We’re getting down to the wire in our countdown of the top 50 prospects in the Mets system. In case you missed any of the previous installments, check them out at: 50-48, 47-45, 44-42, 41-39, 38-36, 35-33, 32-30, 29-27. 26-24, 23-21 and 20-18. Next up is:
17 – Matt Reynolds
Reynolds was one of the most pleasant surprises in the Mets system in 2014. The former 2nd round pick in 2012, Reynolds had been a major disappointment in his first two seasons as a Mets minor prospect. The former college third baseman had been converted to a full time short stop and showed decent potential at that position offensively in 2012, posting a 702 OPS in Savannah after being drafted. Reynolds regressed significantly in 2013, hitting terribly and showing a slight regression in his defense. His underwhelming start to his career not only dropped him off of all prospect lists, but in essence eliminated him from the hearts and minds of Mets fans everywhere.
Luckily, Reynolds didn’t allow this set back to halt his progress. Reynolds reportedly worked in the offseason to shorten his swing and work the strike zone in order to make more contact. This process resulted in a stunning, turnaround offensive season from the player that was being looked at as a draft bust.
Given a chance to be the full time shortstop in Binghamton in 2014, Reynolds batted .355 with and 852 OPS. His power was almost non-existent, as he only had 12% of his hits go for extra bases, leading to a minute 67 ISO, but the fact that he was getting on base and producing lead to a mid-season promotion for the 23 year old (just recently turned 24 on December 3rd) to Las Vegas.
Reynolds torrid season continued in Las Vegas, where he hit .333 with an 864 OPS over 301 plate appearances. He also showed more power as 28% of his hits went for extra bases, leading to a much nicer 146 ISO. Reynolds then got a shot in the Arizona fall league, where he performed decently. His batting average fell off, but he continued to show decent power, hitting three home runs and knocking in 15 runs over 77 at bats. Extrapolate those numbers out over around 600 at bats and that’s 20 plus home run and 100 plus RBI production.
Scouts have also noted that Reynolds might be able to stick at shortstop. He doesn’t reportedly have any plus tools at shortstop, possessing an average arm and range, but he makes up for it with plus instincts to play the position. A player that was once looked at as organizational filler, or at best a utility player, has turned himself into a top 20 prospect that could see the big leagues in 2015.
There are questions about Reynolds though. His huge year was also the result of a massive BABIP of .435 and he still strikes out a little too much for a player with suspect power. At 6’1” and around 200 pounds, Reynolds should be able to hit with more punch, but his shortened approach could limit that totally. What he did in Las Vegas and Arizona though, makes one wonder whether the Mets are looking at a player that had his numbers padded by a strong hitters environment or a young player, learning a new style and trying to incorporate some pop back into his game with that new style.
Only time will tell with Reynolds. Wally Backman has come out and said that Reynolds is a hard worker and hard-nosed player, both positives assessments that lead one to believe that Reynolds will keep working to get that much better as a player and prospect. If he repeats his success and increased power numbers in Las Vegas, we will see him very soon in Flushing.
16 – Michael Fulmer
A sandwich pick out of high school in 2011, Fulmer has been one of the most frustrating arms in the Mets system. Fulmer has all of the ability and stuff in the world. Fulmer has the size, 6’3” and 200 pounds, the fastball, mid-nineties with sink and a plus slider that is an out pitch. Fulmer has fooled around with a curveball and change-up, one of which he would need to master to reach his potential as a potential three or better starter. He also reportedly pitches nasty, described by some scouts as someone who legitimately, “dislikes hitters” and works hard to attack the zone in order to get them out.
Unfortunately, Fulmer has only shown bursts of all of this potential, mostly due to a rash of unrelated injuries. After being drafted, he struggled over 5.1 innings in the Gulf Coast league. Promoted to full season Savannah as a 19 year old in 2012, Fulmer had his best season as a pro, starting 21 games, pitching 108.1 innings and posting a 2.74 ERA, while nearly a striking out a batter per inning. His control was a little off, walking 38 batters and throwing eight wild pitches, but he was quickly making a name for himself as one of the top power arms in the system.
The injuries hit Fulmer in 2013, allowing him to only pitch 46 innings over 9 starts the entire year, along with stunting his progress through the system. Instead of having a full year at St. Lucie to prepare him for the all-important jump to Binghamton and Double-A ball in 2014, Fulmer had to start 2014 back in St. Lucie and did not get off to a good start. Through his first 13 innings of work, Fulmer allowed 25 hits (including three home runs) and 16 earned runs. From that point on he pitched better, but didn’t exactly dominate, posting a solid 3.36 ERA, but a not very impressive 1.48 WHIP and nearly 2:1 strike out to walk ratio. His season was also marred by missed starts and being shut down a little early due to fatigue. All in all, the former top 100 prospect (ranked 98th by Baseball Prospectus prior to the 2013 season) only threw 98.2 innings over 20 starts, not what one would want from someone with such potential.
Therein lies the issue. Fulmer does have so much potential and is still very young. Although he’ll turn 22 in March if he stays at St. Lucie, which is where he’ll most likely start the season, Fulmer will still be young for his level. Considering that 2014 wasn’t a total disaster, a mid-season or earlier promotion is not out of the realm of possibility if Fulmer shows his potential and warrants the move to Binghamton, where he’ll be over two years younger than his competition. His status on this list as a prospect is with the hope that he can harness all of his potential and skills to be the second best power arm in the system behind Noah Syndergaard. If he can stay healthy in 2015, he will definitely be a pitcher to watch.
15 – Wuilmer Becerra
The notorious “other” prospect in the R.A. Dickey trade, Becerra is one of the youngest players ranked this high on our list. That’s because Becerra has all the talent in the world and if he keeps progressing through the system like he showed in 2015, will easily be a top ten prospect after 2015 and could crack a top 100 list.
Becerra hasn’t done a whole lot in the minor leagues just yet, but his 2014 seasons showed his tantalizing potential. Becerra is your classic five tool player and was the highest ranked of three very talented outfielders who manned Kingsport for the Mets in 2014 (along with Vicente Lupo, ranked 24th and Ivan Wilson, ranked 41st). Like his compatriots in the outfield from Kingsport, Becerra possesses solid power, posting a 169 ISO in 2014. Although he isn’t on the level of Lupo and Wilson in that area (both of those players have 30 plus home run potential), Becerra does have the potential and size to be a 20 home run and 30 plus double threat. He also showed a much lower strike out rate than his teammates, although this will have to improve for Becerra to reach his potential. At 6’4” and 190 pounds, Becerra has room to add muscle to his frame without sacrificing his solid speed, further showing that he is one of those very high ceiling prospects.
When you add in that he has a solid arm and is a terrific defensive outfielder, you can see why he is ranked so high on this list. 2015 will be an important season for Becerra. Despite batting .300 and posting a 819 OPS in 2014, he did so only in a short season league and had not posted numbers anywhere near that over 245 combined plate appearances in 2012 and 2013. He will also most likely be jumped up to Savannah, where power goes to die, so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to that climate and a full season league. At 20, he’s getting old for short season leagues, so if he struggles in 2015, his position as a prospect will drop significantly and could become just one more player with all the potential in the world who just can’t put it together when the competition gets better.
We will see, but his numbers from 2014, showing 20/20 potential with a quality batting average and terrific corner outfield defense, makes Becerra a player to keep an eye on in Savannah. If he is successful and pushes forward in his development, that R.A. Dickey deal just keeps looking better and better.