The State of the System: The Mets graduated Steven Matz, but replaced him with a southpaw with similar upside, Amed Rosario took a step forward into elite prospect-dom, Robert Gsellman had a breakout 2016, and everybody else got a little bit closer to the majors. Better talent past the ten names on this list means the system is improved overall, but only middle-of-the-pack.
The Top Ten
- SS Amed Rosario
- RHP Robert Gsellman
- LHP Thomas Szapucki
- 1B Dominic Smith
- CF Desmond Lindsay
- RHP Justin Dunn
- SS Andres Gimenez
- OF Brandon Nimmo
- SS Gavin Cecchini
- RF Wuilmer Becerra
The Big Question: Do we have to change the way we evaluate Mets pitching prospects?
Write what thou see is the whole of the law.
It’s a hot, muggy evening in New Britain, Connecticut. It’s only May, and this is unseasonably warm. The Lite-Brite temperature display above the outfield wall reads “98” at game time. The starter for the road team is interesting enough, a live arm with a chance to pitch in the majors. You missed him by a day in A-ball last year, skipping out on a getaway day game. He posted double-digit strikeouts of course.
He struggles in this outing. It happens. He’s from Florida. He should be used to this weather, no? But some days you just don’t have it. And he is laboring in the heat. The fastball tops out at 94, although you have heard he touches higher. In between the command hiccups, he can change eye levels with it, and the two-seamer has some nice movement. The slider flashes average, but he struggles with consistency, ditto for the change. He’s better than your average Double-A starter, but nothing special. Even taking a glass-half-full view on both secondaries, it’s hard to see a major-league starter here, although he could be a good fastball/slider righty in the pen if the stuff plays up a bit in short bursts. This all jibes with the general scouting consensus on the pitcher.
Congratulations, you just wrote up Jacob deGrom as a setup man.
So that was a bit of a miss. But if you came to me next March, resume in hand, looking for a gig on the Baseball Prospectus prospect team and were to remark: “you know, I had deGrom as a top of the rotation starter that year, here’s my report,” I wouldn’t hire you. I’d wonder if you actually knew what you were looking at. All prospect writing requires a bit of magical thinking, but I will point you again to the line that opens this essay.
My colleague Jarrett Seidler made this point on our podcast recently, but you could hang your hat on projecting deGrom as a 3, while the rest of us had him as a backend starter or late-inning reliever. But if you could bottle all the pitch and command jumps needed to get him from that guy on the mound in the Eastern League to the top-ten pitcher in baseball he is now, you could turn a whole lot of “Double-A starters with a major-league arm” into “major-league aces.”
The deGrom prospect profile is not an uncommon one. I won’t go as far to suggest that every team has a Jacob deGrom, but you can usually find an upper-minors arm, hanging out on the periphery of a top ten list in an average system: A guy with a major-league fastball, college guy with some polish usually, maybe a bit old for the league, secondary stuff that flashes, enough there to get Double-A hitters out, but not to wow you. A future 45 as a starter, maybe the fastball/breaking ball combo plays up in the pen, maybe he’s even that third starter if a couple things jumps.
But they don’t usually all jump. Now somebody has to be the 99th percentile outcome in that cohort, and deGrom happened to be that 1 in 100 longshot. It happens.
And it sure seems to be happening to the Mets a lot lately.
And it happens fast. Jarrett has written about this at length if you want the numbers, but prospect after prospect, from the elite guys, to the back-end top-100 types, to the Jacob deGroms and Robert Gsellmans, and even the useful org guys, have showed up in the major leagues, if not immediately, than very shortly after debuting, with a velocity spike on their fastball, tightened command, and a plus-or-better slider. It’s not a perfect system. Zack Wheeler never quite put it all together before his Tommy John surgery. Rafael Montero went backwards, if anything. Jon Niese was always, unfathomably, Jon Niese.
But there’s a pattern here. Should we be keeping it in mind, even if it flies in the face of my lead? After all, these pitchers might get traded before they fully actualize these gains (although Michael Fulmer seems to fit in nicely with the proper Mets prospects, and Collin McHugh popped back onto radars due to a velocity/slider jump in Houston). But this is all supposed to take place in a vacuum. You write Mookie Betts up as a second baseman, because that is where he plays, even if he isn’t unseating Dustin Pedroia.
