As everyone knows by now, the Mets traded four players to Cleveland for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. The Mets pick up a major upgrade at shortstop and a vital frontline starter for the next three years. While I didn’t consider upgrading from Gimenez to Lindor a necessary move (especially considering the money) there’s wisdom in making the trade when it comes to Carrasco. With Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman likely to leave after the season the Mets needed to acquire some backup for Jacob deGrom for 2021 and beyond.
My view as the minor league guy is always against trading prospects. I will forever bemoan the trading of Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn for Edwin Diaz and the steroid shell of Robinson Cano but, this is not that trade. Both Lindor and Carrasco are still at the height of their careers and proven players while Diaz was unproven and Cano was in unmitigated decline. So long as the Mets still sign an everyday center fielder so Brandon Nimmo can play in left field, this works for me.
Yet, with any trade, we have to sift through the information of who was sent away and the futures that might have been. Let’s wish the former Mets well in their baseball futures and hope their successes will come against teams outside of the Mets.
Amed Rosario, SS – The #1 Prospect
After following the Mets and their prospects for almost 20 years (which seems impossible) memory only recalls one Met prospect achieving the vaunted #1 spot on the MLB prospect rankings. Back in 2017 Rosario achieved that honor. Back then people had begun to sour on Dominic Smith and had (rightfully) given up on David Thompson, so Rosario seemed to be the greatest hope for a bright future.
The key to his ranking was in that his solid offensive numbers seemed to come along with excellent defense. Sadly, the defense seemed the part of his game that never came up from the minors. With just glimpses of greatness at the MLB level, Rosario is looked at as a disappointment but, perhaps he’ll get the last laugh at the fans who think his rankings were completely overblown. If he ever puts both parts of his game together, he has the talent to make good on that 2017 ranking and prove to be the “prize” of this deal for Cleveland.
Andres Gimenez, SS – Only 22 Years Old
At 22 most MLB prospects are still below AAA but Gimenez is not most MLB prospects. Gimenez has always seemed to play heads and tails above the level of the competition of other prospects his age. Many, including myself, doubted if his bat would hold up in the majors. Thanks to 2020, some of those doubts were erased and most Met fans were gearing up to see Gimenez manning the position for years to come. Few people expected the Mets to deal away a prospect that had successfully come up to the majors and who had so many years of team control remaining.
We, at Mets360 have been following Gimenez’ development since 2016 when the 17 year old burst into the DSL and performed well above expectations. Dismissing all stats from the DSL, it was 2017 when most Met fans sat up and took notice. At the age of 18, he managed a respectable .695 OPS in Columbia (a team in a pitcher’s league). This would lead to a mid-year promotion in 2018 where he would obliterate Advanced A before moving to Binghamton but in 2019 he came back down to earth in his second season of AA.
Eighteen games in the Arizona Fall League (later in 2019) were our only clue as to the echelon of player the Mets still had on their hands. Which player was the real one? The .695 OPS player we’d seen in Binghamton or the .999 OPS superstar we witnessed in Arizona? The answer was somewhere in between the two. As we saw, Gimenez managed a steady .732 OPS in his major league debut, while providing solid defense and tons of positive energy. He will be missed.
Josh Wolf, RHSP – The Other Draft Pick
One of the best things Brodie Van Wagenen accomplished with the Mets seems to be his drafting. The 2019 amateur draft still looks, on paper, like a coup of epic proportions. In the draft the Mets took Brett Baty in the first round and picked up the 13th overall ranked prospect, Matthew Allan in the third round when most teams assumed that the prospect would decline a contract offer and proceed to college. In all of this, people may have forgotten that the Mets picked up Wolf in the second round, despite him being ranked to be picked towards the tail end of the first.
Wolf has barely had a chance to prove himself since that draft but, did look like he had the “stuff” that teams look for when they search for front-end starters. He has a reasonable shot of achieving a solid career but is still too far away from the majors to call it likely.
Isaiah Greene, CF – Crow Armstrong’s Insurance Policy
There were some feelings of ambivalence when the Mets selected Greene with their second round pick this past year. On the one hand, he was among the most talented players left. On the other, he profiled too closely on the same path as the player the Mets had taken with their first pick. Greene has speed with some hitting ability and seems likely to be able to hold onto his role in center. He was a solid prospect but always smacked of the Mets not quite having faith in Pete Crow Armstrong panning out. Without getting to review any performance numbers in the minors no one can say much more; yet, we should recognize that he still has the potential to reach the majors and make an impact.
Consider this a fond farewell to Rosario, Gimenez, Wolf and Greene. My outlook on this trade is pretty rosy but it was still important to talk about the players the Mets have sent away. We all know we may see them again in years to come and may well rue the day that Cleveland came calling with a trade opportunity.
Perhaps no one in the Mets360 family feels more strained for baseball than the Minor League baseball guy. While the Mets have drafted, scouted and seen some key players successfully ascend to the majors (Andres Gimenez) we have so little to base our 2021 projections on, since we’re starved for the statistical reporting that most of that analysis is based on.
Still, we press on and look to the future with what scouting we can glean and the dusty statistical analysis of 2019. Sites like Metsblog.com and MLB.com have posted their opinions on who belongs in the Mets Top 20 Prospects but I want the Mets360 opinion, and for that I turn to Brian Joura. Brian and I have been providing an offseason Top 50 prospects list for years and I was hoping we could at least compare notes on where we, and the baseball world, see the state of the Met’s Top 20 going into the 2021 season.
David: Starting things off, Brian, what do you see as the biggest issue with updating our rankings after a “lost” minor league season?
Brian: In ordinary times it’s extremely difficult to make these types of lists. Now, it’s more foolish than ever to think you can come up with an accurate ranking. Does an older guy, like Harol Gonzalez, have less of an issue with missing a year than a raw young guy, like Blaine McIntosh? Does a guy who spent time at the alternate site, like Luis Carpio, have a leg up on Shervyen Newton, who didn’t? And what about the 2020 draftees? Does it hurt them more or less than the 2019 guys?
