Mets Minors: Reviewing MLB.com’s Mets top prospects: Part I

I do a lot of searching through minor-league lists of top prospects and I often find it interesting where “experts” decide to rank Met prospects.  Using the basic rankings of MLB.com’s pre-season picks for the Met’s top 20 prospects, Here’s a little review in preview of my full system review that I’m starting to work on as we speak.

#1 Zack Wheeler:

What They Said – ‘Wheeler, who came to the Mets from the Giants in the Carlos Beltran trade in 2011, can run his heavy fastball into the mid-90s consistently. His main breaking ball is a curve that has improved to the point of being another potentially plus pitch. Wheeler’s changeup has continued to develop well and gives him another option. He’s struggled with command in the past, though his walk rate plummeted in the second half of 2011 and continued to fall in 2012. A fingernail problem he had in 2010 seems to be a thing of the past and Wheeler was promoted to Triple-A Buffalo on August 4.’

What I Thought – I wish I could have been more than cautiously optimistic about Wheeler.  I never doubted his ability but I worried that we’d see a relapse into the control problems he displayed with the Giants.  I was worried that the Giants were willing to trade Zack for a Beltran rental for a reason and that we’d be watching a kid with major talent struggle in his first season at AA.

What We Got – Zack didn’t take AA by storm as some fans might like to think.  He certainly earned his promotion to AAA months before he received it and then followed it up with a strong debut in Bufalo.  Wheeler proved that while he may not be a finished product, the product is well on its way to reaching the general public.  While Wheeler has showed that he was ready for the promotion to AA and eventually AAA what he has not been, is flawless.  He DID display a 3.3 BB/9 in AA and a 4.4 in AAA, he DID see his K/9 drop an entire point and he DID hit a strangely high number of batters… THANKFULLY, he also averaged nearly 6.00 innings per start (5.96), lower his H/9 and entire point and energize the fan base.

#2 Matt Harvey:

What They Said – ‘Some were concerned about Harvey’s delivery issues and the resulting command problems he had coming out of North Carolina, leading to the conclusion he might be a reliever in the future. That talk has quieted with the success he had in his first two seasons. He commands his fastball much better now and has a plus breaking ball as well. His changeup has improved, though there’s still room for growth there. Harvey made good adjustments to a higher level after struggling when he first got to Double-A last year. He can still improve his overall command, though it wasn’t affecting him during his first big league callup in 2012.’

What I Thought – I was high on Harvey.  Very high.  So High I questioned why you might put Wheeler ahead of him.  Harvey simply looked like the more polished pitcher to me.  He looked like he could be a member of the rotation by the end of the year and would be competing for a premier role in the rotation by 2014.

What We Got –  Harvey was so good in Spring Training that the Mets could not think of starting Harvey in AA (as I had projected) and gave him a job in AAA.  What the Mets got in AAA was acceptable.  Let’s not get carried away, he DID have a 3.68 ERA in AAA while watching the walk-rate climb and strikeout rate dip a little.  It was the failing control that worried me most as his 1.318 WHIP is hardly the stuff of legends and it was largely fed by his 3.9 BB/9.  Towards the latter half of the season, Harvey began to pick things up and he was finally called upon to replace the injured Johan Santana.  The results in 7 games have supremely out-shone my expectations.  (ERA: 2.76, IP/GS: 6.04, WHIP: 1.110, H/9: 6.4, BB/9: 3.6, K/9: 10.4) I can’t expect these numbers to continue in the short-term but in the long run, this MIGHT be the type of “Ace” pitcher the Mets have on their hands.

#3 Jeurys Familia:

What They Said – ‘As the strikeout rate attests, Familia has one of the best power arms in the Mets’ system. He runs his fastball easily into the upper 90s. He’s still more arm strength than anything else, but his success at upper levels shows that his secondary pitches are improving. Familia’s breaking ball should be an average pitch and his changeup, while clearly his third pitch, can keep hitters honest at times. He improved his walk rate and the hope is his overall command will continue to get better.’

What I Thought – I liked Familia a lot but I questioned his secondary offerings, like everyone else, and wondered if he’d stick as a starter.  His 0.798 WHIP from Port St. Lucie blinded me to his much more human numbers in AA but I still wondered if he’d stick as a starter.  I figured he’d start in AAA and that HE would be the first big name called when the injury bug started biting.