I think there is a way to hedge though.
Robert Gsellman is very high on this list. I don’t suspect it is spoiling anything to suggest he will be pretty high on our 101. Coming into 2016, he was very much in the range of prospect deGrom. Maybe a bit better chance to stick as a starter, but there wasn’t much more upside in a rotation role. But the slider was present in April, even in the cold drizzle in New Hampshire. The velocity ticked up from 2015, now more 91-93 than 89-92. By the time he showed up in the majors, he was sitting 94 and the slider that flashed plus was now plus. He did that for 45 innings, against major-league bats. It happened. We have a better idea of what is possible.
I gave Steven Matz what should have been considered a very aggressive slider grade on the 2016 Mets list. Now the 60 seems perfectly reasonable, but at the time he had thrown exactly eleven sliders in the majors, according to Brooks Baseball. Okay, I watched a lot of Mets baseball then, so I probably saw all eleven. And even by that point, it was a thing you watched for—when was the new Mets pitcher going to start throwing the Warthen slider? But it at least gave you something to hang your hat on. Gsellman didn’t even have a slider at that point, so what could you do?
Thomas Szapucki could develop a plus slider in 2020, the arm slot should work. He could be the best of the whole lot. He might just be Jon Niese. Justin Dunn is the kind of raw, hard-throwing arm the Mets player development staff has done well with. He could also be the next Zack Wheeler. It’s hard to spot trends. Staffs change quickly, and the sample size of guys in a system that even have a 1 in 100 shot to turn into Jacob deGrom is not significant enough to change the rules.
But if you see it, you can write it.
Here’s what we saw:
1. Amed Rosario, SS
Height/Weight: 6’2” 170 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed July 2nd, 2012 out of the Dominican Republic by the New York Mets for $1.75 million.
Previous Ranking(s): 2016: #2 (Org), #96 (Top 101)
2016 Stats: .341/.392/.481, 2 HR, 6 SB at Double-A Binghamton, .309/.359/.442, 3 HR, 13 SB in 66 games at High-A St. Lucie
The Good: Rosario features a plus arm and a potential plus glove at shortstop. He’s turned himself into a 70 runner apparently (I never got anything faster than 4.25 before this season). He smashed two levels this year with the bat despite being one of the youngest players at both stops. He’s gone from a glove-first prospect to one with potential plus hit and defensive tools. In the batter’s box, quick wrists and plus bat speed allow you to dream on average over-the-fence power someday. Hmm, that’s all five tools by my count.
The Bad: If you wanted to pooh pooh his Florida State League performance, he was repeating the league. That doesn't really work with his Eastern League numbers though, where he posted an .873 OPS. The hand path in his swing is unusual, and major-league arms may be able to find holes. The power projection is almost all projection right now.
The Irrelevant: Rosario was very active on Twitter this season, tagging many of his tweets with the catchphrase “DontBeSurprisedBeReady, or #DBSBR when one needs to save characters.
OFP 70—All-Star shortstop
Likely 60—Above-average regular
The Risks: Relatively low considering his age. The defensive tools give him a decent floor, and he hit in Double-A, which makes you more confident in the offensive ones. The ultimate offensive ceiling will decide whether Rosario makes a few all-star games, or just hangs around as a solid regular at the 6.
Major league ETA: Post-Super-2, 2017
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Yes, please. Rosario is an excellent fantasy prospect thanks to his proximity to the majors, his speed, and a hit tool you can truly believe in. He’s not necessarily the type of player who will come up and make an immediate fantasy impact, but within a season or two he’s capable of producing similarly to 2016 Jose Ramirez, hitting .300 plus with 10-plus homers, 20-plus steals and a whole lotta runs while retaining that sweet, sweet SS eligibility. He’s a half-step behind Dansby Swanson and J.P. Crawford because I think they’ll produce sooner, but Rosario is right on their heels as a dynasty asset.
