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
ARI 39 43.60% 10.30% 30.80% 12.80% 2.60% 15 19 13
ATL 38 42.10% 28.90% 23.70% 2.60% 0.00% 17 1 21
BAL 38 42.10% 7.90% 21.10% 23.70% 5.30% 17 24 27
BOS 40 32.50% 17.50% 40.00% 5.00% 5.00% 22 8 8
CHC 37 48.60% 16.20% 32.40% 2.70% 0.00% 12 9 13
CHW 35 57.10% 11.40% 25.70% 5.70% 0.00% 8 19 21
CIN 38 50.00% 10.50% 31.60% 7.90% 0.00% 9 19 13
CLE 39 66.70% 2.60% 28.20% 0.00% 2.60% 2 29 18
COL 39 59.00% 15.40% 17.90% 7.70% 0.00% 4 9 29
DET 38 57.90% 10.50% 23.70% 2.60% 5.30% 6 19 21
HOU 35 68.60% 5.70% 22.90% 0.00% 2.90% 3 27 27
KCR 40 67.50% 10.00% 22.50% 0.00% 0.00% 1 19 21
LAA 39 46.20% 23.10% 23.10% 5.10% 2.60% 12 5 21
LAD 36 61.10% 13.90% 16.70% 8.30% 0.00% 6 14 30
MIA 39 33.30% 15.40% 46.20% 2.60% 2.60% 22 9 5
MIL 38 34.20% 21.10% 42.10% 2.60% 0.00% 22 6 8
MIN 39 59.00% 2.60% 33.30% 5.10% 0.00% 4 29 11
NYM 33 36.40% 18.20% 33.30% 12.10% 0.00% 27 9 18
NYY 39 33.30% 15.40% 43.60% 5.10% 2.60% 22 9 6
OAK 37 21.60% 8.10% 51.40% 16.20% 2.70% 30 24 4
PHI 37 48.70% 12.80% 30.80% 7.70% 0.00% 9 14 13
PIT 41 34.10% 4.90% 48.80% 12.20% 0.00% 20 27 2
SDP 33 27.30% 30.30% 42.40% 0.00% 0.00% 29 3 10
SEA 37 27.00% 13.50% 54.10% 5.40% 0.00% 28 14 2
SFG 37 40.50% 29.70% 27.00% 2.70% 0.00% 19 1 20
STL 37 51.40% 13.50% 32.40% 2.70% 0.00% 9 14 13
TBR 40 32.50% 7.50% 57.50% 0.00% 2.50% 22 24 1
TEX 39 43.60% 12.80% 43.60% 0.00% 0.00% 15 14 6
TOR 39 46.20% 20.50% 33.30% 0.00% 0.00% 12 6 11
WSN 38 36.80% 26.30% 23.70% 13.20% 0.00% 20 3 21

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.

Of course, things will look a lot better if they re-sign Jacob deGrom, Brandon Nimmo and Seth Lugo. Shoot, we can even put Michael Conforto on the list, too

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.

8 comments on “A look at homegrown and cheap players for the Mets

  • Mike W

    You always have an interesting way of looking at things. This was eye opening. I just wish we had some stud pitchers waiting in the wings.

  • ChrisF

    Very thoughtful piece Brian. I agree that to me I don’t care where the player originates, if they get 2+ years in the system, then they count in my eyes. Certainly any player rising from Lucie to the Bigs was part of the farm.

    One thing that seems to be an issue for the Mets is timing and failure to prepare players for a realistic future in Queens. So we have 4 shortstops all roughly in the same window knowing that only 1 is gonna make it. Meanwhile the team cannot find a 3B to develop (excluding Baty for the moment), or a catcher (until Alvarez). So when the need arises in Queens, we’ve seen a rash of square peg-round hole moves that simply leave people in utter aghast: Duda playing RF, Dom playing LF, McNeil playing RF or 3B instead of 2B, Flores playing anywhere left of 2B etc etc. So the questions comes, why is the farm unable to bring a youngin’ up at nearly any position? Or reasked, why on earth did we need Gimenez, Guillorme, Rosario, and Mauricio all to play SS? And now here we are with Alvarez and Parada for C. On the flip side, why on earth can we not seem to develop an outfielder?

    The strength of the system is not only to have people that make it, but also to have holes fillable by productive youth. I have zero issues trading blue chippers for the purposes of shoring up holes in the system, esp at the MLB level. I get it, you draft the best available and hope for the best, but its essential – in my eyes – to cultivate the farm with players around the diamond.

    • Brian Joura

      Thanks Chris.

      I understand the frustration with constantly playing people out of position and the square peg/round hole issue you’ve consistently rallied against. In my opinion, some of that is just the nature of the beast and the cost of doing business. And some of that has been the team not being aggressive enough to trade surplus to fill holes elsewhere. You can say the team is moving in the right direction – trading two SS to get a (hopefully) better one in the Lindor deal.

      But maybe they missed the boat in not dealing one of the 3B at the trade deadline last year.

      You asked about why the farm is unable to bring someone up at nearly any position. I think a question that’s at least as good is: Why has the org been so afraid to give consistent playing time to youngsters? I know I was incredulous how the Braves were able to get impact production from three rookies last year. But the key is they gave them the playing time to succeed, something the Mets seemingly bend over backwards not to deliver for their prospects.