What We Got – Familia has not been as good as that #3 ranking that EVERYONE gave him.  Sure, he hasn’t been audaciously bad and playing 2013 as a 23 year old in AAA he has another year to find himself but there are major dents in the armor.  His walk-rate EXPLODED.  He went from a 2.0 BB/9 in A+ to a 3.6 BB/9 in AA to a 4.8 BB/9 in AAA.  His K/9 dropped, but not terribly but the most worrying stat has nothing to do with that.  Familia’s IP/GS dropped to a sickly: 4.89.  Starters should fall between 5-7 with this many innings under their belt.  This makes the 4.73 ERA and 1.591 WHIP even more startling.  He showed glimpses of what he can be but he has until the mid-point of 2013 to show he can do it as a starter.

#4 Brandon Nimmo:

What They Said – ‘Known in the past as a fairly conservative organization in the Draft, the Mets went off that script when they selected Nimmo in the first round of 2011. The high schooler was one of the best stories of the Draft, the first-ever first-round pick from Wyoming. Story aside, Nimmo can flat-out play. A premium athlete, he has the chance to be an outstanding hitter, with power, from the left side of the plate. He has excellent speed and is a pretty good outfielder. It would be easy to think someone coming from Wyoming would be a bit raw, but don’t be surprised if Nimmo can move faster than people initially anticipated.’

What I Thought – I see prospects get drafted and ranked in the top 5 and I worry.  I don’t really like to base anything on the physicality of a player.  Nimmo didn’t show me enough games in 2011 for me to have much of a sense of what he’d be.  So I thought of him as a borderline top 10 prospect for the time being.

What We Got – We got some reason to be excited.  Nimmo managed to overcome a rough start to the year to have a respectable triple slash of: .252/.377/.412 and an OPS of .789.  This doesn’t suggest he’s the next Bryce Harper, but it does indicate that he could become a quality player given time.  He did manage to be productive: Scoring 41 runs and driving in 40 in 262 ABs is quality.  It’s important to note that as his hitting improved his eye diminished.  He ended the year with 46 BBs and 77 Ks but most of those walks came early in the year and most of those strikeouts came late.

#5 Cesar Puello:

What They Said – ‘The Mets are often aggressive in moving their international prospects up the ladder quickly, and Puello seems to be responding. His bat really stands out and the power many projected from him has started to show up. It will come even more as he learns to recognize pitches better. Puello has very good speed, and as he learns the game more, he should provide at least some basestealing ability. He has played both center and right field and it’s the latter that will most likely be his home. He has the arm, and the future bat, to profile well there. Puello missed nearly two months of 2012 with a broken left hamate bone in late May and a hamstring injury in late July, but he returned to action on August 4.’

What I Thought – I liked Puello a lot but I wasn’t sold on his power being real.  To me, he was a shoe-in for a 4th OF type.  Maybe a right-handed Fred Lewis (for the sake of comparison).  What I didn’t expect was for him to suddenly develop 30+ HR power.

What We Got – A year largely lost to injury.  It’s at least good to see he kept his triple slash healthy: .260/.328/.423.  Less healthy are the strikeouts.  He K’d 58 times in 66 games and while Den Dekker scoffs at such modest numbers, it’s not great to have a 8.29 K/BB ratio.  Puello now needs to dispel concerns about his health and longevity as a player but I still don’t see him being worse than a 4th OF.

15 comments for “Mets Minors: Reviewing MLB.com’s Mets top prospects: Part I

  1. NormE
    September 4, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    David, thank you for this report. It’s always nice to see such even-handed evaluations. Keep up the good work!

    P.S.–My previous exhortations to the Wilpons to “SELL THE TEAM!” are not based on any reasonable expectation, but more a way
    of expressing frustration at inept ownership.

    • David Groveman
      September 4, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      Thanks! I will try to get the rest up this week as a prelude to the massive saga that will be the reviews of the minor league system in general.

      No worries, I knew what you were getting at.

  2. September 4, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    David, I appreciate the honesty in your writing. Peter

    • David Groveman
      September 4, 2012 at 6:26 pm

      Thanks!

  3. Mack Ade
    September 4, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    I’m not sure, but I think my prospect list goes up on the site tommorrow.

    I’ve been all over the place on the Nimmo pick because I don’t think a team should take this big of a chance on a player that didn’t play every day baseball against decent teams. That being said, I really have grown to love the kid.

    David, you have no idea how great Puello looked in Savannah. I thought he was going to a star that shined for years, though I never saw him as more than a gap hitter at best.

