The Mets’ 2023 season is something that many fans wish they could put in their rear-view mirrors. It was a painful season and the most expensive team in baseball history collapsed to a degree that could never have been anticipated. While everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong, the Mets used their owner’s deep wallet to try to salvage their future. What follows is a look at the 2026 Mets that we may see taking the field.

In this thought experiment/exercise I am imagining a world where the Mets aren’t trading away prospects or signing free agents and merely building the future team from the players already on the roster and those in the farm system.

The Lineup:

1. Brandon Nimmo, RF
2. Francisco Alvarez, C
3. Francisco Lindor, SS
4. Pete Alonso, 1B
5. Drew Gilbert, CF
6. Kevin Parada, DH
7. Brett Baty, 3B
8. Ronny Mauricio, LF
9. Luisangel Acuna, 2B

Catcher: Francisco Alvarez – There is little doubt amongst fans that Alvarez will be part of the team for a long time to come. His power and ability to hit in the clutch will make him a vital part of the Mets for some time to come. As modern day catchers do not play in the field on a daily basis, I have Alvarez being the primary catcher and secondary DH.

First Base: Pete Alonso – While I think that Pete would have been easier to retain if the Mets were in better standing, I think the primary mission of the GM this offseason will be extending Alonso on a long term contract. Alonso should be in the heart of the Mets lineup for a long long time.

Second Base: Luisangel Acuna – Acting as a secondary leadoff man or number nine hitter isn’t a glamorous role but with Lindor on the team it doesn’t seem possible for the Mets to have things shake out any other way. Acuna should be a plus defender at second base and could combine with Lindor to be an elite middle infield. Technically, Jeff McNeil could still be with the team but I would predict that the Mets move McNeil as part of their rebuilding process.

Third Base: Brett Baty – After having a great Spring Training and a triumphant debut, Baty has cooled off substantially. The hope is that Baty still rounds out to become a 30 home run player and a steady middle of the order contributor on the squad. It might mean that he is the #5 hitter instead of Gilbert but that is a matter of swapping lefties in the lineup.

Shortstop: Francisco Lindor – The long term contract makes it so there are a few constants in the Mets makeup and Lindor is one of them. His defense shows no signs of slowing down and despite not hitting to the levels fans would like, he’s still an excellent contributor to the offense.

Left Field: Ronny Mauricio – I originally pencilled in Ryan Clifford because it seems the Mets are inclined to never give Mauricio a chance but I’ve changed my mind and have Clifford instead in AAA or traded for pitching in this thought experiment. Mauricio has the potential to be a dynamic hitter, capable of batting in the heart of a lineup if the Mets can only figure out where he can play in the field.

Center Field: Drew Gilbert – The former top prospect of the Houston Astros is in AA and it is no stretch to think he can be in the starting lineup by 2026. The only surprise might be his fielding in center. In this case, I am choosing to suggest that Nimmo shifts to right field for the younger legs as Nimmo’s game shifts later in his career.

Right Field: Brandon Nimmo – The Mets signed Nimmo to a long term contract in the offseason and like McNeil, it’s possible that he is traded in 2024 or 2025 as part of a larger rebuilding process but it’s more likely that Nimmo is still with the team. I’ve shifted him to right field and while I list him as leading off, it’s possible that he’s ceded this role to younger players.

Designated Hitter: Kevin Parada – This is perhaps the least likely projection of all. Parada seems destined to be part of a trade package for starting pitching that the Mets will dearly need (more on that below) but that isn’t the way this little exercise works. Here we see the Mets using the DH and Catcher role as a split position to keep two talented bats in the lineup as often as possible. I like Parada but I do not see a world where he’s a better long term player than Alvarez.

The Bench:

Fourth Outfielder: Alex Ramirez – It’s possible that Ramirez bounces back to some of his earlier projections as Mauricio did but at the moment it’s hard to see Ramirez winning an outfield battle with any of the starting names above him.

Fifth Outfielder: Stanley Consuegra – If Consuegra builds at all on his good 2023 campaign he could project higher than a bench role but it is still the most likely landing spot for him.

Corner Infielder: Jose Peroza – I like Peroza and if Baty continues to struggle in the majors there is a world where Peroza gets his shot but it’s more likely that Mauricio shifts over to third than to see Peroza wind up as more than a bench player.

Middle Infielder: Jett Williams – I’m way lower on Williams than many people but with Acuna and Lindor above him I cannot see how Williams gets a starting role on my fictitious 2026 roster. If he plays better than I project then the Mets should probably use him for pitching help.

Utility Player: Nick Morabito – Look how much love I’m giving the player I still can’t believe we wasted a draft pick on! He’s on the roster at all, which shows at least a little optimism on my part.

