We hear so much about the Mets trying to build up their farm system. But it’s empty talk because everyone mentions the overall goal but no one talks about the specifics. Does the farm system only count the guys you originally drafted/signed or is it anyone who spent X amount of time in the minors? If it’s the latter, what number is X?
Does Michael Perez count? He’s a player the Mets traded for during the season and then was immediately assigned to Triple-A. He played there briefly before getting the call to Queens. How about Jake Reed? He was acquired off waivers in 2021 and began the year in Triple-A? How about Khalil Lee? He was acquired in a trade prior to the 2021 season and has spent the majority of the last two years in the minors but has had brief stints in the majors for the Mets. Does he count?
Let’s use the strictest definition – considering only players that the org drafted/signed. And we’ll use this not because it’s right or the best. In my opinion, Lee should definitely count as a player the Mets got from their farm system if he comes up and is a contributor in 2023. Not that it’s likely that will happen. But, to use examples from the past, my opinion is that both Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler should count because the Mets traded for them as prospects and both spent years in the system before making their MLB debut with the Mets.
Rather, we’ll use the criterion originally drafted/signed because it’s the easiest. And, conveniently, FanGraphs has already done all of the work for all 30 teams. The following chart from FG shows the results of each team’s 40-man roster, with the percentage breakdown of how the players were acquired into five separate categories. Finally, you should be able to sort this chart by any of the column headers.
|Team||40-man Count||Homegrown %||Free Agent %||Trade %||Waivers %||Rule 5 %||Rank Homegrown||Rank Free Agent||Rank Trade|
If we sort by “Homegrown %,” we see that the Mets currently have the 21st ranked team by homegrown prospects. But it’s worse than that in reality. The Mets’ current percentage is boosted because they have only 33 spots on their 40-man roster, while most other teams have 38 or more. When the Mets fill those seven spots, it’s likely that four or more of them will come from people outside the org, whether that’s free agent signings or trades or even Rule 5 or other waiver additions.
Instead, if we sort by “Rank Homegrown,” we find the Mets at 27th.
Regardless, who are these homegrown Mets? Are they major contributors to the roster or are they bench players and org fillers? Here they are, listed in alphabetical order: Pete Alonso, Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty, Jose Butto, Luis Guillorme, Ronny Mauricio, Jeff McNeil, Tylor Megill, Bryce Montes de Oca, Tomas Nido, David Peterson and Mark Vientos.
Still, we don’t have all of the context needed. There are a half a dozen or so guys on that homegrown list – Alvarez, Baty, Butto, Mauricio, Montes de Oca and Vientos – who haven’t contributed a bunch to the majors so far but who likely will get their shot over the next two years. And it’s not like Guillorme, Megill and Peterson have necessarily hit their future roles, either.
So, that’s at least nine guys who will be on pre-arb or early arbitration salaries who have a chance to contribute something worthwhile to the 2023-24 Mets. And there are certainly other guys who the Mets didn’t sign originally but who will contribute the next two years on cheap salaries. And those guys came along because the Mets traded homegrown players to get them.
New York traded Lucas Duda to get Drew Smith. It dealt Endy Rodriguez to get Joey Lucchesi. And Colin Holderman was swapped for Daniel Vogelbach. The trio of Smith, Lucchesi and Vogelbach aren’t counted with the strict definition of originally drafted/signed. Rather, the Mets dealt homegrown talent to get these three players who might contribute 5.0 fWAR this year for a projected $4.1 million in salary. That would be tremendous bang for the buck.
The whole purpose is to have low-cost players who can supplement the high-price guys on your roster. The easiest way is to have these low-priced players bubbling up from the farm system. But it’s not the only way. The Mets have nine guys from their system, at least three guys that they acquired using players they signed/drafted and a whole bunch of players they’ve picked up on waivers who can fit the bill.
Still, the most important thing is for the system to keep developing multi-year starters. And the team that’s cranked out Alonso, Conforto, deGrom, Jeurys Familia, Chris Flexen, Andres Gimenez, Matt Harvey, Juan Lagares, Lugo, Steven Matz, McNeil, Rafael Montero, Nimmo, Hansel Robles and Amed Rosario the last 10 years seems primed to keep the pipeline going with Alvarez, Baty and others. And that above list doesn’t include guys who spent multi years in the Mets’ farm system like Travis d’Arnaud, Syndergaard and Wheeler.
It’s my belief that people have outlandish expectations for what a farm system is supposed to produce. The Mets have done a solid or better job bringing guys who’ve been multi-year contributors and receive contracts once they finished their arbitration seasons. You may scoff at the likes of Flexen, Montero and Robles being on the list but those guys have been in the major leagues for a half a decade or more, with Flexen having a 14-win season, Robles with 43 saves and Montero just inking a 3/$34.5 million deal.
My hope is that the farm system continues to crank out the top-shelf talent it has for the last decade while increasing the number of guys who can fill the bottom half of the roster, so they don’t need to go out and acquire fourth outfielder types like Jake Marisnick and Kevin Pillar. The need for the system to produce those kinds of players is what made leaving Jake Mangum exposed to the Rule 5 Draft so confusing.
Ultimately, the farm system should be looking to create more Alonsos than Mangums, though.