New York Mets Top 20 Prospects for 2015
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 2015 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. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other 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. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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-: Age 22, 4.60 ERA with 145/43 K/BB in 133 innings in Triple-A, 154 hits. I don’t think there is anything wrong with Syndergaard that getting out of the PCL/Las Vegas won’t cure. Velocity continues to increase, curve continues to improve, just needs to prove that minor health issues aren’t precursor to anything major.
2) Steven Matz, LHP, Grade B+: Age 23, 2.24 ERA with 131/35 K/BB in 141 innings between High-A and Double-A. Great story on Tommy John recovery, power lefty arm with good command, fastball well into the 90s now. Terrific complement to Syndergaard.
3) Dilson Herrera, 2B, Grade B+: Age 20. He’s just 20. Hit .323/.379/.479 with 13 homers, 23 steals, 47/96 BB/K in 524 at-bats in High-A/Double-A. His reputation is growing but if anything he may still be under-estimated.
4) Brandon Nimmo, OF, Grade B/Borderline B+: Age 21, hit .322/.448/.458 in High-A but just .238/.339/.396 in Double-A. I love Nimmo’s on-base abilities and overall approach, but I am hesitant to go full-bore B+ or higher at this time due to serious platoon split problems. For now I have Herrera ahead, which is likely a minority view. That should be seen as praise for Herrera, not any disrespect towards Nimmo, who is one of my favorite prospects.
5) Kevin Plawecki, C, Grade B: Age 23, hit .309/.365/.460 between Double-A and Triple-A. Just a solid all-around prospect, not deadly against bsaerunners but otherwise very skilled on defense, not a big home run hitter but should maintain solid average and OBP with gap power. Great backup for Travis d’Arnaud, can start if necessary. He would also make attractive trade bait.
6) Rafael Montero, RHP, Grade B: Age 24. People seem a little down on him but I’m not really sure why: he’s pitched very well in the difficult environment of Las Vegas and the PCL (3.31 ERA in 169 innings, 158/59 K/BB, 154 hits), and while he doesn’t have blistering stuff, the complete package has always played up. He needs to adapt his command to the majors but he could be the Jake Odorizzi of 2015. I think there is some prospect fatigue with this one, everyone looking for shiny new toys and overlooking a guy who has always gotten the job done.
7) Michael Conforto, OF, Grade B: Age 21. Very advanced college hitter with above-average power and good strike zone judgment, should not need very long in the minors. Hit .331/.403/.448 in New York-Penn League. Athleticism may be underrated but his defense still needs polish, which is OK if he hits as expected.
8) Marcos Molina, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. Age 19, Flavor of the Month after dominant turn in the New York-Penn League (1.77 ERA, 91/18 K/BB in 76 innings, 46 hits), impeccable statistically with good reports on mid-90s fastball and change-up, breaking stuff still needs some work and we need to see what kind of workload he can handle. With Syndergaard and Montero likely graduating to the majors in 2015, Molina could be top of the list next year.
9) Amed Rosario, SS, Grade B-/Borderline B. Age 19, hit .289/.337/.380 in NY-P. Scouting reports and defense are ahead of his offensive production at this point, hardly atypical for his age of course. High ceiling with both bat and glove, needs work with the strike zone and defensive reliability. Like Molina, could shoot to the top of the list next year.
10) Jhoan Urena, 3B, Grade B-: Age 20, switch-hitter from Dominican Republic hit .300/.356/.431 in the NY-P with 20 doubles. Long-term defense and future home run production are unanswered questions, but there is a lot to like here. Mets fans are aware of him but he is just now earning national attention.
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ANALYST NOTE: Spots 11-20 are very, very fluid as the Mets have a lot of Grade C+-type talent. This should be seen as a tiered approach: the top ten seem very obvious to me, but after that it gets murky.
11) Gavin Cecchini, SS, Grade C+: Age 20, hit .247/.328/.378 in A-ball with eight homers, showing more pop this year. Oddly, reports on his defense actually slipped a bit, at least from non-Mets sources, despite defense being his key skill heading into 2014. This would be his draft year if he’d gone to college, so keep his age in mind.
12) Dominic Smith, 1B, Grade C+: Age 19, hit .271/.344/.338 in Low-A. You have to think that more power will come, and like Cecchini he is still very, very young. But when your SLG is lower than your OBP, you have a problem as a first baseman.
13) Cory Mazzoni, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, limited to 77 innings by nagging lat injury, posted 4.68 ERA with 75/20 K/BB in high minors, low-90s fastball, slider, splitter could work as fourth/fifth starter or in the bullpen.