2. Robert Gsellman, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’4” 215 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 13th round in the 2011 MLB Draft, Westchester HS, (Los Angeles, CA)
Previous Ranking(s): 2016: #9 (org)
2016 Stats: 2.42 ERA, 4.13 DRA, 44.7 IP, 42 H, 42 K, 15 BB at major league level, 2.71 ERA, 5.73 ERA, 4.31 DRA, 48.7 IP, 56 H, 40 K, 16 BB at Triple-A Las Vegas, 3.27 DRA, 66.3 IP, 57 H, 48 K, 15 BB at Double-A Binghamton
The Good: Stop us if you have heard this one before: A Mets pitching prospect showed up with a significant uptick in velocity and a heretofore unseen plus slider. Gsellman was flashing these new party pieces in the Spring, but in the majors the sinker velocity averaged higher than he was touching in my April look, and the late bite makes it a borderline plus-plus pitch. His Warthen slider has quickly developed into a swing-and-miss weapon. The addition of the slider has tightened up his curve as well, although it is his clear third offering. He is a big, athletic kid with an easy delivery.
The Bad: Gsellman is still figuring out how to harness the additional fastball velocity, and he occasionally has trouble commanding his sinker’s late bite at 95. The slider still needs a bit more consistency. The changeup is below-average, and he prefers to attack lefties with the two breaking balls. It hasn’t been an issue so far, but a better change might help him second and third times through the order. He did struggle a bit deeper in starts when he wasn’t facing the Phillies.
The Irrelevant: It’s pronounced “GUH-zell-man”
OFP 70—The poor man’s Jacob deGrom
Likely 60—Maybe there is such a thing as a mid-rotation starter
The Risks: Gsellman is this high because he has already done it in the majors, admittedly in a sample small enough that he still qualifies for the list at all. He’s always looked the part of a major-league arm, but pop-up velocity guys don’t always keep their gains, and he’d be a less exciting pitcher sitting 91-93, if still a good one. Like seemingly every other Mets starter, he’s had offseason surgery, although this is for a labrum tear in his non-throwing arm. Also, he’s a pitcher.
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2016
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Pop-up pitching prospects are my dynasty kryptonite. I’m terrible at ranking them, though I think everyone is. If Gsellman is truly the pitcher we saw last season, he’s a top-20 dynasty prospect well on his way to becoming an SP 2/3. I believe in the Warthen slider, but I’m a bit more skeptical of the fastball gains, and so Gsellman is more likely to be a top-40ish prospect in my book. One thing I’m sure of; you’re only getting Gsellman if you go all-in on him, and he’s got the type of upside and proximity to the Majors that makes him a worthy gamble. Hope you hit on a stud who can flirt with a 3.00 ERA and 200 strikeouts, but still be happy if you get something closer to a Kevin Gausman-type SP 5.
3. Thomas Szapucki, LHP
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 205 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 draft, William T Dwyer High School (West Palm Beach, FL), signed for $375,000.
Previous Ranking(s): NR
2016 Stats: 1.27 DRA, 23 IP, 10 H, 39 K, 11 BB at short-season Brooklyn, 0.62 ERA, 1.07 DRA, 29 IP, 16 H, 47 K, 9 BB at rookie ball in Kingsport, 2.35 ERA
The Good: He touches 97 from the left side, and it is a lively pitch he can run and cut. The boring version is particularly tough for righties. The velocity comes easy and the curve flashes plus. He’s not just a raw arm strength guy and has an idea on the mound. His delivery is unorthodox, but the arm action is relatively clean.
The Bad: There is some effort in the upper body, especially out of the stretch. The secondaries only flash and are very raw at present. He’s uncomfortable throwing to first and fielding his position. The velocity/stuff wanes deeper into starts.
The Irrelevant: Szapucki finished 20th in the Appalachian League in strikeouts, despite making only five starts there.
OFP 60—Good Oliver Perez
Likely 50—A healthier Jon Niese
The Risks: Szapucki is a potential power lefty starter, but the risks are substantial. He’s only performed in short-season ball and both secondaries need big grade jumps in order to have major-league utility. His mechanics are unorthodox and he utilizes a low three-quarters arm slot. Back issues limited him to 52 innings in 2016. Also, he’s a pitcher.
Major league ETA: 2019
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: If you’re not already tired of me cautioning you against starters in the low minors, buckle up, because we’ve got 27 of these suckers left. Szapucki at least has the upside we look for in a dynasty league pitching prospect, and lefties who miss bats like he does will always be en vogue. You could do worse than to take a flier on him in deeper dynasty leagues as there’s SP3 upside with a lot of strikeouts here. There’s a good chance he turns into a reliever, though.