On top of all of that, we don’t know how the elimination of short-season teams in the New York-Penn and Appalachian Leagues will affect the development paths of younger prospects. My opinion is that on the whole it might be beneficial in the long run to do drills and work on specific things but it’s silly to think that no one will be hurt by not playing competitively in front of crowds.
David: That actually leads to a pretty tremendous question I’ve been asking myself since the minor league season of 2020 was canceled. Each season the players drafted only get a glimpse of minor league play and so, I don’t anticipate any ill effects from the “Lost Season” with players like Pete Crow-Armstrong, Alexander Ramirez, J.T. Ginn, Robert Dominguez and Isaiah Greene seeing their way into most Top 20 lists without any stats to back them. I worry about players like Matthew Allan, Francisco Alvarez, Josh Wolf and Freddy Valdez who showed promise but didn’t get to see any game action last season. Who do you think suffered the most from not being able to play and why?
Brian: There are several groups who were really hurt. There are the older prospects, who needed all of the planets to align correctly to have a chance to force themselves into the picture. Scott Ota was drafted because he’d sign for next to nothing. But then he had a great debut in 2019 in Kingsport. Now he’ll be a 23 year old in Low-A. That’s not good. Gonzalez repeated Double-A in 2019 at age 24 and had a good season. Now he’ll be at Triple-A at age 26 with no MLB experience. He already had the deck stacked against him as a short RHP and the layoff only makes his road harder.
Then there are the younger guys who had good reps but didn’t get off to good starts. Can Gregory Guerrero get back to the promise that had him get a better signing bonus than Gimenez? Newton had a lost year in 2019 and then saw Gimenez had a breakout year in 2020, making the SS picture even more crowded.
But the ones I worry about most are the ones who were injured in 2019 and essentially have two lost years of development. Raul Beracierta, Stanley Consuegra, Desmond Lindsay, Bryce Montes de Oca, Juan Uriarte and Chris Viall among others.
David: Some of those latter names appear squarely in a group of players I’d already written off (perhaps with the exception of Uriarte). I think with the reduced number of minor league squads we may see teams cut bait and run from some of the prospects they’d have typically let linger. I’d like to transition from this to a topic you mentioned briefly, and that is the overcrowded shortstop position. The Mets have two capable shortstops in the majors who will already be fighting one another for playing time. They have Ronny Mauricio, Jaylen Palmer, Newton, and that doesn’t even mention players like Luis Guillorme or Carpio.
With the obvious battle between Amed Rosario and Gimenez in the majors, do you see any of these other names unseating them? I see Mauricio transitioning to third base and entering into a competition with Mark Vientos and I don’t see Newton reaching the majors with his strikeout habits. Do the Mets have any future All-Star shortstops in your mind?
Brian: All-Star is a pretty high bar. My opinion is that Mauricio is more likely to stay at SS than Palmer. Additionally, I’d say he’s more likely to stay at SS than Vientos is to stay at 3B. It’s really tough to get better at controlling strikeouts in the majors, so we have to hope Newton learns that skill in the minors. Not sure I’d want to wager on that outcome, though.
David: So perhaps let’s move on to some wagers you’d like to make. In our podcasts we do crazy predictions. Here I’d like us each to make three and then talk about how we feel about the predictions one another made. Make a prediction that has a very high likelihood of coming true, make another prediction you could see happening that is far from a given and make one wild prediction that nobody saw coming.
Here are mine:
All of the 2019 and 2020 “big name” draftees will begin the year in Full Season minor league baseball.
Alvarez will not only start in full season league play but will be promoted to the next level of play after less than half a season.
Thomas Szapucki reaches the rotation and outperforms Marcus Stroman, David Peterson and Steven Matz.
Brian: Not sure if a reply is warranted but my reactions are: 1. No; 2. Maybe; 3. No – this would have made an excellent “crazy prediction” for the podcast.
Here are my predictions:
High Likelihood – Allan strikes out the side sometime/someplace this season
Could See – Robert Gsellman flops as a SP in the minors
Wild Prediction – Despite claiming that they were going to be patient and not trade away prospects, at least one of Brodie Van Wagenen’s draft picks gets dealt by the deadline.’
David: I think my responses to your three are 1. Quite likely, 2. Based on the previous two seasons, definitely and 3. Too possible and painful to be crazy. I think there is nearly a 50% chance that happens.
I’d like to close on a positive note, because the minors should always be about the hope of things to come. The outcome of the season is still to come but, looking into your crystal ball, who is one player you predict having a breakout season?
Brian: Is it ok to answer Allan? If you’re looking for someone not in the front of everyone’s mind, how about Jose Butto? His numbers from 2019 don’t really jump out at you because he got off to such a rotten start. But over his final 22 games, he had a 3.3 K/BB ratio while averaging just under a strikeout per inning. There were a lot of fly balls in ’19 but he kept them in the park, as he allowed just a 7.3 HR/FB rate. Plus, Butto had better ground ball numbers earlier, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see improvement there.
David: To me, if Allan were to “Break Out” he’d need to really blow people away with a K/9 higher than 10.0 and a WHIP under 1.00 in his first full season. I think it’s almost a safer pick to look at someone like Butto for a breakout, as he should be better than what we saw in 2019 and has the “Stuff” to be a Top 20 prospect. Always easier for someone outside the Top 20 to break into it than for someone in the Top 5 to reach #1.
That’s part of the reason I won’t choose Alvarez or Vientos for breakout candidates, despite feeling like they will have good years. Instead, I’m going to choose a player on the cusp of my Top 20, Wagner Lagrange. While he doesn’t have much star potential, I am hoping for a Juan Lagares type breakout instead of a Jeff McNeil one. I really think Lagrange can establish himself as a fourth outfielder for the Mets and end the team’s constant need to spend money on mediocre veteran center fielders.
