The New York Mets have had a rough go of it in recent years, having finished with a losing record in each of the past five seasons. What's worse, in all these years of futility, the team never finished bad enough to earn a top-five draft pick, so their farm system is not considered as strong as the Pirates' or the Astros'.
That said, the Mets' top prospects do offer the team and its fans a lot of promise for the near and distant future. And as the World Series is about to get underway, it's worth noting that both the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals are heavily comprised of home-grown talent that each team drafted and bred for a championship run.
So, while the Mets are looking to continue the "re-building" phase, it may be prudent for them to hold on to as many of their prospects as possible. The following is a list of the team's most untouchable prospects, in my opinion.
If the Mets' rotation contains some question marks, their outfield is a complete mystery. The combination of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis et al hasn't really worked for the club.
But, help is on the way in the name of Brandon Nimmo. The Mets' first-round pick in 2011, Nimmo is ranked as the team's fifth best prospect according to Jonathan Mayo. Playing for Savannah-A ball, the 20-year-old Wyoming-native hit .273 with just two home runs in 2013. But as Mayo points out, Nimmo has tons of "raw power". He just needs to develop his approach to help cut down on his strikeouts (131 in 395 at-bats in 2013).
But he's a solid defender and covers center field very well. His projected Major League arrival is still two years away, but Nimmo has a load of talent and will certainly make his impact felt when he lands in Queens.
When the Mets signed Dominican right-hander Rafael Montero in 2011, they knew they had something. The 23-year-old is currently ranked the third-best prospect in the Mets' system according to Jonathan Mayo, and he could very well crack the Mets' Major League rotation in 2014.
Last season, he split time between Double-A and Triple-A, recording a combined ERA of 2.78 with an 8.7 K/9 ratio. He's blown through the minor leagues and seems poised and ready to contribute at the Major League level. With Jonathan Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee the only locks for the rotation in 2014, Montero could be in the limelight sooner rather than later.
Prior to the 2013 season, the Mets made a blockbuster trade with the Toronto Blue Jays to help bolster their farm system. They sent reigning Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas north of the border.
In return, they received two catchers in John Buck and Travis d'Arnaud. But also included was top prospect Noah Syndergaard. The right-handed pitcher is ranked by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo as the team's number one prospect, and 12th overall in the game.
The Mets' rotation currently has some question marks in it, especially with ace Matt Harvey undergoing Tommy John Surgery to miss most, if not all, of the 2014 season. Syndergaard could very well find himself pitching in the Major Leagues next season. This past season, he went 9-4 with a 3.06 between High-A and Double-A. He also struck out over 10 batters per nine innings.
He has ace-material stuff according to Mayo and there is no way the Mets should be moving this kid.
The Mets' first-round draft pick in 2013 was high-schooler Dominic Smith. Clearly, the 18-year-old has a pretty long path ahead of him before he reaches the big leagues, but the amount of promise he shows should prove worth the wait.
He got a taste of professional ball last year, accumulating 206 at-bats in rookie ball, where he compiled a .301 batting average. He is ranked seventh in the Mets' system by Jonathan Mayo, and should develop into a solid, power-hitting first baseman, something the Mets are in desperate need of (especially if Ike Davis continues to struggle).
His expected arrival in the Major Leagues isn't until 2017, but if the Mets can find some stopgaps to keep first base warm for him, Smith should be able to provide the club with a long-term fix at first for a long, long time.
At 22 years of age, Cesar Puello is on the cusp of joining the Mets' outfield in Queens. Before being slapped with a 50-game suspension due to connections to the Biogenesis scandal in 2013, Puello put together a very impressive campaign with Double-A Binghampton.
In 91 games, he hit .326 with 16 home runs and 73 RBI, while also chipping in 24 stolen bases. Jonathan Mayo ranks him the sixth best prospect in the Mets' farm system, and if he can prove that his impressive '13 campaign wasn't drug-related, he should be making an impact at CitiField before too long, especially considering the current state of the Mets' outfield.