4. Dominic Smith, 1B
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 250 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 11th overall in the 2013 draft, Junipero Serra HS (Gardena, CA), signed for $2,300,000
Previous Ranking(s): 2015: #5 (Org) #86 (Overall)
2016 Stats: .302/.367/.457, 14 HR, 2 SB in 130 games at Double-A Binghamton
The Good: Smith continued to rake against Double-A pitching. He has good feel for the barrel, and covers both sides of the plate well. The game power flashed at times this year, and he showed more pull-side pop in both games and BP. He has soft hands and a strong, accurate arm on defense.
The Bad: Outside of a three-week stretch in Late June/Early July, Smith didn’t really show the power you’d want out of an everyday first baseman, and his extreme opposite field approach may limit his overall game power against major league arms. He will poke or roll over against soft stuff away. The body continues to be high-maintenance.
The Irrelevant: Gardena, CA is quite the hotbed of athletics. Other native sons and daughters include hockey forward Beau Bennett, former Tigers third baseman Enis Cabbell, starting pitcher Dock Ellis, running back Gaston Green, Basketball Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie, and pro skateboarder Daewon Song.
OFP 55—The, oh let’s say, 13th-best first baseman in the major leagues
Likely 50—James Loney is such a lazy comp, but…
The Risks: There’s not much risk in the bat, Smith will hit. The risk is in the profile. At the risk of repeating myself from last year, it’s tough being a first base prospect. Even his line above, against Double-A pitching in a down Eastern League, would just be average for a major-league first baseman.
Major league ETA: Post-Super-2, 2017
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: My internet dad, Bret Sayre, has loved Smith for a long time and I worry this is going to lead to us developing a Tywin/Tyrion Lannister relationship, but alas … Smith is going to be a major leaguer, and he figures to hit for an okay batting average. That affords him a modicum of fantasy value, but that’s pretty much it. Smith doesn’t have the power we look for in a fantasy first baseman, nor the speed or super high average to offset the lack of dingers. Instead, he profiles more as a guy who’ll hit .280 with 15-or-so homers and some RBI. That’s fine, but it’s basically what C.J. Cron did this year and he was only the 26th best fantasy first basemen, per ESPN’s Player Rater. Smith is probably a back-of-the-top-150 dynasty prospect just because of his proximity and probability, but he’s nothing to get excited over. Beware other owners trying to sell high on him after he puts up comparatively gaudy stats in Las Vegas.
Height/Weight: 6’0” 200 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 53rd overall in the 2015 MLB Draft, Out-of-Door Academy (Sarasota, FL); signed for $1,142,700
Previous Ranking(s): 2015: #7 (Org)
2016 Stats: .297/.418/.450, 4 HR, 3 SB in 32 games at short-season Brooklyn, .364/.562/.455, 0 HR, 0 SB in 5 games at complex-level GCL
The Good: The Mets thought they got a first-round talent in the second round of the 2015 draft with Lindsay, and he has been as advertised so far. Despite his age, he often looked like a man among boys in the Penn League. He has an advanced approach and hit tool considering his age and experience level and flashed more power this year on Coney Island. When healthy, Lindsay’s a plus runner with a shot to stick up the middle.
The Bad: Another spate of lower body injuries kept Lindsay off the field for much of 2016, and he looked compromised at times when he was on it. He has the athletic tools to play center field, but badly needs more reps at the position as his instincts and routes are still raw. There isn’t as much projection as you might expect, as Lindsay’s frame is already quite mature for his age.
The Irrelevant: Lindsay is the first player ever drafted from Out-of-Door Academy in Sarasota, Florida. The Academy was founded by followers of Belgian educational philosopher, Ovide Decroly.
OFP 60—Young Austin Jackson
Likely 45—Older Austin Jackson
The Risks: Lindsay is arguably the highest-risk prospect of note in the Mets system, and we are including a guy who hasn’t played stateside yet. He’s suffered recurring leg injuries since his senior year of high school. He’s learning center field as a pro, having been mostly a corner infielder as an amateur. He carries the more banal risks of the profile as well. He doesn’t have a track record in full season ball yet. The tools Lindsay flashes on the field are very exciting, but they’ve only been flashes so far. He may end up in left field, where the bat would likely make him more of a tweener.