As people who follow the minor leagues avidly, I’m sure that Brian is with me in wishing that baseball has a healthy and safe minor league season in 2021 and that we can get back to reviewing the play of our up-and-coming players. With luck, Mets360.com will be back to providing you with our own Top Prospect lists soon.
Last month I analyzed the Met farm system and reviewed 10 case studies of starting pitchers who have recently risen through the ranks. This month we’ll be doing something similar for batting but we’re going to be handling things slightly differently this time around. Instead of reviewing and analyzing case studies, we will review perception vs. reality when it comes to the various levels in the Mets system.
- International Rookie Leagues (DSL1/DSL2)
- These leagues have players between the ages of 16 and 20 with a fairly low percentage of players eventually emerging as superstars. The Mets and other teams recruit many young players through these leagues but, usually, you only need to focus on the 1-5 players the team spent large amounts of money on.
- Stats out of the DSL are wildly inconsistent (Vicente Lupo 2012) and often far overblown. There are some glimmers of information one can glean from these leagues if you look carefully. Typically power, especially one’s SLG+, cannot be faked. That being said, you need to take any stat from this level with a grain of salt.
- Domestic Rookie Leagues (GCL/APP)
- Fielding players who have graduated from the DSL and high school athletes from recent drafts, the Rookie leagues are more about figuring out how to be a professional athlete than generating stats. With a typical age range of 18-22 these leagues are the most likely victims, should the MLB look to trim the minor league fat some day.
- Stats out of these leagues are still hit or miss with some distinct exceptions. Age plays the biggest role in whether a player’s stats are meaningful with younger players facing more experienced minor league filler players right away.
- Low A Leagues (NYP/SAL)
- The New York Penn League serves as both a rookie league for the top collegiate draftees and a proving ground for those coming up from the lower levels. Players typically fall between 19-22 years of age at this level with a high number of major league rehab assignments thanks to proximity to the major league club (for Brooklyn).
- In both the NYP and SAL leagues, pitchers enjoy a healthy advantage over hitters who find their power numbers hurt by some of the more “difficult hitting ballparks” in the minors. Pitcher success at these levels can sometimes be blown out of proportion as well.
- Advanced A (FSL)
- Some people claim that the Advanced A is where the minors really begins. From here on up, success at a level can exponentially indicate that a player is likely to make and succeed upon reaching the majors. Players are typically between 21-23 years old at this league.
- While not the “Pitcher’s Heaven” that Low A gets a reputation for, Port St. Lucie does still seem to dampen the offensive numbers from some players who pass through its ranks. It also seems that some players who only manage to “survive” at this level are able to prove themselves late on and make names for themselves.
- Double and Triple A (EAS/INT)
- The top levels of the minors become harder for me to prove my points as the Mets recently moved from an extremely hitter friendly league (The PCL) to their current home in Syracuse. Players at these levels are typically between 22-27 years old.
- The perception that Double A sees an offensive bump is built partially on the fact that pitching seems to get the edge for the three levels immediately preceding it. You also find that many teams field major league backup squads of aging major league talent in their Triple A affiliates which badly skews some of the numbers. Regardless, it seems that a player has to prove themselves in Binghamton to have much of a chance in the majors.
- International Rookie Leagues (DSL1/DSL2)
- The exception that proves the rule might be Andres Gimenez. In 2016 (at the age of 17) he managed a batting line of .350/.469/.523 in 62 games with the two DSL clubs. These outstanding numbers earned him a promotion straight to the SAL where he managed to make good on much of the promise these outrageous numbers hinted at.
- Recently, many of the Top International Mets signees have been skipping these leagues altogether and Freddy Valdez saw a midseason promotion after 57 games with a .268/.358/.432 batting line. Similar to Adrian Hernandez who posted .261/.351/.386 before having his 2019 season in the GCL cut short.
- It would seem that the Mets are equally dubious about the numbers that come out of these lowest leagues, preferring to get their biggest investment players experience in the Domestic Rookie Leagues as quickly as possible. With no 2020 season you can expect Alexander Ramirez to skip these leagues in his 2021 Mets debut.
- Domestic Rookie Leagues (GCL/APP)
- There seem to be two divergent stories that emerge from the GCL and APP. One, is the case where young players are exposed early to these leagues and demonstrate success. The other is when more seasoned international players feast on young and inexperienced pitchers to pad their stats.
- The most recent and painful example of the former is Jarred Kelenic who slashed a .286/.371/.468 in 56 combined games of 2018. By his side were, Ronny Mauricio .273/.304/.410 and Francisco Alvarez .282/.407/.510 and while Kelenic is gone, the latter two have entrenched themselves into the Top 10 of Met prospects.
- The other side of this is players you aren’t so likely to hear from again after their mirage success in the APP. Players like Jose Miguel Medina, Edgardo Fermin and Juan Uriarte. I think the exception to this rule has been Wagner LaGrange, who seems to be developing into a viable major league bench player.
- Low A Leagues (NYP/SAL)
- The pitcher dominance of this league has diminished now that the Mets no longer play their home games in Savannah. Back in the day the numbers out of the pitchers from this league made just about everyone look great and might be the reason the Mets didn’t make more out of a talented pitcher like Collin McHugh. Focusing on the hitting, it is still not common for a player to demonstrate success in these leagues.
- Dominic Smith only managed .271/.344/.338 in the SAL, Gimenez had a .265/.346/.349 and Rosario only managed a combined .274/.320/.372 between the NYP and SAL in 2014.
