Chris Blessing: When Aderlin Rodriguez cannot find his way into the Metsí top fifteen prospects list, you know the Mets are dealing with something they havenít dealt with this century, a deep farm system. Itís not that I think Aderlin Rodriguez is some great prospect either. I look at him as a B-/C+ type prospect that has one tool, his power, that gets him noticed. In previous years, he makes the Mets top ten list.
Aderlin Rodriguez being out of consideration for the Mets top fifteen prospects is an example of the depth that Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta have created in the two years since taking over the franchise. Take a look at the organizationís top three prospcts. Zack Wheeler, Travis díArnaud & Noah Syndergaard were all acquired in trades orchestrated by Sandy Alderson. Five of the prospects in this listing were drafted by this front office regime. Michael Fulmer (6), Gavin Cecchini (7), Brandon Nimmo (8), Kevin Plawecki (14) and Phillip Evans (15) all were drafted under Paul DePodestraís watch. Itís not just prospects acquired in trades or prospects drafted by the organization making this list, both Rafael Montero (5) and Luis Mateo (10) were signed as international free agents in 2011.
Iíve had several Mets fans point out to me on social media that itís sad that this organizations top three prospects came from different organizations and it just proves that the Mets cannot scout their own talent. I donít really have words for these fans in regards to those statements. Look, in two years, this organization has transformed itís farm system from an under performing laughing stock to an exceptional example of good scouting and smart trades. This needs to be applauded. Ten players in the top fifteen have been acquired in the past two seasons. Thatís tremendous. I doubt many other organizations can say that and back that up with such highly ranked prospects occupying their top list.
The Mets, unless they perform a 2012 Baltimore Orioles miracle, will not contend in 2013. The light at the end of the tunnel isnít as far away as some think. I never bet against good young pitching, especially the amount of good young pitching the Mets have accumulated. Some of this depth is likely to be traded and the players that the Mets get back, could make this team a contender as early as next year. I promise I havenít had any wacky tobacky either. They are much closer to contention than you think.
JD Sussman: The Mets have a slew of really interesting arms. Domingo Tapia has a plus plus fastball that, due to his low 3/4 delivery, sinks and boars inward against right handed hitters. A strong fastball is an important foundation for any successful pitcher, but Tapia must develop his change up and breaking ball if heís going to miss enough bats to be a starter. I loved watching Luis Mateo down in Brooklyn, but I want prospect watchers to temper their enthusiasm. Heís got a plus fastball that sits in the 92-94 and touches 96 early in starts but his velocity drops as starts wear on, but heís a big kid and a good athlete so this may not be a longer term issue. His success in 2012 was due to his above average ability to locate it and consistently pound the strikezone. Iíve seen his slider earn high praise; yesterday Baseball Prospectus called it a potential ď7″. I havenít seen that. That doesnít it mean it doesnít exist, but in my trips to Brooklyn the pitch has been average and flashed ď6″ only on a handful of occasions. The Mets will likely allow Mateo to start, but he could move quickly as a relief pitcher. Despite ranking him the lowest of the four lists, my favorite starter at Brooklyn was Gabriel Ynoa. His upside isnít as big as Mateo or Tapia but his easy delivery gives him the best chance at sticking in the rotation. His fastball is a ď6″ and sits in the low 90s and touches 95 with good movement, but his change up and breaking ball lag behind. Also, I disagree with Al about Noah SyndergaardĎs fastball. Itís not just velocity, it has strong sinking action and he locates it really well. He mixes in a solid but developing change up and a true 12-6 curveball too. The change is the better of the two pitches, itís more consistent and hitters actually offer at it. The curveball flashes a lot of potential but its shape is very inconsistent at this point as is his control of it. He added a slider later in the year which I did not see, so I cannot comment on it. In a yearís time I could see him making the jump and becoming a top ten prospect like Zack Wheeler.