Major league ETA: 2020
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Lindsay is well-rounded enough that he’s worth a shot in deeper dynasty leagues, but his relatively modest ceiling and his distance from the Majors limit his value. If it all comes together, Lindsay could be an OF3/4 who hits for a good average with double-digit homer and steal totals. This is a boring caption, but there are only so many ways I can spice up different shades of Austin Jackson.
Height/Weight: 6’2” 185lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 19th overall in the 2016 draft, Boston College, signed for $2,378,800
Previous Ranking(s): unranked
2016 Stats: 1.50 ERA, 2.89 DRA, 30 IP, 25 H, 35 K, 10 BB in 11 games at short-season Brooklyn
The Good: Dunn thrived when he moved to the rotation this Spring for BC. His fastball touches 98, and will show ferocious arm-side life at times. He has a full four-pitch mix with feel for three secondaries. His slider can bump into the mid-80s and will flash plus.
The Bad: Dunn’s size (6-foot-2 might be a stretch) and delivery means bullpen projections will dog him until he proves he can go deep into games and a minor league season. Although he sat in the mid-90s in two or three inning outings for Brooklyn, it is hard to evaluate if he will be able to keep that deeper into starts. His command of the heater can be wild in the zone due to some late torque in his delivery. Secondaries need a lot of refinement, especially the changeup.
The Irrelevant: Dunn went viral on draft night via a video of him hearing his name called while out to dinner with his Boston College teammates.
The Risks: Dunn has a major-league-quality arm, so the risks in the profile have more to do with role. He could move very quickly as a late-inning reliever, but the development time for him to blossom into a mid-rotation arm will be more protracted. He’s only been a starter for a few months, and the non-fastball parts of his arsenal are in need of consistency and refinement. We will have a better idea of how this might play out when he gets fully stretched as a starter next year in a full-season level (normally I would have just said “in St. Lucie,” but the Mets have never met a prospect they couldn't assign to a lower league than warranted) Also, he’s a pitcher.
Major league ETA: 2018
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Dunn is one of the 15-or-so best dynasty prospects from the past draft, a live arm who could take a while to turn into a SP 3/4 or could be a dominant reliever in relatively short order. Let’s hope he takes the former route, because his heat and potential for multiple effective secondaires make him a potential high-strikeout starter. It’s great for our purposes that Dunn landed with the Mets, an organization that’s given us every reason to trust their pitching development in recent seasons. Just be ready to cut ties with him if the Mets decide a fast track to relief is for the best instead. I prefer Dunn to Szapucki, because I think we’ll know what he is sooner.
7. Andres Gimenez, SS
Height/Weight: 6’0” 195 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed July 2015 out of Venezuela by the New York Mets for $1,200,000
Previous Ranking(s): Unranked
2016 Stats: .350/.469/.523, 3 HR, 13 SB in 62 games at the Dominican Summer League
The Good: Gimenez has a potential plus hit tool and is an advanced shortstop for his age. He’s a very good bet to stick at the position and is potentially above-average there. Already gets raves for his high baseball IQ. If all you know about a player is he has a chance to hit .280 and be a good glove at shortstop, well ignorance of everything else is bliss (and also fine for putting him on a Top 10 list).
The Bad: Gimenez isn’t your traditional tooled-up Latin shortstop (you’ll find mostly fives and sixes here), so the swing and approach will have to work all the way up the ladder, and the ladder still has a whole lot of rungs on it.
The Irrelevant: While he doesn’t have a 2000 birthdate, if you want to feel old, Gimenez was born the same day Google was incorporated.
The Role: OFP 60—Above-average shortstop
The Risks: He just turned 18 and has yet to play within the contiguous United States. The risk profile is, uh, extreme.
Major league ETA: 2021
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: I’m all about betting on players with good hit tools and it’s heartening to hear that Gimenez is likely to stick at short. That being said, the lead time is way too long and the power/speed tools too pedestrian to get worked up about Gimenez right now. Don’t forget the name entirely, but move on if your league rosters fewer than 200 minor leaguers.
