The State of the System: The Mets system is down this year, but it is for all the right reasons. Since Sandy Alderson and company took over in 2011, the Mets have developed and graduated Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, Dilson Herrera, Wilmer Flores and Kevin Plawecki, most of whom figure to play substantial roles on the 2016 Mets. So it shouldn't be a huge surprise that there isn't much impact talent left, especially past Steven Matz, still prospect-eligible due to a quirk of the system.
The Top Ten
- LHP Steven Matz
- SS Amed Rosario
- SS/2B Luis Carpio
- SS Gavin Cecchini
- 1B Dominic Smith
- OF Brandon Nimmo
- OF Desmond Lindsay
- RF Wuilmer Becerra
- RHP Robert Gsellman
- C Ali Sanchez
1. Steven Matz, LHP
Height/Weight: 6’2”200 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 72nd overall in the 2009 draft, Ward Mellville HS (East Setaucket, NY), signed for $895,000
Previous Ranking(s): #2 (org), #33 (overall)
2015 Stats: 2.19 ERA, 90.1 IP, 69 H, 31 BB, 94 K for Triple-A Las Vegas, 2.27 ERA, 35.2 IP, 34 H, 10 BB, 34 K at the major league level
Future Tools: 70 fastball, 60 curve, 60 slider, 55 change
Role: 70— No. 2 starter
Matz just slid in under the innings limit for rookie-eligibility (and goes over if you include his three playoff starts for the Mets). He is about as safe a bet as you will find in a pitcher on a prospect list. He's dominated in the upper minors, pitched well in the majors, and is penciled into a 2016 rotation spot. He is likely the fourth-best pitcher in the Mets rotation in 2016, but that is no slight on Matz. His fastball sits 93-95 mph and can touch higher. It is a heavy, sinking pitch, he can work to all four quadrants of the strike zone, and it is a two-strike weapon when he elevates it.
The curveball was the party piece when he was drafted and it has turned into an out pitch, featuring sharp 1-7 break that he can spot in the zone or bury to put away hitters. The changeup is inconsistent at present, but it will flash plus, with good fade and tumble when Matz is able to turn it over. Like most Mets pitchers under Dan Warthen, he has started to play around with a hard slider (the vaunted “Warthen Slider”). It's not as far along as his rotation mates, but he has the right armslot for it, and the developmental track record here is excellent.
The one black mark on Matz's record is durability. He had Tommy John surgery in 2010, and it was a difficult recovery process, as he had to be shut down multiple times before his full-season debut at Savannah in 2013. Since then though, Matz has been reasonably durable before a lat issue and a stiff back kept him on the shelf for most of the second half of 2015. His mechanics are clean and repeatable, and there isn't much effort in the delivery, but there will continue to be questions about his ability to pitch deep into games and deep into the Summer until he does it in the majors. If he can stay on the bump, he has the stuff and demeanor to dominate major league hitters.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The nice thing about when prospects actually show what they are capable of in the majors is that you don’t have to squint anymore as a dynasty league owner. Matz is every bit of an SP3 this year, with the upside for more in the coming years. He has the raw stuff to strike out 200 batters, and the ability to keep his ratios strong to boot. It’s good to be a young Mets pitcher these days.
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2015
2. Amed Rosario, SS
Height/Weight: 6’2” 170 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed July 2012 out of the Dominican Republic by the New York Mets for $1.75 million.
Previous Ranking(s): #4 (Org), #78 (overall)
2015 Stats: .253/.302/.329; 0 HR, 13 SB in 427 PA between High-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton
Future Tools: 60 glove, 60 arm, 50 run, 50 hit
Role: 55—Above-average regular at shortstop
Amed Rosario is a good example of the folly of trying to project 16-year-old shortstops (and they are all 16-year-old shortstops). When the Mets signed Rosario for a bit under two million dollars in the summer of 2012, scouts raved about his offensive potential, but worried that he might grow off of shortstop. The name Wilmer Flores was invoked as a comp (who himself was famously compared to Miguel Cabrera shortly after he signed). Rosario was already merely an average runner in Kingsport in 2013 at 17, and looked very raw defensively (as you might expect for every 17-year-old shortstop, well, other than the one ranked right below him). Since then though, Rosario has improved by leaps and bounds in the field, and hasn't really filled out as expected. Rosario is still far from a finished project, but he now looks like a good bet to be an everyday shortstop, and potentially an above-average one.
