After making his major league debut on June 18, rookie Zack Wheeler posted a 3.42 ERA with 84 strikeouts in 100 innings.
It was another disappointing year at the major league level for the New York Mets, as the team recorded its fifth straight losing season and dropped 88 games for the second consecutive year.
To make matters worse, the organization received a crushing blow in late August when it was announced that 24-year-old phenom Matt Harvey, the National League’s starting pitcher in the 2013 All-Star Game, had partially torn the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and would miss the remainder of the regular season. The right-hander elected to address the injury with rest and rehabilitation before he ultimately decided to undergo Tommy John surgery in October. Sadly, Harvey is expected to miss the entire 2014 season.
The season wasn’t a total wash, though; three of the organization’s top prospects reached the major leagues and offered a glimpse of the team’s bright future.
23-year-old Zack Wheeler, who was acquired shrewdly in late 2011 from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Carlos Beltran, emerged as one of the more exciting young pitchers in the game, and it’s easy to envision him following Harvey in the rotation for years to come.
Meanwhile, catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who served as the centerpiece of the offseason deal that sent former Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays, once again battled injuries but still made his highly anticipated debut in the major leagues.
Lastly, 22-year-old Wilmer Flores, who has been a name in the Mets’ system dating back to 2007, was aggressively promoted to the major leagues in the wake of a David Wright injury in August.
21-year-old Noah Syndergaard—also acquired in the Dickey trade—emerged as one of the top young arms in the minor leagues last season. Boasting a four-pitch arsenal that features three future plus or better offerings, the right-hander has one of the highest ceilings among all pitching prospects and projects as a potential front-of-the-rotation force.
Beyond Syndergaard, the Mets’ prospect pool is comprised of mostly positional talent, including d’Arnaud and Flores, who each failed to accrue 130 at-bats last season and did not qualify as rookies.
The organization is hopeful that 2013 first-rounder Dominic Smith will be its long-term answer at first base, as the 18-year-old left-handed hitter projects to hit for both average and power at maturity. And speaking of first-round draft picks, 2011 bonus baby Brandon Nimmo held his own last year in his full-season debut. However, the outfielder has been slow to develop overall and will presumably require several additional years in the minor leagues.
The Mets also house a few high-floor bats with questionable defensive profiles in Flores and catcher Kevin Plawecki. Finally, be sure to keep an eye on shortstop Amed Rosario in 2014, as it wouldn’t surprise me if the 18-year-old ranks as the team’s top prospect heading into the 2015 season.
Here’s a look at the New York Mets’ top 10 prospects for the 2014 season.
DOB: 12/22/1993 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 180
Drafted: First round, 2012 (Lake Charles HS, La.)
Gavin Cecchini’s swing is all arms and loaded with unnecessary movement; the right-handed hitter frequently casts hands away from his body and around baseball, resulting in weakly hit contact to the left side; maintains decent barrel control within the zone; weight transfer through the baseball is choppy and lacks fluidity; projects for below-average power at maturity, and he’s unlikely to eclipse double-digit home runs; slightly above-average speed doesn’t always play in games; he should be more of a stolen-base threat as on-base skills improve.
The 6’1”, 180-pounder was viewed as one of the more athletic and advanced shortstops in the 2012 draft class; stands out for well-rounded defensive profile; he isn’t a flashy shortstop but makes all the necessary plays thanks to fluid actions and average range; average arm strength represents a down too and complicates his long-term projection at the position; more suitable for a career as a second baseman.
Ceiling: Second-division player/reserve
DOB: 05/29/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 192
Drafted: Second round, 2009 (Melville HS, N.Y.)
Steven Matz underwent Tommy John surgery in 2009 shortly after signing with the Mets and subsequently missed the 2010 and 2011 season; logged only 29 innings during professional debut in 2012; injury appears to be behind him but will remain a concern throughout career.
6’2”, 192-pound left-hander has a high floor thanks to solid command profile and pitchability; pounds the strike zone and keeps opposing hitters off-balance with solid three-pitch mix; fastball registers in the 89-94 mph range, and he’s adept at adding and subtracting to the pitch; can reach back for an additional tick or two as needed.
