Predicting the Mets’ top five prospects in 2015

Farm logo - mets minorsThe Mets’ minor league system has seen a tremendous upswing in quality during the years Sandy Alderson and his front office have been in charge. It’s been a remarkable turn, really. ESPN’s Keith Law, a prospect pundit some Mets fans believe is generally negative toward all things Mets, recently rated the team’s system as sixth best in baseball. Just two short years ago Law had it ranked as 22nd. Alderson and his team have been able to achieve this feat through (generally) strong drafting, hitting on the international free agent market, and crafty trades with returns most deemed improbable at the time.

There’s a concern, though, about a “drought” of sorts taking place because the top end of the Mets’ prospect list are likely to be promoted or lose their rookie eligibility in 2014. Chances are high that Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and Jacob deGrom see plenty of time in the majors in 2014. Travis D’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores are already there, though Flores could spend most of his time in AAA depending on how the season progresses. The point is that there’s a strong chance that these players, all in or around the team’s top ten prospects, graduate off of the list next year. This is a fantastic outcome in terms of the major league team. It’ll be a pretty large blow to the farm, though, and one that has many speculating a drop in overall system quality.

It’s true that the next wave of impact talent to come out of the Mets’ system most likely won’t be showing up in 2015. It’s also true that, at this point, there are no Syndergaards or d’Arnauds to buoy the system. This writer argues that, while this is true, this is mostly a consequence of the next wave of impact talent being relatively far from their major league debuts and not for lack of quality.

With all of that said, below is my prediction for the Mets’ top five prospects in 2015. Remember that in February 2014 this list is obviously incredibly preliminary.

1. Dominic Smith, 1b
2. Amed Rosario, ss
3. Brandon Nimmo, of
4. Cesar Puello, of
5. Steven Matz, lhp

The first thing that may jump off of the page is that four out of the five are position players. The talk about the Mets’ system over the last few years has generally centered on the overall strength of their pitching prospects and the noted dearth of positional talent. This changes a bit in 2015, but not because their pitching depth is any less impressive. While the Mets’ system remains very pitching rich, what’s left after the three headed monster of Harvey/Wheeler/Syndergaard has significantly less upside. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is lacking in potential.

Smith and Nimmo are where they are because of their potential to have huge, breakout years in 2014.
Smith is already ranked as the top or second-best first base prospect, depending on who you ask. He’s also been included on some Top 100 prospect lists after just a single summer as a professional. His approach at the plate is highly advanced for his age and he combines that with elite defense. Nimmo has lost support among those impatient Mets fans who wanted to see better numbers in his third professional season. The Mets have moved Nimmo along very slowly, but it was known that he would need a little more development time when he was drafted. His 2013 consisted of a horrid May-July period sandwiched by a fantastic May and August. This was caused by a nagging wrist injury that he suffered early in the year that drastically affected his approach at the plate. This fact is conveniently ignored by critics, but was most definitely a major factor in his struggles.

At this point Rosario is all potential, but that potential is ridiculously high. In fact, Jason Parks over at Baseball Prospectus noted that five sources outside of the Mets organization rank Rosario over Smith as the team’s top positional prospect. Parks said on Twitter, “Rosario is a legit five-tool talent w/ more upside than any position prospect in the #Mets org. It could be special. 1st Div/All-Star type.” That is exceptional praise, especially for a prospect with only one season in Rookie ball as a seventeen-year-old. Keep an eye on this one.

There’s a non-zero chance that Puello sees some major league action in 2014, but it’s not likely he’s called up before September unless things have gone horribly wrong. Unlike the others on the list, he actually already had his breakout year in 2013. Questions remain about his performance and ultimate ceiling because of his suspension as a result of the Biogenesis scandal, but Puello was always a very toolsy prospect that just needed to put it all together. In 2013 he turned potential into performance and did so in a big way. His placement on this list is contingent on his having a huge 2014 in AAA and forcing his way onto the team’s roster to start 2015.

Matz was originally drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft but 2013 was his first healthy season of professional baseball. Complications during recovery from his 2010 Tommy John surgery really stalled the lefty’s development. This is apparent in the lack of refinement of his secondary offerings, though his fastball is electric. After an excellent season in Low A in 2013, the Mets chose to add him to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Barring any unforeseen health problems, Matz has the potential to rocket up prospect lists in 2014.

A final caveat to point out here is that the Mets have the tenth pick in the 2014 draft. It’s possible that their selection could very well slot right into the top five. Although the team is on the cusp of promoting its top prospects, it’s becoming clear that the system is well on its way to becoming a pipeline that consistently produces quality talent.

17 comments for “Predicting the Mets’ top five prospects in 2015

  1. Name
    February 23, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    I haven’t heard anyone make this comp yet (or at least not in the articles i’ve read), but Rosario is starting to sound a lot like Flores to me. Big potential, young age, SS early in their career, Latino, Big hype. Also same height according to baseball ref and both lefties. Rosario probably has a better body type. Both putting up identical .637 OPS in their age-17 season(though Flores did it in SALLY while Rosario in APPY)

    • Jackson
      March 1, 2014 at 11:18 am

      Both lefties if you watch them in a mirror.

      • Name
        March 1, 2014 at 1:05 pm

        Yes, no edit button :( don’t know why i typed lefties. My mistake.