- Breaking this mold seems to be power hitters. If you consider the cases of Michael Conforto or Pete Alonso you see Conforto breaking out a .331/.403/.448 and Alonso who managed a .321/.382/.587 in Brooklyn. Proving that offensive numbers in the NYP are certainly possible and shattering the myth that both leagues are “pitcher friendly”.
- Advanced A (FSL)
- Some of the hitting challenges of the SAL seem to always continue into the FSL. Players aren’t quick to evolve into their successful forms here but you will see some sort of uptick from those who will eventually make it into the major leagues.
- Gimenez showed a bit of a breakout back in 2018 when he came out with a .282/.348/.432 slash line. Unlike some of my other examples, he seemed to backslide after his promotion.
- The case that best illustrates the suggestion that Advanced A gives hitters a small bump in Smith who begins to shake off those hitting cobwebs from the Low A Leagues and sees his OPS reach .771 for the season.
- The one consistent truth of this league seems to be that if you don’t make it here, you aren’t likely to go far beyond it. Some players, like Desmond Lindsay are case in point.
- Double and Triple A (EAS/INT)
- The numbers in AAA are truly hard to judge but one thing that a lot of folks will notice is that some players really see a big boost when they hit Binghamton and some seem to stall.
- If you had asked me before 2020 to illustrate a case where these leagues gave us the impression a player would exceed their capabilities I might have pointed back to Smith, who continued his uptick in performance into both AA and AAA but staggered when he first reached the majors. After his 2020 it is hard to look at the AA and AAA numbers and say they were much of an aberration.
- It still seems that these leagues, AA in particular, are truly the best guide to major league success that you will get in the minors. Especially now that the Mets no longer send their AAA players to Las Vegas and the PCL.
In conclusion, my stat analysis didn’t debunk too many of my preconceptions about the leagues. I certainly over-estimated the pitching success of the NYP but my overall statements looked to have held up. Looking at all of this It does seem that there are several leagues that could be condensed and gotten rid of but I’ll never vote in favor of removing minor league teams. Minor League baseball is a joy to watch and fans of these local teams truly enjoy the games they get to watch.
Over the next two months we’ll be looking at Case Studies of players who spent time in the Mets Minor League System. For October, we’ll be focused on pitchers and then next month we’ll look at some hitters.
The purpose of these studies is to delve into the differences between pitching in each level of the minors and to find a correlation in player development. Since these case studies take place over a number of years we aren’t exclusively comparing apples to apples but we will do our best.
Case Studies Pitching:
The first thing this exercise made apparent to me was the reason that fans of this blog ridiculed me for putting such faith in deGrom being better than Montero. There were outings that made me believe in deGrom and I’d seen his stuff live but, on paper, Montero was clearly the better prospect. I guess this was at least one case where the gut proved a better guide than the brain.
Ignoring things like, losing out on players we traded foolishly. Dunn) and McHugh rank highly on that count. What can we glean from looking at the evolution of a player?
Lesson 1: Rookie League Stats are Meaningless
Often, you don’t have enough innings pitched to learn very much, but when you do you often see aberrant numbers that are caused by the league’s dispersant player pools. A good example is Oswalt. While he never becomes a star as he progresses through the minors or when he reaches the majors, he was pretty awful in the rookie leagues and you would wonder how a player with those numbers would reach the majors at all.
The rookie leagues (GCL and APP for high school players and NYP for college ones) are a level where the most important thing that a player does is simply to pitch and become familiar with the professional ballplayer life. On occasion, you see very high K/9 rates which are caused by young hitters who haven’t been coached into patience. You also see inflated ERA numbers as pitchers are still experimenting with the arsenal that their coaches will look to develop.
Lesson 2: Inconsistent Ballparks Make Some Levels Harder to Judge
If you look at Syndergaard when he reaches AAA and compare him to Gonzalez you have to note that they did not play in the same league or stadium within the minor leagues. Pitchers who came up while the Mets were trapped in Las Vegas and the PCL saw inflated numbers that may have made them look better or worse.
In this case, the numbers that shine through are the K/9 and BB/9 rates which hold up at upper levels as the pitchers are still facing the same quality of hitting but may be dealing with positive or negative stadium factors.
Lesson 3: Don’t Put Stock in the ERA
Is a pitcher’s ERA important? Indubitably but, you cannot form an opinion on ERA alone. Even superior statistics like WHIP can fail you. How do you look at a player like Kay, Szapucki or Fulmer and tell if they are going to succeed? You need to follow them game by game. Whole cloth stat blocks will not tell you the full story as a single bad outing can make a player’s season look grim when they might be pitching pretty well.
If you need to look at stats at the end of the year, try to stick to WHIP, K/9 and the number of innings pitched per game played. These will paint a slightly clearer picture.
Lesson 4: Expect Trends
With the exclusion of deGrom (Whose minor league stats don’t support his major league brilliance) or Fulmer (who seemed to struggle with the FSL), a pitcher’s K/9 tends to drop as they develop and their BB/9 will rise. This has more to do with the hitters they are facing than themselves. As batters become more patient, pitchers have less success getting players to chase pitches out of the zone and more working deep into counts.
Lesson 5: Prove Your Worth by AA
I think this exercise mostly showed me that the pitchers who really made it as pros showed their merits by the time they reached AA. With the inconsistencies between the INT and PCL and the way teams stash veteran backups in AAA it seems that AA is the level where a prospect really proves they have what it takes.
The Mets are coming off their first series win and they have a number of meaningful injuries that are going to send them scrambling for backups in this shortened season. When Yoenis Cespedes walked away the Mets were given an opportunity to play some of their younger players more. This has led to more playing time for Dominic Smith and Andres Gimenez and, perhaps not coincidentally, more wins.
In a fairly young season, with a deep roster of offense and quality young players, the New York Mets still somehow found a way to put Brian Dozier into the lineup five (5) times. Dozier had once had himself two excellent seasons in 2016 and 2017. Those numbers came screaming down in 2018 as he was traded from Minnesota to Los Angeles before, in 2019, he played a role in the Nationals World Series.
