New York Mets Top 20 Prospects for 2014
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2014 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. In theory, most Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or unanticipated problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Grade A-: Borderline A. I love Syndergaard and I think the concerns about his secondary pitches are a bit overblown. That said, he did have a sharp platoon split between RHB and LHB and a good dose of Triple-A time is advisable to put on the finishing touches. But I still see him as a number two starter assuming good health and the standard caveats.
2) Travis D’Arnaud, C, Grade B+: Borderline A-. He really needs to graduate because I’ve been writing about him for a long time and fatigue is setting in. I expect he’ll be a solid major league starting catcher with power and good defense, although batting average/OBP may be erratic. We’ll just have to see if his injury issues are bad luck or something more.
3) Rafael Montero, RHP, Grade B+: Borderline A-. It is really hard to do what he did at Las Vegas. People are still sleeping on this guy. I think he can be a number three starter.
4) Dominic Smith, 1B, Grade B: Borderline B-. We’ll have to see about the power, but some sources I trust are enthralled with his pure hitting skills. The obvious comp here is James Loney as a line drive hitter with a strong glove but atypical first base power. When these types of first basemen max out, they are Keith Hernandez. When they don’t, they get stuck in Triple-A.
5) Kevin Plawecki, C, Grade B: Borderline B-. I believe in him. I don’t think he’ll produce tons of homers but he should be a solid hitter for average and OBP. Not great against runners but is otherwise a fine receiver. Good backup option if D’Arnaud busts.
6) Wilmer Flores, INF, Grade B: Borderline B-. Better hitter than he showed during time in New York. I still don’t know how you fit him in the lineup.
7) Brandon Nimmo, OF, Grade B-: I think he will show more power in time although more in the 10-15 home run range than a huge slugger, which is fine if he maintains his on-base ability. In fact he may actually be too passive at the plate.
8) Amed Rosario, SS, Grade B-: Tough guy to grade. Scouts rave on the tools, both offensive and defensive, but he was mediocre statistically in the Appy League. Mediocre, but also extremely young at 17 and everyone who saw him was impressed with the physicality. Could be at the top of this list a year from now but there’s enough uncertainty to hold back a bit. Let’s give him some time.
9) Gavin Cecchini, SS, Grade B-: Don’t expect him to be a home run hitter, but defensive instincts stand out enough that he can still be a regular if his bat is only adequate. He’ll be moving into a tough hitting environment at Savannah though.
10) Cesar Puello, OF, Grade B-: Another very tough guy to grade and rank. Tools have always been strong, and last year he added performance to the mix with Double-A dominance, but how much do we adjust for Biogenesis? I think that issue may be overblown, but of greater concern is his strike zone judgment, which is still shaky and was exposed again in winter ball. He could put up huge numbers in thin air Las Vegas without any underlying improvement in skill. You can draw a scenario where he becomes a regular and you can draw an equally valid one where he never locks in the zone adequately and busts.
11) Dilson Herrera, 2B, Grade B-: Component of the Byrd/Buck trade, potentially broad skill base if he can make sufficient contact. A few months younger than Cecchini and could be a fine double play partner.
12) Jake DeGrom, RHP, Grade B-: Like many Mets pitching prospects, DeGrom has a good fastball and usually throws strikes but his secondary pitches draw mixed reviews. Will likely get a big league trial in ’14, could be a useful fourth starter or a relief option.
13) Vic Black, RHP, Grade B-: He can dominate out of the bullpen and has closer potential if he throws enough strikes. Nice pickup in the Marlon Byrd/John Buck deal with the Pirates.
At this point, the C+ guys become more or less interchangeable and a matter of taste, so please don’t get bent out of shape about the exact spotting.
14) Steven Matz, LHP, Grade C+: It took him three years to recover from Tommy John surgery but he rewarded their patience with a fine season in Low-A. Above-average stuff from the left side, although sharp home/road split with friendly Savannah park means we shouldn’t adopt him as the next Jerry Koosman just yet. Let’s see how it goes in High-A.
15) Cory Mazzoni, RHP, Grade C+: Erratic and injury-plagued season in Double-A, but retained high strikeout rate and is being discussed as a candidate to leap to major league roster this spring. Future appears to be in relief rather than starting.
16) Gabriel Ynoa, RHP, Grade C+: Exceptional 106/16 K/BB ratio in 136 innings in Low-A stands out. Age 20, draws notice for fastball command and changeup but breaking pitches still in progress. Could be nice fourth starter if that improves.
17) Luis Cessa, RHP, Grade C+: You can make a case for him at 14, but that’s true for all these C+ pitchers. Another great set of Savannah numbers (3.12 ERA, 124/19 K/BB in 130 innings) but with a sharp home/road split. Fastball reportedly in the mid-90s and has a good changeup but with breaking ball issues that need to be addressed.
18) Robert Whalen, RHP, Grade C+: Excellent season in Appalachian League, 1.87 ERA with 76/17 K/BB in 72 innings for Kingsport. Throws strikes with power sinker, curve, slider, changeup. Breakthrough candidate.
19) Chris Flexen, RHP, Grade C+: Excellent season in Appalachian League, 2.09 ERA with 62/12 K/BB in 69 innings for Kingsport. Throws strikes with low-90s fastball, shows promise with curve, slider, changeup. Breakthrough candidate.
20) Michael Fulmer, RHP, Grade C+: Plenty of stuff but held back by injuries and control problems in ’13, pitched just 46 innings with 3.33 ERA, 42/19 K/BB. I liked him a lot pre-season, could be three-pitch mid-rotation starter if healthy.
OTHER GRADE C+: Robert Gsselman, RHP; Jack Leathersich, LHP
OTHERS: Matthew Bowman, RHP; Jayce Boyd, OF; Chasen Bradford, RHP; Juan Centeno, C; Andrew Church, RHP; Miller Diaz, RHP; Jeurys Familia, RHP; Erik Goeddel, RHP; Jared King, OF; Rainy Lara, RHP; L.J. Mazzilli, 2B; Casey Meisner, RHP; Daniel Muno, INF; Champ Stuart, OF; Domingo Tapia, RHP; Wilfredo Tovar, SS: Cory Vaughn, OF; Logan Verrett, RHP; Jeff Walters, RHP
Thanks to trades, improved drafting, and the quietly efficient Latin American pitching program, the Mets have a huge amount of depth in C+/C prospects, especially on the mound. There are a lot of guys who have a chance to be number four/five starters or at least valid relief arms. In those terms this is one of the stronger farm systems in the National League: the raw material for a really nice pitching staff is here and there is talent at all levels. Given the attrition rate among pitching prospects, gathering as many pitching arms as possible is a worthy strategy. Everyone tries to do that, but the Mets have actually made it work.
Now, in addition to depth you need to have impact mound talent, too. I love Syndergaard, and the Mets have shown they can identify similar arms with the graduated Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. Rafael Montero is quite intriguing and I think people are still sleeping on him to some extent. Some of the Grade C/C+ arms have breakout potential but need more experience.
For the position players, D’Arnaud looks ready if he can avoid injury and Flores can be a useful role player at least, perhaps more. Plawecki is coming up behind D’Arnaud. Recent high school draftees like Dominic Smith, Gavin Cecchini, and Brandon Nimmo are still quite a distance away from the majors. They have regular potential but some questions to answer too. Amed Rosario has great tools but he is also a long way off and could be anything from star to bust. PED issues aside, opinions on Puello are quite mixed: he could also be a bust or a regular.
Overall, the Mets have shown themselves to be astute traders and seem to know what they are doing in regards to signing pitching, but still need more depth in hitters.
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