We’ve talked about tiers and we’ve talked about floors and ceilings, but what separates a Tier 2 player from the elite names in the first tier of prospects? Often times it isn’t their overall talent, often times it is, but the concerns one has over one or more elements of their game. I refer to these concerns as “warts” as they are unsightly blemishes that make it harder to see the prize beneath. Sometimes these “warts” clear up and a player becomes a consistent major league contributor and sometimes they only get more pronounced as a player develops.
What types of things do we talk about as warts? A player who shines at one level before looking overmatched at a higher one is the most common but often times they are more subtle than that. If you are talking up a prospect and find yourself adding a “but” at the end of your praise, you know you’ve hit one. Peterson was a first round pick and his numbers in AA were a lot better than a lot of people give him credit for but… or Newton has the type of speed and power that scouts salivate over but in 2019… You get the idea.
The Heart of the Second Tier
An infielder who screamed back into relevance with a fantastically resurgent year, an outfielder who made a solid debut stateside before falling victim to injury and three pitchers who seem like less than a sure thing make up this talented group of players. More than a few of them would be acceptable options in a Top 10 prospect list, particularly a few years ago when the Met system was so bereft of talent, but 2019 sees a better crop of players than the pundits will give the Mets credit for having.
11. Luis Carpio, 2B (FSL/EAS) – Carpio looked like a possible prospect once upon a time but 2017 and 2018 were extremely disapointing seasons and he fell off most lists entirely. Then, something happened in 2019 and the 22 year old infielder showed up in Port St. Lucie ready to play. He earned a promotion to AA after only 31 games thanks to a .822 OPS and performed admirably in AA after his promotion with a .709 OPS to finish out the year. None of his performance in 2019 suggests that Carpio is destined for stardom but the versatile infielder looks like he could have a future in the majors and might even be a serviceable starter if he can keep his batting average up. It will not be an easy road, but once Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie have moved on from the Mets the team will eventually need players to cover second base once more.
12. Kevin Smith, LHP (FSL/EAS) – Like Wilson, few people can legitimately say they expected big things from Smith. The 7th round pick from the 2017 draft was good for Brooklyn in his debut and even managed to start a few games but he seemed like more of a left-handed depth arm for the Mets to hold in their stables. A 10.7 K/9 in Port St. Lucie began to turn some heads and would eventually earn Smith a promotion to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Facing hitters with a stronger sense of the strikezone may have led Smith to a few more surrendered walks but the 6’5″ lefty was able to lower his opponent batting average by 32 points after his promotion. If one looks for a flaw it’s that Smith allows more balls to be hit in the air which could lead to him having issues with the long ball but his home run numbers are not bad thus far. In 2020 he’ll be amongst a few promising starters who the Mets will have to sort between AA, AAA and the big leagues.
13. Adrian Hernandez, OF (GCL) – The other international player the Mets acquired in 2017, alongside Ronny Mauricio, Hernandez spent 2018 in the DSL much as Valdez did for the Mets this year. Hernandez is something of a “five-tool” player and one of only a handful of Met prospects who ranks at having much in the way of base stealing potential. The unfortunate fact is that Hernandez only played 4 games in 2019 and we don’t know how much of his 1.018 OPS is legitimate and how much can be attributed to a “strong start”. The three extra base hits and two stolen bases in those games are extremely enticing and it’s hard to rank a prospect with that kind of potential much lower but it’s important to actually see Hernandez play something of a full season.
14. David Peterson, LHP (EAS) – His 2019 season could have gone better. Peterson first saw Anthony Kay, the other promising lefty on the club surpass him before Kay wound up being traded to Toronto for Marcus Stroman. Then, he suffered through a season full of ups and downs leaving people wondering if he really seemed like much of a first round talent at all. The 6’6″ lefty finished the 2019 season with an underwhelming 4.13 ERA and a pedestrian 1.34 WHIP. He did punch his strikeout rate above the 9.0 K/9 mark but there were more blemishes than one likes to see. Still, nothing about his 2019 season suggests that he’s a complete washout and his numbers are a darn sight better than those Justin Dunn had when he struggled for the Mets in Port St. Lucie. I’ve ranked Peterson 14th overall with hope still burning that the lefty pitcher can round himself into a major league regular who can become a fixture of the Met rotation, perhaps by the end of the 2020 season.