    Good post.

    • David Groveman
      September 5, 2012 at 9:25 am

      Hey Mack,

      Looking forward to seeing your list. I need a week or 5 to mull over the players… or at least completing my minor-league review before I’m ready to post my list.

      We are close to being of one mind on Nimmo… SCARY, RIGHT?

      I envy your ability to get to Sand Gnat games and see players live. I live close to the Jackals… but that doesn’t really help me scout players. What this ends up making me, is a statistician. I look at box scores and game recaps and draw conclusions based on the numbers. It’s not a perfect system. I rely on scouting from good people, like you, for much of the flavor I need.

  4. Metsense
    September 5, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Good article David. I’m looking forward to the next segment. Harvey looks like at least a #3 starter that will get better. Familia had a rough season and may be trending toward the bullpen if he can’t command his secondary pitches in 2013. If Wheeler is better than Harvey, as the consensus of scouts indicate, then the Mets will be in great shape starting pitching wise. From Adam Rubin’s blog:Can Wheeler get major league hitters out now? “Yeah,” the scout said. “That’s a clown question.” 7-15-12. I hope that scout is right.
    Nimmo and Puello are still years away and that is where the Mets lack at the major league level. The pitchers are ahead of the hitters. I hope the good pitching doesn’t go to waste the first few years.

    • David Groveman
      September 5, 2012 at 9:39 am

      Rotation:
      1. Zack Wheeler
      2. Matt Harvey
      3. Jon Niese
      4. R.A. Dickey (We love him… I don’t want to lose him)
      5. Jenrry Mejia (Or Gee or McHugh or Gorski or Familia or someone else)

      Bullpen:
      CL: Jeurys Familia
      SU: Josh Edgin
      SU: Bobby Parnell
      MR: Elvin Ramirez
      MR: Jack Leathersich
      LOOGY: Adam Kolarek
      LR: Colin McHugh

      Lineup:
      1. Ruben Tejada, SS
      2. Daniel Murphy, 2B (Reese Havens)
      3. David Wright, LF
      4. Ike Davis, 1B
      5. Wilmer Flores, 3B
      6. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, RF (Jordany Valdespin)
      7. Kelly Shoppach, C (Camden Maron)
      8. Matt Den Dekker, CF (Brandon Nimmo)

      The Mets have the players to compete… ignoring that I surreptitiously move the team’s star to a new position. The Mets would be well served looking at a catcher or upgrading at second base, but the team has the building blocks for a solid team.

      When Bay and Santana come off the books the team can re-invest that money into a free agent (Most of it is going to Wright) but IF the Mets were willing to play like a New York team again and spend… we could be looking at a good playoff team come 2014.

      • Rob
        September 5, 2012 at 10:40 am

        Glad to see someone else consider moving Wright to left. If Chipper Jones could do it how about David. He has the speed and arm….

        • David Groveman
          September 5, 2012 at 11:05 am

          You know when a bad time to start talking about it is? RIGHT BEFORE RE-SIGNING HIM! Let’s see if the Mets retain him and if Flores cannot handle second before we worry about shifting Wright into the outfield.

          BUT

          Yes, David does profile as an above average LF with a RF’s arm and solid range.

    • Mack Ade
      September 5, 2012 at 10:59 am

      Thank you, David.

      I’m one fight away from my wife (that could be today :) and the permission of my Doctors, to move to Port St. Lucie. I always have been granted full press passes by the Mets for the entire ‘season’ there, including extended spring.

      We’ll see what develops after my scheduled ‘procedure’ on September 28th.

      Watching players has it’s downside. I saw nothing from Darin Gorski and thought Makail Cleto was going to be the closer of the future. Jeurys Familia was a train wreck and it seemed that some batters actually swung defensively so the ball wouldn’t kill them. And, then there was Puello, who ran, caught, and laughed like the Say Hey Kid.

      Stats don’t lie, David. Your approach may be far more accurate than mine.

      • David Groveman
        September 5, 2012 at 11:06 am

        Stats lie on defense. I mention it on section 2 when reviewing Wilmer Flores.

      • NormE
        September 5, 2012 at 2:14 pm

        Hey Mack,
        Good luck on your “procedure.”
        As a citizen of the “low country” I have to ask: Is Port St. Lucie really an upgrade?

  5. Charles
    September 5, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Nice post Phlavy!!!

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