Rosario's bat hasn't seen the same gains as his glove so far as a professional. The Mets have given him a series of aggressive assignments over the past three seasons, but 2015 was by far his stiffest test. He was the youngest player in the Florida State League, and had only played a week or so of full-season ball prior to this past season. He was over-matched for much of the season. Rosario has tinkered with his swing mechanics since he first landed stateside. In rookie ball he had one of the oddest swing paths you'll see, tracing a full circle with his hands as he loaded the swing, and his complex mechanics often left his upper and lower halves out of sync. Since then he has added strength and simplified his load, relying on his strong, quick wrists to generate some gap power. He has some feel for contact, but has struggled with spin from the more advanced arms he has faced. As long as the glove continues to improve, the Mets may keep moving him up the organizational ladder, but it will continue to be tough to get a read on the ultimate offensive ceiling. It is unlikely he will grow into much more than fringe-average raw, and the approach and swing will likely limit how playable it is in games, but the defensive tools should be enough to carry Rosario to a major league role not that dissimilar from “good Alcides Escobar” seasons.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Well, as you’ll see as you read through this list, it’s not the best system for fantasy value. Rosario was a candidate for the Dynasty 101 this year, but just hasn’t shown enough with the bat yet to get there. He can still reach that low-five-category contributor status that his tools hint at, but he just may not be as interesting in fantasy leagues at peak than we thought at this time last year.
Major league ETA: 2018
3. Luis Carpio, SS/2B
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 165 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed July 2013 out of Venezuela by the New York Mets for $300,000.
Previous Ranking(s): unranked
2015 Stats: .304/.372/.359, 0 HR, 9 SB in 207 PA for Rookie-level Kingsport
Future Tools: 60 hit, 60 glove (2b), 50 arm
Role: 50—Average regular at multiple infield positions
Carpio was assigned to the Appalachian League in 2015 as a 17-year-old and more than held his own. But he is much more than just an age-relative-to-league oddity. The kid (and we can use this here as a legal term, rather than a colloquial one) can flat out hit, and he still has some room to fill out and add strength. Facing mostly college-aged arms, Carpio demonstrated an excellent approach at the plate and the ability to track and stay back on offspeed. His swing is simple and short, but explosive, and he already gets more carry on balls than you would think given his build. As he matures he could grow into double-digit-power at the plate. He also showed extremely advanced bat-to-ball skills for a 17-year-old. The projected hit tool is aggressive, but the swing and approach easily qualify as precocious.
The Mets believe Carpio will be an everyday shortstop at maturity, but his defensive profile mirrors his offensive one, more polish than tools. He lacks even average straight-line speed at present, partially due to short, almost duck-like strides down the line. This is less of an issue in the field where he appears much smoother moving laterally and shows a good first step. He is a natural middle infielder, showing strong instincts and smooth actions, but the arm is a bit short to make all the throws needed from a major league shortstop. It is possible that his other defensive skills will cover for this to allow him to play shortstop at the highest level, but he will likely always be a bit fringy there. And he may be forced to the other side of the keystone if he loses anymore speed. He would project as an above-average second baseman, but it would put pressure on the bat to play close to the 60/40 offensive projection.
Given the polished profile at such a young age, and the organization he plays for, the obvious comp for Carpio is Ruben Tejada. Admittedly it’s not that sexy a look through a 2016 lens, but consider that Tejada has graded out as a league-average player in four of his past five seasons in the majors by WARP, despite never playing 120 games in a season. And even if Carpio doesn't reach his power ceiling, he should still show more pop than Tejada. This is a potential top-100 guy in a year, especially if he ends up in the South Atlantic League as an 18-year-old and continues to hit. And there is no reason to think he can't handle that tough assignment with the same aplomb he did 2015's.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There’s a very long lead time on Carpio, but the potential is there to be a .290 hitting middle infielder with the ability to hit double-digits in both speed and power. This wouldn’t leave him as a perennial top-five option at either second or short, but it would keep him a starter in fantasy leagues for a good while. He should be owned in leagues that roster 200 prospect or more.
