Numbered prospect lists aren’t really my thing anymore, as the past two years my preseason top 50 has been in tiers. But with all of the activity that has gone on with the club trading MLB players for prospects, and my belief about those prospects, it seemed like a good time to journey to the past and put out a numbered list. Apologies to David Groveman, who might be doing one of these in the near future. If nothing else, you’ll have two lists to compare and contrast. In David Letterman style, here’s the Top 10:
10. Tyler Stuart – There are a lot of guys who could go in this slot. Originally, my thought was Christian Scott, who is having a really nice year and holding his own in nine starts in Double-A. Instead, the choice here is Stuart, who is a year younger than Scott and has also advanced to Binghamton, albeit with only four starts under his belt. But in those four outings, Stuart has 25 IP with a 2.16 ERA.
The knock on Stuart coming into the season was that despite his size – 6’9 – he didn’t really have a put-away pitch. Well, he had a 10.0 K/9 at Hi-A Brooklyn before the promotion, so he’s doing all right in that department. The numbers haven’t been nearly as good at Double-A (5.4) but he’s still succeeding anyway. We’ll have to see how he does the rest of the year at Binghamton but it looks like Stuart has put himself into consideration for a depth starter role for the Mets in 2024.
9. Ryan Clifford – He may not be an outfielder by the time he gets to the majors and even if he is one, he’s not going to be a plus defensively out there. But, if you can hit enough, teams will live with whatever defense you can give. Clifford looks like he’s got the bat to do just that, as he began 2023 in Lo-A and posted a .944 OPS in 121 PA, which was enough for the Astros to promote him to Hi-A.
At the more-advanced level, Clifford displayed very little drop off, as he had a .903 OPS in over twice the playing time. But, it needs to be said, that Asheville is a pretty good spot for hitters. How much of the production is the player’s bat, compared to the player’s park? Baseball-Reference gives home and away splits for minor league players but combines all stops. For the season, Clifford has played in three different home parks. He has a 1.020 OPS in his home parks, compared to a .758 OPS in the various road parks he’s played.
8. Colin Houck – The Mets’ first pick in the 2023 Draft, Houck was considered a mid-first-round talent who fell to the Mets at pick 32. A two-sport star in high school, Houck gave up football to pursue a baseball career. A prep shortstop, few think he’ll play that position if he reaches the majors. Best guesses now are that he winds up at third base. The bat is supposed to be his calling card and we’ll see if he can be a power-hitting infielder.
7. Drew Gilbert – The other prospect acquired from the Astros along with Clifford, Gilbert also experienced a mid-year promotion. Unlike Clifford, Gilbert began the year at Hi-A Asheville and was bumped up to Double-A. In 95 PA for Asheville, Gilbert posted a 1.107 OPS. In 264 PA in the hitter-friendly Texas League, Gilbert had a .713 OPS. For the season, he has a .932 home OPS and a .696 road mark.
Gilbert currently is a center fielder, although there’s mixed feelings if he’ll be able to play there much in the majors. But even if he has to go to a corner, there’s enough here still to like. It’s interesting to see how the Astros were aggressive with their in-season promotions, especially compared to the Mets, who are just now promoting their top prospects to new levels.
6. Alex Ramirez – Last year, Ramirez got bumped up from Lo-A to Hi-A and more than held his own in a pitcher-friendly park in Brooklyn. The Mets sent him back to Hi-A to start 2023, a defensible move but one you can see being a tad frustrating for Ramirez. He started off the year strong and after 200 PA had nearly identical results to what he did in his first go-round in Brooklyn. But the Mets did not promote him.
In his next 158 PA, Ramirez hit a major speed bump, posting just a .555 OPS. Glass-half-empty outlook says this proves he wasn’t ready for a promotion. Last 13 games, he’s back on an up note, with a .793 OPS in 57 PA. The team OPS for Brooklyn is .659 – it’s a tough park. The tools are there and he likely has a better chance to stick in CF than Gilbert. And while Gilbert is now at the higher level due to the aggressive promotions of his former club, Ramirez is two years younger.
5. Luisangel Acuna – In his age-21 season, Acuna began the year in Double-A, which is a very nice thing. He also has great speed and will be a major headache for teams once he’s on base. Yet everything else is at least a little subjective. It seems to me that everyone goes crazy about him because of his older brother. And not that we should ignore bloodlines completely. But if his name was Luisangel Sanchez, people wouldn’t be as high on him as they are currently.
