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New York Mets: 4 Minor Leaguers That Could Make an Impact in 2014

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New York Mets: 4 Minor Leaguers That Could Make an Impact in 2014
Elsa/Getty Images

2014 is the season New York Mets fans have circled on their calendars—only greener pastures ahead.  

The rebuilding phase is nearing its conclusion and a few notable minor league assets are just about ready to make big-league contributions for the Mets next year.

It’s the year the franchise has been building towards.  The year the roster transforms from a home of hapless placeholders, to one of long-term solutions.  A season immediately preceded by an offseason where money was finally spent.  

The first year since Sandy Alderson took over as general manager that losing truly ceases to be acceptable in Queens.

If you haven’t gotten the gist, next year is a big one in Mets-land—a discernible step forward for the franchise.  

That’s the prevailing narrative, at least.

The extent of Matt Harvey’s injury is certain to affect strategy, but a judicious organization always has contingency plans.  Improving the on-field product before the pivotal season is a goal that has not changed.  

For all of the pitching talent the Mets have in the farm-system’s upper levels, most of their position-players have either already arrived, or are fringe-prospects at best.  The real talent is at least a couple of years away.

Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker all made their major league debuts this season.  Each player will retain his rookie eligibility in 2014, with the exception of Lagares.   

A true testament to a strengthened minor league system for sure, but nowhere near enough to be competitive next year.

There are still more roster holes entering the offseason than there are internal remedies.   Management will have to peruse the trade market and dip into the free-agency pool to fill the everyday position-player roles that their minor leaguers presently cannot.  

Immediate prosperity, however, will still largely depend on the development rate of Mets' pitching prospects waiting to make their big-league arrivals.

The current front office has demonstrated a keen sense of reality upon arrival as well as understanding of the patience and prudent—if not difficult—personnel decisions required to properly rebuild an organization’s farm system, dissimilar to past regimes.  

Plenty of time was just spent waiting.  They waited for contracts to expire.  They waited for the right pieces to become available.  They waited for the minor league system to become a credible source of talent.  It was a very one-step-back, two-steps-forwards philosophy.

Popular players were traded, big name free agents were all but explicitly ignored. The organization shifted to player development—especially young pitching.  

Now the benefits will be reaped.  

The four minor league pitchers below are poised to make impacts for the Mets next year.  

Note: Only players without a single major league appearance were considered.

All following statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

 

Noah Syndergaard

The consequences of Harvey’s injury will be appreciably felt beyond the pitching rubber.  All impending Mets moves will substantially hinge on the status of the ace’s elbow.

Harvey just recently announced that he will forgo surgery, at least for the time being.

Noah Syndergaard is an all-world pitching prospect with elite talent and the demeanor to anchor a major league rotation.  

He represents the silver lining in Harveygate—if circumstances permit such a thing.  

Scouts are gushing about his potential.

Zach Mortimer described Syndergaard as a “very mature pitcher with a solid three-pitch arsenal and excellent mechanics,” in a scouting report for Baseball Prospectus (subscription required):

[He is] very focused when on the mound and showed some mental toughness when he ran into some trouble. Syndergaard is one of the most polished pitchers I’ve seen at this level. With his size, stuff, and makeup there is no reason to think he can’t be a successful big leaguer in the near future.

Syndergaard—or, “Thor," to his teammates—should be pitching for the Mets next year barring any setbacks.  And everybody seems to be on board.

2013 has only increased his stock around baseball—the other piece in the blockbuster trade of R.A. Dickey makes the deal look more one-sided every time he takes mound.  

Here's are just some of the lists that Syndergaard has appeared on:

 

Thor's minor league dominance is demonstrated in the table below. 

Syndergaard: 2013 Minor League Statistics
Level IP ERA SO BB WHIP SO/9
A+ 63.2 3.11 64 16 1.209 9.0
AA 54 3.00 69 12 1.074 11.5
Combined (A+-AA) 117.2 3.06 133 28 1.147 10.2

Baseball-Reference.com

In some respects, Syndergaard has managed to accomplish more in his professional career by the age of 21 than Harvey or Zack Wheeler ever had.  How’s that for an indicator?

The flamethrower will likely start the year in Las Vegas—a final stop at triple-A with very little left to prove at the minor league level.  If performance meets expectations, Mets fans can expect to see Syndergaard in the big-league rotation by July.  

 

Rafael Montero

The 22-year-old Rafael Montero is another Mets power arm waiting to burst onto the major league scene.

Jonathan Mayo ranked Montero third among all Mets prospects, behind the aforementioned Syndergaard and the recently graduated D’Arnaud.

Elsa/Getty Images

Montero started 27 games between Double-A and Triple-A this year.  In 155.1 combined innings he posted a 2.78 ERA with 150 strikeouts, 35 walks and a 1.101 WHIP.  His ERA in 16 starts at the unfriendly pitching confines of Las Vegas was an impressive 3.05.  

The strong 2013 campaign earned him Baseball America’s 2013 Minor League All-Star Team honors.

His minor league performance should also make him a candidate for the starting rotation next year.  His primary competition is most likely Jacob deGrom—the next entry on the list.

 

Jacob deGrom

Jacob deGrom has avoided much of the fanfare that stalked the respective minor league careers of Harvey, Wheeler and Syndergaard—a rare case where external hype is exceeded by the expectations within a New York-based franchise.

The Mets have high hopes for the 25-year-old, whose age is hardly indicative of experience.  

DeGrom is a converted college shortstop the Mets took as a ninth-round pick in 2010.  The former infielder has rapidly ascended the organization’s prospect rankings the past two years, after forfeiting 2011 to undergo Tommy John surgery.

DeGrom is expected to compete with Montero, among others, for the 2014 Opening Day rotation next spring.

His 4.52 ERA at triple-A this past year is nothing to get excited about, but it comes with an asterisk.  The Las Vegas ballpark is a known hitter’s paradise in the minor league’s most  hitter-friendly league—the Pacific Coast League.

Among the righty’s arsenal is a fastball that sits in the mid-90s—a major league-ready weapon.  His changeup and slider (or curveball, depending on who you ask) are slightly less polished, but could prove to be plus-pitches with some refining.  

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

MLB.com ranks him as the No. 19 Mets prospect.  His future as a starting pitcher will probably depend on the development of his secondary offerings.  

One last, random note: Jacob deGrom would join Travis d’Arnaud and Matt den Dekker to form the first major league trio featuring a lowercase D at the beginning of their surnames.

 

Jeff Walters

Jeff Walters may have a better chance than any player on the list to make the major league roster out of Spring Training for the simple fact that he is a relief pitcher.

He failed to appear on top prospects lists, but the 25-year-old reliever won’t fly under the radar for much longer.

Walters broke the Binghampton Mets all-time record this year, notching his 37th save on August 27—top among all minor league pitchers.

John Bernhardt of MetsmerizedOnline.com described the pitcher as a “live arm with a fastball that regularly touches 96 mph, an above average curveball, and a developing change-up—Walters can shut down a game.”

Could the Mets bullpen—ranked near the bottom of the National League with a 4.09 ERA as of September 17—actually be an area of strength next year?  

Walters would join a bullpen that already features homegrown products like Bobby Parnell, Gonzalez Germen and the recently acquired Vic Black to form a formidable core of relievers entering 2014.

In 56 innings, he finished 2013 with 38 saves, 60 strikeouts, 16 walks and a 1.107 WHIP—making a pretty strong personal case for a big-league role and a chance to have an impact for the Mets next year at an affordable price.

For more Mets info and plenty of other random musings, follow me on Twitter 

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