Major league ETA: 2019
4. Gavin Cecchini, SS
Height/Weight: 6’2” 200 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 12th overall in the 2012 draft, Alfred M. Barbe HS (Lake Charles, LA), signed for $2.3 million
Previous Ranking(s): unranked
2015 Stats: .317/.377/.442, 7 HR, 3 SB in 485 PA for Double-A Binghamton
Future Tools: 55 hit
Role: 45—Second-division starter/good utility infielder
It's a common refrain around these parts that you “don't scout the statline,” but for a prospect like Gavin Cecchini, who has never wowed with premium up-the-middle tools, one could argue that minor league performance would be more important for him than most. Or at least that bad minor league performance would be worse for him than most. Cecchini had his best season as a pro in 2015, raking in the Eastern League as a 21-year-old. He dropped the high leg kick he was using for much of 2014, and now uses a wide, open stance with a simple toe tap to close. It seems to have alleviated his biggest issues in A-ball, which were his inability to adjust in time to spin and the tendency for his backside to collapse. Now everything stays very level and direct to the ball. Cecchini has a good approach and a nose for contact, but there isn't going to be much more than gap power here, especially given the swing changes.
Cecchini made 28 errors in 109 games at shortstop last season. Now errors are a terrible way to judge minor league defense (refer back to that note about the statline above), but there are some issues here. He knows what he is doing out there and looks polished on the basic stuff. When the plays get harder, however, he struggles with the game speed. His hands and actions get loose, and the arm, which is already stretched at short, can get scattershot. It feels like he rushes through everything, and he doesn't have the physical tools to make it work. And Cecchini isn't even an average runner anymore, so he has to make more of those plays on the move or from tougher angles than most shortstops. You have to excel at many different discrete skills to play a major league shortstop. You can cover for a few “just okays,” but Cecchini is fringy in too many areas here to be an asset on the left side of the infield. The profile is much less exciting at second base, but Cecchini's ability to play multiple infield positions and hit a little bit should keep him employed in the majors for a while.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Outside of a potentially empty .280 average, there’s not a whole lot to like here in dynasty leagues. And with the Mets’ newfound infield depth, Cecchini is unlikely to even be worth stashing in an NL-only league this year.
Major league ETA: 2016
5. Dominic Smith, 1B
Height/Weight: 6’0” 185 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 11th overall in the 2013 draft, Junipero Serra HS (Gardena, CA), signed for $2.6 million
Previous Ranking(s): #8 (Org)
2015 Stats: .305/.354/.417, 6 HR, 2 SB in 497 PA for High-A St. Lucie
Future Tools: 60 hit, 60 arm, 50 glove
Role: 45—Second-division starter
It perhaps doesn't have the same cachet as losing your beau, dog, or truck, but one could write a pretty convincing country ballad about the plight of the high school first base prospect. On second thought, maybe it would fit better with late-90s emo (somewhere a Los Angeles beat writer's head just perked up). Nothing he ever does is good enough for you.
Dom Smith spent half his Florida State League season as a 19-year-old and hit .300. Are you not entertained? There is little doubt he will continue to hit either, he has great feel for the bat head, and covers the outer half of the plate well. And if he hits .300 in the majors, no one will really care if the power continues to play below-average. That is an awfully big ask for a player who hasn't seen Double-A, and specifically Double-A velocity yet. The bat speed is only average, and Smith likes to feel for the outer half in his swing, leaving him vulnerable to hard stuff inside. Those are the pitches you would like to see your first base prospect keep his hands in on and pull with authority, but most of Smith's damage comes when he can extend his arms and fire balls into the left-center field gap. The offensive expectations for first base are very high, and even in a lower-offense era, .280 and low-double-digit home runs don't clear that bar.
Smith's draft profiles are filled with superlatives for his first base defense, but he has been inconsistent and at times awkward there in his professional career. He has a strong arm, and there were a few low rumbles that he might get some looks in right field as a pro, but he has has added significant weight since draft day, and is a 20 runner. The weight hampers him at first sometimes too. His footwork can get heavy, and he can struggle with balls to his backhand side. Other times, he will look quite good, moving to his right and starting a 3-6-1 double play for example. Smith should be fine at first, maybe even an asset there, but the gold glove dreams are still a ways away from being actualized.