The 33 year old second baseman was brought in by the Mets as insurance against Robinson Cano’s age and Gimenez’s development. In fact, the Mets currently have six (6) players on their forty man roster who are capable of playing second base. While Brian Dozier would be a great asset for a team in a full season, his role on the 2020 Mets is more like a symbol of the longstanding Met tradition of not trusting in their own prospects.
Remember in 2019 when the Mets traded for Cano and Edwin Diaz? This was a decision back when the team didn’t have faith that Jeff McNeil would be able to repeat his 2018. The Mets lost their top prospect Jarred Kelenic and were saddled with a heavy contract and a closer who cracked under the New York pressure because they would not trust in their own prospects.
Now, with Michael Wacha getting injured and Marcus Stroman still not back on the squad, the Mets are left with another decision. How do they fill the hole left by their pitcher’s injury? Do they plug in a former prospect who hasn’t quite cut it in the majors, like Corey Oswalt? Maybe a journeyman AAA player like Walker Lockett, who boasts an MLB ERA over 8.00 for his brief career? Will they give the slot to a player that was traded for a “player to be named” and give the fans Ariel Jurado? Or maybe, they could give the ball to a prospect who might actually have the stuff to be a star for them?
I’ve been singing the praises of Thomas Szapucki pretty hard for a fairly long time. With the Mets hanging on to a viable season by their fingertips, I am practically pleading with the front office to give a chance to the prospects who could help them in 2021 and beyond because the other option is relying on players who are past their prime or were never really successful in the majors. Maybe if we stopped giving playing time to players like Dozier and Jurado the Mets might surprise themselves by having some success.
Perhaps the excellent play, thus far, of Gimenez is a false sign of success, but as his numbers match his scouting and there is reason to believe that the Mets have a surplus of viable options for their shortstop position. Now they have a second opportunity to see one of their top prospects in action and a unique season to ease him into the role.
The knock against Szapucki has always been his health and his lack of innings would make it a longshot to ramp any pitcher up into a starting role but the Miami Marlins may have given the Mets a roadmap to success. Bringing up their lefty pitcher for a few games of pitching by the bullpen would allow the Mets to stretch him out and, with the expanded bullpens, not hurt the team too badly.
If the only thing that the 2020 season gives the Mets is a glimpse into Gimenez, David Peterson and Szapucki’s future, it’s still making the most of what might have been a lost season. That way, when Stroman and Noah Syndergaard leave the team, the Mets know just how many free agent starters they need. In my mind, it’s both the best way for the Mets to try to win now and the best way for them to plan for the future.
The news is in and it is final, the MLB has canceled the minor league season for 2020. The Mets will need to pause the career progress of a number of their most promising players (Ronny Mauricio, Matthew Allan, Francisco Alvarez etc…) as the world reacts to the Covid-19 situation and we hope they will be able to pick up baseball activities in the fall or winter leagues. In the meantime, the Mets have a player pool of 60 with which to assemble their team for the shortened MLB season.
Should the season go as planned the Mets will not use too many prospects in this shortened season but we might see a little from Andres Gimenez, David Peterson, Kevin Smith, Ali Sanchez, Thomas Szapucki, Franklyn Kilome and Jordan Humphreys either way. Today’s article is going to talk about the prospects the Mets are carrying on their 60 man squads and who might make an impact in the shortened season.
Thomas Szapucki, LHP – The pitcher who just turned 24 last month had a fairly decent shot of earning his way onto the major league roster had the 2020 season not gone awry. Having lost almost two entire seasons to injury, the talented lefty had a strong return to action in 2021 though he barely sniffed AA and only threw 36 innings in Advanced A.
The beauty of the Mets putting him on the squad is that he has already lost two developmental seasons thanks to injury and to lose another for Covid-19 would be maddening. After a strong return to baseball in 2019 it’s good to see the Mets throwing the dice with a player who might be asked to step into the rotation in 2021 and beyond.
Because he’s had the injury history the Mets would normally be worried about how many innings Szapucki could manage but with the starting pitcher depth charts having only a handful of players with upside, it’s good to see the Mets making a move to add someone who could become a Top 3 starter on the team.
There is also a chance that the Mets give him some innings in the bullpen since they are carrying fewer left handed options but I don’t see the Mets shifting him. Instead, should injuries take place to the starting rotation Szapucki becomes an option with far greater upside than Walker Lockett or Corey Oswalt.
Franklyn Kilome, RHP – A player coming off injury, Kilome came to the Mets from the Phillies in one of their frequent fire sales. Kilome had a brief, and successful run with the AA squad before that injury and was looking to hit the ground running in 2020 to regain some momentum.
With the minor league season cancelled, Kilome is easily the highest ceiling bullpen prospect the Mets had in their system. While he still has a chance to make a run at starting, his 2020 role will come in relief where his power arm could give the Mets another high caliber option instead of throwing out Tyler Bashlor or Jared Hughes.
Andres Gimenez, SS – The Mets have very few options for starting at shortstop. If Amed Rosario is to get injured in 2020 they can get a few games out of Luis Guillorme or Max Moroff but there is only one player on the roster outside of Rosario ready for the role.
That being said, the Mets are not likely to allow him to play in the majors unless Rosario gets injured or sees his defensive numbers once again tank. If Gimenez is playing games it has more to do with Rosario than with the Mets desire to start their younger prospect.
Ali Sanchez, C – The Mets have a history of having catchers who don’t play great defense. Sanchez doesn’t strike many as a great prospect but his defensive numbers make him a useful cog in the baseball machine. The Mets will hope to keep Wilson Ramos healthy but have Sanchez ready to slot in as a defensive replacement.
