As the 2013 New York Mets limp toward the conclusion of their fifth straight losing campaign, the organization will look toward better days ahead.
With David Wright signed to a long-term deal, former top prospects like Zack Wheeler and Travis d'Arnaud forming the nucleus of their September roster and National League All-Star starter Matt Harvey on the mend due to arm trouble, reinforcements are needed to add to the puzzle in Queens for 2014 and beyond.
This coming winter, the franchise has promised to spend money on veteran talent, but if the Mets are going to surprise in 2014 or 2015, they'll need a surge of talent to explode through their minor league system.
With the 2013 minor league year in the books, here's a ranking of the top 10 prospects in the New York Mets' system.
Before long, some—if not many—of these players will become household names in Queens.
2013 Stats: 23 GS, 117.2 IP, 3.06 ERA, 10.2 SO/9, 4.75 SO/BB
Noah Syndergaard, a 6'6" right-handed power pitcher, was the "other" major piece that arrived in New York in exchange for 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. While d'Arnaud was the more accomplished prospect, the 21-year-old arm could turn out to be an even bigger difference maker as soon as next season.
With a 96 mph fastball, power curve and power changeup, it's easy to understand why this prospect was able to strike out more than a batter per inning between stops at Single-A and Double-A competition this past summer.
As Lynn Worthy of The Poughkeepsie Journal uncovered when speaking to B-Mets pitching coach Glenn Abbott in late August, the organization has been impressed with Syndergaard's ability to rise to the occasion when jumping competition levels.
If he follows that path in spring training, a spot in the 2014 New York Mets rotation is attainable.
2013 Stats: 27 GS, 155.1 IP 2.78 ERA, 8.7 SO/9, 4.29 SO/BB
Rafael Montero has many strengths (95 mph fastball, good command, ability to throw multiple pitches for strikes), but perhaps the most striking thing about his 2013 campaign occurred during his time with the Las Vegas 51s of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
In 16 Triple-A starts with Las Vegas, Montero posted a 3.05 ERA. While that may look good, it's a stark number when considering the high-octane offensive environment that the PCL profiles for young players.
Before going any further with an evaluation of Montero's potential, consider this: Wheeler, the current rotation star in Queens, posted a 3.93 ERA during his time in Las Vegas.
After throwing well at Citi Field during the Futures Game in July, it's just a matter of time before Montero calls that mound home.
2013 Stats: 110 G, 395 AB, .273/.397/.359, 2 HR, 10 SB
The overwhelming success of Jose Fernandez in Miami, selected one spot after the Mets took Brandon Nimmo in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft, shouldn't change the perception of Nimmo's future in New York.
Despite not having a high school baseball team and coming from youth baseball in Wyoming, Nimmo has acclimated himself well to the professional game over the last three years.
Moving forward, his ability to recognize balls and strikes while garnering very high on-base percentages for a young hitter will be an attribute to watch as he develops the other aspects of his game.
2013 Stats: 91 G, 330 AB, .326/.403/.547, 16 HR, 24 SB
While names like Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and Nelson Cruz dominated the mainstream conversation circling around the Biogenesis fallout and suspensions, the New York Mets had two organizational members connected to The Miami New Times investigation.
With apologies to Jordany Valdespin, only one of the two belongs on this list.
If not for the 50-game suspension, Cesar Puello would probably be in the New York Mets outfield this month, auditioning for a bigger role in 2014.
As the organization prepares to shop for outfielders this winter, its evaluation of Puello's season will be crucial.
Did the performance-enhancing drugs transform him into a power-speed monster at Double-A, or is his bat a legitimate option for offensive help in Queens next summer?
If Sandy Alderson concludes the latter, expect to see Puello start as early as next spring training.
2013 Stats: 51 G, 173 AB, .301/.398/.439, 3 HR
When the Mets selected this high school first baseman in the first round of June's MLB Draft, an immediate referendum on Ike Davis' future began in New York.
For the sake of patience, don't start the correlation between the disappointing 2013 from New York's current first baseman and its potential future first baseman.