15. Tommy Wilson, RHP (FSL/EAS) – The Mets drafted Wilson in the 19th round of the 2018 draft and sent him to Brooklyn for his minor league debut. The college pitcher turned out 22 innings of immaculate relief work but if anyone claims that they knew he was destined for greatness, they are most assuredly lying to you. When he was assigned to Port St. Lucie as a starter in 2019 it seemed more a statement concerning the Mets lack of meaningful prospects than a nod of confidence in a college pitcher. In his 8 starts at the level he averaged 5.2 innings an outing and produced a WHIP of 1.05 which certainly turned some heads. His promotion to AA seemed completely logical and there he continued success. Though his WHIP jumped to 1.20 his K/9 began to reach towards the 9.0 that people look for in a pitching prospect. Thanks to his breakout season he looks to begin 2020 at the front end of a AA rotation with quite a lot of talent on it.
The Rest of Tier 2
A pitcher who lacks “Ace” potential but appears to be ready to contribute on the major league level, a shortstop who needs a new home and who badly needs a rebound performance in 2020, an outfielder who broke out in Columbia at the age of 24, a 22 year old defensive catcher who never seems to hit enough for us to take him seriously, and a giant pitcher who looks like a power pitcher but has yet to make his stats match his physical potential. The players in this group all have some serious potential value but come with some serious warts. Some are too old, some don’t hit enough and some no longer have positions to call their own. It’s a complicated group full of complicated people.
Harol Gonzalez, RHP (EAS/INT) – What do you make of a starting pitcher who, at 24, manages a 3.14 ERA in 17 AA games and then a 2.68 ERA in 8 AAA ones? Gonzalez is the best non-Ace pitcher in the Met system and the steady workhorse of the minor leagues. His K/9 for the year was a respectable 7.32 and his WHIP was 1.08 and steady between the two levels he pitched. Of all the options that the Mets have to replace Zack Wheeler in 2020, he’s probably the only one I’d bank on pitching a full season of solid innings. Perhaps, we as Met fans are just too spoiled by the “Ace” caliber pitching that our farm system has produced over the past five years. Perhaps, we need to show more respect for a pitcher who shows every sign of being a major league quality 4th or 5th starter.
Shervyen Newton, IF (SAL) – A switch hitting 6 ‘4” tall shortstop from the Netherlands is not your typical player or prospect. Newton has never quite been conventional but he exploded onto the Met depth charts thanks to an .877 OPS in 2017 and a .857 OPS in 2018. His 2019 was not fated to be nearly as promising. The young player began the year hurt and lost his position to a more promising and younger player before returning in one of the worst slumps I have ever witnessed. There was very little good that happened for Newton in 2019 but the worst thing was likely the emergence of Ronny Mauricio. Thanks to that, a younger player is likely ahead of him on the depth charts for development. If Newton is going to keep pace he won’t be doing it at shortstop. It’s likely that he’ll see himself shifted to centerfield or second base because Mark Vientos has a lock on third.
Wagner Lagrange, OF (SAL/FSL) – We first noticed Lagrange in 2017 when he was part of a very good offensive team in the APP. Of the players who shined for Kingsport in 2017 only Lagrange, now 24, looked to maintain the success beyond that level. After an acceptable, if uninspiring, year in Brooklyn in 2018 he began this year with the Columbia Fireflies. He was a solid performer through April and May before slumping badly in June and breaking out, like a shot, in July. His .957 OPS in July was enough for the Mets to promote him out of Low A and into Port St. Lucie. He finished July with a flourish having his debut 11 games in Advanced A marked with a 1.083 OPS before coming back to earth in August. Even with the ups and downs it was a mostly up year for the Met outfielder who I project to either begin or finish the 2020 season with AA Binghamton.
Ali Sanchez, C (EAS/INT) – A player who I have been mostly cold on through the years Sanchez is a defensive catcher who seemed to enjoy a sizable breakout in 2019. He began the year with AA and while he finished the year with a .674 OPS, his Junes saw an unprecedented .888 level of production. All this being said, it will never be his bat that makes Sanchez a major league catcher. He scores good marks for game calling, defense behind the plate and his ability to keep runners in check. Should Sanchez, only 22 years old, manage to become a .700 OPS catcher his defense will be more than enough for him to earn regular playing time at the major league level. He will be returning to AAA (where he finished 2019) in 2020 and should be on the short list of players to come up if Tomas Nido is hurt.
Junior Santos, RHP (APP) – At a whopping 6’8″ in height and only 18 years of age, Junior Santos stands out. His size suggests a physical capacity for power pitching and he’s got tons of time to develop in that way. The prospect showed us something different in 2018 where he showed us pinpoint control. Over 50 innings in the DSL and GCL he only amassed 6 walks, an incredible feat, but he also only amassed 39 strikeouts. In 2019 he pitched 40.2 innings for the Advanced Rookie Level Mets but things took a turn for the worse. While his K/9 improved it did not jump off the board and he walked 25 batters (and saw his Opp BA rise 50 points) in the year. There is still plenty of reason to hope but it may be that we have been ascribing wishful thinking to Santos’ large frame.