New York Mets Top 20 Prospects for 2017
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. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.
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. 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) Amed Rosario, SS, Grade A/A-: Age 21, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2012; hit .324/.374/.459 with 24 doubles, 13 triples, 19 steals, 40 walks, 87 strikeouts in 479 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; superior defender with plus arm strength, range, instincts; bat is developing nicely with increasing gap power and improved feel for the strike zone; excellent bat speed could lead to double-digit home runs as he matures, and he should maintain batting average to go with it; shortstop of the future and ready soon with multi-category fantasy impact ability. ETA 2018.
2) Robert Gsellman, RHP, Grade B+: Age 23, 13th round pick in 2011; posted 3.99 ERA with 88/31 K/BB in 115 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, then 2.42 ERA in 45 MLB innings with 42/15 K/BB; excellent down the stretch, best stretch of pitching in his entire pro career; fastball up to 95-96, mixes in plus slider, plus curve, mediocre change-up; secondary pitches looked better in the majors than they did in the minors, reflected in higher strikeout rate while maintaining lots of grounders; undoubted parallels to Jacob deGrom and not just due to the hair, development paths very similar; while a longer track record would be nice, overall I think this is mostly real. ETA 2017.
3) Dominic Smith, 1B, Grade B: Age 21, first round pick in 2013; hit .302/.367/.457 with 14 homers, 50 walks, 74 strikeouts in 484 at-bats in Double-A; highly-respected for pure hitting skills, contact to all fields and batting eye and he maintained that against older competition in the Eastern League; main question continues to revolve around long-term power projection; 14 homers more than doubled previous career high but is still uninspired for a first baseman which will continue to put pressure on his OBP and batting average; solid defender despite carrying 250 pounds; could put up big numbers in Las Vegas without any real change in underlying skills. ETA late 2017.
4) Thomas Szapucki, LHP, Grade B/B-: Age 20, fifth round pick in 2015; posted 1.38 ERA with 86/20 K/BB in 52 innings between rookie ball and New York-Penn League, just 26 hits; 6-2, 205 southpaw with fastball at 92-96 MPH, sometimes a tad higher, mixing in plus curveball and workable change-up; can still be raw with his command and consistency but stuff was so good he didn’t suffer much at the lower levels; main questions now are building durability and polishing the change-up; could leap into elite prospect status once a bit more established. ETA: 2019.
5) Justin Dunn, RHP, Grade B/B-: Age 21, first round pick in 2016 from Boston College; posted 1.50 ERA in 30 innings in New York-Penn League with 35/10 K/BB, 25 hits; hit 97-99 in college bullpen, was 92-96 as a starter in pro ball which seems sustainable; plus slider, but change-up needs work; when his secondaries are working he can be overpowering; will start for now but relief is always an option if change-up doesn’t get more consistent; ETA 2019.
6) Brandon Nimmo, OF, Grade B-/B: Age 23, first round pick in 2011; hit .352/.423/.541 with 11 homers, 46 walks, 73 strikeouts in 392 at-bats in Triple-A, followed by .274/.338/.329 in 73 at-bats in the majors; profile hasn’t changed much; good plate discipline with occasional power spikes, though not as much pop as raw PCL numbers imply; can handle all three outfield positions; perfect fourth outfielder/platoon bat who could have a 15-year-career without getting 600 at-bats in any one season; more power may still yet come; ETA 2017.
7) Desmond Lindsay, OF, Grade B-/B: Age 19, second round pick in 2015 from high school in Florida; hit .303/.433/.451 with 25 walks, 31 strikeouts in 122 at-bats in rookie ball/NYP; career got off to slow start due to serious hamstring injury but he drew raves once healthy; above-average speed with solid-average power potential and a more polished bat than expected with a good eye so far defense is raw but there’s a chance he can stay in center if he learns to read the ball better; high-upside guy who could develop in any number of ways; on tools alone you could rank him almost as high as Rosario; breakout possible if he stays healthy. ETA late 2019.