The issue with Sanchez is that he is staring up at both Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera. The Mets are actually more likely to call on Patrick Mazeika if Ramos is hurt which isn’t a good sign for anyone you’d want to call a “prospect” in your system.
Jordan Humphreys, RHP – Unlike Szapucki, Humphreys didn’t manage to make much of his 2019 season after recovering from injury. In fact, he only played 2 innings. Humphreys has very little shot of finding himself on the field for games in 2020 but I think the Mets liked the idea of getting this promising prospect back into the swing of games and saw an opportunity to do that.
Last month I wrote about the players I thought the Mets might draft in the upcoming amateur draft and now that time has come. You’ll recall that I made a prediction at the end of the piece suggesting that the Mets would select the following players:
I made these projections working off Brodie Van Wagenen’s 2019 draft and thinking about how the crafty GM might seek to get the most bang out of his draft selections in 2020. Without further preamble we will get into the draft.
With the 19th Overall selection, the New York Mets Select: Pete Crow-Armstrong
Don’t get too excited about me predicting the Mets top pick. The last time I was right the Mets got David Peterson and, while he hasn’t been terrible, that hasn’t worked out as one would hope a top pick might.
Crow-Armstrong projects as a “True Center fielder” with good speed and good contact to help support his quality fielding projections. The Mets scouts talk about how he “showed off” in the field making trick catches and throws when they were scouting him. This suggests, perhaps, a lack of maturity or an excess of ego but also that the defensive chops are there to make him the plus defender the Mets need at the position.
The question will remain if he will ever be the hitter that the Mets need him to also be. With the loss of Jared Kelenic still felt throughout the farm, the Mets have no stud outfield prospects and there is some reason to doubt that Crow-Armstrong qualifies as such. For a player who may never top 15 home runs in a single season it’s going to mean that he produces by getting on base and scoring runs. Stolen bases would be nice but the key to his future is going to be how high he can drive that on base percentage.
Regardless of the doubts, Crow-Armstrong was a solid pick and one who fills the largest hole in the Met’s system right away. Based upon the draft order I think the Mets made a solid pick. The players most likely to produce that deep sense of hindsight regret are Jared Kelley who entered Day 2 as the #1 prospect and Garrett Mitchell who was ranked 6th overall by MLB.com and was selected with the 20th pick. The Mets wound up managing to draft Matthew Allen in 2019 after he missed a Day 1 selection, but the White Sox were not about to let that happen again. With Mitchell there will be hell to pay for Van Wagenen if he proves to be the better pick.
With the 52nd Overall selection, the New York Mets Select: J.T. Ginn
The Mets don’t do anything too surprising with this pick. Ginn was a quality college arm with a solid fastball who the Mets are likely hoping to speed through their system. The Dodgers previously drafted Ginn 30th overall out of highschool but the young righty chose to honor his commitment to Mississippi State. As a sophomore, the Mets might be taking the same risk as Ginn could return to college.
The reason for the drop in value has to do with Tommy John surgery but also growing doubts about his future as a starter. Hitting 97 MPH on the radar gun is great and he boasts a plus slider and a solid changeup but there are major questions about his delivery creating problems for his overall durability.
The Mets will hope to get Ginn signed and keep him healthy to make this draft pick worth their while. The hindsight 20/20 pick that the Mets might regret is Cole Wilcox though Ginn might be the safe bet of the two. Wilcox has more power but also less polish on his secondary offerings and has the same concerns over durability thanks to a strange delivery. I think the Mets might have been wise to go with the player who has already needed to adjust his methodology thanks to Tommy John Surgery.
Round 2 C:
With the 69th Overall selection, the New York Mets Select: Isaiah Greene
After taking Crow-Armstrong in the first the Mets pick up a second outfielder who profiles as a natural center fielder. It’s interesting to see the Mets going with Greene as he seems like an insurance pick rather than a true prospect selection. The Mets could be creating a log jam but it’s more likely that the Mets move Greene around the outfield. Don’t expect much power but his contact and speed should make him a viable major leaguer if his scouting pans out.
Looking at prospects still on the board, I believe that Van Wagenen had to believe that Blaze Jordan would not accept an offer this low in the draft. It just seems like the Mets had other needs that could have been met instead of selecting a second contact oriented outfielder.
With the 91st Overall selection, the New York Mets Select: Anthony Walters
Not much is said about Walters who didn’t rank in Baseball America’s Top 500 prospects. He played for San Diego State and had a fairly normal batting line. It has the feel of a throw away pick but perhaps Van Wagenen and crew know something we don’t.
The Mets finished in the middle of the pack in 2019 which leaves the team with a mediocre 19th overall pick in the 2020 draft. In today’s post we are going to feature several of the more likely players for the Mets to select with their 19th, 56th and 86th overall picks. Last season Brodie Van Wagenen was extremely creative in managing to snage Brett Baty (ranked 17th), Josh Wolf (ranked 36th) and Matthew Allan (ranked 13th) in their first three rounds. To these ends, we will be looking at prospects using three strategies.
By The Rankings:
Our first strategy will focus on the player that MLB.com ranks at the Mets draft position. While MLB.com is never right about such things and their rankings are not always well thought of, this will give us our baseline for review.
Balancing The Farm:
The second strategy will look to the Mets acquiring players that fill gaps in need across the minor leagues. This is not the typical approach for the Mets but it will show us some of the players that could make up for current roster deficiencies.
High Risk/High Reward:
This approach will look to target the most talented players and look to take advantage of players that other teams might shy away from because of strong college commitments or other concerns.
Round 1: 19th Overall
It seems that the chances of the Mets selecting a high-end outfielder both match the organizational needs as well as the talent available. While the Mets are unlikely to have Garrett Mitchel, Zac Veen or Austin Hendrick available they should be able to get someone who represents both the top talent available and someone who fills their most glaring weakness.