The Mets also have some intriguing hitters. Brandon Nimmo is a bit of a head-scratcher. He has a passive approach and trouble with breaking pitches but does project to have plus power. Brooklyn was an aggressive assignment for him given his background as a raw and inexperienced ballplayer. 2012 looks good on paper due to his massive walk rate, but I donít see a mid-teens walk rate continuing against good pitching. With more experience he should improve against breaking balls and his contact rate should increase. Another worry that heíll have to move to a corner. We internally debated Kevin Plawecki and Phillip Evans a lot this summer. The ďPlawĒ as they call him (think Claw) down in Brooklyn is a serious competitor and a surprisingly agile catcher. I saw him make some ridiculous diving catches on foul balls that by looking at him you wouldnít think he would get. At the plate he couples a sound approach with good contact skills, but his power is below average. I could see him being a very nice back up catcher or a second division starter if everything breaks right. I slightly prefer Phil Evans. His numbers donít show it but heís short to the ball and has average pop too. Evans is thick muscular kid with little room for projection. Many question his defense but he has surprising range for a kid with his build. Ultimately second base may be better for him but I wouldnít rule out shortstop entirely. Cecchini was a late call up to Brooklyn, and while I didnít see much of him he showcases average tools at a premium position (his hit tool could be above average or better). Lots of fans were upset with the pick because his lacks upside, but donít underestimate how valuable he can be with those tools at shortstop.
Al Skorupa: The Mets were kind enough to time their big trade in time for our top prospects list. I really like Travis díArnaudís game. Heís an agile, athletic receiver behind the plate, though he rushes his footwork and actions at times. DíArnaud possesses a strong arm and is a good framer with soft hands. He has every tool to be a plus defensive catcher in the big leagues but he does need to polish aspects of his game. Out of the catchers Iíve seen live over the last couple years he comes to mind as one of the few I think Iíd really enjoy throwing to if I were a pitcher. At the plate he has a quick bat and above average power. His approach and strike zone are a little inconsistent but its clear heís going to hit more than your average catcher. The pitcher New York acquired in the deal, Noah Syndergaard, has a big arm and flashes quality secondaries. Its easy to project Syndergaard as a mid to front end type right now, but I do have concerns. His fastball Ė while thrown very hard Ė doesnít have a tremendous amount of life on it. Straight, heavy fastballs tend to be the fare of mid rotation types more than front end starters. Iím curious to see if Syndergaard keeps missing a large amount of bats against more advanced hitters, but in either case he looks like a quality major league starter who will help the Mets. While both reach the upper 90′s, fellow farmhand Zack Wheeler is a significantly better prospect. Wheeler is one of the handful of best prospects in the game. Heís that rare on the cusp front end starting pitcher with great stuff, makeup and the knowledge of how to use it.
Iím really not sold on Wilmer Floresís profile. I donít think you can hope for anything other than passable at 3B and even that may be a stretch. I donít believe he has the footspeed for the outfield, either. So I see his natural position as 1B, and while Im optimistic he can hit in the majors heís on a relatively long list of guys who can hit some in the majors but donít have an exciting profile at 1B. Heís kind of a tweener for me and ideally a 2nd division player or corner depth guy. And to get there his approach still needs much improvement to allow his power and natural hitting ability to actually play in game against major league pitchers. Gavin Cecchini may lack impact tools but heís a solid-all-around up the middle player, and that shouldnít be ignored. Those guys are hard to come by. I want to get behind Brandon Nimmo but I do have some concerns there. Heís more advanced than I thought heíd be coming from that ďno high school baseball in WyomingĒ background. I love his makeup and his approach to the game (not to be confused with his approach at the plate). He can put a charge in the ball but the raw tools arenít star level and he still needs a lot of work. I noted he had particular problems with same handed pitching and breaking balls. With his work ethic and makeup Iím inclined to think heís going to make the adjustments, but I still see a major league regular (and not a star) down the road. Luis Mateo has an electric arm but he was a reliever all the way for me. He has a reliever delivery and I donít think his command and control will ever be sufficient for an extended run as a big league starter. Its not that thereís a lot of effort in the delivery, its more that he has the hip slap and head jerk mechanics that hurt FB command. He was 92-95 with late life on his fastball. The power SL had depth and late break and he could throw it for strikes (though not locate it within the zone). He totally lacked a third offering. I got one pitch at 80 on my gun that may have been an attempt at a changeup but it was numbers high and dead straight. Heís a good athlete, too, so thereís a chance he adjustsÖ but its really easy for me to view him as a bullpen arm eventually. He does have some late inning potential with the makings of two well above average pitches.
