People like to complain. As long as the complaints are legitimate, that’s okay. The issue is when some people are so eager to complain that they throw all reason and judgment out the window. Then it’s just sport. And if you’ve got time in your life for complaining as sport, your time would be better spent volunteering for the downtrodden – so you can see what it’s like for people who life has dealt the cards two, three, four, five and seven off suit.
You hear people complaining how the Mets farm system stinks. It should be pointed out this is an annual thing for some people. Mainly these people think that you should be promoting five impact players per year from your farm system. Sometimes you just have to shake your head at how clueless people are as to what a productive farm system is. These people tend to make the very best the minimum acceptable standard. And that’s why they’re constantly disappointed.
At one point, everyone complained about the draft and farm system when Omar Minaya was running things and then all of a sudden the guys he drafted made up a good chunk of the team that went to the World Series in 2015. Now everyone complains about Sandy Alderson’s drafts and farm system, ignoring what happened with Minaya and pushing aside how the current administration just shipped two of Alderson’s first-round picks out the door. And all while conveniently forgetting where Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil and others came from.
Back in 2010, a piece was published here checking in on what results you should get from six years of drafting. Six years was the time span because that’s how long Minaya drafted for the Mets as GM. The time period was 1998-2003, to pick a six-year span which was close to the span which Minaya oversaw. A sample of six teams was used – the four non-Mets NL East teams, along with the Angels and Yankees, the first and last team nicknames alphabetically in the majors.
The ballpark conclusion was that a team should send 27 draft picks to the majors in a six-year span and that six of those should total 5.0 bWAR before their career was done.
Now, it’s certainly possible, if not likely, that more guys make the majors for a brief time now than they did back at the turn of the century. Maybe it’s 30 or 35 guys even who reach the majors. But it’s not likely that there are more impact players. Sandy Alderson drafted these guys who’ve surpassed, or seem likely to surpass, 5.0 bWAR: Alonso, Conforto, Michael Fulmer, Seth Lugo, McNeil and Brandon Nimmo. And there are also guys like Anthony Kay, Jarred Kelenic and Mark Vientos who have yet to reach the majors but seem like half decent bets to enjoy some MLB success. And likely someone not even yet mentioned, too.
The draft picks haven’t and don’t stink – they are at least average and likely better.
One of the complaints you hear most loudly this year is how there’s nothing but MLB has-beens at Triple-A. And people always say it in a tone that implies that this is a brand new development and the Mets are barren while everyone else is awash in top prospects at this level.
In 2018, the Mets used 37 players older than 26 at Triple-A. And sure, some of these were MLB guys on injury rehab but there were also plenty of guys like Cody Asche, Johnny Monell and Vance Worley. The only difference with this year’s Triple-A team is that there are guys who had more success in MLB. Instead of Asche and his 1,349 PA in the majors, there’s Rajai Davis and his 4,581 PA in the majors. And you can go back to any of the Mets’ top farm clubs this century and see the same story.
Pick any team at random – how about the NL Central leading Cubs. They don’t have a player younger than 24 at Triple-A and their team includes Brian Duensing, Phillip Evans, Dixon Machado and Junichi Tazawa. How about the Reds, the team in last place in the NL Central? Nine of their top 10 players in PA at Triple-A are at least 24, including guys like Christian Colon, Rob Refsnyder and Blake Trahan.
If you’re lucky, you have three or four legitimate prospects at Triple-A. The idea that what the Mets have this year at the top level is new or unique is ludicrous. Look at what the Mets did with Alonso. He got 301 PA in Triple-A and now he’s raking in the majors. If you have a top prospect with 1,000 PA at Triple-A, something has gone wrong. Dominic Smith has 884 PA in Triple-A and he got that many because he didn’t perform his first two stints in the majors. If he had come up and hit well in either 2017 or 2018, he would have left the minors in his rear view mirror.
That’s what Triple-A is. It’s made up of guys on their last legs, hoping for one final shot at the majors. It’s made up of former top prospects who failed in the bigs, hoping to impress enough to get another shot. And it’s org soldiers, guys who don’t have the talent to be big league regulars but ones who love the game and hope to get a cup of coffee one day. If you’re lucky, you’ve got a few legitimate prospects looking for those final 200 or so PA or 75 innings before they get the call to the majors. But the idea that every team has multiple impact players in Triple-A waiting for their shot, well that’s not reality. There are many more teams like the Mets and Cubs and Reds than there are like the Astros.
If you want a feel-good story about the Mets farm system this year, look no further than Luis Carpio. Too many people had written off Carpio, as it appeared that he had never recovered from shoulder surgery in 2016.
But my rankings had him as the team’s 22nd prospect coming into the season, as he had put up a .737 OPS – with a .262 BABIP – in his final 51 games in St. Lucie. That may not sound all that impressive but the team OPS was just .645 overall and no pitchers bat at this level.
Carpio started 2019 back off at St. Lucie, as his overall line in 2018 was a .654 OPS. But then he proceeded to put up a .330/.396/.426 line in his first 106 PA of the year. That performance earned him a promotion to Double-A, where in his first game Sunday he had two walks and two hits, including a homer.
It may seem like Carpio has been around forever. The Mets signed him out of Venezuela in 2013 and this is his age 21 season. He gives Binghamton a very nice, young DP combo, as Carpio should hold down 2B and will partner with 20-year-old Andres Gimenez in the middle of the diamond. Previously Binghamton had used 24-year-old Michael Paez and 25-year-old Sam Haggerty at second base. Haggerty and his .824 OPS is currently on the 7-Day Injured List with an undisclosed ailment but should still see playing time in a super sub type role once he returns. Paez seems to be the odd man out at this point.