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December 18, 2012
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
New York Mets Top 10 Prospects
State of the Farm: “I informed him on the third night, when fortune gives...Be alright, be alright. Right, right, right, right.”
The Top Ten
1. Zack Wheeler
What Happened in 2012: Wheeler continued on his path to the show without losing any of his prospect shine, showing major league-quality stuff at the highest levels of the minors.
Strengths: Excellent size/leverage; high-end arm strength; fastball works in plus-plus velocity range; very easy cheese; good late action to the arm-side; present curveball is plus offering and projects to be a true 7 pitch; heavy depth/tight rotation; slider plays above-average; can manipulate length; can feature very sharp slice; impressive secondary command; pitchability in addition to stuff.
Weaknesses: Delivery works despite some rough edges, but he doesn’t always finish; tendency to elevate and work up in the zone; fastball command isn’t sharp; changeup can get too firm and lose depth/action.
Overall Future Potential: 7; no. 1 starter
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; pitchability and stuff; already achieved success in the upper minors.
Fantasy Future: Has the raw stuff to dominate and the feel to execute a four-pitch mix at the highest level. He has legit top-of-the-rotation potential, which means he could win 20-plus games and strikeout 200-plus hitters.
The Year Ahead: Wheeler could use a few more starts at the Triple-A level to refine his fastball command and add more depth to his changeup. At some point during the season, Wheeler will arrive in New York and become one of the brightest stars in town, thanks to a fastball that can sit in the mid-90s and approach elite velocity, a curveball that has the bite to buckle the best hitters in the game, a slider that plays well off the fastball and forces weak contact and a changeup that should be able to keep lefties honest. Wheeler has a chance to become the most electric arm in Flushing since the Doc, which sounds like hype and hyperbole but could end up being the honest truth.
Major league ETA: 2013
2. Travis D'Arnaud
What Happened in 2012: A knee injury ended his season before he could climb to the majors, but the 23-year-old backstop is ready to take his turn on the biggest stage.
Strengths: Balanced skill-set; shows above-average bat speed; hands/hips work well; good contact ability; ability to drive to all fields; swing characteristics for power production; good lift and leverage to swing; profiles as above-average hitter for position; quality receiver; good catch and throw skills; arm strength is 6; good body for position; makeup for success on both sides of the ball.
Weaknesses: Setup can get noisy; aggressive approach; tendency to pull off balls on outer third; hit tool might only play at 5; game power might play under plus; can play fast behind the plate; lose accuracy on throws; rush footwork.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Explanation of Risk: Low risk; some injuries on resume; ready for primetime.
Fantasy Future: Could develop into top-shelf bat at position, with .275-plus batting average and 17-25 HR power potential.
The Year Ahead: If fully healthy, d’Arnaud is ready for the major league challenge, with a mature bat and a game-ready skill-set behind the plate. His biggest hurdle will be the adjustment against major league quality pitching, as his approach and setup both show signs of vulnerability. Some sources see d’Arnaud as future all-star, and the dearth of above-average hitters at the position could make that a reality if his tools find full utility.
Major league ETA: 2013
3. Noah Syndergaard
What Happened in 2012: The Texan returned to the Midwest League, where he made 19 starts, logged over 100 innings, and emerged as the top pitching prospect in a system loaded with pitching prospects.
Strengths: Monster size; high-end arm strength; fastball is thrown on steep plane; already works near plus-plus velocity range and can touch elite; shows heavy sink and occasional boring action; one source called his fastball “bottom-heavy and difficult to lift”; curveball flashes plus, with hard vertical action; changeup took steps forward in 2012, flashing plus with sinker movement and good arm speed; shows strike-throwing ability and feel for working low in the zone.
Weaknesses: Delivery has some effort; good arm speed, but can show some drag; can lose legs in the delivery and become too arm-heavy; curveball isn’t consistent and will lose depth; changeup can get too firm; tendency to push the pitch.
Overall Future Potential: 7; high-end no. 2 starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; some effort in the delivery; secondary offerings need grade jump for ceiling.
Fantasy Future: He could be a monster; has the potential for a near-elite fastball, two above-average secondary pitches and some pitchability. He could develop into a 15-plus game winner with high strikeout totals.
The Year Ahead: With his bowling ball fastball delivered on a steep plane, High-A hitters are going to struggle with the offering just like Low-A hitters did. As he continues to up the volume of secondary pitches in his mix, he could struggle, as both offerings are inconsistent. However, it’s unlikely that Syndergaard will face a big challenge until he reaches the Double-A level, where secondary utility and pitch sequence take on more significance.
