The 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.
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.