As solid as Dominic Smith looked in his first taste of professional baseball, he's a long way from entering into the 40-man roster conversation in Queens. But as the years move along, his bat could be good enough to get him there quicker than most high school prospects.
A safer ETA bet for Smith would be 2017, but if his power begins to develop in late 2014 or early 2015, the franchise will have to take notice.
By then, Davis could be anywhere from New York star to platoon player far away from the bright lights of Manhattan.
2013 Stats: 26 GS, 147.2 IP, 4.51 ERA, 7.3 SO/9, 2.61 SO/BB
After making the leap from Single-A to Double-A to Triple-A in 2013, Jacob deGrom has put himself on the New York radar for 2014.
Of course, with a 25-year-old prospect, perspective is needed.
Unlike Syndergaard or Montero, it's unlikely that deGrom has the ability to become a top-of-the-rotation arm, but considering how much depth is necessary in each big league pitching system, there is a future for this right-handed arm on New York's 40-man roster.
Another reason to ignore his age when considering the future: deGrom lost basically all of 2011 due to Tommy John surgery.
He's still a work in progress, building up innings and refining command, but there's reason to believe a late bloomer can emerge into a big league contributor.
2013 Stats: 52 G, 58.1 IP, 4.63 ERA, 15.7 SO/9, 2.27 SO/BB
As the Mets enter the winter, retooling and improving their 2014 bullpen will be a point of emphasis for the organizational decision makers.
When there is a 23-year-old lefty with swing-and-miss stuff like Jack Leathersich in the organization, notice will be taken.
Of course, the ability to strike out batters at a ridiculous rate is Leathersich's calling card, but issuing free passes is holding him back.
In 143 career professional innings, Leathersich has walked an astounding five batters per nine innings pitched.
If he can improve his command, New York has more than an interesting bullpen piece. They could have a future strikeout king at the back end of the bullpen.
2013 Stats: 51 G, 194 AB, .273/.319/.314
The 2012 first-round draft pick is developing in Brooklyn, close to the watchful eye of Mets management. Despite an ankle injury that cost him games in July, his development is on course for a 19-year-old middle infielder that is just two years removed from high school.
As Gavin Cecchini told SNY.tv during a rookie report in August, it's the "mental side of the game" that separates the good from very good players in professional baseball.
With a brother, Garin, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Red Sox in 2010, the New York Cecchini seems to have a baseball maturity above his years.
If his bat comes around, there's a future for him at a position that has not been filled since the departure of Jose Reyes after the 2011 season.
2013 Stats: 116 G, 442 AB, .267/.334/.416, 11 HR, 14 SB
As one of the newest members of the New York Mets organization, Dilson Herrera would not have been included on a list like this put together before late August.
Arriving in the trade that sent Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the playoff-bound Pittsburgh Pirates, Herrera immediately enters the future picture for the Mets infield.
Despite his position, size (5'10") and age, Herrera has shown excellent pop at the plate with double-digit home runs in Single-A ball.
Considering that young second basemen aren't known to have or develop power until much later, his bat packs more punch than you would assume by looking at him.
It wouldn't be fair to evoke the name "Dustin Pedroia" into the conversation about his future, but if he continues to outhit his size at second base, a comparison could be made in the long-term future.
2013 Stats: 22 GS, 135.2 IP, 7.0 SO/9, 6.6 SO/BB
Gabriel Ynoa, the 20-year-old control artist, isn't the typical starting pitching prospect.
While it's common to find high velocity/poor command among young, developing arms, Ynoa profiles as the opposite.
With a low 90s fastball and superb command, Ynoa isn't going to blow hitters away, but he is well above his peers when it comes to limiting walks and placing the ball where he wants to within or outside the strike zone.
As Mike Newman of Fangraphs pointed out early in the season, Ynoa's style may lend itself to durability over the long haul.
If he continues to put the ball where he wants, limit walks and stay healthy, look for this right-handed arm to progress through the system quickly.