8) Gavin Cecchini, SS, Grade B-/B: Age 23, first round pick in 2012; hit .325/.390/.448 with 48 walks, 55 strikeouts in 446 at-bats in Triple-A; went 2-for-6 with two doubles in the majors; when drafted he had a reputation for strong defense and questionable hitting; that’s flipped now; he can hit for average and makes constant contact but is a mediocre shortstop, with so-so range and arm strength and too many miscues; tools should work better at second base and could pair nicely with Rosario down the line; like Nimmo, would not surprise me to see a power surge in his late 20s. ETA 2017.
9) Andres Gimenez, SS, Grade B-/C+: Age 18, signed out of Venezuela in 2015 for $1,200,000; hit .350/.469/.523 in Dominican Summer League with 46 walks, 22 strikeouts in 214 at-bats; I am normally skeptical about gaudy DSL numbers but in his case I think it is real; lefty hitter with very refined swing for his age, combined with excellent eye and gap power; raw power weakest tool at this point however given age and athleticism his power potential should not be underestimated; plus running speed; 60-speed, 60-arm, and strong defensive instincts; ETA 2020, which would get him to the majors at 22.
10) Tomas Nido, C, Grade C+/B-: Age 22, eighth round pick in 2012; hit .320/.357/.459 with 19 walks, 42 strikeouts in 344 at-bats in High-A; threw out 42% of runners with low passed ball rate; needs to cut down further on errors but defense is highly-regarded overall; cut whiff rate in half and added 70 points to batting average; more power than seven homers implies; Double-A pitching will challenge his aggressive approach but defense will keep him in the picture long enough for him to make necessary batting adjustments. ETA late 2018.
11) Gregory Guerrero, SS, Grade C+/B-: Age 17, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2015 for $1,500,000; nephew of Vladimir Guerrero; hit .247/.324/.287 in 247 at-bats in DSL with 28 walks, 51 strikeouts, 10 steals; not as refined for his age as Gimenez, doesn’t have as much speed but is five months younger and projects more raw power despite lower DSL SLG; range is stretched a bit at shortstop but he looked very good in brief action at third base; I think the bat will come around; ETA 2021.
12) Merandy Gonzalez, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2013; posted 2.87 ERA in 69 innings in NY-P with 71/27 K/BB, 62 hits; fastball 92-95 with peaks at 97; curveball fickle but a plus pitch at its best; change-up needs more work but has shown signs of becoming average; command varies between shaky and strong but his stuff was good enough for him to thrive in the NY-P despite inconsistency; the Mets have a good track record helping similar pitchers develop. ETA late 2019.
13) Peter Alonso, 1B, Grade C+: Age 22, second round pick in 2016 from University of Florida; hit .321/.382/.587 with 11 walks, 22 strikeouts in 109 at-bats in NY-P; limited defensive value so bat will have to carry him, which is possible; 60-grade power is a clear tool but experts question whether his swing will work at higher levels without significant adjustments; my guess is that he will continue to mash A-ball pitching but that Double-A will be a challenge; that said, he’s shown the ability to make changes before. ETA late 2019.
14) Wuilmer Becerra, OF, Grade C+: Age 22, originally signed by Blue Jays out of Venezuela, traded to Mets in the huge R.A. Dickey deal; hit .312/.341/.393 with one homer, nine walks, 52 strikeouts in 247 at-bats in High-A; season ended early due to shoulder injury, which was bothering him all year; best tool is reportedly power at 55 or 60 but that didn’t show up much in ’16 with just one homer, which could be injury-related; owns good bat speed, but also has issues with highly-aggressive approach; right field profile defensively; wide range of potential outcomes from MLB regular to Double-A fizzle-ar. ETA late 2019.
