a prototypical second baseman but he turns the double play OK. Ideally, he’s best suited for third base where his strong arm helps make up for his average range. His ideal position would probably be first base but his right-handed power would be just average. A strong spring could ensure a triple-A assignment for Flores in 2013. He could reach the majors by the end of the year, if a spot opens up. When asked about his future in the organization, a Mets contact stated, “We’re still very excited about him.”
Despite having a small frame, Montero has dominated the low minors and provided 122 innings of work in 2012 while splitting the year between two A-ball levels. The right-hander dials his fastball up into the low-90s but can touch 94-95 mph. His repertoire also includes a promising slider and a developing changeup. He basically came out of nowhere last year, and a talent evaluator said, “He’s a guy that, a year ago, was a sleeper… I’m really surprised he hasn’t gotten more attention…He absolutely looks like he belongs.”
Montero’s stuff plays up because he has above-average command and plus control. The contact I spoke with referred to the right-hander’s command as “plus-plus” and commented that the hitters don’t see the fastball well out of his hand. The 22-year-old also has an easy delivery and a clean arm. Although Montero made just eight games in high-A ball, he should move up to double-A to begin 2013. He has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter. The contact I spoke with had high praise for the young Latin player: “He has a really advanced feel on the mound and for the hitters and what they’re trying to accomplish.”
Fulmer is another member of the dominating 2011 Oklahoma prep pitching class that also included Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy and Arizona’s Archie Bradley. The Mets prospect has a big strong pitcher’s frame but he doesn’t leverage it enough to produce a strong downward plane on his pitches and he works up in the zone too much. A contact I spoke with said Fulmer struggled to reach the fifth inning in the first half of the season, due to high pitch counts, but improved in the second half when he realized pitching was about more than just getting swings and misses.
Fulmer, 20, could stand to smooth out his delivery, which should help him improve his command but his control is OK. His stuff is quite good, with a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a potentially-plus slider and a changeup that remains a work-in-progress. He should move up to high-A ball in 2013 and could eventually join a talented rotation that could also include Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Noah Syndergaard.
Familia, a Dominican Republic native, was quite durable in 2012 at the triple-A level, pitching 137 innings over 28 starts, but his overall results were less than stellar after a promising ’11 season. Familia, 23, has a fastball that works in the mid-to-upper 90s and his slider is above-average.
His lack of a consistent changeup, control issues and delivery all suggest a relief role is in the cards for the hard thrower. He showed flashes of developing into a high-leverage reliever during a big league stint with the Mets in 2012. I’m told Familia will be given every opportunity to break camp with the big league club in 2013 — as a reliever. A talent evaluator likened Familia’s situation to that of Texas’ Alexi Ogando and stated, “He’s another guy with power stuff… He made some pretty good [MLB] hitters look bad.” If he fails to crack the 25-man roster, though, he could eventually move back to the starting rotation, depending on the club’s needs.
Mateo joins Rafael Montero as a breakout (of nowhere) prospect from 2012. A couple steps behind his fellow Dominican Republic native on the organizational ladder, Mateo his a solid fastball in the low-to-mid-90s and backs it up with plus command and control. He also has a solid slider that helped him dominate young competition. A contact I spoke with referred to the breaking ball as “an absolutely wipe-out slider… It’s a big-league pitch right now.” He also cautioned, though, that Mateo needs to learn to not rely on it so much.
Mateo is a little behind the eight-ball in terms of his development after he had two contracts voided and a one-year suspension for falsifying his age.The soon-to-be-23-year-old could skip over low-A ball and open the year in the Florida State League with a strong spring training. His lack of a reliable off-speed pitch could continue to be an issue in his quest to develop into a mid-rotation starter. If he cannot find a reliable changeup, Mateo could end up as a high-leverage reliever capable of shutting the door in the ninth inning.
I’ve read mixed reported about Luis Mateo but when I saw him in Brooklyn he showed an above average mid 90s fastball and an average slider. He profiles best as a fast moving relieve pitcher because he losses velocity quickly, lacks a third pitch, and has a lot of recoil in his delivery. (JD Sussman)
Tapia is yet another young, hard-throwing arm in the Mets system. He throws a mid-to-high-90s fastball with excellent movement and commands the ball surprisingly well. His second best pitch is a changeup and his breaking ball — a slider — is inconsistent. His control is good.
Tapia, 21, has an impressive frame for a pitcher and he induces crazy-good ground-ball rates, in part because of the leverage he gets from his 6’4” frame. His combination of velocity and worm-burning rates is enticing, although the lack of a breaking ball could eventually place him in the bullpen. One talent evaluator I spoke with gave a Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona) comp. “He may not be a big strikeout guy… but I think he’ll get plenty of outs.” Tapia will move up to high-A ball in 2013.
On the surface, Nimmo’s 2012 season doesn’t look that impressive — mainly because of the low batting average and high strikeout rate, but he’s come a long way in a short period of time. The outfielder, selected out of a Wyoming high school in 2011, was extremely raw when he was selected in the first round of the draft. He was also playing a very tough home ball park in the New York Penn League and a contact told me that the wind often comes straight in from right field. He pointed to Ike Davis’ year in the league, which resulted in zero home runs in 58 games.