Smith will likely play in the majors, but there will always be immense pressure on his bat. He is limited to first base, so if he can't start, it is a difficult profile to carry on the bench unless your roster leans heavily right-handed. People will continue to dream on 15-20 home run power here, but Smith will start 2016 in Double-A, at that point, you have to start asking when and how he can help a major league team, and dial back on the wishcasting.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Smith is a better fantasy prospect than real-life prospect, but even the most ardent Smith supporters will admit that he is just not an impact fantasy prospect. If you’re not going to hit for 20-plus homer power at first base, hitting .300 is almost a must—but fortunately for Smith, that’s actually something he might be capable of.
Major league ETA: 2018
6. Brandon Nimmo, OF
Height/Weight: 6’3” 205 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 13th overall in the 2011 Draft, East HS (Cheyenne, WY), signed for $2.1 million
Previous Ranking(s): 2015: #3 (Org), #69 (Overall)
2015 Stats: .269/.362/.372, 5 HR, 5 SB in 434 PA between High-A St. Lucie, Double-A Binghamton, and Triple-A Las Vegas
Future Tools: 50 hit, 50 arm, 50 run
Role: 45—Fourth outfielder/platoon starter
It was a precipitous fall from grace for Nimmo in 2015. After a strong 2014 campaign that established him as a national prospect of note, and just behind Noah Syndergaard and Matz in a very good Mets system, last season was a step backwards for the former first round pick. At the end of 2014, Nimmo had finally started to show signs of tapping into the raw power he would flash in batting practice. A return engagement in Binghamton saw the power disappear again, despite some swing tweaks in consultation with Kevin Long.
Nimmo has quieted a lot of his pre-swing noise, and narrowed his stance. He loads his hands lower now as well, but the tweaks have made his swing longer and more mechanical, and he doesn't have the bat speed to compensate for that. As a result he was later on velocity away than he has been in the past. The approach is still very strong, but he walks right up to the line of being too passive. You'd like to see him just spring on a 2-0 fastball every once in awhile. His best swings nowadays come when he is working back up-the-middle or gap-to-gap, and we are well past the point where we can dream on even average game power. His platoon issues continue to linger as well, and he never seems to see the ball well against southpaws.
Even if you believed that Nimmo's bat would continue to develop in 2015, a lot of his Top 101 case rested on his approach and his ability to play center field. A knee injury cost him a month of the season, but he still looked serviceable there after his return. A torn muscle in his foot, suffered during offseason workouts, may cost him the start of the 2016 season. You have to wonder if these lower body injuries will eventually force him to left field. Nimmo has lost a full grade of speed since his pro debut, and while he has improved his jumps and routes out in the outfield, he doesn't have the closing speed that you look for in center. The arm is average, but short for right field. You have to squint now to see a major league regular, another reminder that a year can be a lifetime for a prospect.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Non-deep leaguers shouldn’t completely give up on Nimmo, but there’s not a ton of hope that he’s going to turn into anything more than a barely justifiable OF4. That said, if he can steal 20 bases, pop a few homers and hit in the .270 range, it’ll be enough to keep him on mixed league radars.
Major league ETA: 2016
7. Desmond Lindsay, OF
Height/Weight: 6’0” 200 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 53rd overall in the 2015 draft, Out-Of-Door Academy (Sarasota, FL), signed for $1.1427 million
Previous Ranking(s): N/R
2015 Stats: .263/.364/.386, 1 HR, 3 SB in 134 PA between the Gulf Coast League and Short-season Brooklyn.
Future Tools: 60 hit, 60 glove, 60 run
Role: 50—Average major league regular
Lindsay is not the youngest player in this top 10, but he may be the rawest. He dealt with a hamstring issue last year that cost him much of his Spring and is learning center field as a professional after playing mostly third and first base as an amateur. You could forgive him for maybe looking a bit behind the curve in his short-season debut, but Lindsay looked like more of a first-round draft talent than a second-round one once he took to the outfield grass last Summer.