Curveball significantly improved during the 2012 season and should at least serve as an average offering at maturity; southpaw’s changeup is arguably his best secondary pitch, thrown with depth and late-fading action; ability to change eye levels and speeds resulted in better-than-expected strikeout rate, though it may not translate at more advanced levels; uses entire arsenal to consistently induce ground balls.
Ceiling: No. 4/no. 5 starter
DOB: 03/27/1993 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 185
Drafted: First round, 2011 (Cheyenne, Wyo.)
Brandon Nimmo passes the eye test with a physically strong and projectable 6’3”, 185-pound frame; left-handed hitter demonstrates solid approach, especially given his limited experience as an amateur; present strength suggests plenty of untapped power, but the lack of lift in his swing stifles the potential for consistent over-the-fence pop; may take a few more years for in-game power to materialize; present feel for pounding the gaps could lead to 20-plus doubles annually.
Plate discipline enables him to work deep counts and coax walks and should lead to solid on-base rates throughout career; strikeout rate increased this past season during full-season debut but should stabilize as he gains further experience at advanced levels.
Nimmo has played center field exclusively since turning pro but doesn’t profile favorably at the position long-term; range plays up thanks to good jumps and demonstrates good instincts; speed is only average and better suited for left field.
Ceiling: Second-division regular/fourth outfielder
DOB: 08/06/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 190
Signed: 2007 (Venezuela)
ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013)
Wilmer Flores’ pitch recognition and aggressive approach were exploited upon reaching the major leagues in August; still attacks the ball early in the count but doesn’t force contact as often as he did earlier in career; development of hit tool always will be tied to approach and strikeout rates.
Projects to have average power at highest level, probably somewhere in the 12- to 15-home run range at maturity; he’s learned to turn on ball for over the last two seasons but lacks the leveraged swing to consistently jump the yard; still lets the ball get deep and primarily uses an inside-out swing to go drive the ball back up the middle and the other way.
Spent first four seasons (2008-11) of pro career at shortstop before permanently moving off position in 2012; body control and hands have improved as a result of not having to focus on footwork and positioning; lacks ideal quick feet at all infield positions; solid instincts and a good first step are best suited for a corner position.
Ceiling: Second-division player/reserve
DOB: 02/26/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 205
Drafted: First-round supplemental, 2012 (Purdue)
Kevin Plawecki is a physically mature right-handed hitter at 6’2”, 205 pounds; makes lots of hard contact thanks to excellent hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball skills; keeps barrel in strike zone for an extended period of time and uses entire field; strong top hand at point of contact allows him to drive through the ball on a line-drive plane; consistently keeps weight back before taking hands directly to ball.
He'll never be a home run threat but should easily amass 25-plus doubles in a given season; advanced approached should continue to yield favorable strikeout-to-walk rates as he moves up the organizational ladder; adept at mashing left-handed pitching.
Larger build limits Plawecki’s mobility behind the plate, but he moves well enough to handle the position at the highest level; blocking and receiving are greatest strengths; consistently stays low to angle the ball back toward the field; good hands and smooth transfer; arm is a down tool and average at best; pitch calling and feel for sequencing both have room to improve.
His overall defensive skill set might be challenged at more advanced levels; appeared in 17 games at first base last season and could see more time at the position in the coming years.
Ceiling: Second-division regular
DOB: 11/20/1995 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 170
Signed: 2012 (Dominican Republic)
The Mets gave Amed Rosario the highest international signing bonus in franchise history, signing him for $1.75 million in 2012. He emerged as a can’t-miss prospect this past season with an impressive showing as a 17-year-old in the Rookie-level Appalachian League.
Right-handed hitter showcases above-average to plus present bat speed; forceful bat path through strike zone; hitting mechanics are inconsistent and result in a lengthy swing at times; ball absolutely jumps off the barrel when squared up; he drives ball with authority to pull side; potential for above-average power at maturity; steadily learning to use entire field; both plate discipline and pitch recognition will require considerable refinement moving forward.