By the Rankings: The Mets select 18 year old catcher, Tyler Soderstrom. The son of former MLB pitcher Steve Soderstrom (himself a 6th overall pick), Tyler is an athletic hitting catcher. He projects to combine good contact and arm strength with power potential and surprising speed. With an ideal projection, he reminds me of Jason Kendall. While Soderstrom’s arm is considered to be good, scouts already question if he would stick with the catcher position or move to third base or even the outfield.
Balancing the Farm: The Mets select highschool outfielder, Pete Crow-Armstrong. Having not had a “true” centerfielder since Carlos Beltran left the team this approach sees the Mets looking to add a player who has good speed and contact but who may never have the 30 homerun power that they’ve recently been targeting. Prior to 2019 Crow-Armstrong was projected to be ranked far higher than 20th overall and so his commitment to Vanderbilt has considerable risk for a team drafting him but if he was selected 19th overall it might be enough for him to sign.
High Risk/High Reward: The Mets select another Vanderbilt bound outfielder, Robert Hassell. The prep school standout is ranked 16th and is a better pure hitter than Crow-Armstrong though not one projected as pure centerfielder. Hassell has the dreaded “Five Tool” label and would instantly become the best outfield prospect in the Mets system but might not be willing to sign with a team who is drafting him that late in the first round. I think it’s far more likely that Hassell is simply off the board by the time the Mets pick.
Round 2: 53rd and 70th Overall
The second round is typically full of players who either have potential and risk or safe projectability. Unlike previous drafts it seems there are far fewer risks in this group as the rankings seem to have swung in a collegiate direction.
By the Rankings: The Mets select pitchers, Tanner Witt and Tommy Mace. Witt has a lot of potential and could develop into a front-line pitcher but only if a lot of things break right. His fastball needs more speed, his breaking pitches need to continue to develop and so on. He does seem like he has a strong chance of one day reaching the majors. Mace, on the other hand, would represent a more polished product but he doesn’t project as having a ton of potential.
Balancing the Farm: The Mets select college lefty, Logan Allen, and two-way player, Masyn Winn. With the Mets getting two quality starters (albeit younger ones) in 2019, the Mets have a need to acquire some more qualified college arms who project to reach the majors more swiftly. Allen does not have nearly the same type of stuff that Allan does but he makes up for that by being crafty and would be expected to move up swiftly through the farm. Winn profiles as a good defensive shortstop but has a higher ceiling at a pitcher. Getting a polished product like Allen and a player to develop in Winn certainly checks the boxes off for farm system needs.
High Risk/High Reward: The Mets select the power pitching righty, Kyle Nicolas and local kid Alex Santos. The Mets are known to love their fireballing pitchers and Nicolas fits that billing. The young pitcher can already reach 100 MPH on the radar gun but is expected to be a project in terms of his control. Santos, for all of those great vibes of being a NYC product, doesn’t project as a star. He’s got solid stuff at the moment but really feels like he is more likely to actually go to Maryland where he can develop and become a true first round talent.
Round 3: 92nd Overall
The players ranked between 56th and 86th are primarily high school players and there are plenty of solid options for selecting players with decent ceilings but once you reach the 3rd round the larger concern becomes whether or not the player will actually make the majors.
By the Rankings: The Mets select powerful college righty, Mason Erla. The injury history and control issues are both troubling but the Mets do love to draft guys who throw hard. Erla isn’t a lock to remain a starter but has enough success with his breaking pitches that I believe that decision wouldn’t come into play for a few seasons. Him being 22 makes him a cheaper signing option for Van Wagenen if he were to attempt another gambit like 2019.
Balancing the Farm: The Mets select speedster, Jake Vogel. With a commitment to UCLA and little known about him overall it seems unlikely that the Mets or any team would really wish to use, and potentially waste a first round pick on Vogel. That being said he would be a player who the Mets could project into a starting centerfield role over time.
High Risk/High Reward: The Mets select intriguing starter, Clayton Beeter. Typically when you switch a pitcher from starting to relief, you see an uptick in power and a downtick in walks. Beeter saw the opposite in 2019. His fastball improved in velocity and his walks per 9 dropped from 8.7 to 1.7 which is baffling. Based on this, it’s easy to see why teams might pass on a 21 year old pitcher who has already undergone Tommy John surgery but he becomes incredibly intriguing if he lasts to the 3rd round.
The Brodie Van Wagenen Draft:
Round 1 – Pete Crow-Armstrong
Round 2 – Kyle Nicolas and Logan Allen
Round 3 – Alex Santos
Since we cannot expect Van Wagenen to net the team three first round talents every year I have him taking a different approach to the 2020 draft. That being said, I have him taking a major risk with his 3rd round pick. Here is how the draft shakes out.
- Mets take Crow-Armstrong hoping to groom him as the center fielder and leadoff hitter of the future.
- Mets nab Kyle Nicolas in the 2nd as other teams fear his control issues and then Logan Allen with the 70th overall pick since teams shy away from his mediocre raw “Stuff”.
- In the 3rd the Mets make an offer to Santos who gets the chance to come home and play for one of the teams he grew up watching hoping that might get him to join the team.
Last month the focus here was on Patrick Mazeika, a “hitting” catcher who is already past the age that most prospects have reached the majors. As great as his Spring Training numbers were, even I know that Mazeika will never impact a major league team in any meaningful way so instead of focusing on players who are looking at a couple seasons of riding the major league bench, let’s look at some of the players the Mets have who might actually make a meaningful impact on the Mets franchise.
Jacob deGrom is going to be the Ace of the team for a number of additional years and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are set to return in 2021 but the pitching staff of the New York Mets has significant issues ahead as players like Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello leave the team. Assuming the Mets are going to look to bring in, at least, one starter through trade or free agency for the 2021 season, here are some players who have a shot at becoming part of the Starting Rotation solution.