Major league ETA: 2014
4. Michael Fulmer
What Happened in 2012: Fulmer made 21 starts in his full-season debut, showing two plus pitches and a good overall feel for execution.
Strengths: Big, sturdy frame; Plus-plus arm strength; fastball works 92-95; touches higher with effort; shows good movement to the arm side; attacks the zone without fear; slider flashes easy plus; hard breaking ball with sharp two-plane break; shows feel for repeating delivery and throwing strikes.
Weaknesses: Arm works well, but delivery shows some effort; tendency to overthrow; fastball command is still loose; slider can lose depth and saucer when he slips under it; changeup shows some action, but is often overthrown; overall approach is very high-effort; can lose feel.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; changeup needs grade jump; delivery could be cleaner; late-inning approach to starting.
Fantasy Future: Has the body and the stuff to log innings and miss bats; workhorse future if everything clicks.
The Year Ahead: Fulmer will be taking his talents to the Florida State League, where his high-octane arsenal will continue to find success. He needs to encourage more nuance, with a better changeup and more touch on the fastball, but all the ingredients are there for sustainable success. The arm strength is very legit, and the power behind the fastball and slider prove that. The overall delivery and approach need to find a starter’s rhythm, but he has plenty of time to iron out the rough edges. He’s a top 101 prospect in the game and could be on his way up if he performs to expectation.
Major league ETA: 2015
5. Wilmer Flores
What Happened in 2012: After a step back in 2011, Flores took two steps forward in 2012, reaching the Double-A level and showcasing his offensive upside.
Strengths: Excellent hand-eye coordination; good bat speed; good bat control; able to manipulate barrel in the zone; hit tool is a 5; a few sources had it rated slightly higher; raw power is plus; game power could play average or higher (17-plus HR); aggressive hitter that can punish mistakes.
Weaknesses: Not a graceful athlete; 3 run; limited range on left-side of infield; glove actions are good, but footwork is clumsy; arm is average; best defensive profile is 1B; fringe profile at 3B; bat lacks impact potential; good qualities but not great; fierce appetite to swing; approach needs more selectivity.
Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average regular
Explanation of Risk: High risk; despite Double-A on resume, lacks high-end tools at the plate or average left-side of the infield profile; big pressure on bat; approach needs refinement.
Fantasy Future: Has the raw pop to hit 17-25 home runs at the highest level; won’t be a stolen base threat; has the potential to hit ~.270 because of contact ability.
The Year Ahead: While Flores certainly has his supporters, those that doubt his upside are still vocal about his weaknesses, specifically, his limited defensive value coupled with average-at-best offensive projections. If Flores can build on his 2012 season, showing the ability to hit for average and game pop, he should be able to temper some of those concerns. But what could be a star profile at shortstop weakens as he slides down the spectrum, and if he ends up playing 1B at full maturity, the bat is unlikely to make him a first-division talent.
Major league ETA: 2014
6. Gavin Cecchini
What Happened in 2012: After getting popped with the 12th overall pick in the draft, Cecchini failed to impress at the plate in the Appalachian League.
Strengths: Excellent overall feel for the game; athletic and coordinated; clean actions at shortstop; good backhand pickup; good lateral range/first-step; works well around the bag on turn; arm plays as a 5; bat could be above-average; easy stroke; good bat speed; gap power potential; plus makeup.
Weaknesses: Lacks plus tools; profile at shortstop is only average; bat will have to carry more weight if moved from position; below-average power; not overly physical at the plate; struggled against off-speed offerings.
Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average regular/second division
Explanation of Risk: High risk; limited professional experience; big gap between present/future.
Fantasy Future: Could be jack of all trades, master of none; could hit for some batting average, some extra-base hits (doubles/triples), and swipe a few bases; a baseball player, but lacks loud tools or loud production potential.
The Year Ahead: Cecchini is likely to return to the short-season Penn-League, where his bat should show more signs of life. He has a fast trigger and good bat speed, and he can square up velocity, but he is unlikely to develop into a top-of-the-order type; rather, he is most likely a down-the-lineup middle infielder with excellent overall baseball skills and instincts that can do a little bit of everything.
