Perhaps no one in the Mets360 family feels more strained for baseball than the Minor League baseball guy. While the Mets have drafted, scouted and seen some key players successfully ascend to the majors (Andres Gimenez) we have so little to base our 2021 projections on, since we’re starved for the statistical reporting that most of that analysis is based on.
Still, we press on and look to the future with what scouting we can glean and the dusty statistical analysis of 2019. Sites like Metsblog.com and MLB.com have posted their opinions on who belongs in the Mets Top 20 Prospects but I want the Mets360 opinion, and for that I turn to Brian Joura. Brian and I have been providing an offseason Top 50 prospects list for years and I was hoping we could at least compare notes on where we, and the baseball world, see the state of the Met’s Top 20 going into the 2021 season.
David: Starting things off, Brian, what do you see as the biggest issue with updating our rankings after a “lost” minor league season?
Brian: In ordinary times it’s extremely difficult to make these types of lists. Now, it’s more foolish than ever to think you can come up with an accurate ranking. Does an older guy, like Harol Gonzalez, have less of an issue with missing a year than a raw young guy, like Blaine McIntosh? Does a guy who spent time at the alternate site, like Luis Carpio, have a leg up on Shervyen Newton, who didn’t? And what about the 2020 draftees? Does it hurt them more or less than the 2019 guys?
On top of all of that, we don’t know how the elimination of short-season teams in the New York-Penn and Appalachian Leagues will affect the development paths of younger prospects. My opinion is that on the whole it might be beneficial in the long run to do drills and work on specific things but it’s silly to think that no one will be hurt by not playing competitively in front of crowds.
David: That actually leads to a pretty tremendous question I’ve been asking myself since the minor league season of 2020 was canceled. Each season the players drafted only get a glimpse of minor league play and so, I don’t anticipate any ill effects from the “Lost Season” with players like Pete Crow-Armstrong, Alexander Ramirez, J.T. Ginn, Robert Dominguez and Isaiah Greene seeing their way into most Top 20 lists without any stats to back them. I worry about players like Matthew Allan, Francisco Alvarez, Josh Wolf and Freddy Valdez who showed promise but didn’t get to see any game action last season. Who do you think suffered the most from not being able to play and why?
Brian: There are several groups who were really hurt. There are the older prospects, who needed all of the planets to align correctly to have a chance to force themselves into the picture. Scott Ota was drafted because he’d sign for next to nothing. But then he had a great debut in 2019 in Kingsport. Now he’ll be a 23 year old in Low-A. That’s not good. Gonzalez repeated Double-A in 2019 at age 24 and had a good season. Now he’ll be at Triple-A at age 26 with no MLB experience. He already had the deck stacked against him as a short RHP and the layoff only makes his road harder.
Then there are the younger guys who had good reps but didn’t get off to good starts. Can Gregory Guerrero get back to the promise that had him get a better signing bonus than Gimenez? Newton had a lost year in 2019 and then saw Gimenez had a breakout year in 2020, making the SS picture even more crowded.
But the ones I worry about most are the ones who were injured in 2019 and essentially have two lost years of development. Raul Beracierta, Stanley Consuegra, Desmond Lindsay, Bryce Montes de Oca, Juan Uriarte and Chris Viall among others.
David: Some of those latter names appear squarely in a group of players I’d already written off (perhaps with the exception of Uriarte). I think with the reduced number of minor league squads we may see teams cut bait and run from some of the prospects they’d have typically let linger. I’d like to transition from this to a topic you mentioned briefly, and that is the overcrowded shortstop position. The Mets have two capable shortstops in the majors who will already be fighting one another for playing time. They have Ronny Mauricio, Jaylen Palmer, Newton, and that doesn’t even mention players like Luis Guillorme or Carpio.
With the obvious battle between Amed Rosario and Gimenez in the majors, do you see any of these other names unseating them? I see Mauricio transitioning to third base and entering into a competition with Mark Vientos and I don’t see Newton reaching the majors with his strikeout habits. Do the Mets have any future All-Star shortstops in your mind?
Brian: All-Star is a pretty high bar. My opinion is that Mauricio is more likely to stay at SS than Palmer. Additionally, I’d say he’s more likely to stay at SS than Vientos is to stay at 3B. It’s really tough to get better at controlling strikeouts in the majors, so we have to hope Newton learns that skill in the minors. Not sure I’d want to wager on that outcome, though.
David: So perhaps let’s move on to some wagers you’d like to make. In our podcasts we do crazy predictions. Here I’d like us each to make three and then talk about how we feel about the predictions one another made. Make a prediction that has a very high likelihood of coming true, make another prediction you could see happening that is far from a given and make one wild prediction that nobody saw coming.
Here are mine:
All of the 2019 and 2020 “big name” draftees will begin the year in Full Season minor league baseball.
Alvarez will not only start in full season league play but will be promoted to the next level of play after less than half a season.
Thomas Szapucki reaches the rotation and outperforms Marcus Stroman, David Peterson and Steven Matz.
Brian: Not sure if a reply is warranted but my reactions are: 1. No; 2. Maybe; 3. No – this would have made an excellent “crazy prediction” for the podcast.
Here are my predictions:
High Likelihood – Allan strikes out the side sometime/someplace this season
Could See – Robert Gsellman flops as a SP in the minors
Wild Prediction – Despite claiming that they were going to be patient and not trade away prospects, at least one of Brodie Van Wagenen’s draft picks gets dealt by the deadline.’
David: I think my responses to your three are 1. Quite likely, 2. Based on the previous two seasons, definitely and 3. Too possible and painful to be crazy. I think there is nearly a 50% chance that happens.
I’d like to close on a positive note, because the minors should always be about the hope of things to come. The outcome of the season is still to come but, looking into your crystal ball, who is one player you predict having a breakout season?
Brian: Is it ok to answer Allan? If you’re looking for someone not in the front of everyone’s mind, how about Jose Butto? His numbers from 2019 don’t really jump out at you because he got off to such a rotten start. But over his final 22 games, he had a 3.3 K/BB ratio while averaging just under a strikeout per inning. There were a lot of fly balls in ’19 but he kept them in the park, as he allowed just a 7.3 HR/FB rate. Plus, Butto had better ground ball numbers earlier, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see improvement there.
David: To me, if Allan were to “Break Out” he’d need to really blow people away with a K/9 higher than 10.0 and a WHIP under 1.00 in his first full season. I think it’s almost a safer pick to look at someone like Butto for a breakout, as he should be better than what we saw in 2019 and has the “Stuff” to be a Top 20 prospect. Always easier for someone outside the Top 20 to break into it than for someone in the Top 5 to reach #1.
That’s part of the reason I won’t choose Alvarez or Vientos for breakout candidates, despite feeling like they will have good years. Instead, I’m going to choose a player on the cusp of my Top 20, Wagner Lagrange. While he doesn’t have much star potential, I am hoping for a Juan Lagares type breakout instead of a Jeff McNeil one. I really think Lagrange can establish himself as a fourth outfielder for the Mets and end the team’s constant need to spend money on mediocre veteran center fielders.
As people who follow the minor leagues avidly, I’m sure that Brian is with me in wishing that baseball has a healthy and safe minor league season in 2021 and that we can get back to reviewing the play of our up-and-coming players. With luck, Mets360.com will be back to providing you with our own Top Prospect lists soon.