Stock Up, Stock Down for New York Mets' Top 10 Prospects for Week 2
The performance of the New York Mets at the major league level will be a focus in 2014. However, the progression of the organization’s top-10 prospects could end up having a significant impact as regular-season games start to pile up.
The ten players outlined in the following slides have been taken by Baseball America’s ranking of the best minor leaguers New York has to offer (insider subscription required).
As the team struggles with consistency in the season’s first two weeks, it’s easy to look toward the minors and wonder which player could be promoted and make an immediate contribution.
However, what the Mets have shown in recent years is that they’re more apt to take things slow with prospects, rather than making a rash promotion.
With that in mind, it’s time to check in and see whether early-season performances have caused stocks to rise, fall or stay the same.
10. Jacob DeGrom, RHP: Stock Up
Jacob deGrom’s 2013 season helped him surge toward being an impact prospect that could help the Mets at the big league level in the near future.
He started last season in High-A with the St. Lucie Mets, but quickly found himself in Triple-A to fill a hole in manager Wally Backman’s rotation. It was supposed to be a temporary promotion, but the 25-year-old pitched well enough to stay there, posting a 4.52 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 75.2 innings pitched.
DeGrom is beginning 2014 as a part of the Las Vegas 51s starting rotation, but could see time as a reliever if the big league team needs another arm in the bullpen. He had a strong spring in Port St. Lucie, Fla. before getting optioned to the minors, and he’s continued that against Pacific Coast League opposition.
The right-hander has allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits, three walks, and 11 strikeouts in 11 innings of work. That’s good for a 0.82 ERA and 0.91 WHIP, despite not getting a victory yet this season.
In his first two starts, he’s shown the ability to adjust in the hitter-friendly PCL. In 2013, his high WHIP in Triple-A could be attributed to him allowing 87 hits over those 75.2 innings.
If he’s able to stay in the strike zone consistently and make hitters miss more often, he could find his way to the big leagues very soon.
9. Gavin Cecchini, SS: Stock Even
New York’s first overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft, Gavin Cecchini is entering his first year of full-season games with the Mets organization. He’ll be manning shortstop for the Low-A Savannah Sand Gnats.
Throughout his young professional career, he’s proven to be a streaky hitter. Last season with the Brooklyn Cyclones, he hit .292 or better in June and August, while hitting below .200 in July and September (although he didn’t get as many at-bats in those months).
So far, fans are seeing more of the same from Cecchini, as he’s posted a .237/.310/.342 line with one home run and six RBI in 38 at-bats.
He’s more well-known for what he can do with the glove. The biggest question with regard to his big league future is whether or not he’ll be able to hit enough to stick around. At just 20 years old, there is still plenty of time to continue developing his offensive ability.
It should also be noted that the home parks for the Cyclones and Sand Gnats (MCU Park and Historic Grayson Stadium, respectively) aren’t hitter-friendly.
If he’s able to get his numbers to what they were last year in Brooklyn (.273/.319/.314 in 194 at-bats), that should be considered a successful season for the shortstop.
8. Brandon Nimmo, CF: Stock Up
Another former first-round selection, Brandon Nimmo is poised to have a breakout season with High-A St. Lucie in the Florida State League.
Nimmo has experienced some growing pains at the plate with the Cyclones and Sand Gnats. As previously mentioned, those home parks aren’t friendly to hitters, but they’re especially unfriendly to left-handers trying to develop power.
Entering his age-21 season, the outfielder took his offseason training seriously. He spent it training at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. and told Adam Rubin of ESPN New York about his experience:
They put 20 pounds on me. And it was really good muscle. None of it was bad weight. I had a nutritionist watching what I was eating. We just did it the right way. And I felt like that was what I needed. I felt like I needed to move on and train a little bit more like a professional. Obviously now you see the results of that physically.
These gains helped him turn some heads in big league camp, and he’s carried that momentum into the season. He’s currently hitting .378/.489/.541 with one home run and five RBI in 37 at-bats.