  2. TexasGusCC
    February 24, 2014 at 1:20 am

    If Puello continues last year’s breakout, he will be #1. Smith at Savannah will have to defy all hitting odds to be higher then he is now. Where is Plawecki on this list?
    This list severely overvalues players that haven’t played A ball yet. Take it easy guys.

    • Stephen Guilbert
      February 24, 2014 at 11:34 am

      TexasGusCC, it’s not this list that does it, *every* news outlet hypes young players because of their potential and ceiling–especially if they succeed at levels above their age, as Smith and Rosario have done. Lay off, this is a fantastic list. I do not see any overvaluing here although I do agree Plawecki will be in the top five a year from now.

    • March 10, 2014 at 11:16 am

      I’m a big fan of Plawecki. In fact, I’ve written several articles about him over the last year. My list is based on ceiling/potential, as Stephen mentioned. There are certainly risks to that, especially when you dig down below A ball, but certain players really just have that much potential that they demand certain levels of attention. Smith and Rosario are two such players.

      I believe Plawecki has a strong to chance to be a solid regular at the ML level, possibly even an above average catcher offensively. To be sure, there is a ton of actual value in that. I just feel that the players I listed have the chance to be even more than that. He’s right outside that top five, at the very least.

  3. Robby
    February 24, 2014 at 7:12 am

    Think this is a make or break year for Nimmo. We all knew he would be brought around slowly but there has been little progress. With the wrist healed now the MEts should get a good idea what they have in him.

  4. Stephen Guilbert
    February 24, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Great article, Rob. Nice insight and I like your thinking. A couple players I would consider would be Kevin Plawecki, Gabriel Ynoa (if he repeats 2013 outside of a pitcher’s park, watch out), Domingo Tapia if he can find his control again, and Michael Fulmer–perhaps my favorite prospect in the system below that upper echelon you talk about.

  5. Stephen Guilbert
    February 24, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    My dark horse picks to do a Montero-esque ascension:

    - Whalen and/or Flexen (funny how those two go hand in hand these days, right?)
    - Shamp Stuart
    - Andrew Church or Casey Meisner (ditto)
    - Vicente Lupo
    - Miller Diaz (especially after Parks’ valuation)
    - Wuilmer Becerra

    Also you gotta consider Dilson Herrera has a shot. He lacks the upside or the floor of a lot of the players you mention but he could be a player to do everything well enough to vault himself in there. Thoughts?

    • March 10, 2014 at 11:07 am

      My apologies for the incredibly late response, Stephen. I was unable to respond when this post went live, but I owe you one.

      I like all of your names and I think they are as good of picks as any to breakout. Especially the pitchers. In fact, Joe Vasile posted a great article here a couple of weeks ago listed five pitching prospects to watch out for next season ( that include several you listed. I’m just very optimistic about Matz and think he could rocket up the list.

      Toby Hyde at Mets Minor League Blog is a big fan of Stuart. He’s very fast and it be interesting to see how he builds on his first year as a pro.

      Lupo had a super disappointing year in his first season stateside after demolishing the DSL. Hopefully he can build on the experience and improve next year. Just goes to show you can’t put too much stock in DSL stats. We’ll see if he pulls it together this year.

      • Stephen Guilbert
        March 10, 2014 at 1:58 pm

        But man can Lupo hit. He really did struggle but I think he has enough bat to rise through the lower levels this year. We’ll see. Stuart is really tough to gauge.

        I really do think Tapia has a big year. He’s so frustrating but I believe in him.

        Again, great article and list. Looking forward to more from you.

  6. tommyb
    February 24, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Plawecki has to be # 5A. Not sure if I rate Matz over Montero, although I hope Matz becomes a harder-throwing version of Jon Niese.

    I think we have the best prospect crop that I can ever recall. No more Brad Holt, Eddie Kunz gar-bage.

  7. Patrick Albanesius
    February 24, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Haha Eddie Kunz. He was the next big thing man! Nice to mention Herrera, Stephen. I like guys who might not stand out, but who can do everything well.

    • Stephen Guilbert
      February 24, 2014 at 4:13 pm

      I do as well. With Herrera, you have good power for a middle infielder but more like 15-20 max, not 30. You have speed but again, 15 SB territory, not 40. You have enough quickness for good range at second but not a great arm so he will probably never win a gold glove, and yet he plays the game very well and is a complete player. He isn’t a sexy prospect, but I think he has a shot to be a very solid major leaguer.

      • TexasGusCC
        February 24, 2014 at 9:56 pm

        Stephen, I agree with Herrera and considered mentioning him as well, but settled on Plawecki only. Because of the many variables that need to fall into place for a player to join the 750 or so major leaguers, I prefer to give the higher level player the benefit of the doubt.

        Also, if Plawecki is #5 now, why wont he be just as high when three guys come off, Thor, TDA, and Montero?

  8. Jim OMalley
    February 24, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    …and Chris Flexen. He could be a quick riser.

  9. Metsense
    February 26, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Plawecki over Nimmo. Plawecki makes solid contact and plays a premium position. I am also happy to hear that at the end of 2013 he got some reps at first base. Ideally I would like to see him start at AA and midseason go to AAA with a September call up in order to get wet behind the ears.(I know, I know, the Mets are not that aggressive). I also see him making the team in 2015 as the backup catcher (about 40 games) and the right handed platoon at first base (another 40 games.) I guess I am bullish on Plawecki.I saw him in 4 games last year for Savannah and he was dominant in three of them.

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