Despite being young for the New York-Penn League, Lindsay was often the one that looked like a man among boys on the field. The tools match the body here too. He is a borderline plus-plus runner now and while he will likely slow down a bit as he ages, he is unlikely to add much more weight to his athletic frame. He'll show you plus bat speed in batting practice and in games, although his swing is geared more for contact than loft. His swing and approach are better than you'd think given the K-rate on his baseball-reference page. Lindsay is comfortable working deep counts, and stays up-the-middle in two strike counts. He will battle against off-speed, and can drive fastballs into the gap. Power is unlikely to be a huge part of his game without significant changes to his swing, but he has the strength (and the legs) to produce plenty of doubles and triples. The offensive profile may take a while to reach the projection, and there will likely be fits and starts along the way, but the blueprint is already present for an above-average major league hitter.
In center field, Lindsay looks like a player that is new to the position. He has the speed to stay up the middle and almost glides to the ball out there. He is going to need a lot more reps to hone his instincts and routes though. He occasionally looks a bit lost both in center and on the base paths despite his athleticism, but the tools should eventually play to projection in both spots. The arm is below-average and would force him to left field if he struggles with the transition to center, but he will show you enough even at this early phase in his development to convince you he can stay up-the-middle.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There’s a lot to like about Lindsay, who should be gone by the end of the second round in most true dynasty drafts. There’s potential 30-steal ability, with a batting average that could push .300 in his better years and enough power to make him a five-category guy (even if it’s nowhere near impact). He’s forever away, but if it comes together, he could do Shane Victorino type things for your dynasty squad.
Major league ETA: 2020
8. Wuilmer Becerra, RF
Height/Weight: 6’4” 190 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed July 2011 out of Venezuela by the Toronto Blue Jays for $1.3 million; traded to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal in December 2012.
Previous Ranking(s): unranked
2015 Stats: .290/.342/.423; 9 HR, 16 SB in 487 PA for Low-A Savannah
Key Tools: 60 arm, 55 glove, 50 power, 50 hit, 50 run
Role: 45—Second-division starter or good platoon/fourth OF
The non-elite prospect in the R.A. Dickey deal, Becerra still hasn't reached elite prospect status, but he has turned into a good one. He comes straight out of central casting for “right field profile,” with a big, athletic frame, not quite enough speed for center field, and an easy plus arm.
Right fielders have to hit of course, and Becerra offers an interesting skill set at the plate. He was tinkering with his swing a lot in Kingsport in 2014, but settled on his mechanics in 2015 and handled the jump to full-season ball with aplomb. The swing has been simplified, his leg kick calmed down, and he now relies on his ample strength and a slight uppercut to create power. The approach has improved and he doesn't expand when he is behind in the count. But you can beat him up at present with fastballs and down with offspeed, and the swing is geared more for power. The raw plays a full grade higher than his projected game power, and that is the difference between being a regular in right versus a short-side platoon bench bat. Becerra should be a solid rightfielder at least. He is a solid-average runner at present, although it shows up more in second gear than from home-to-first. His arm is strong, although occasionally inaccurate. In a bench role he might not even kill you once a week in center.
Becerra is rawer than you would expect from a player entering his fifth season stateside. The Mets have been fairly conservative with his development track, but the gloves usually come off in St. Lucie. Becerra can dictate his timetable now, but the bat will have to match the body if he is going to achieve an everyday corner outfield spot.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There’s enough here for Becerra to be a potential .260-.270 hitter with 15 homers and 15 steals, but that seems like pretty close to the fantasy ceiling at this point, which would render him no more than a decent OF3 at peak.
Major league ETA: 2018
9. Robert Gsellman, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’4” 200 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted in the 13th round of the 2011 draft, Westchester HS (Los Angeles, CA)
Previous Ranking(s): unranked
2015 Stats: 2.89 ERA, 143.1 IP, 126 H, 37 BB, 86 K between Advanced-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton
Key Tools: 60 curve, 50 fastball, 50 change
Role: 45— No. 5 starter
In recent years, being named the second-best pitching prospect in the Mets system would be high praise. Previous holders of that title include Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Jon Niese. Gsellman doesn't quite fit among those names (well, he could be Jon Niese), but he looks like he could slot comfortably into the back of a major league rotation sometime in the next 18 months. He's a big, athletic kid, with a starter's frame and an easy, repeatable delivery. His fastball sits 88-92 mph, but he can reach back for 94, and it shows good sink and run. His command of the pitch is only average at present, and at that velocity range, location is still key even with the movement.