I saw a good deal of catcher Kevin Plawecki on the Cape a couple summers ago and liked him. I still came away with a favorable impression after seeing Brooklyn a few times this summer. I do think Plawecki profiles best as a backup. Iím not sure he will hit quite enough to carry his fringe average at best glove. He was a nice little pick for the Mets and I like him better than most, but with the addition of díArnaud Plawecki looks even more like organizational depth. I liked Phil Evans to a certain point. Iím just not sure where he eventually fits. Sometimes he looked like he had absolutely no business being in the middle infield and then heíd make one play where youíd sayÖĒwell, hold on hereÖĒ, but ultimately he doesnít have the actions, athleticism or range for shortstop. A scout remarked to me ĒYou donít see a single major league shortstop with a build like that.Ē You definitely donít. He has that fire hydrant, stout, almost catcher build. He does pair that with surprising athleticism, but I donít know heís going to fit anywhere that lets it really play. Second base is much more likely than SS and I think the outfield is a possibility. Though the same scout pointed out its a tough profile for Evans in the outfield, too, as pretty much every org. will have players ahead of him on the depth chart. He has some nice gap power despite his size and a solid feel for the bat. Thereís a lot of players Iím fond of in this system. The Mets have done well with drafts and trades under Sandy Alderson and Chad MacDonald. The composition of the next contending Mets team is starting to take shape.
Jeff Reese: Following the completion of the RA Dickey trade, the Mets suddenly have an impressive system with two elite level prospects at the top. I was the only one to rank Travis díArnaud ahead of Zack Wheeler. Both are on the same tier, but díArnaudís upside as a quality defensive and offensive catcher is too much for me to pass by. I have been a card-carrying member of the Travis díArnaud fan-club since his days with Lakewood, no reason to stop now! Noah Syndergaard has the raw stuff to be mentioned amongst those two, but he lacks the overall consistency. He will just begin to make the climb towards the upper levels of the minor league hierarchy, so there is plenty of time for his curve and change to fully develop.
After those three, the system moves on to talents that are far more raw. The Mets have an abundance of interesting, young Latin arms. Domingo Tapia is my favorite as someone who can dominate off of the strength of his elite fastball and quality changeup. Itís easy to cast him as a reliever given how low his arm-slot is ó interestingly quite a few of the Mets Latin arms throw from low 3/4 to nearly side arm ó and the lack of a quality breaking ball, but I donít mind young pitchers with this profile. Developing quality fastball command and pitching off of your fastball are things that endear me to pitchers ó I like to think of it as the Juan Nicasio profile. A serviceable breaking ball will still need to be developed of course, but itís too early to exile him to the bullpen. Rafael Montero is a legitimate choice to put ahead of Tapia though. His fastball is not quite as impressive, but his breaking ball is much better. Luis Mateo, Gabriel Ynoa, and Hansel Robles all pitched in the Metsís NYPL rotation; I saw all three at the All-Star Game at Mahoning Valley in August. Luis Mateo is the most highly touted, but I came away most impressed with Gabriel Ynoa. Ynoa showed a tick more velocity than the other two in that outing to go with a loose arm and a pair of solid secondary offerings. Mateo was still impressive though, even if he failed to flash the elite velocity that heís known for. His fastball was more 89-92 for me with hard arm-side run that made it a swing and miss pitch; he also threw one slider that showed its full potential with late, fall off the table break. Robles is the least talked about of the three but still came with a low 90s fastball and solid from a loose, fast arm action. Jeurys Familia lacks the necessary control to be a starting pitcher but should thrive in the bullpen.
Brandon Nimmo will take some time to develop coming from a region not known for producing baseball players. Their latest prep first rounder, Gavin Cecchini, may have enough defensive skill to stick at short stop which would make the upside in his bat an asset at the position. Phil Evans, meanwhile, is stretched at short stop but has the instincts that mask some of his deficiencies. Second base is where heíll likely end up; he has enough offensive upside where he could be a solid regular there. The system is definitely improved compared to the past few years.