We’re all trying to make sense of how the Mets are in the position that they are today. Everyone has their theories and one that refuses to die is that the farm system has been bad in the past, bad in the present and bad in the future. Let’s take a look at the guys on the 25-man roster (and DL) currently, with a focus on guys who played at least one year in the Mets’ farm system before making the majors. Furthermore, let’s limit it to guys under the age of 35 and organize it by the year they “established” themselves in the majors. Established is in quotes because it’s up in the air if some of these guys have actually done that. But let’s think positively.
2013 – Juan Lagares, Zack Wheeler
2014 – Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, Wilmer Flores
2015 – Michael Conforto, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard
2016 – Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo
2017 – Brandon Nimmo, Kevin Plawecki, Amed Rosario
2018 – Luis Guillorme, Tim Peterson, Dominic Smith
That’s 16 players 14 of them active ones with Lagares and Syndergaard currently on the DL. The top five players, and seven of the top eight guys, by bWAR for the Mets this year all came up through their farm system. It seems odd that the farm system takes so much grief. It feels like the guys acquired by trade or through free agency should be taking more of the blame. Especially once you factor in how much of the payroll those guys are taking up.
Regardless, one thing does stand out when looking at that group of players from the farm system. Where are the international guys? Only five of these guys came from outside the U.S. and only one of those five – Familia – has established himself as a big contributor.
Lagares has a Gold Glove to his credit but has been unable to be a useful offensive player and he’s constantly on the DL. Flores was a big signing from the Omar Minaya era but seems to have settled in as a 300-400 AB guy. Rosario was a big signing from Sandy Alderson who doesn’t seem ready for prime time. Guillorme is in 25th man territory and no one will be surprised if he’s sent back to the minors.
We’re just starting to see Alderson’s international guys crack the majors. Ideally we would have seen more by now. But here in 2018, more blame should go to Minaya’s scouting team for the lack of impact international guys than to Alderson’s. By the year 2020, that balance will shift and things don’t look good on the immediate horizon for the current GM. Alderson has a lot of eggs right now in Rosario’s basket as Nabil Crismatt is probably the next closest guy and he’s far from a highly-regarded prospect.
So, if more of Minaya’s guys should be contributing right now, what happened? Jenrry Mejia got in trouble by failing drug tests, Ruben Tejada got taken out by a dirty slide, Fernando Martinez couldn’t live up to the hype and Aderlin Rodriguez was a bust. And there were plenty more in that last category.
How about Alderson’s guys? He was hired late in 2010, so 2011 was his first crack at the big players in the international market. Alderson’s biggest guy in that class was Jose Garcia, a catcher from Venezuela who received the 18th-highest bonus at $800,000. Garcia is still kicking around in the system but shows no sign of ever putting it together. If you look at the high-dollar signings by all MLB teams, you’ll see a lot of busts, so Garcia certainly has company. But if you want to play the “perfect hindsight” game, that’s the year the Yankees signed Miguel Andujar for $750K. Andujar played five games last year in his MLB debut season and has broken out in the majors this year.
In 2012, the Mets got Rosario at $1,750,000 and then a bunch of guys for 1/10 of that amount, or less, including Marcos Molina, Nicolas Debora and Jose Medina. In 2013, they signed three guys for about the same amount of money that they gave to Rosario the year before – Ricardo Cespedes ($725K), Ali Sanchez ($690K) and Yeffry De Aza ($475K). They also signed Luis Carpio and Walter Rasquin. In 2014, they again went for a big money guy, inking Kenny Hernandez to a $1,000,000 deal. They also grabbed Yoel Romero and Edgardo Fermin and for lesser dollar deals picked up Juan Uriarte and Hansel Moreno
Molina seemed to be on the fast track but got injured and has stalled in the upper levels of the system. Debora hasn’t been able to get going and Medina had great success in the DSL but hasn’t done much stateside. Cespedes went in the AJ Ramos deal, Sanchez is in his third season in Lo-A. De Aza is one of the few guys not to hit in Kingsport the past two seasons. Carpio showed great promise early but hasn’t followed up on it. Rasquin had very good numbers for Brooklyn last year but failed a drug test this season. Hernandez hasn’t hit and has moved to first base. Romero hasn’t hit, either. Fermin did fine at Kingsport last year but is struggling in full-season ball this season. Uriarte, a catcher, turned in a great season for Kingsport last year but has barely played this season while Moreno is struggling for Columbia here in 2018.
But maybe things are turning around in this department.
In 2015, the Mets signed Andres Gimenez, who at age 19 has an OPS 124 points higher than the average player for St. Lucie. They also got Shervyen Newton from the Netherlands that same year. Newton is off to a quick start this season at Kingsport. They also signed Gregory Guerrero, considered one of the top 10 players available, although he’s yet to show much in this country so far. Jaison Vilera pitched well in the GULF last year and is off to a strong start – 10 IP, 1 ER, 13 Ks – for Brooklyn this season.
The following year in 2016, the Mets did not shop at the top of the international market but they still signed some guys who could make an impact. 2B Luis Santana put up a .911 OPS in the DSL last year and is 12-25 with four doubles so far this season for Kingsport. Wilfred Astudillo, a C/1B, is hitting well in the Dominican right now. Middle infielder Sebastian Espino was solid in the DSL last year and is 7-17 with three walks in five games in the GULF.
After a one-year break, the Mets were back in the high end of the international market this past year, signing Ronny Mauricio, Adrian Hernandez, Stanley Consuegra and David Marcano. Mauricio was a consensus top five guy and is off to a great start in the GULF as a 17 year old. Hernandez is off to a solid start in the DSL while Consuegra has joined Mauricio in the GULF, although hasn’t gotten off to the same type of start. Marcano has fanned 8 in 6.1 IP so far in the DSL.
Much like with the amateur draft, it’s unrealistic to expect international free agents to contribute multiple impact players year after year. But it would be nice if those two could combine to produce consistent talent on a regular basis. Any independent observer would tell you that the amateur draft is ahead of the international market for the Mets right now.
When Minaya signed Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez, it was supposed to have the ancillary benefit of establishing credibility in the international market that would lead to the Mets landing stars from Latin America. But Minaya ended up having more success with the amateur draft. His lack of a home run acquisition in the international market is one thing that’s hurting the Mets today. If Flores and Martinez had developed into solid starters or stars, the outlook today would be brighter.
Will Alderson fare any better in this regard? The jury is still very much out. But five years from now, if the Mets are going to be in better shape, they’ll have needed to hit on some of these guys. They’ll need starters and stars from the likes of Rosario, Gimenez, Mauricio et al. to establish the Latin pipeline that Minaya failed to do.
And if their big money free agent signings could stay off the DL – that would be nice, too.