Gsellman's best off-speed pitch is his curveball. It is a tight, 11-5 breaker that sits in the upper 70s and will bump 80. He can play with the shape and spot it or bury it as needed, and it comes out of his hand just like the fastball. It can be an above-average major-league offering with a bit more command and consistency. He throws his changeup far more often, likely for developmental purposes as it lags well behind the curve at present. There is potential though. It can be a bit firm, usually coming at the hitter in the mid 80s, but it will flash good sink and fade.
Gsellman struggled to miss bats in 2015, preferring to employ a pitch-to-contact approach with his sinking fastball. The strikeouts will have to come for him to be a viable major league starter, but more curveballs should alleviate that issue. As with most arms at this end of a top-10 list, he may end up as a fastball/curve pen arm if the changeup doesn't continue to develop. Gsellman has touched the mid-90s in the past, and could get there more regularly in short bursts.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: JSNTBESIF (Just Say No To Back End Starters In Fantasy)
Major league ETA: 2017
10. Ali Sanchez, C
Height/Weight: 6’0” 175 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed July 2013 out of Venezuela by the New York Mets for $690,000
Previous Ranking(s): Unranked
2015 Stats: .272/.330/.306, 0 HR, 2 SB in 188 PA between the Gulf Coast League and Rookie-ball Kingsport
Future Tools: 55 glove, 55 hit
Role: 45—Second-division starter/good backup catcher
If you are a Mets fan and you have heard of Ali Sanchez, there is a good chance you know about him due to Wally Backman calling him the best pitch framer in the system at a fan event last offseason. Well score one for Wally's scouting eye, Sanchez is in fact a gifted and mature receiver already. He'd be a potential plus defender at catcher, maybe even more if the arm were a bit a stronger. He posted a good caught-stealing rate in the GCL. Of course you don't see a lot of good basestealers at that level, but you do see a lot of basestealers. Sanchez was consistently 2.1-2.2 to second with his throws, and the ball sort of floats out of his hand despite pretty good actions out of the crouch. This is similar to the issues Kevin Plawecki had with his throwing. Plawecki is not going to make anyone forget Austin Hedges nowadays, but he has improved to the point where he is passable as a catch-and-throw guy. It's possible the Mets can get Sanchez to that point as well.
Sanchez's defensive skills are more advanced, but his offensive profile is intriguing as well. Like Carpio, he has an advanced feel for hitting for a teenager, and can track and stay back on breaking balls. They are complex-league breaking balls, but you rarely see complex-league-hitters even manage that. There is some sneaky power potential here as well, although Sanchez seems content to stick with line drives for now. This ranking may very well look overly conservative in a year's time, but catcher development paths are long and winding, and the risk in the profile is extremely high.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There may be some upside with the bat here, but a distant fantasy catcher without high-end upside just isn’t worth an investment yet.
Major league ETA: 2021
Five who are just interesting:
Matt Reynolds, IF – Most of Queens had a fun October, but Reynolds might have had more fun than most. Pressed onto the playoff roster after Ruben Tejada's injury in Game 2 of the NLDS, Reynolds got to help Ruben out onto the field before the Mets playoff home opener and eat sunflower seeds in the dugout otherwise. Seats that good were going for upwards of four figures on StubHub, but he got a playoff share out of his prime real estate on the bench. Reynolds was a dark horse to break camp with the Mets in 2015, but has been knocked back on the depth chart after the acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera and the trade for Neil Walker. Reynolds can play three infield positions and hit a bit, and doesn't have much left to prove in the Pacific Coast League, but he's on the outside of the 25-man roster looking in on a suddenly deep 2016 Mets bench.
