Yesterday’s win on Sunday Night Baseball notwithstanding, it’s been a tough road for the Mets since the big selloff at and near the trade deadline. It’s made following the minor league system more interesting than following the MLB club. We should always keep an eye on how the farm system is doing. But with the trades emphasizing prospects – and plenty of them – it seems more important than ever to do so now.
Let’s focus today on the top three prospects received from trading the old pitchers. Before we go any further, let me state for the record that it’s my belief that these are not future impact players. On last night’s broadcast, ESPN analyst David Cone was gushing about how the Mets got the top prospects from an organization in the deal. That’s great. It would be even better if they got them from a strong farm system. Instead, it feels like the Mets received the tallest dwarf.
My opinion on these players goes against most of the mainstream. That’s okay – you can’t be afraid to be wrong. So, here’s how MLB.com ranks these three new Mets prospects in their midseason top 100 list:
FanGragphs’ The Board has 89 ranked and then a bunch listed – maybe? – in order after that
Prospects Live has the following:
HM Clifford – listed in a group of 101-150
Furthermore, Gilbert is listed in Baseball Prospectus’ alphabetical listing of the top 50 prospects, while Acuna was 58th on Keith Law’s top 60 list.
So, we have six different sites here and five of them ranked both Acuna and Gilbert. Acuna’s average mark from these five sources was 58.2 and we have to hypothesize with Gilbert. As the free BP listing doesn’t give a specific position. We’ll give him a 43 there, which is the top rating he has from the other four sources. So, Gilbert’s average is 55.4 with our BP guess. And we have to remember that their average is lower than that, as Acuna didn’t make BP’s list and Gilbert didn’t make Law’s list.
And my opinion is that Acuna and Gilbert aren’t as good as those combined averages.
To be clear, that opinion comes not from watching dozens of games nor pouring over hours of video. Instead, it comes mostly from the much-maligned scouting the stat line. Is that ideal? Absolutely not. Is it as bad as the experts make it out to be? No, that’s not the case, either. Regardless, my take also includes what FanGraphs and Law write on the prospects, along with incorporating age and the specific home park and league in which the players perform.
In the Mets’ system, Brooklyn is a good spot for pitchers. In the Astros’ system, Asheville is a good spot for hitters. Just like you can’t expect every pitcher who has a sub-3.00 ERA in Brooklyn to be a star, you can’t expect every hitter who has a .300 or better AVG in Asheville to be great, ether. You have to make adjustments to the stat lines you see based on the park and league. Mets’ hitters didn’t magically get better when they played in Las Vegas. Instead, they were playing in a hitter’s park in a hitter’s league.
With that out of the way, here’s how our three prospects have performed in their professional career:
What I see: Someone young for their level with great speed. But 10 HR in 619 PA in the hitter-friendly Texas League is not indicative of someone with great power. It’s fine for a speed guy but you have to do an awful lot of dreaming to think of him as a five-tool player. And those BABIPs are really elevated. We should expect a fast guy to run elevated marks. But the numbers crater when he doesn’t post a super-high BABIP.
What I see: A guy who raked at a good hitter’s park in Asheville at a year older than ideal for the level. Once he was promoted, his production fell off significantly. A lot will depend on his ability to remain in CF. Usually, my complaint is that the Mets are too passive with their assignments. But barring a massive turnaround the rest of the season, Gilbert really needs to be back in Double-A in 2024.
What I see: He was at the right age at the start of the season and then was promoted, making him young for his level. His AVG and OBP fell off after the promotion but his SLG took a massive leap forward in Asheville. He’s now in a pitcher’s park in Brooklyn and most of his numbers have been solid. But that K%!! My hope is the Mets get him to Double-A at the start of next year and let us look at his numbers in a more-neutral park. Scouts are worried about his defense being good enough to remain in the OF.
In the small sample sizes of the three players once they joined the Mets, no one is really knocking our socks off. But we should cut them some slack given the shock of leaving the organization that signed them. My hope is we see improvements the rest of the way, compared to what they posted the first dozen or so games as a Met.
Without a doubt, the farm system is better with these three players in it. My expectation is that all three will make it to the majors. But lots of players make it to the majors and the bar for these three needs to be higher than that. My crystal ball says that you’ll be able to count the combined MLB All-Star appearances of these three players on the fingers of one hand. And have fingers left over.
Nothing would make me happier than for that prediction to blow up in my face. My opinion is that the best way for that to happen is to get these players performing in the minors at the position they’ll be playing in the majors. Acuna isn’t going to be a shortstop with the Mets. Have him move to 2B or CF no later than Opening Day 2024. And Gilbert should be getting reps in outfield corners and Clifford at 1B, too.