6’2”, 170-pound shortstop has the potential to stick at the position long-term; inexperience and general rawness are evident through his lack of consistency; possesses above-average speed that should hold up as he adds strength and fills out physically; draws rave reviews for his smooth defensive actions and body control; exhibits creativity at the position, using athleticism and above-average arm strength to deliver throws from various arm angles.
Ceiling: First-division regular
DOB: 06/15/1995 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 185
Drafted: First round, 2013
Dominic Smith is a mature hitter for his age who projects to hit for both average and power at highest level; has a smooth but powerful left-handed swing; impressive feel for hitting thanks to hand-eye coordination and solid approach; already recognizes spin better than most his peers; knack for workings counts should result in favorable on-base rates.
Ability to drive the ball from line to line suggests potential for above-average or better hit tool; possesses plus raw power that increasingly should play in games; can get too pull-happy when his hips trickle forward and it prevents him from staying inside the ball.
Smith is more athletic than his 6’0”, 185-pound frame suggests but will always be a first base-only prospect; some concern about his soft-ish body type and how it will mature physically; he’s below-average runner but moves well around the bag; instinctual defender who can flash plus with the glove and will save plenty of runs.
Ceiling: First-division regular
DOB: 10/17/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6'0", 170
Signed: 2011 (Dominican Republic)
Undersized right-hander (6’0", 170 pounds) is highly advanced for his age and has moved up the organizational ladder quickly since pro debut in 2011; boasts impressive arm strength and a mature arsenal; plus command profile is easily his strongest attribute.
Montero’s fastball comes in at a deceptive 90-93 mph and generates a surprising amount of swing-and-misses; commands the pitch to both sides of the plate; will also attack hitters up and down; curveball and changeup are both serviceable offerings, though both play up thanks to his feel for sequencing; needs to develop at least one of them into an out pitch.
Ceiling: No. 4/No. 5 starter
DOB: 2/10/1989 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 195
Drafted: First round, 2007 by Philadelphia Phillies (Lakewood HS, Calif.)
ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013)
The 6’2” right-handed hitter has above-average bat speed; impressive raw power; lift in swing generates backspin carry; power frequency continues to improve; short, compact swing; good feel for bat head relative to zone; makes loud contact to all fields; has some swing-and-miss in his game; will pull open with front side; needs to focus on driving the ball to right-center gap; keeps hands inside ball when in a groove.
Defense has vastly improved over past two seasons; quiet athleticism; moves well laterally behind the plate; has become a more aggressive blocker; boxes fewer balls; receiving skills continue to improve; ability to frame pitches at the bottom of the strike zone is impressive; gives umpires a good look at pitches; has been lauded by pitchers and managers for putting down good fingers.
Plus arm is strongest defensive asset; footwork can get out of sync with arm; foot fracture that sidelined him last season shouldn't impact long-term future behind the plate; decision-making has been tested in the major leagues.
Ceiling: First-division regular
DOB: 08/29/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’6”, 240
Drafted: First round, 2010 by Toronto (Legacy HS, Texas)
The 6’6” right-hander has a power pitcher’s frame; physical presence on the bump; throws everything on a solid downhill plane; pounds lower portion of strike zone; repeats mechanics well for his size; delivery requires minimal effort; consistently lands square to the plate; fast arm; strong core; moderate effort involved in delivery.
Fastball sits in the mid- to upper-90s with late arm-side life; scraped 100 mph in the Eastern League playoffs; amasses a healthy mix of strikeouts and ground-ball outs thanks to steep plane; curveball has plus potential in the upper 70s; tight breaker with sharp downward bite; command of the pitch has improved this season; stays on top of the pitch consistently.
Added an above-average slider this season that has helped regulate the arm speed on the curveball; has improved control of his changeup but still only an average offering; thrown with deceptive arm speed; should serve as a weapon against left-handed hitters; control and command give him the chance to be a monster.
Ceiling: No. 2 starter; potential All-Star