      My take is that Alvarez is ready for consistent playing time right now and the Mets have the chance to break him in as a catcher while also using him as a righty DH. Should be easy to have a plan at the start of the year for him to get 200 PA in the majors, with the ability to expand that role should he produce. But my expectation is that they’ll start him in the minors and bring him up only if there’s an injury and then look for reasons to minimize his playing time and send him back to Triple-A if at all possible. It’s an anti-youngster mentality that’s existed in the org for the entire time of this blog. It’s the type of thinking that leads to preferring giving shots to old guys who were good on another team three years ago but who now stink, rather than giving a young guy a shot.

      As for not developing outfielders, the Mets have done just about average in this regard in the Mets360 era. They don’t have the high end production of a Trout or Betts but they have more than an average number and their players are middle of the pack, rather than all hanging out in the bottom, in terms of bWAR.

      • ChrisF

        What do you do with Ronny Mauricio?

        He is not going to play SS in Queens. So here you have a guy who looks like a legit big leaguer, now dominating DWL. He’s interestingly played 3B the last few games. Do he and Baty go to Syr and battle it out for 3B? Is one or the other trade bait?

        Then, what to do with the emerging 3B log jam with Vientos – should he just go to 1B permanently and be Pete’s understudy wingman as a bench player?

        What bothers me is that the Mets seem to be doing a lousy job at seeing reality and getting players to learn new positions in Bingo and Syr when no one is watching or cares. Maybe Mauricio should be converted to RF now and give him a year to figure it out. Or now that he has dominated DWL, time to get him traded.

        I am opposed to waiting until promotion to Queens to envision the coming blocked position only to find out someone needs to learn a new position in the bigs. That to me is unacceptable. No one is moving Londor off SS for years, so give RM and MV new positions to learn this year where the team needs help and let Baty try to figure out of he can play 3B at AAA. Or trade 2 of the 3 for people that can fill these positions.

        • Brian Joura

          I mostly agree with this.

          There was every reason to keep Mauricio at SS up until now. If he could have been a key piece in a big trade, his value would be highest at SS. But now when he’s going to be playing in Triple-A, he needs to get reps at the position where he’s likely to play for the Mets. And to me that’s as an outfielder. It would be wonderful if he could replace Canha as the team’s starting LF in 2024.

          It’s tougher with Vientos. We keep hearing how bad his defense is but we heard the same thing about Conforto and Alonso, too, and they’re both playable defensively. What is Vientos’ work ethic? We know Alonso got better because he willed himself to be a better defensive player. Can Vientos do that? It’s impossible to predict what to do with him without knowing the answer to that question.

          My hope is that Vientos goes north with the club out of Spring Training. His exact role can be a work in progress. He could make 1-2 starts per month at 1B and 3B and DH

  • T.J.

    Nice insight, Mr. Joura. I do agree in general that the Mets’ farm system is somewhat underappreciated, especially by Met fans. I believe being in the same division as the Braves impacts the perception. There are a lot of dimensions to the sustained success of a farm system. The Mets have delivered a fair share of major leaguers, whether or not they resign their home grown free agents. It isn’t just quantity of major leaguers delivered, it is quality as well. In 2022, they had 4 guys that I consider multi-year all-star types – deGrom, Alonso, McNeil, and Nimmo. That is really good. It is early yet, but Megill and Peterson can still be controllable multi-year starters. That would be tremendous.

    As Chris pointed out, they do have a glut of positional players, and they do lack upper level pitching depth, but I suspect this happens to most other organizations as well, even those with strong reputations. I don’t see that glut as a big problem…if there are really guys that will be quality major leaguers, the extras can be used to obtain players in positions of need.

    Ultimately, the organization needs to make the correct choices…who to keep and who to deal. This are extremely difficult choices, and at times coin flips even with mountains of data, as the human factor is tough to measure. What becomes of Mauricio, Vientos, and Baty, in terms of Met performance and/or return on trades, will have a huge impact on the team success over the next 5 years.

    • Brian Joura

      I would certainly include Alvarez and Parada in your last graph. My hope is that they don’t trade Alvarez but what happens if the Angels shop Ohtani? And what if they go all-in on Alvarez – what do you do with Parada?

  • NYM6986

    When you read this piece you start to get a better feeling about how our farm system has functioned. However, what we have always faced is a shortage of good players on the big team and then desperately wanting someone we call up to be well above average and make an impact. That puts so much pressure on the kids but as I recall Conforto came up and made a big difference in 2015. Alonso crashed 53 Hrs as a rookie. As far as free agents we have always tried to improve on the cheap hoping to catch lightening in a bottle instead of under Cohen when we made strong moves with Max, Marte and Bassitt and of course Lindor. And I’ve no issue with landing Lindor but would better management have seen that the pair of shortstops we moved in the process could have filled SS and 2B for the next decade and we could have overpaid for another roster spot?
    Thankfully with deep pockets we can now purchase free agents and with stronger drafting develop the farm system. Kudos for keeping our top propects and not trading them for mid year rentals. If Alvarez, Baty and Vientos can make a difference this year, we buy a great deal of time to build up the farm. In 1984-86 we had a strong core and brought in Hernandez and Carter to put us over the top. How will be move forward from 101 wins to a bigger force in the playoffs? Will Petersen and Megill step up or continue to be 4th and 5th starters? Can we depend on the kids to DH when not playing in the field so we are not stuck with one dimensional players like Ruff and Vogelbach? Can Alvarez snag the starting C job in spring training and crash 30 HRs hitting behind Alonso? Can Vientos or Baty get some time at 3B so we can get their bats in the lineup without holding our breath when a ball is hit their way? And what about finding a place for Mauricio and his improving bat. So wait, plenty of help could be coming from the farm. Plenty to be excited about.

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