Major league ETA: 2016
7. Domingo Tapia
What Happened in 2012: Tapia jumped to the full-season level and put his name on the map, making 19 starts and pumping his near-elite fastball for strikes.
Strengths: Excellent size/projection; long arm/leverage; power sinker explodes out of his hand; pitch works in the 94-97 range can touch elite velocity; pitch grade is high-7 because of impressive vertical weight and command; very difficult to lift (steep plane/heavy/velocity); despite long limbs, repeats well; shows some feel for a changeup; projects as above-average; good arm-side fade.
Weaknesses: Curveball is the third offering; below average and lacks plus projection; changeup can get too firm; heavily reliant on sinker; can be one-dimensional.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3/4 starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; below-average breaking ball at present; needs full grade jump.
Fantasy Future: Has a near-elite level pitch, that can set up rest of the arsenal and miss bats. Has the body/delivery to log innings and stick in a rotation; will pound the zone with a heavy sinker and force weak contact.
The Year Ahead: In the mold of Derek Lowe, Tapia wears his power sinker on his sleeve, and despite knowing what is coming, Low-A hitters struggled to drive the offering. Moving up a level, he will continue to find success on the back of the plus-plus pitch, but the development of his secondary arsenal could propel him up prospect lists. The changeup will already flash plus, and with more work, could settle in as a consistent plus pitch. The curveball is underdeveloped, but Tapia shows a good feel for pitching and sources think the offering has a chance to become average with more work. This kid is on his way up.
Major league ETA: 2015
8. Jeurys Familia
What Happened in 2012: The big righty made 28 starts at the Triple-A level before getting a cup of coffee in the major-league bullpen, missing bats while also missing the strike zone.
Strengths: Physical pitcher; lengthy; big arm strength; fastball routinely works in the 94-97 range and can touch higher; offering has some late life giving it explosive properties; slider flashes plus; works in the 83-85 range with quality tilt and some depth.
Weaknesses: Struggles with mechanical consistency; high-effort in delivery; arm drags and has to play catch-up; elevates up in the zone; overall command is well below-average; changeup is below-average; reliever profile.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; late-inning reliever (setup)
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; achieved major-league level; stuff plays, but delivery and command could limit ceiling.
Fantasy Future: Has a late-inning arsenal to miss bats; shaky command could lead to elevated WHIP and exploitation at the highest level.
The Year Ahead: Some still view Familia as a potential starter, but most sources peg the 23-year-old Dominican as a bullpen arm because of the poor command and underdeveloped changeup. In that role, Familia has the type of arsenal to find success, but he will need to refine his command if he wants that success to be sustainable. He could develop into a setup option if he can throw strikes with the fastball and use the slider as the out-pitch.
Major league ETA: 2012
9. Brandon Nimmo
What Happened in 2012: Nimmo showed off some patience and pop at the short-season level, but his hit tool underwhelmed and his defensive profile in center field was questioned.
Strengths: Looks the part; athletic with good present strength; above-average run; bat speed is present; can drive the baseball to all fields; juice in the bat; selective at the plate; covers ground in the outfield; arm is solid; glove is solid; plays with purpose.
Weaknesses: Lacks loud tools; swing can get hitchy; tendency to wrap his bat; struggles against off-speed offerings; down the order offensive profile; mixed reports on defensive projection; reads/routes aren’t crisp/often awkward; lacks high-end speed to recover from mistakes.
Overall Future Potential: 5; major-league regular
Explanation of Risk: High risk; wide gap between present/future; yet to play full-season ball.
Fantasy Future: Bat has the potential for some average (~.270) and the raw power could play in the ~20-plus home run range if everything clicks. Fringe profile in a corner, but good value in the middle of the diamond.
The Year Ahead: Nimmo will progress to the full-season level, where the deficiencies in his mechanical setup and his struggles against secondary offerings could lead to exploitation. He’s a very good athlete, so he should be able to make adjustments during the season, but Sally League pitching will put his bat to the test. He’s a long-term project with major-league upside, but he lacks the tools to be an impact talent if he moves to a corner spot.
Major league ETA: 2016
10. Rafael Montero
What Happened in 2012: Almost out of nowhere, Montero stepped forward into the prospect spotlight, reaching the High-A level despite only 71 innings of professional experience coming into the season.
Strengths: Tremendous feel for pitching; easy delivery; everything is easy out of the hand; fastball works plus, sitting 92-93 and getting 95 when needed; slider is above average and plays higher because of impressive command.