Acuna had a .381 BABIP before the trade. And while minor league BABIPs are not directly comparable to MLB ones, a .381 is still an elevated number. His .138 ISO in the hitter-friendly Texas League is not a great mark. Sure, it’s fine for a speed guy. But if you’re hoping for a five-tool talent, it’s more than a little short. Ultimately, we come back to age. Acuna has more than held his own at Double-A at age 21. That’s a good thing.
4. Kevin Parada – Many rank Parada as the Mets’ top prospect. It’s not a bad placement but he doesn’t reach that level for me just quite yet. The profile is very good for a starting catcher. But is Parada a starting catcher, at least one for 130 or so games a season? Maybe it’s not fair to ding him in this department. But if his ultimate role is some hybrid C/1B/DH then it’s my opinion he needs to produce more offensively than if he was just a catcher.
One thing that we need to keep in mind is that catchers rarely develop in linear fashion. They typically have stops and starts and it’s not unusual to even see a step backwards offensively. Parada has done just fine offensively in his first full season in the minors. The people who told us that Francisco Alvarez wasn’t ready to play defensively in the majors say that Parada’s defense is behind his offense. We shall see. Parada is currently on the IL with a high ankle sprain, one suffered while running the bases.
3. Jett Williams – it’s going to be a real interesting battle to see who wins out between Acuna and Williams for the club’s second baseman of the future. Acuna has a leg up, already being at Double-A for a full year, while Williams just got bumped up to Hi-A. But it’s my belief that Williams has a broader range of tools. And while Acuna is young for his level, Williams is even younger. He’s now at Hi-A at age 19. While the Mets will likely start him back at this level in 2024 – like Ramirez – another in-season promotion puts him at Double-A at age 20.
Meanwhile, Williams didn’t hit for a great AVG at Lo-A but did everything else well. The Florida State League is more of a pitcher’s loop than the Texas League and Williams put up a .161 ISO. He also had a .422 OBP. And while Acuna has great speed, Williams is no slouch in that department, with 32 SB at St. Lucie and four more in eight games with Brooklyn. I was not a big fan of the Williams pick when drafted by the Mets in 2022. But it’s hard to be anything but impressed by what he’s done in pro ball.
2. Blade Tidwell – The Mets got a first-round talent in the second round of the 2022 Draft, as Tidwell fell due to a shoulder injury. Yet he was rotten in his first five games at Hi-A to begin 2023, as he recorded an 8.35 ERA in 18.1 IP. But in his next 12 starts, Tidwell was 8-0 with a 1.56 ERA and he limited opposing batters to a .558 OPS. That’s, um, dominating. Even the Mets agreed, as they promoted him to Double-A.
Tidwell got knocked around in his first start at the higher level. But if he can bounce back from his first five starts of 2023, he can recover from anything. And he made his second start for Binghamton Wednesday night, going 7.2 IP and allowing 2 ER with 0 BB and 7 Ks. The big question right now is if the Mets will cut his season short due to innings. Tidwell threw just 39 innings in college and 9.1 more last year in pro ball. This year he already has 93.1 IP. Even if they do, we’ve seen enough to be excited by his potential.
1. Ronny Mauricio – Things have been rocky after a great start. But, much like with Ramirez, you have to wonder if not being promoted has had an effect on Mauricio. Ramirez didn’t have to watch a bunch of guys on his team get promoted early, either. Mauricio had to witness three of his teammates get the call to the majors while he had to cool his heels in Syracuse. It’s not a leap to see that having an impact on him.
If Acuna playing all year at age 21 in Double-A is a good thing, we have to say the same thing about Mauricio at 22 in Triple-A. And Mauricio comes with a .196 ISO. We all wish he was moved to the outfield earlier. But he’s there now – also seeing time at 2B and 3B – and hopefully we see him in Citi Field before too much longer. When he was first signed, I made the comparison to Alfonso Soriano. Five-plus years later, that still holds.
Soriano played just 31 games in the majors before age 25 yet went on to post six seasons with at least a 3.2 fWAR, including four with at least a 5.0 mark. Mauricio will likely be at least a year ahead of that pace and possibly two years. He may not have the defensive peak of Soriano but that peak was very short lived – just two years – and for the great majority of his career Soriano was a below-average defensive presence. But he hit 412 HR and had 289 SB. May Mauricio approach those numbers in his MLB career.