Now it’s time for Nimmo to sustain his hot start and show the organization he’s ready to catapult himself through the system.
7. Amed Rosario, SS: Stock Even
After signing the largest international bonus in Mets history ($1.75 million), Amed Rosario is continuing to make a name for himself. His statistics on paper from last season with the Kingsport Mets weren’t flashy, but his raw talent has scouts drooling over his potential.
In 212 at-bats during 2013, Rosario hit .241/.279/.358 with three home runs, 23 RBI, eight doubles and four triples.
Clint Longenecker of Baseball America (subscription required) ranked the top 20 prospects in the Appalachian League from last season, and Rosario topped the list.
With regard to his defensive ability, Longenecker said Rosario has good hands and a strong arm. It’s possible he could end up being a shortstop in the majors, but he may also be an option at third base, depending on how his body develops.
He’s only 18 years old, after all.
While there is work to be done at the plate, Longenecker had good things to say about what he saw offensively:
Rosario also drew rave reviews for his hitting ability. He has above-average bat speed with natural whip and a rare ability to drive the ball and create loud contact for his age, and he excels at hitting to the opposite field. He will need to shorten his stroke, improve on handling pitches on the inner half and polish his strike-zone discipline.
The shortstop hasn’t started his 2014 season yet, spending the first few months at extended spring training. Once the short-season teams get their respective years underway, Rosario will likely be playing for the Cyclones.
6. Wilmer Flores, 2B/SS: Stock Even
While there was consideration to bring Wilmer Flores to the majors to start the year as a shortstop, the Mets opted to give him more time in Triple-A to relearn the position and play every day.
Daniel Murphy taking paternity leave at the season’s start enabled Flores to earn an early promotion to Flushing during the year’s first home stand. However, he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the only game he played.
He hasn’t gotten off to a good start at the plate in the PCL, hitting .176/.200/.176 with no home runs and one RBI in 34 at-bats.
However, the Mets aren’t as concerned with that. Getting into a groove at the plate would be beneficial, but they want him to play shortstop regularly.
He has, appearing there in eight of Las Vegas’ first 11 games.
After hitting .321/.357/.531 with 15 home runs and 86 RBI in 424 at-bats last season with the 51s, the organization is rather certain of his offensive potential in the majors. The next task is trying to find him a position to play.
Ruben Tejada currently has a hold on the starting shortstop job, but if Flores shows he can handle the position, he will get every opportunity to run with it.
5. Kevin Plawecki, C: Stock Even
Travis d’Arnaud is currently entrenched as the starting catcher in the big leagues, but Kevin Plawecki’s solid 2013 gives New York legitimate depth in the upper levels of the minors.
Between Savannah and St. Lucie last season, the backstop hit .305/.390/.448 with eight home runs, 38 doubles and 80 RBI.
He’s begun 2014 in Double-A with the Binghamton Mets, getting off to a .280/.308/.320 start in his first 25 at-bats.
What he’s done so far this season hasn’t surprised anyone, as his reputation is more of a contact hitter with extra-base potential. To continue turning heads, he must translate some more of those doubles into home runs.
If Plawecki is able to adjust to life in Double-A and earns a midseason promotion to Las Vegas, it will eventually leave the Mets with a decision to make. It’ll likely hinge on what kind of season d’Arnaud has at the big league level, as well.
New York has plenty of young arms to trade away for an impact position player, but the inclusion of Plawecki could make any theoretical deal eventually become a reality.
There are a number of teams that would like a young catching prospect with the chance of blossoming into a decent hitter. Another step in the right direction for Plawecki this season will not only help his development, but build his trade value.
4. Dominic Smith, 1B: Stock Even
Dominic Smith impressed a lot of people during his first professional season in 2013. The Mets took him with their first selection of last year’s draft (11th overall), then sent the 18-year-old to rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League.
He hit .287/.384/.407 in 167 at-bats for the GCL Mets, earning a late-season promotion to Kingsport. His hot hitting continued, collecting four doubles in six at-bats.