8. Brandon Nimmo, OF
Height/Weight: 6’3” 205 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 13th overall in the 2011 MLB Draft; Cheyenne East HS (Cheyenne, WY); Signed for $2,100,000
Previous Ranking(s): 2016: #6 (Org)
2016 Stats: .274/.338/.329, 1 HR, 0 SB in 32 games at the major league level, .352/.423/.541, 11 HR, 7 SB in 97 games at Triple-A Las Vegas
The Good: Nimmo is a less exciting prospect than he was on draft day 2011, but aren’t we all? He still offers you a broad base of baseball skills, including the ability to play all three outfield positions, and a bit of on-base and pop against righties. The less jaded among us may still believe he can convert some of that solid-average raw power he shows in batting practice to game power.
The Bad: At one point there actually was a surfeit of tools and projection here, but five years and multiple lower body injuries later, Nimmo has lost a fair amount of his teenaged athleticism and just never extracted any game power out his swing, despite multiple tweaks to his setup and stride. He struggles picking up the ball against lefties and will need to be hidden against major-league southpaws. Nimmo’s stretched in center field nowadays and has settled into the dreaded tweener/fourth outfielder profile.
The Irrelevant: You probably already know that Brandon Nimmo is the first baseball player from Wyoming to be drafted in the first round, but he has a ways to go to be the best player from the Cowboy State. That honor currently belongs to Greg Brock, who played parts of ten seasons with the Dodgers and Brewers, compiling 10 WARP.
OFP 50—Second-division/platoon outfielder
Likely 45—Fourth outfielder
The Risks: Nimmo is close to a finished product. He may not offer a sexy OFP anymore, but he can contribute to a major league roster in 2017 and even start for a few weeks in a pinch.
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2016
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: If Nimmo grows into some power and plays often as a strong-side platoon bat, he may be worth owning in fantasy someday. Those are two pretty big “ifs,” though, and despite his proximity to the majors Nimmo is not a top-150 dynasty prospect. You might be tempted based on his 2016 Triple-A stats, but please remember that offensive performance in Vegas stays in Vegas.
9. Gavin Cecchini, SS
Height/Weight: 6’2” 200 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 12th overall in the 2012 MLB Draft; Alfred M. Barbe HS (Lake Charles, LA); signed for $2,300,000
Previous Ranking(s): 2016: #4 (Org)
2016 Stats: .333/.429/.667, 0 HR, 0 SB in 4 games at the major league level, .325/.390/.448, 8 HR, 4 SB in 117 games at Triple-A Las Vegas
The Good: Cecchini continued to hit and get on-base in 2016. There has never been a surfeit of tools or projection here, so his performance is going to matter more than for most prospects. He has a contact-oriented swing and enough feel with the bat to be a .270 in the majors. He’d likely be a solid hand at second base, but…
The Bad: Cecchini is not a major-league shortstop. The arm is well-below-average for the position, forcing him to rush his footwork and actions as well. He’s sure-handed, but not particularly rangy. Cecchini dropped the leg kick in his swing a couple years ago, and now has only doubles power. It’s very possible that he hits an empty .270 when major-league arms decide to attack him more in the zone.
The Irrelevant: Cecchini’s full name is Gavin Glenn Christopher Joseph Cecchini. It’s a mouthful, though not quite as long as Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remeidos Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. Neither are close to the record for the longest legal name, which currently stands at 161 words and 898 letters.
OFP 50—Average major league second baseman
Likely 40—Utility guy that makes you cringe a bit when he’s your Sunday shortstop
The Risks: Like Smith, the risks for Cecchini are more in the profile than future performance. He has hit in the upper minors and is major-league-ready, but the bat would be just ‘okay’ at second base. If he only hits .250, he’s just another extra infielder.
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2016
10. Wuilmer Becerra, RF
Height/Weight: 6’3” 225 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed in June 2013 out of Venezuela by the Toronto Blue Jays for $1,300,000
Previous Ranking(s): 2015: #8 (Org)
2016 Stats: .312/.341/.393, 1 HR, 7 SB in 65 games for High-A St. Lucie
The Good: Man, Becerra is a weird prospect. He looks the part of a big, athletic, dinger-mashing right fielder. And he will show plus raw power in batting practice. He’s an above-average runner with a strong throwing arm. And hey, he’s cut his strikeouts every year as a professional and hit over .300 this year in the Florida State League. Becerra has cleaned up his swing mechanics over the years and goes up to the plate with a plan. You’d be forgiven for thinking he was close to putting it all together and really breaking out as a prospect…
The Bad: …but he’s stopped hitting for power in games. In 120 games between Kingsport in 2014 and the first half of Savannah in 2015, he hit 15 home runs. He’s hit two since. The Mets spread him out at the plate in 2015 and the game power disappeared shortly after. He’s been two different prospects in his four years in the Mets system, and if he doesn’t figure out a way to meld the two, he won’t have much of a major league future. Some of the power outage could be attributed to a shoulder injury that lingered since Spring Training and eventually led to him being shut down in the middle of July.
