Along with the players currently on the major league roster, the Mets also invited more than 20 minor leaguers not on the roster to join the team in big league camp. Jorge Castillo of The Star-Ledger provided a list of a majority of the non-roster invitees.
This doesn’t include the recent signings of pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lannan, Kyle Farnsworth and infielder/outfielder Matt Clark.
Castillo’s list reveals a number of top prospects to be in attendance. Using the top-20 prospect list from MLB.com, let’s take a look at the odds of the top five prospects not on the 40-man roster making the team out of camp and heading north with the Mets at the end of March.
Acquiring a veteran bullpen arm has been a subject of conversation since the start of winter for the Mets. Less than two weeks until the start of spring training, Sandy Alderson has recently agreed to a minor league deal with Kyle Farnsworth, according to the team's Twitter account.
Marc Carig of Newsday reported the Mets are still looking for a late-inning reliever and would be willing to offer a big league deal to acquire one. If no other acquisitions are made, they’ll have to scrutinize all the possible internal options available. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweeted the Mets are planning on experimenting with Cory Mazzoni as a reliever this spring.
Ranked 12th on MLB.com’s top-20 prospect list, Mazzoni has been a starting pitcher for his entire professional career. A second-round draft pick out of North Carolina State in the 2011 MLB draft, the righty went 5-3 with a 4.36 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in his second season with the Binghamton Mets.
In 66 innings of work, Mazzoni struck out 74 hitters while walking 19, yielding a 10.1 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. According to FanGraphs, his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) came in at 2.70. His current scouting report reveals he has an above-average fastball with a slider and splitter that project as average.
Having two or possibly three pitches to throw with above-average control makes him a solid candidate to eventually end up in the bullpen. Even with the agreement with Farnsworth, Mazzoni could have a great chance at making the team as a reliever, if he can adjust.
Odds Mazzoni makes the Opening Day roster: 10-1
Selected with the 35th overall pick of the 2012 MLB draft, Kevin Plawecki provides a solid backup plan for the Mets if Travis d’Arnaud doesn’t meet expectations.
His first full professional season led to a .305/.390/.448 line with eight home runs and 80 RBI between the Savannah Sand Gnats and St. Lucie Mets. MLB.com has him pegged as New York’s 10th-best prospect in its system.
With the number of catchers already scheduled to be in camp, it looks unlikely that Plawecki will make the jump from High-A straight to the majors. D’Arnaud is currently penciled in as the starter. Juan Centeno and Anthony Recker occupy 40-man roster spots and Taylor Teagarden will be in camp as another non-roster invitee.
A product of Purdue University, Plawecki is valued highly by the Mets. He’ll likely develop more power as he progresses through the system, and his 38 doubles last season shows a propensity to drive the ball. His potential will keep him from being rushed through the system, especially with enough catching depth (for now) in the big leagues and Triple-A.
Inviting Plawecki to big league camp this spring is a smart move. He should begin forming relationships with the pitchers already on the roster. If he continues hitting, he could finish 2014 with the Las Vegas 51s in Triple-A, knocking on the door of the major leagues.
Unless something drastic happens in camp, Plawecki should be starting the season in Binghamton.
Odds Plawecki makes the Opening Day roster: 50-1
Brandon Nimmo was Sandy Alderson’s first draft selection as general manager of the Mets. The Wyoming native was taken with the 13th pick in the 2011 draft.
The outfielder’s first full professional season with the Low-A Savannah Sand Gnats was inconsistent. He started well, hitting .322/.421/.433 in 90 April at-bats, but a hand injury forced him to miss most of May and affected him through the months of June and July.
Nimmo returned to form with a hot August, hitting .324/.473/.412 line in 102 at-bats, finishing the year with a .273/.397/.359 triple slash. He also helped the Sand Gnats capture the South Atlantic League championship.
The potential for Nimmo to turn into a major league player is still there, but plenty of risk exists, as well. He’s been in the system for two years now but is just 20 years old. There's more than enough time to develop his power and improve his performance against left-handed pitchers.
He’s also spent most of his two years with the Mets playing at MCU Park in Brooklyn and Historic Grayson Stadium in Savannah. Neither of these parks is friendly to hitters and those with power potential—especially left-handers.
Now into Nimmo's third year with the organization, inviting him to big league camp is a good motivation tactic. It allows him to get a taste of the majors and to continue making improvements in his game.
It’d be a huge surprise if Nimmo starts 2014 with any other affiliate than St. Lucie in High-A.
Odds Nimmo makes the Opening Day roster: 100-1
It’s been a quick ascent for Rafael Montero through the Mets’ minor league system. New York signed the Dominican pitcher as a 20-year-old, assigning him to the Dominican Summer League in 2011.
From there, he’s risen all the way to Triple-A at the end of 2013. He also got the start for the World team in last July’s MLB Futures Game at Citi Field.
The right-hander doesn’t have the same kind of potential as some other top pitching prospects the Mets have recently developed, but his future is still bright. His fastball sits in the 90-95 mph range to go along with a slider and changeup.
His composure on the mound and feel for the strike zone has aided in his quick ascent through the system. In 348.1 career minor league innings, Montero owns a 2.51 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. He's also posted an 8.7 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 over that time.
After dominating Eastern League hitters in Double-A, Montero finished 2013 by tossing 88.2 innings for the Las Vegas 51s. It took some time to adjust to the Pacific Coast League, but he went 5-4 with a 3.05 ERA and 1.24 WHIP with 78 strikeouts and 25 walks.
Before the signings of Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan, Montero had a legitimate shot at competing for the fifth spot in the rotation. That looks a lot less likely now, unless his strike-throwing ability makes him a candidate for the bullpen.
Given his success as a starter and his future potential, that doesn’t seem like a possibility, either.
Odds Montero makes the Opening Day roster: 20-1
The top prospect in the Mets’ farm system heading into 2014 is Noah Syndergaard, according to MLB.com. A critical piece of the trade that sent R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays last winter, he has the potential to be just as good as Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.
Syndergaard’s fastball can consistently reach the upper 90s, and he’s made significant strides with his curveball and changeup. At 6’6” and 240 pounds, he’s able to get on top of his pitches to throw downhill toward the plate.
A native of Texas, the right-hander started the year in High-A with the St. Lucie Mets. He was then promoted to Double-A following an appearance in the Florida State League All-Star game. He combined to throw 117.2 innings and 23 starts in 2013, going 9-4 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.
Syndergaard also continued to show control of the strike zone in his age-20 season. He put together a 10.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 last year.
If he stays healthy, there isn’t much of a question as to whether or not Syndergaard will see time in the big leagues in 2014. When he will is the better question.
New York is hoping to put him on the same path as Harvey and Wheeler. If that’s the case, he’ll likely be in the big leagues sometime in June or July.
Like Montero, there was an outside chance he could’ve made the major league roster out of spring training before Matsuzaka and Lannan were signed. Without any Triple-A experience, the Mets would likely prefer putting the final touches on his development in Las Vegas before a promotion.
Syndergaard earned an invite to big league camp because he’s on the cusp of the majors, barring any unexpected issues. It will give d’Arnaud a chance to get to know him as a pitcher more, limiting the adjustment period this summer.
Odds Syndergaard makes the Opening Day Roster: 30-1
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