The Rotation:

Blade Tidwell – Since finding his footing this season, Tidwell has rounded a corner and looks like a steal from the 2022 draft. In early mock drafts (before injury issues) he’d been drafted in the top round consistently so it’s not beyond hoping that he becomes a future Ace for the franchise.

Kodai Senga – Senga has been a solid starter and shown “Ace” potential at times but doesn’t seem to be a true Ace thanks to inconsistency. He still profiles to be the #2 starter in a rotation that doesn’t have many bright patches of hope within it. The Mets seem to be blind to their own pitching needs or convinced that they can solve these future problems through the difficult and volatile free agency process.

Coleman Crow – It seems crazy to have a #3 pitcher coming back on a trade for a player the Mets were just getting rid of. The reality is that nobody in this projected rotation after Tidwell are players that Met fans should be expecting to actually pitch to these levels. Crow has been a solid performer in the minors and is close enough to the majors to see a professional future.

Christian Scott – Like Williams, perhaps I’m not excited enough about Christian Scott but like many pitchers in the Mets farm I think he’s shining in comparison to the lack of actual star talent rather than looking like a future regular rotation member.

Tyler Stuart – I truly like Stuart, having watched him pitch live. I think he has a makeup that can make him a really solid #5 starter. He throws hard and has downward action but doesn’t get the typical power numbers of a top flight starter. In a perfect world Stuart ends up being the #6 starter for the Mets as a swingman and long reliever.

The Bullpen:

Closer: Edwin Diaz – The only safe bet based on the projected future of the bullpen. There is a world where the Mets move on from Diaz to get a big prospect in 2024 or 2025 but that isn’t the most likely scenario and the Mets seem locked in with him to be their closer through his full contract.

Setup: Bryce Montes de Oca – If not for a Spring Training injury, I think the Mets would have used Montes de Oca a ton in 2023. He looked like he had turned a corner and I’m choosing to look at his future as glass half full.

Setup: Matt Allan – The only other pitcher in the Met farm who has the upside of a Top Flight starter I’ve shifted into the bullpen. It is just as likely that after so many injuries that Matt Allan simply fades away.

Middle Relief 1: Daniel Juarez – I had put Juarez as a setup man but I think the lefty is simply a middle reliever long term. I do think Juarez can contribute in the bullpen of a winning team.

Middle Relief 2: Calvin Ziegler – Like Allan, Ziegler’s role with the Mets is affected by injuries and thanks to these injuries I’m shifting him to the bullpen. The hope is that doing this advances his timetable to reaching the majors after so much time missed.

Middle Relief 3: Nathan Lavender – A pitcher that should have been in the majors way sooner in 2023, Lavender is the second lefty in the bullpen and could be a solid middle reliever.

Long Relief: Mike Vasil – I don’t think Vasil or Dominic Hamel have roles on a winning Mets team and would have preferred to have Tyler Stuart in this role if there was a better starter to choose from.

The Top Prospects:

By 2026 the Mets will have had two more drafts and rounds of international player infusion but with the players already in the farm as of today there are some names that by 2023 I expect to be moving up through the ranks to contribute in the near future.

Anthony Baptist, OF: AA – The 17 year old has been the Mets top player in the DSL and has every chance of starting 2024 stateside. I’m aggressively suggesting that he advances through Low A in 2024 and Advanced A in 2025 to become the top overall Met prospect by 2026.

Collin Houck, SS: AA – Houck’s path to the majors is not as meteoric as Baptist as he is trapped in a long line of shortstops from Lindor to Acuna to Williams. He could probably reach AAA by 2026 but I’ve decided that the Mets have Marco Vargas at that level instead.

Ryan Clifford, OF: AAA – As I mentioned, I almost put Ryan Clifford into my major league lineup instead of Mauricio. Clifford’s development could make him over-ripe in AAA by 2026 but I couldn’t see putting him on the major league bench.

Brandon Sproat, RHP: AA – My money is that Sproat is a reliever long term and by 2026 he could be in the majors if the Mets were quick enough to see that writing on the wall. I’m betting that they don’t and that Sproat is still starting in AA with mixed results (great peripherals and a bad ERA).

Marco Vargas, 2B/SS: AAA – I don’t know that I see Marco Vargas becoming a superstar but he has major league potential and based on age and trajectory, AAA or the majors is within the realm of possibility for him.

Jacob Reimer, 1B/3B: AAA – Reimer has a lot of power and seems a competent hitter. I am concerned about him being moved off of third base as it seems to indicate defensive issues. Still enough power that by 2026 he could be valuable.

Ronald Hernandez, C: AA – Catchers advance slower than infielders, unless their names happen to be Francisco Alvarez. In this case, Hernandez is still progressing through the minors and still a relevant future MLB level player.

Jeremy Rodriguez, SS: A+ – A forgotten name from the trade deadline. Rodriguez is super young but could develop into a useful player. There is little certain about his Met or MLB future as of today.