Weaknesses: Changeup is below average (present); lacks plus projection; slight frame; limited projection (physical); concerns about ability to handle starter’s workload.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3/4 starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; despite feel, changeup is below-average; some concerns about durability/ability to hold innings.
Fantasy Future: Could end up with a very solid three-pitch mix and hang in a rotation. Doesn’t look like 200-IP type, but has two plus offerings and can miss bats and force weak contact.
The Year Ahead: Montero will move up to the Double-A level, where an improved changeup could accelerate his trajectory to the major-league level, putting him in the queue for 2014. The pitchability is plus, and the changeup should develop into an average pitch, giving the 22-year-old a potent three-pitch mix. The biggest red flag is the slight frame and short burst potential of the fastball/slider, which could eventually push Montero to the bullpen, where a setup profile is possible.
Major league ETA: 2014
Prospects on the Rise
2.OF Vincente Lupo: Bat-first outfielder that projects to hit for both average and power. Already blessed with a shorter, stockier build, the 19-year-old Lupo looks destined for LF, where the promise of his bat will keep him in prospect discussions despite the defensive limitations.
3.OF Wuilmer Becerra: A seven-figure player signed by the Jays in the 2011 J2 market, 18-year-old Wuilmer Becerra has all the tools to climb prospect lists in 2013. His 2012 debut was cut short after getting hit in the face, but the Venezuelan outfielder has the type of size/speed/power potential that is rarely found in one package.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2013
2.RHP Cory Mazzoni: Either as a reliever, or as a back-end starter, Mazzoni is a likely candidate to reach the majors at some point in the 2013 season. He has a three-pitch mix and he can throw strikes out of a rotation, but what comes off as unspectacular in longer looks could offer more impact in short bursts.
3.RHP Jacob DeGrom: After losing the 2011 season to injury, DeGrom returned to the mound and pitched his way to the Florida State League, showing off a plus fastball and plus potential slider. While not an obvious candidate to reach the majors in 2013, DeGrom is on his way up the prospect lists and the organizational ladder, and if everything falls into place for the 24-year-old righty, he could find himself in New York by the end of the season.
Top 10 Talents 25 and Younger (born 4/1/1987 or later)
The Mets are headlined by two potential front-of-the-rotation arms and also considerably deepened their pool of young, impact talent with the recent trade of 2012 Cy Young Winner R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays. Right-handed starter Zack Wheeler took strong strides forward this past season, flashing an electric arsenal capable of missing advanced bats during his ascent into Triple-A in 2012. He’ll begin 2013 in Triple-A to continue his seasoning, with a late season call to the Show in the cards. Fellow high-ceiling righty Matt Harvey got his first crack at major-league competition to end 2012 and is on track to join the rotation full-time in 2013. Both Wheeler and Harvey give the Mets a potential young, cost-controlled one-two punch at the front of their rotation for seasons to come. The key pieces in the Dickey trade, Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, further increase the pipeline of potential big-league impact talent. D’Arnaud profiles as an above-average regular behind the dish, with the defensive chops and hitting talent to hold down the position for the foreseeable future. An All-Star game or two during his peak could be in the offing. Syndergaard is another high-ceiling starter and talented arm, who could enter the mix in the next two or three seasons as the projectable arsenal continues to develop and mature.
2011 draftee Michael Fulmer has the makings of a mid-rotation starter and adds depth to the already pitching-deep front of the system. The soon-to-be 20-year-old will take the next step up the ranks to High-A in 2013, with an eye on sharpening the repertoire against more-polished hitters. Both Ruben Tejada and Jenrry Mejia are major-league contributors without high upside, but offer potential stability to the shortstop position and back of the bullpen respectively. Wilmer Flores, Gavin Cecchini, and Jeurys Familia finish off the Mets’ list. Familia’s command may always be shaky, but can profile as a potential power arm out of the ‘pen with more delivery consistency, while Flores and Cecchini are infield prospects who could help down the line. The talent and certainty to produce in the majors drops off in the second half of the list, but the Mets have bolstered their crop of talent with the recent trade and have some young, talented players on the cusp of getting their chance to prove themselves in the NL East. –Chris Mellen
A Parting Thought: A shaky system received a much-needed talent infusion with the additions of d’Arnaud and Syndergaard, forming a powerful prospect triumvirate with Zack Wheeler that can stand shoulder to shoulder (to shoulder) with any team in the league.