OFP 50—Average right fielder
Likely 40—Lefty masher off the bench
The Risks: Becerra needs to hit a lot to be a useful bat in a corner outfield spot, and between the power outage and shoulder injury, there will be a lot of unanswered questions about Becerra going into 2017. He will return to St. Lucie as a 22-year-old, so he’s no longer as young as you think.
Major league ETA: late 2018
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Becerra is a pure wait-and-see prospect for dynasty leaguers. If he starts hitting for power again, great, pick him up. If not, I promise you’ll have forgotten he existed within the next 36 months.
Others of note:
Luis Carpio, SS/2B
Not all that much has changed from Carpio’s profile last year. He still is as polished a teenage player as you will find in the minors. He tracks pitches well, and the ball carries off his bat more than you’d expect. He’s a polished defender with great instincts, and already an infield captain as a teenager. In one of those timelines Jerry O’Connell and friends landed in, Carpio had a breakout season in Columbia this year and stacks up well with Isan Diaz as a Top 101 middle infield prospects. In this timeline though, he missed almost all of the season with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder and was only able to DH in his August cameo in short-season. A missed year tends to lead one to highlight the warts in a profile, and Carpio lacks a standout athletic tool and may have been destined for second before the shoulder injury. Still, next year will only be his Age-19 season and he could easily find himself back near the top of the 2018 list.
Factor on the “farm”
T.J. Rivera, IF
It’s not often you get to write about the no. 5 hitter on a playoff team in this space. In the rare instances where such names are even eligible for these lists, they are up at the tippy top. Sure, you can blame the Mets infield injuries and Terry Collins’ obsession with the platoon advantage for Rivera’s spot in the Wild Card game lineup, but the 27-year-old did hit .330 across 100 major league plate appearances. You might now be yelling at me that he should be up there at the tippy top, after all, major-league performance is a big reason that Robert Gsellman is. Ultimately, as much as major-league performance logically leads us more quickly to major-league role projections, we still have to make a call if it is real or not. As I wrote in the Atlanta Top Ten, more “prospects” make the majors than you think, and a smaller, but not insignificant, subset of those hit their first time around the league. Rivera’s defensive limitations—he’s below-average even at second—and the fact that he was overmatched against better velocity and better breaking stuff, makes me think he isn’t much more than a bench option in 2017. That is a major-league role, but it’s not what we are pining for during prospect list season.
Okay, he’d probably make the Marlins list.
The pop-up prospect
Tomas Nido, C
Catchers are weird, man. Catching development paths are weirder. So much of their value is tied up in stuff that doesn’t appear on a standard scouting report and would be tough to parse from behind home plate anyway. My stopwatch told me that Nido had a pretty good arm. A BP session or two showed you his raw, and prep catchers can take a while to click, even by the standards of catching prospects as a whole. It sure looked like it clicked in 2016 for Nido, as he hit .320 in the Florida State League, and showed a broad base of offensive and defensive skills behind the plate. Double-A will still be a test for the offensive profile, and there will likely be further bumps in the roads in his development, but Nido has forced the Mets into a tricky 40-man roster decision this offseason. He may end up just a good backup with some pop, but there’s an intriguing ceiling here now, and you always need more catchers.
Ali Sanchez, C
Speaking of weird catchers, Sanchez hit .215/.260/.275 in the New York Penn League, and I really struggled with leaving him off the top ten. He was beat up for most of the 2016 season, but that really isn’t an excuse, because catchers are always beat up. I still believe in the bat, and he is the catching version of Carpio, incredibly polished behind the plate at all the stuff we can’t measure with a stopwatch. Sanchez’s arm has always been the big question mark, and he continued to pop well over 2.0 for me this season. It hasn’t affected his catch-and-throw numbers yet, but everyone runs in short season, and almost no one really knows what they are doing on the basepaths yet. Then again, all the research we have says controlling the running game is less important than the other things Sanchez seems to do quite well, and the Mets had luck trimming a tenth or two off the pop times of Kevin Plawecki, who had similar throwing issues in the minors. In the end, ranking the dude with a .535 OPS in short-season is something that can make you look really bad in 2019, so let’s just call Sanchez a sleeper and move on.