Thomas Szapucki: Age 23 (June), Throws: Left, Assigned: AA
The “Diamond in the Rough” hero of the Mets organization returned to the mound in 2019 after spending most of 2017 and all of 2018 injured. While the pitcher has never completed over 65.0 innings in a single season there is more than a little reason to hope that he can make his way to the major league squad as a major contributor. The strongest indicators for his success come from his healthy K/9, K/BB ratio, solid WHIP and his surprisingly good stuff.
Much has been written in the past about how his actual velocity exceed scout expectations once he reached the minors and his splendid return to the mound in 2019 give a lot of hope. Assuming baseball comes back in May (as is suggested) it will allow Szapucki to complete more innings than he’s ever managed in a single season. If he can continue his brief success in AA and even earn a promotion to AAA it would make him the frontrunner for a rotation spot in the 2021 season. It is unlikely that he will be able to perform to “Ace” levels of production but he does have a ceiling of performance as a #2/#3 rotational arm.
Kevin Smith: Age 22 (May), Throws: Left, Assigned: AA
Where people were looking for Szapucki to perform in 2019, nobody was really paying a ton of attention to this 7th round pick from 2018. Smith turned in a great season between his 85.2 innings in Advanced A and his 31.1 innings in AA. The lefty seems likely to earn his way onto the AAA squad by the end of 2020 and could even see time in the majors if the injury bug begins to rear its ugly head. His ceiling is still a little lower than others but he certainly could manage to project as a very good workhorse starter.
David Peterson: Age 24 (September), Throws: Left, Assigned: AAA
Why are there so many lefties at the upper levels of the Met system? I have no explanation. The former first round pick has not lived up to his scouting potential thus far but his 2019 numbers are also not as bad as many people make them out to be. His K/9 saw a rise to such a degree that he reached above a 9.0 for the first time in his minor league career and his 1.34 WHIP suggest that his 4.19 ERA might be a little higher than it ought. Peterson is already knocking at the door of the rotation and could see game time in 2020 if people are inured. His ceiling is closer to Kevin Smith’s than Thomas Szapucki’s but his pedigree could still come into play.
Harol Gonzalez: Age 25, Throws: Right, Assigned: AAA
The least heralded of the Met pitching prospects, all Gonzalez has ever done is gone out and toss quality innings across six minor league seasons. The starting pitcher is only six feet tall but his sparklingly low WHIP and walk rate make him an ideal back of rotation starter. I truly hope that he gets his chance to do that for the Mets and that he doesn’t leave the team and do it for someone else.
Tommy Wilson: Age 23 (May), Throws: Right, Assigned: AA/AAA
If it is unlikely that a fifth round pick like Szapucki or a seventh round pick like Smith should become impact players, how unlikely is it to see a nineteenth round pick like Wilson on this list? The pitcher joined Smith in having a solid season across two levels and while he projects as someone who is likely more of a surplus pitcher there is enough in the 2019 season for Wilson to make people wonder if he could be a solid back of the rotation arm.
The Mets have a number of arms on board through the 2021 season thanks to Seth Lugo, Edwin Diaz, Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia, Brad Brach and Robert Gsellman. In fact, it would be fairly unlikely that without a general implosion of performance in the 2020 shortened season that the Mets will add a free agent reliever of much impact for next season. That means the only likely source of relief support is to come from the minors.
Franklyn Kilome: Age 24 (June), Throws: Right, Assigned: AA
If you were expecting to see Kilome in my list of starters, I apologize. The former Phillies prospect has always had explosive stuff but has also long been considered a candidate for the bullpen. Ultimately, I think that’s where the Mets will look to use the imposing righty and, while I don’t think he’s going to be moved from the rotation in AA or AAA I would bet that the Mets only promote him into the bullpen if he reaches the majors in 2020. If you were looking at the internal prospect who most fits the profile as a future closer, this is your man and we will look to see if he can keep his K/9 high while keeping his BB/9 in check.
Steve Villines: Age 24 (July), Throws: Right, Assigned: AAA
One of the best WHIP performers I’ve seen come up through the organization, Villines did not enjoy his 16 games in AAA in 2019. He did have a fairly successful 45.0 innings in Binghamton so there is less need to fret. Of the relief arms the Mets did not bring up in 2021, Villines seems to be the most likely to stick in the majors thanks to a career minor league WHIP of 1.05 over three seasons.
The Mets have most of their 2020 lineup returning for the 2021 season with Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, J.D. Davis, Amed Rosario, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso and even Dominic Smith all set to return. That’s good news as there aren’t many players in the upper minors who are ready to contribute and that there could be a number more by 2022 when more holes develop. Still, there are a few names who could become relevant.
Andres Gimenez: Age 21 (September), Hits: Right, Assigned: AAA
The Mets have a shortstop already on the team but there is a viable future regular waiting in the wings in Gimenez. As we have said, if Amed Rosario were to ever sustain a lasting injury the Mets have their man in the wings but barring that how do the Mets deal with having a solid defensive and offensive option that doesn’t fit onto the roster? I’ll remind people that while his AA numbers for 2019 weren’t exceptional (.695 OPS), his numbers were dramatically better in the Arizona Fall League and Spring Training. It is possible that the Mets will look to shift him into their eternal hole in centerfield or that a return of defensive struggles for Rosario could do the same to him. It is not the worst problem to have.
Ali Sanchez: Age 23, Hits: Right, Assigned: AAA
The defensive catcher has always seemed to hang around in the wings of prospect reviews but he really broke out with a supernaturally good few weeks in 2019. I have long said that if Sanchez could manage to be a .650-.700 OPS hitter that his defensive metrics might make him a starter but there is little reason to expect a player with a career .648 OPS in the minors to suddenly better that figure in the majors. He does seem like an heir to Tomas Nido as the backup option for Wilson Ramos but his 2020 season will dramatically affect his outlook.