14) Robert Whalen, RHP, Grade C+: Age 20, pre-season sleeper posted 1.94 ERA in 70 innings in Low-A with 63/21 K/BB but missed much of season with an infection of his pitching hand. Good breaking ball, low-90s sinker, excellent performance record but has never thrown more than 72 innings. Still very interesting.
15) L.J. Mazzilli, 2B, Grade C+: Age 24, hit .301/.361/.440 with 11 homers, 14 steals, 45 walks, 82 strikeouts in 505 at-bats in A-ball. Older prospect and limited by range to second base but has bloodlines, has always hit well. If he hits in Double-A his stock will go up.
16) Cesar Puello, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, hit .252/.355/.393 with seven homers, 13 steals, 30 walks, 72 strikeouts in 318 at-bats in Triple-A. Really tough to rank; the tools have always been here but hasn’t hit well since Biogenesis suspension, which certainly seems suspicious. That said, he did hit better down the stretch and has made some improvements with pitch recognition and selection. Likely needs a change of scenery, but it would not surprise me to see him blossom in a couple of years once everyone has given up on him.
17) Wuilmer Becerra, OF, Grade C+: Age 20, one of the highest ceiling bats in the system, hit .300/.351/.469 in the Appalachian League. Needs work with the strike zone and some sources are oddly muted about a guy who has solid tools and hit well in ’14, but there’s upside here.
18) Jack Leathersich, LHP, Grade C+: Age 24, power bullpen arm posts ridiculous strikeout rates with nasty breaking ball and low-90s fastball, 93 in just 54 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last year. Command is erratic and he has not been overly effective in Triple-A, but should get a bullpen trial sometime this year. Has fanned 334 in 197 career innings.
19) Gabriel Ynoa, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, posted 4.07 ERA with 106/25 K/BB in 148 innings between High-A and Double-A. Like many young Mets pitchers he has a solid low-90s heater, a good change-up, and throws strikes, but his breaking ball needs some work. Potential fourth starter or reliever.
20) Casey Meisner, RHP, Grade C+: Age 19, posted 3.75 ERA with 67/18 K/BB in 62 innings in New York-Penn League. Doesn’t throw that hard yet but shows unusual control for a tall pitcher (6-7) and projects more velocity. Could advance quickly in Low-A.
OTHER GRADE C+: Dario Alvarez, LHP; Robert Gsellman, RHP; Miller Diaz, RHP; Akeel Morris, RHP; Milton Ramos, SS; Matt Reynolds, INF
GRADE C: Matt Bowman, RHP; Jace Boyd, OF; Victor Cruzado, OF; Michael Fulmer, RHP; Sean Gilmartin, LHP; Luis Guillorme, SS; Luis Mateo, RHP; Tyler Pill, RHP; Hansel Robles, RHP; Ali Sanchez, C; Champ Stuart OF; Blake Taylor, LHP; Wilfredo Tovar, SS; Brad Wieck, LHP.
We’ve had a run of good farm systems here: the Cubs, then the Rangers, and now the Mets. This farm system is in very good condition and continues to steadily improve.
One sign of a farm system with healthy depth: after the obvious top guys, it becomes very difficult to rank the huge amount of Grade C+ talent.
The big strength is pitching. Noah Syndergaard is one of the top pitching prospects in the game. Steven Matz is another Top 50 pitching prospect and his success is a testament to the efforts of the rehab staff, coaches, and his own work ethic in coming back from a difficult Tommy John recovery. Rafael Montero still looks like a solid prospect to me, and there is a large group of Grade C+ types who could be fourth/fifth starters or sound relief options. The Mets have done a particularly good job discovering solid arms for reasonable bonuses in Latin America, but they’ve found talent at the college and high school levels as well.
The lower level pitcher with the greatest potential is Marcos Molina, who took a giant step forward and dominated the New York-Penn League in ’14. We need to see how he responds to a larger workload, but he could top this list next year.
Hitting looks good too. Dilson Herrera’s 2014 breakthrough appears genuine and Brandon Nimmo continues to develop steadily. Kevin Plawecki will be ready soon and 2014 first-rounder Michael Conforto should be a lineup mainstay within three years. That’s four regular bats right there.
It would look even better if Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini can live up to their first-round draft slots. Perhaps that won’t happen, but Latin American products Amed Rosario and Jhoan Urena will transition to full season ball in 2015 and provide more depth should the early North American draftees fail. L.J. Mazzilli and Matt Reynolds provide up-the-middle depth possibilities from the college ranks. Even enigmatic Cesar Puello could still turn into an interesting player.
There are at least a dozen other players with big league potential at the rookie ball and summer league levels.
Overall, Mets fans should be pleased with the condition of the farm system.