Smith decided to spend part of his winter in Michigan to attend a fitness and nutrition camp along with some other Mets players.
That allowed him to come into camp strong, and convinced decision-makers in the organization he was ready for his first full season in Savannah.
Even though he’s years away from the majors, the current first base situation between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda may have also played a role in the decision to expedite his development.
He’s off to a rough start, hitting .184/.205/.184 in 38 at-bats.
There is no need to panic, though. This is going to be an adjustment for Smith. He showed the ability to adjust well in his first taste of professional ball, and the leash will certainly be long for him here.
As was said before, Historic Grayson Stadium is not kind to hitters, especially left-handers. Smith’s numbers may struggle a bit compared to last season, but this experience will be a valuable lesson for him to learn early in his career.
3. Rafael Montero, RHP: Stock Up
New York’s bullpen has had its ups and downs throughout the first two weeks of the season. If they continue struggling, Rafael Montero has shown he has the ability to help.
In his first 17.1 innings pitched, the right-hander has allowed five runs on 12 hits, three walks and 18 strikeouts.
Terry Collins wouldn’t mind having this strike-throwing machine in his bullpen.
After tossing 155.1 innings in 2013, Montero’s limit is likely being set around 185 frames. His workload will be closely monitored while in Las Vegas so his production can be maximized in the majors, if needed.
Moving a top starting pitching prospect into a relief role isn't a perfect solution, but a potentially crowded rotation and a poor performing bullpen could make it a reality. The St. Louis Cardinals have made it a habit with a lot of their young pitchers over the years, and they’ve seen plenty of success.
If Collins’ bullpen continues to be inconsistent—which looks like a good possibility at this point—Montero should be the first option to be promoted. He’s the most polished of the current options in Triple-A, and he looks mature enough on the mound to handle it.
In a few weeks, Backman is expected to start using both Montero and deGrom as relievers to get them exposed in certain situations and see how they react. Once that’s done, it should only be a matter of time before Montero is in the big leagues.
2. Travis D’Arnaud, C: Stock Up
Travis d’Arnaud got off to a rough start this season, going 0-for-15 before collected two hits on April 8 against the Atlanta Braves.
While he’s only hitting .152/.222/.273, his bat has woken up to a degree, going 3-for-14 since with one home run.
D’Arnaud’s potential is clear. He wouldn’t have been traded on two different occasions for former Cy Young award winners if there wasn’t any. This slow start is a great test to see how strong he is mentally.
After hitting .202/.286/.263 in 99 big league at-bats last season, it was important for him to get off to a hot start and build his confidence.
Obviously, things haven’t gone as planned.
He struggled through a tough spring and an excruciating first five games before entering the hit column. Being so early into his career, he has no track record of busting out of a slump and getting hot in the big leagues.
Hopefully, his recent run of success at the plate will allow him to go on a tear and build up the confidence needed to have a breakout season in 2014.
What he’s done in the last week is a good place to start.
1. Noah Syndergaard, RHP: Stock Even
In large part, the statistics that Noah Syndergaard puts together in Triple-A won’t have much of an effect on how the organization handles him. He’s there to get the final seasoning needed before his big league debut. The front office also wants to gain another year of team control by keeping him there until the summer.
“Thor” looked solid in his Las Vegas debut on April 4, earning the win in six solid innings of work. However, he looked mortal during his second start, giving up four runs (three earned) on six hits, two walks and two strikeouts in five innings.
Backman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that his hurler’s tempo needs to speed up:
His tempo was way too slow tonight, especially early in the game. He got better as the game went on but there were times he was 20-plus seconds in between pitches. His stuff was there, but everything you hear about in baseball is rhythm and timing and it wasn’t there tonight for him.
Syndergaard agreed, and this will be addressed before his next start. This is what Triple-A is for.
It’s not a matter of if the big right-hander will make his big league debut, but when. Avoiding the Super Two cutoff date is a priority, whether it’s explicitly stated or not.
By the time the calendar flips to June and July, Syndergaard will be in the big leagues, similar to the courses Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey took before him.
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