Raphael Ramirez, CF – Signing Ramirez out of the 2014 draft class was a bit of a coup for Paul DePodesta and Tommy Tanous. Expected to go to NC State, he instead signed with the Mets for $150,000. Ramirez has some of the best athletic tools in the system, he is a no-doubt center fielder and a true burner. Despite his small frame, he gets better power than you'd think out of a pretty, rotational swing that calls to mind a young Curtis Granderson (the high socks help here as well). Now the reason he is here, rather than above. Ramirez struggles with spin, and especially spin from the left side. He just hasn't looked comfortable against left-handers so far in his professional career. The clock is hardly ticking though, and he is only a bit of refinement away from joining a couple of his Kingsport team on the top section of this page in 2017.
Ricardo Cespedes, OF – When I was first sketching out this list in late Fall, I had a great “The Mets still have a Cespedes” quip queued up here. But then the team re-signed Yoenis, so it's no longer relevant. The younger Cespedes very much is. He was the Mets big signing out of the 2014 July 2 class, and although Ali Sanchez is the better prospect at present, Cespedes will show you plenty to dream on. He can show you some pull pop that should spread to all fields as he ages, and like many of the Mets younger prospects, has a better plate approach than most teenagers. If you were more confident he's a center fielder long term, you might even be able to find a spot for him above, but he doesn't really have the straight-line speed to profile there. Neither does the older Cespedes, mind you, but he does have some other things going for him.
Gabriel Ynoa, RHP – Ynoa was never likely to achieve the same successes as the crop of pitching prospects that graduated ahead of him, but he looked for much of his minor league career like a future useful-mid-rotation arm. Double-A has been a challenge for him though, despite a major-league-quality fastball and changeup. Ynoa's fastball is too hittable, and he lacks a breaking ball that projects as even average (he's dabbled with both a slider and a curve and was throwing them both at the end of 2015) to keep hitters from sitting on his heater. The low three-quarters armslot doesn't help either, as lefties get a long look at the ball. He might benefit from a move to the pen, much like his 2012 Cyclones rotation mate, Hansel Robles did. Ynoa can touch 95 now, and if he sits there in short bursts, he may have a useful major league career. Or just have him spend March with Dan Warthen. It seems to have worked with everyone else.
Marcos Molina, RHP – Molina would have been a slam dunk for the top end of the list in May. He has the best stuff of anyone in the system not named Steven Matz, and was handling the jump from Brooklyn to St. Lucie without issue. But then came the dreaded “forearm soreness,” a few months of rest and rehab, a short return to the mound, and the inevitable Tommy John surgery. I would hope we are past the point of predicting pitcher injury based on mechanics, an online pastime akin to phrenology, but Molina's mechanics were unorthodox to say the least. Whatever the cause, he won’t throw another pitch in a professional setting until 2017. This is not a death knell for a pitching prospect, in fact it is basically de rigueur, but it does make those of us that believed in him as a starter long-term take a bit of pause.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/90 or later)
- Noah Syndergaard
- Michael Conforto
- Steven Matz
- Zack Wheeler
- Dilson Herrera
- Kevin Plawecki
- Wilmer Flores
- Amed Rosario
- Rafael Montero
- Luis Carpio
Not only do the defending National League champions have an impressive haul of young talent eligible here, but Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, Travis d’Arnaud, Juan Lagares and Ruben Tejada all just barely missed the list, as they were born during the year Milli Vanilli registered three different number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100. For those of you who don’t remember those sweet (almost) singing gentlemen, it was 1989. As a franchise with such a collection of talent on the way up and an off-season that saw ownership actually supplement it via free agency, the Mets are strongly positioned for an extended period of contention.
The root of this, of course, is their young pitching—and the 23-year-old Texan that sits atop this list might amazingly end up as the best of the bunch. There’s been a recent movement in baseball that’s shown hitting prospects to be better in their first wave against major league pitching than we’re accustomed to expecting. Yet, Syndergaard dominated in a way we don’t often see in their pitching counterparts. He struck out 166 batters in just 150 innings, but just as importantly, he walked only 31 batters. So much as it’s possible to have a 1a, 1b, and 1c in a rotation, the Mets will have that in 2016.