TINSTAAPP, always and forever
Marcos Molina, RHP
Before Thomas Szapucki was even on a Florida follow list, Marcos Molina was shooting up prospect lists based on his own strong Brooklyn campaign. He flashed similar raw stuff to Szapucki, and garnered higher marks for athleticism and polish (and he was a year younger at the same level). He also had famously rough mechanics that put a lot of stress on his arm, and no one was that surprised when he had Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2015 minor league season. Molina missed all of 2016, and finally reappeared in the AFL with most of his velocity back. But he’s only a year removed from the surgery, and there is a ways to go before we get a clearer picture of how much of the front-of-the-rotation is left. The Mets are a bit pressed for time though. Like Nido, the Mets will have to add Molina to the 40-man or else expose him to the Rule 5 draft, and nowadays it is much easier to hide an arm in the bullpen given how short benches have gotten. Two offseasons ago you might have expected Molina to be a slam dunk add, and maybe even a Top 101 prospect, but you know, he’s a pitcher.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/91 or later)
- Noah Syndergaard
- Steven Matz
- â€‹Michael Conforto
- â€‹Amed Rosario
- Robert Gsellman
- â€‹Thomas Szapucki
- â€‹Wilmer Flores
- Dominic Smith
- Desmond Lindsay
- Justin Dunn
For last year’s list, we pointed out that the Mets’ strong base of young pitching—Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, and Zack Wheeler are all within a few years of eligible of this list too —set them up for an “extended period of contention.” Unfortunately, the downside of reliance on young pitching is that it gets hurt, and boy did the Mets’ young pitching get hurt early and often in 2016. Yet all is certainly not lost, as most should be back to full-strength or close for 2017, and a new face emerged in Robert Gsellman. Heck, even with all the injuries to the young core, the Mets still nabbed the first Wild Card slot in the National League.
Noah Syndergaard ranks first on this list for the second consecutive year. Last year, it was more about Harvey and Familia graduating off; this year, Syndergaard is one of the absolute best under-25 players in the game, a true ace in every sense of the word. And the stuff is so good and he’s improved so much so fast that it feels like he might yet get better.
Steven Matz was one of the pitchers felled by injury, first pitching through a significant bone spur and then falling to theoretically unrelated shoulder fatigue. Matz has yet to really put together a full, healthy professional season, which raises some obvious durability flags, although all of his varied issues have been unrelated. When healthy, like late in the 2015 season or before the bone spur came in 2016, he’s shown the ability to be a number two starter despite occasionally wavering command, with the possibility for even more. Even when compromised and barely throwing his slider after the bone spur, he was still of mid-rotation quality when able to pitch.
Michael Conforto is, perhaps unfairly, viewed as having a lost 2016 season because of his struggles in the major-leagues during the summer months and the apparent loss of confidence in him by manager Terry Collins. But it’s easy to forget that he still managed an .804 OPS against righties in the majors amidst a wrist injury and inconsistent playing time, and absolutely demolished Triple-A for 144 plate appearances in a manner that would make anyone short of Barry Bonds blush. He’s younger than Bradley Zimmer, for example, a prospect who is rightly still a top prospect but struggled much more mightily in Triple-A than Conforto did in the majors. If you switch around the order of some of these events, but leave the overall package the same, the narrative heavily shifts and Conforto is still viewed as one of baseball’s top young emerging stars. We’ll see which direction this goes in 2017—if the Mets even open up a spot for him—but the major-league success nudges Conforto just a hair past Amed Rosario.
Yes, Wilmer Flores is still somehow eligible for this list. Flores is what he is: a league-average power bat that crushes lefties and is an excellent defender at first while being fringe to bad/but able to fake everywhere else. Ranking a more-or-less maxed out average major leaguer against high-upside short-season A dudes is much more art than science, but I ended up dropping Flores behind Thomas Szapucki in light of Wilmer’s hamate injury, which has sapped other players’ power over the short and medium-term periods post-injury. —Jarrett Seidler