15) Marcos Molina, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2012; missed 2016 with Tommy John surgery but was back in action in Arizona Fall League and looked healthy again; fastball 88-95 MPH, mixes in slider and change-up and usually throws strikes; projects three quality pitches and mid-rotation potential if he can prove his durability/stamina now that surgery is in the past. ETA 2019.
16) T.J. Rivera, INF, Grade C+: Age 28, signed as undrafted free agent from Troy University back in 2011; hit .353/.393/.516 in Triple-A with 11 homers, 23 walks, 54 strikeouts in 405 at-bats; hit .333/.345/.476 in 105 MLB at-bats with three walks, 17 strikeouts; aggressive but makes hard contact and has hit for high averages at every level, with career .324/.371/.434 slash line; does not have the tools to interest traditionalists, with mediocre speed, arm strength, and power, but track record is impeccable; infield range is limited but he’s reliable and heady, with second base his best position; lots of guys have higher physical ceilings but few match his feel for the game. ETA 2017.
17) Josh Smoker, LHP, Grade C+: Older rookie at age 28, former first-round pick by Nationals back in 2007 but career was almost destroyed by injuries; posted 4.11 ERA with 81/18 K/BB in 57 innings in Triple-A, then 4.70 ERA in 15 MLB inning with 25/4 K/BB; the component ratios are key here rather than the ERA; fastball as high as 98 MPH; mixes in slider and splitter; plenty of stuff to succeed in MLB pen as long as he throws strikes. ETA 2017.
18) Ricky Knapp, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, eighth round pick in 2013 from Florida Gulf Coast University; son of former MLB pitching coach Rick Knapp; posted 2.69 ERA in 164 innings between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A, with 115/39 K/BB, 148 hits; wide arsenal with 88-92 fastball, impressive change-up; solid curve, cutter, and slider; nothing truly plus here but nothing weak, either, and his command is excellent; makeup and mound presence are positive separators; very polished as you’d expect given his background, profiles as fifth starter/long reliever type but should not be under-estimated. ETA late 2017.
19) Luis Carpio, SS, Grade C+: Age 19, signed out of Venezuela in 2013; hit .203/.317/.270 in 74 at-bats between GCL and NY-P; missed most of season after surgery in the spring to repair torn labrum; much was expected after he hit .304/.372/.359 in the Appy League in ’15; pre-injury reports had him as a polished hitter with gap power and a chance to stay at shortstop; reports now say a permanent switch to second bae is likely. ETA 2021.
20) Anthony Kay, LHP, Grade C+: Age 21, first round pick in 2016 from University of Connecticut; didn't pitch over the summer and had Tommy John surgery in October; posted 2.65 ERA in 119 innings during the college season with 111/37 K/BB; fastball can hit 95 but better-known for his impressive change-up, also has a workable curve; could be number three starter depending on injury recovery and breaking ball development. ETA 2020.
OTHER GRADE C+: Kevin Canelon, LHP; Ricardo Cespedes, OF; Andrew Church, RHP; P.J. Conlon, LHP; Phil Evans, INF; Chris Flexen, RHP; Jordan Humphreys, RHP; Patrick Mazeika, C; Kevin McGowan, RHP; David Roseboom, LHP; Ali Sanchez, C; Logan Taylor, RHP
OTHERS: Gary Cornish, RHP; Nabil Crismatt, RHP; Eudor Garcia, 3B; Harol Gonzalez, RHP; Luis Guillorme, INF Colin Holderman, RHP; Kevin Kaczmarski, OF; Jeff McNeil, 2B; Jose Miguel Medina, OF Cameron Planck, RHP; Milton Ramos, SS; Paul Sewald, RHP; Luis Silva, RHP; Corey Taylor, RHP; David Thompson, 3B; Jhoan Urena, 3B; Colby Woodmansee, INF; Joseph Zanghi, RHP
As always, you can rank the C+ guys about a hundred different ways with valid logic. I’ll be around to answer questions in the comments section.