At the plate, nothing that Conforto did in 2015 was that much of a surprise to anyone. However, the strong defense he showed in the outfield went a long way towards putting to rest the biggest knock on his former prospect profile. He was sheltered against left-handed pitching down the stretch last season, but should be let loose this year in a developmental sense. He slides in just ahead of the Mets’ potential 1d because if the defense was real, he could be a 4-5 win player in Queens.
Returning from Tommy John is never a certainty, as the recent rash of re-injuries has shown us, yet the Mets’ former 1d (and current 1e) is on the path to a mid-season return. It’s funny how a pitcher with Wheeler’s stuff and prospect pedigree can be relegated to afterthought, as his return would be the talk of the town for many other franchises. And to think, this could have been Gary Brown.
The next three members of this list all fall into the same bucket: second-division regulars who the Mets (like teams in the thralls of contention should) are not relying on to be heavy contributors. Plawecki is certainly one of the 30 best catchers in baseball right now, and the 12.3 framing runs he saved in limited playing time last season only further the argument. Herrera could have been pressed into action this year, but will get another year of development behind the soon-to-be-free-agent Neil Walker. Then, come 2017, he should form the other half of a double-play combination with either Asdrubal Cabrera or the next player on this list. That Cabrera signing and the Walker trade has combined to quite possibly render last year’s starting shortstop a utility player. However, Flores is going to make his money with his bat—an odd thing to say about a player with a career .285 on-base percentage, but a true statement nonetheless.
Finally, if Wheeler has seemed forgotten at all, the pitcher checking it ninth on this list might as well have fallen down a well. After fighting his right shoulder throughout most of 2015, Montero enters this season healthy and searching for a role, whether it’s as a spare starter or a relief arm. If healthy, he's still capable of a future as a no. 4 starter or a set-up man.
The Mets are again poised to make a run at another World Series appearance in 2016, and if it were to happen, it would be on the strength of their youth. But it goes beyond the handful of young stars they have, it’s the major league depth that this youth creates that sets them apart from their competition. —Bret Sayre
General Manager: Sandy Alderson
Director of Amateur Scouting: Tommy Tanous
Special Assistant to the General Manager: J.P. Riccardi
The Mets have a fairly big hole to fill now with former Senior Vice President, Player Development and Amateur Scouting, Paul DePodesta, headed to Cleveland. It is not a surprise that DePodesta got a promotion elsewhere, nor a surprise that he headed back to Cleveland. However, it may be a bit of a surprise that he is now in charge of the Cleveland Browns. Under DePodesta, the organization drafted, traded for, and developed a very good major league core. The Mets front office values continuity and internal experience both in the locker room and in their executive suites, so the most likely scenario is Tommy Tanous takes on an even larger role in the amateur draft, and the Mets expand responsibilities for Adam Fisher, currently Director of Operations, and Ian Levin, Director of Minor League Operations. DePodesta was a key cog in the front office, but his loss will likely be felt more quickly on the major league side than in drafting and development.
Alderson's front office has now overseen five drafts for the Mets. Four of the five top picks were prep bats and all are still in the top ten. The one college pick was Michael Conforto, and you probably know how that went. Cecchini, Nimmo, and Smith have underwhelmed somewhat as prospects, but all are likely to at least play in the majors, and one Michael Conforto papers over plenty of 40th percentile outcomes. Beyond the top picks, only Logan Verrett, a 2011 third rounder, and Kevin Plawecki, a 2012 supplemental first-round pick, look to have roles on the 2016 team. But Michael Fulmer became Yoenis Cespedes, overslot prep arms John Gant and Rob Whalen became Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, and 2012 third-rounder Matt Koch was part of a deal that brought back Addison Reed. If the goal of your player development system is to produce major league regulars, there has been success here past the organization's own draft picks.
The system is down right now, especially on the pitching side. The Mets emptied their surplus of minor league arms to make all of their various 2015 deadline deals, but they also stocked up on prep arms in their 2015 draft class. They spent aggressively in Latin America last summer, nabbing two big name shortstops in Andres Gimenez and Gregory Guerrero. And the Alderson front office has had remarkable success with smaller-money international signings as well. This whole process is supposed to be cyclical. The Mets will have to restock their farm system in the coming years, but they have two top-thirty picks in this upcoming draft, and most importantly, a competitive major league team stocked with the last generation of homegrown, impact talent.