Nimmo, soon-to-be 20, needs to jump on good pitches to hit when they’re made available to him. He racks up walks but is too passive at times. He shows good gap power but his eventual home-run potential is debatable. A left-handed hitter, he struggles against southpaws. In the field, he has a chance to develop into an average-or-better fielder with a solid arm. The contact I spoke to said the prospect could be a solid center-fielder or a plus corner outfielder. Nimmo should make his full-season debut in 2013 but will move slowly.
The Mets have oversold Nimmo’s athleticism but he is an interesting package. His approach is passive, he is content letting pitch after pitch go by as he waits on a fastball, preferably low in the zone. His pitch recognition needs considerable work and presently undermines his hit tool. Power could be his carry tool, it has the potential to be plus. Right now Nimmo is very raw and a full season assignment would be aggressive. But I don’t see the Mets keeping him in Brooklyn either. (JD Sussman)
Cecchini was the Mets’ first round draft pick in 2012 and his brother Garin Cecchini is a talented prospect in the Red Sox system. The younger Cecchini is not flashy but he has solid all-around skills. In the field, he’s a steady fielder at shortstop with solid range and good actions. His arm is just average. As a contact said, “There is no question that he’ll stay there.” A broken finger caused him to DH for part of the season.
Cecchini, 19, is a solid hitter and profiles as a No. 2 hitter. He could hit for a decent batting average and possesses solid gap power but little home-run strength. He’s a good base runner but has just average speed. The contact I spoke with said Cecchini is very instinctual, plays with good energy and is a natural leader. The Louisiana native should open 2013 in low-A ball after a strong fall instructional league, and is easily the Mets’ shortstop of the future.
I understand why Cecchini doesn’t get a lot of respect, he isn’t a tool-shed like many highly ranked shortstops. But, his upside his higher than many give him credit for. He has average tools across the board with a chance for an above average or better hit tool as a shortstop. Frankly, that’s an exciting package. (JD Sussman)
A second-round pick from the 2011 amateur draft, Mazzoni reached double-A in his first full season. The right-hander was durable in ’12 with 144 combined innings between high-A and double-A. His stuff has improved in recent years and he can now hit the 93-95 mph range with his heater. He has a very good slider but he lacks a reliable third pitch (a splitter).
Mazzoni, 23, has above-average control but is still learning to consistently command his three-pitch repertoire. I’d also like to see him stay on top of the ball better and induce more ground-ball outs. A contact I spoke with said Mazzoni is a strike-thrower who is very aggressive in the zone, but threw perhaps too many strikes in double-A. He could develop into a solid No. 3 or 4 starter if he can round out his repertoire. If not, he could end up in the bullpen.
DeGrom, 24, was drafted in 2010 but pitched only 26 innings prior to 2012 thanks to Tommy John surgery. The right-hander recovered well and flashes a 93-96 mph fastball. His secondary stuff has been stunted by his time off but his slider shows potential. His changeup needs a fair bit of work.
DeGrom has above-average control and a strong start to the 2013 season could help him reach double-A in the coming year, if he can get off to a fast start when he returns to high-A ball. He has a solid pitcher’s frame and, if he can put his injury history behind him, DeGrom could develop into a No. 3 or 4 starter. If his changeup doesn’t come along as hoped, though, he could find himself in the back-end of the bullpen.
Plawecki’s well-rounded game helped him go 35th overall to the Mets in the 2012 amateur draft. He has a solid offensive approach and should hit for a good average because he makes above-average contact; he actually walked more than he struck out during his debut in the New York Penn League. The Purdue alum has flashed some power and could develop average or better power.
Behind the plate, Plawecki is a solid receiver and calls an OK game. He doesn’t have the strongest arm but he does a nice job of throwing out base runners (32% in his debut) due to solid mechanics. The Indiana native could skip over low-A ball and open his first full season in high-A. He could develop into the Mets’ starting catcher of the future.
Plawecki was far too advanced for short-season ball. He has an excellent approach but it’s a contact orientated swing which doesn’t get his lower half involved. Because he’s a catcher he doesn’t need to be a slugger to carve out a major league career, but at best I see him as a second division starter. (JD Sussman)
One of my favorite under-the-radar prospects in the system, Leathersich reached high-A ball in his first full pro season. He’s been dominant since turning pro with 139 strikeouts in 84.2 innings of work. His ERA in high-A was a little high but he allowed almost one-third of his runs in two of his 26 outings. Leathersich’s fastball works in the 90-94 mph range and he has an above-average curveball. His changeup is below average.
Leathersich, 22, is a southpaw that can hold his own against right-handed hitters because of his deception and the movement on his heater. He has a chance to be a solid seventh- or eighth-inning reliever. He should open 2013 in double-A and could reach the majors by the end of the season if he continues to hold his own against right-handed hitters.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.