The New York Mets sent down a number of their top prospects earlier this week, but many made an impression that should excite fans moving forward.
Talent evaluators around baseball have lauded the Mets farm system this offseason for having high-end prospects such as Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud and Rafael Montero. These prospects should be in the majors in the near future (if they aren’t already there), but some of the team’s lower level prospects were impressive prior to being sent down to minor league camp.
Below are the most impressive prospects who are no longer on the big league roster. I haven't included Syndergaard, d'Arnaud or Montero because they are still in major league camp, and I excluded Cesar Puello because I wrote about his impressive performance Wednesday here.
Steven Matz pitched just two innings this spring, but he exhibited the tools of a prospect that could skyrocket up prospect rankings this season.
Matz has battled injuries since he was drafted, as he pitched in his first minor league game in 2012 after being picked out of high school in 2009. In 2013 he was able to put together his first full season while pitching in Low-A Savannah, where he had a spectacular season, pitching over 100 innings with a 2.62 ERA and a 1.166 WHIP.
This spring, Matz showed scouts and fans why he has the ability to be an impact pitcher in the near future. Coming from the left side, Matz has serious velocity with feel for both a changeup and curveball, although both secondary offerings need serious work. Chris Mellen of Baseball Prospectus took note of Matz last August, as he clearly came away impressed with the Long Island native.
Got a strong report recently on #Mets LHP Steven Matz: FB 93-96. Feel for both CB/CH. Has elbow inj. history, but very intriguing arm.— Chris Mellen (@ChrisMellen) August 21, 2013
Matz continued his impressive showing this spring, as he surrendered just two hits and one walk while striking out five in his two innings of work. Two innings is such a small sample, but the overpowering stuff Matz exhibited is a great sign moving forward.
While Matz’s injury history and delivery bring up concerns, his stuff is unquestionable. Whether it be as an elite reliever or a potential rotation arm, the future looks bright for the Mets’ young lefty.
Brandon Nimmo has always had the look of a top prospect, as he is a tall and projectable left-handed outfielder with a smooth swing. His lack of high school experience and rawness as a player has always meant that his path to the majors would be slower than most prospects, meaning that every sign of development is crucial for the Wyoming native.
This spring, Nimmo looked the part both on and off the field, and could be ready for a breakout season in 2014.
Nimmo came into camp looking much bigger and stronger than previous years, yet by all accounts was still fast enough to play center field. This is important for the Mets, as they clearly want to keep him in center as long as possible, as MetsMinorLeagueBlog’s Toby Hyde noted:
Is it telling that when they enter the game together, Brandon Nimmo plays center, den Dekker goes to LF and Cesar Puello goes to RF?— Toby Hyde (@tobyhyde) March 4, 2014
Nimmo maintaining his speed while he gains muscle during his development is crucial to his value as a prospect, as his bat becomes much more valuable if he’s able to play center field.
Nimmo also showed great signs at the plate this spring. He has always exhibited a patient approach at the plate, but his issue has been how he fails to drive the ball and struggles against lefties. In a game earlier this spring, Nimmo ripped a single to right field, driving the ball even though it did not result in an extra-base hit.
Hyde noted how this single by Nimmo displayed a new approach, as Nimmo was able to pull and drive the ball:
Nimmo really let his hands go to rip that RBI line drive single to right. Good sign. Often worked to gaps last year. New strength helping.— Toby Hyde (@tobyhyde) March 4, 2014
This hit was a great sign, as was Nimmo’s performance throughout all of his at-bats in major league games. He went 3-6 while getting hits off of lefties and looking comfortable at the plate against high-level pitching.
While all of his hits in big league games were singles, he showed the ability to drive the ball well in B-level games, as Adam Rubin of ESPN tweeted:
Brandon Nimmo had an opposite-field two-run triple in B game in Kissimmee.— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) March 6, 2014
Nimmo should start the season in High-A St. Lucie, but if he continues developing and starts complementing his patient approach with more power at the plate, he could force his way to Double-A Binghamton and a potential call-up in 2015.
Kevin Plawecki rose to prominence last season with his tremendous performance at both Low-A Savannah and High-A St. Lucie, and has continued to show off his hitting prowess this spring.
Plawecki is still a work in progress behind the plate, but he should be able to remain a catcher, although he will likely never be an exceptional one, defensively.
As a hitter, Plawecki doesn’t have great raw power, but he makes consistently hard contact and should develop into a solid doubles hitter with a high average. As a catcher, that is a very valuable asset to have.
Plawecki's performance in spring training indicates that his domination of the lower minors was not a fluke. Before official games began, the Mets played an intrasquad game, and as Adam Rubin documented, Plawecki lined an opposite-field single off of prized pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard:
Kevin Plawecki line single to right field is 3rd hit surrendered by Noah Syndergaard. Runners on corners, 2 outs in top 6th.— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) February 27, 2014
Syndergaard was dominant that day, but Plawecki showed that his contact-oriented approach could stand up to elite offerings, and is a good sign for his development as he heads into the upper minors.
Plawecki also ripped a double in against the Atlanta Braves in a big league game, getting the barrel on the ball and pulling a rope down the line, which you can see in the below video.
The most important part of Plawecki’s growth moving forward is defensively, as his bat appears as if it will continue to be solid, regardless of the competition. Whether it is as a trading chip or as a fill-in if d’Arnaud can't stay healthy, Plawecki is an important part of the Mets’ future.
While Amed Rosario wasn’t a part of the big league camp, the reports on him so far are very promising as they show how much improvement he has made.
Rosario is a polarizing prospect in baseball, with many believing he could be a first-division talent. Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks tweeted that he believes Rosario would be a high first-round pick in this years upcoming MLB draft if he were eligible, as he is the same age as many high school seniors:
Early 1st round. RT @S_CunninghamBR: @ProfessorParks If Amed Rosario was eligible for this years draft, where would you see him fitting in?— Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) February 16, 2014
Rosario is raw, and as a teenager he has many holes in his game that he needs to fix before he can start rising quickly through the Mets' farm system. Because of how raw he is, Amazin’ Avenue’s Jeffrey Paternostro’s scouting report of Rosario from last year makes sense. Paternostro was very critical of Rosario’s swing, writing about how it had multiple moving parts that led to a long uppercut swing, which could hurt his hit-tool as he ascends through the minors.
This shouldn’t be concerning as Rosario was 17 at the time, but as an 18-year-old this spring training, the reports on his swing have vastly changed. Jeff Moore of Baseball Prospectus scouted Rosario earlier in March and wrote (subscription required):
...he showed good bat control and a short swing for someone with such long limbs. He was able to stay inside the ball, and during the opposite-field portion of his round of batting practice, he did not settle for just going the other way. He drive [sic] the ball to right field with authority.
Paternostro scouted that Rosario elongated his swing so he could have an uppercut and sell out for power, but Moore’s report shows that Rosario has not only cut down his swing, but he also is still able to drive the ball and project as a power prospect.
Which prospect's performance excited you the most this spring?
Moore’s report is significant because while he gives a glowing report of Rosario, he is extremely critical of Mets prospect Gavin Cecchini, whom he believes should no longer play shortstop. Moore provides an unbiased perspective, and by showing that he is not afraid to be critical with his write up of Cecchini, fans should be all the more optimistic about Rosario.
Rosario should start the season in the New York Penn League with the Brooklyn Cyclones, and seeing whether his swing has truly shortened and if he can produce on the field should be one of the most intriguing stories in the Mets' farm system in 2014.
All statistics courtesy Baseball-Reference.