9 comments on “Mets Minors: Luisangel Acuna, Drew Gilbert and the 2026 Mets

  • Brian Joura

    Lots of interesting stuff here, David, thanks!

    The main thing to me is what to do with Alonso. It’s easy to say keep him and give him the big multi-year deal. It might even be the right decision.

    But, what’s the payroll like with the Mets if they do? We know Lindor, Nimmo and Edwin Diaz have big deals already. Then add Alonso. Also, Senga has an opt out after the 2025 season if he pitches at least 300 IP in his first thee years in the U.S. – which seems very likely. That’s in the neighborhood of $135 million for five guys. That’s no issue whatsoever with no other free agents, like your squad has. Just something for those who think the Mets are going to invest heavily in free agency in this upcoming season have to think about.

    I’m not sold on Acuna but if he makes it, it’s going to be as an impact leadoff hitter. Parada seems high at #6, while my hope is that Baty and Mauricio bat higher than that.

    If Buck’s not the manager by then, does Lindor move down in the order?

    Oh, and Jeremy Rodriguez is the lottery ticket they got for Tommy Pham. Wouldn’t it be something if five years from now we look back on that deal and say – wow, we really got a steal here.

  • ChrisF

    This is awesome David. I really like these kinds of thought experiments because it forces us to see what we really do have and who might be where.

    Im fascinated with your confidence in Mauricio. There is so much vested interest in him, yet it really seems the shine is wearing off. It would be awesome to have home up here. As a side note on Mauricio, on top of the potential for (1) him being a bit miffed at being overlooked for promotion, and/or (2) being withheld to retain Rookie status for next year, I did read he has something like >1100 ABs without a real break. Maybe the guy is just whipped and needs some time off. Given Mauricio’s arm strength, I’d put him in RF and move Nimmo to LF in tour alignment.

    Im also very interested that McNeil has completely fallen off the roster in your plan. Hard for me to believe Jett will displace him for a bench spot on the 26 team (and he has a club option for 27), although it is imaginable given his performance this season. He’s gonna be at least as good as Morabito as a super U.

    • David Groveman

      There used to be a site that would keep a running roster of the team 2 or 3 years down the road inserting prospects and I miss it.

      • Brian Joura

        Baseball America has been doing this since at least the 1990s. They still do it but it’s behind their paywall.

        Edit: Not behind their paywall. This is from November, 2022:


        Catcher: Francisco Alvarez (24)
        First Base: Pete Alonso (31)
        Second Base: Jett Williams (22)
        Third Base: Mark Vientos (26)
        Shortstop: Francisco Lindor (32)
        Left Field: Brett Baty (26)
        Center Field: Alex Ramirez (23)
        Right Field: Ronny Mauricio (25)
        Designated Hitter: Kevin Parada (24)

        No. 1 Starter: Tylor Megill (30)
        No. 2 Starter: David Peterson (30)
        No. 3 Starter: Blade Tidwell (25)
        No. 4 Starter: Calvin Ziegler (23)
        No. 5 Starter: Matt Allan (25)
        Closer: Edwin Diaz (32)

  • Hobie

    2026 I’ll be 81.
    Can’t tell you how disappointing this year has been.

  • TexasGusCC

    David, I also want to pass along kudos on a well thought out vision of what can be if the Mets don’t sign another free agent. I few thoughts:
    -Parada’s value is as a catcher. Don’t think he hits enough to be a DH. DH can be Clifford’s spot or Alonso’s. In fact, I believe the first baseman is going to be Brett Baty.
    – I believe the manager, Edgardo Alfonzo, will be rotating Jeff McNeil everywhere like Kevin Mitchell used to be.
    – I’m glad to see Allen’s name on your roster. I don’t want the guy to be the next Brent Honeywell that just has so much promise but surgery after surgery after surgery have drained it.
    – Speaking of hoping, I’m hoping Junior Santos can put it together as a reliever.

    As for top prospects, Vargas, Williams, Houck, and Sproat head the list.

    • David Groveman

      Parada will be traded, we know that. However, the games rules prohibit me from guessing who we get for him in a trade. So I have to keep him.

      I love Fonzie and who knows who will be manager but after this year it’s hard for me to imagine the Mets retaining McNeil into 2026.

      Of course you see Allan’s name… we don’t have very much pitching for me to list anyone else.

      I’ve written Santos off.

  • Woodrow1

    That team isn’t competing for a playoff spot! A 75 win team?

    • David Groveman

      Hi Woodrow,

      Thanks for reading. Not sure you understood the purpose of this article. I was simply forecasting the team with no external moves into 2026. On top of no external moves with other teams it also means we are missing two Amateur Drafts and International Signee pools. So with no trades, no free agents and no new draftees this is where I see the team.

      Hope this helps and thanks for reading.

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