Stock Up, Stock Down for New York Mets' Top 10 Prospects Entering May
It’s hard to believe the New York Mets have been playing regular-season games for nearly a month, but it’s true.
The big league squad currently owns a 14-11 record after a stretch of tough games against 2013 playoff teams. They find themselves three games out of first place in the National League East.
Full-season minor league affiliates are also in full swing, with a number of top organizational prospects continuing their development. Short-season teams such as the Kingsport Mets, Brooklyn Cyclones and the Gulf Coast League Mets won’t start until June.
As we enter the month of May, some minor leaguers will continue showing why they deserve getting a promotion to the next level, which for some could mean the major leagues. Others will show they’re not yet ready to take that next step.
Let’s take a look at how New York’s top 10 prospects are performing with April coming to a close.
No. 11 Prospect: SP Steven Matz, High-A St. Lucie
4 GS, 2-1, 1.52 ERA, 4 BB, 23 K, 23.2 IP
Each time Steven Matz takes the mound, he continues proving he’s ready to be the next elite arm to catapult through New York’s farm system.
The southpaw won his second consecutive start on April 24 against the Palm Beach Cardinals, allowing just four hits, one walk and six strikeouts in 5.2 shutout innings of work. Matz has now held the opposition scoreless over his last 12.2 innings.
His fast start in 2014 has him among the leaders in every major pitching category in the Florida State League. If he continues dominating opposing hitters at this rate, Matz should find himself with Double-A Binghamton sometime this summer.
In his most recent minor league report for ESPN New York, Adam Rubin spoke to Matz about his goals for this season.
He said, "This year I really want to focus on going deeper into games. Last year, especially the first half of the year, I wasn’t very efficient with my pitches. My walks were up a little bit (3.2 per nine innings) -- not crazy."
Through four starts, he hasn’t walked more than one batter in each outing, while working into at least the sixth inning three times.
No. 10 Prospect: 2B Dilson Herrera, High-A St. Lucie
23 G, .297/.351/.386, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 19 R
Dilson Herrera’s first few weeks in High-A with St. Lucie got off to a solid start as the leadoff hitter. His bat has started to cool off a bit as April winds down and the calendar prepares to flip to May.
The second baseman has recorded at least one hit in eight of his last 10 games, but he has just one multihit performance over that time and is barely hitting .200. His 19 runs scored have him tied for second in the Florida State League, only trailing teammate Brandon Nimmo (26).
There have been some stark differences for Herrera in his performance thus far in the season. He hits right-handed but has been punishing right-handed pitching, posting a .319/.375/.417 line. On the contrary, he’s struggling against southpaws, with a triple slash of .241/.390/.310.
He’s also enjoyed playing at Tradition Field, hitting .356/.406/.475 in 59 at-bats, with five of his six extra-base hits coming at home. Unfortunately, he hasn’t found his footing on the road yet, hitting .214/.277/.262 in 42 at-bats.
Herrera spoke about his brief time in St. Lucie with David Conde of MetsMinors.net:
“I feel very comfortable playing with St. Lucie and we have a very good team with a great group of talented guys that go out each and every night and compete.”
His performance has shown that.
No. 9 Prospect: SS Gavin Cecchini, Low-A Savannah
21 G, .224/.305/.341, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 14 R
Coming into an April 27 showdown with the Lakewood BlueClaws, Gavin Cecchini had five hits in his previous nine games. A three-hit effort—including two doubles—gave him a mental and statistic boost as he finishes the month.
When a player is struggling, he tends to do so in most situations. As Savannah’s leadoff hitter, the team is depending on Cecchini to set the table and make things happen for the middle of the lineup.
When coming to the plate with the bases empty, he currently owns a .200/.231/.320 line in 50 at-bats. Not exactly the triple slash of a successful leadoff hitter.
He’s also had a tough time hitting at home. Historic Grayson Stadium isn’t kind to hitters, but the shortstop hasn’t made it any easier, hitting just .167/.242/.267 in 30 at-bats. All but one of his six extra-base hits has come on the road.
Hopefully, Cecchini’s three-hit performance on Sunday will help him finish the month strong and start to turn his season around in May.
No. 8 Prospect: OF Cesar Puello, Triple-A Las Vegas
22 G, .260/.288/.312, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 11 R
Normally a middle-of-the-order hitter, Cesar Puello has been spending time in the leadoff spot for the Las Vegas 51s through the season’s first month. Manager Wally Backman is trying to get his bat going after a slow start.
He only has three extra-base hits on the season, but one of them came in the past week, including three multihit performances.
It’s been an all-or-nothing kind of year for Puello through his first 77 at-bats. When he’s ahead in the count, he’s hitting .333/.391/.381. However, he’s basically an automatic out when he falls behind, posting a .118/.118/.147 triple slash.
The outfielder has had the reputation of a free-swinger during his professional career, but he’ll need to draw more walks than the two he currently has. He took significant strides in his plate discipline while with Binghamton in 2013, and he must show that growth in Vegas before making his MLB debut.
Consistency is the name of the game. Every player will go through slumps, but it’s about minimizing those rough patches over the course of a long season. Displaying more plate discipline will help Puello do that.
So far, he hasn’t been able to carry over the momentum from Double-A last season, where he hit .326/.403/.547 with 16 home runs, 73 RBI and 24 stolen bases.
No. 7 Prospect: C Kevin Plawecki, Double-A Binghamton
13 G, .264/.316/.321, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 7 R
Kevin Plawecki entered his first season in Double-A with the ability to hit for a high average, but not for much home run power yet.
Unfortunately through his first 53 at-bats, he hasn’t hit much more than singles. Of his 14 hits, just three have gone for extra bases, which have all been doubles. He’s a year removed from hitting 38 doubles and posting a .305 batting average between Savannah and St. Lucie.
Like any promotion, there is going to be an adjustment period, and that’s what Plawecki is going through right now. As long as he continues to make solid contact, the doubles and home runs will follow.
The backstop also collected 80 RBI through 449 at-bats last season, but he hasn’t done much in that department this April because he’s hitting .105/.227/.158 in 19 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
He’s had a good start to the season behind the plate and told Craig Forde of MiLB.com he credits his first big league spring training with learning some valuable lessons.
"I learned a lot from the catching staff, Travis [d'Arnaud], [Anthony] Recker, [Taylor] Teagarden and [Juan] Centeno," said Plawecki. "All those guys have been in the Major Leagues, so it was fun to work side-by-side with them and learn as much as I could."
Those three doubles he has have all come since April 12, including four multihit games. He’s slowly coming around, and looks poised to break through in May.
No. 6 Prospect: OF Brandon Nimmo, High-A St. Lucie
23 G, .379/.514/.483, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 26 R
Nimmo continues his breakout season by continuing to be a tough out. His performance has found himself near the top of the Florida State League leaderboard for most major offensive categories.
He’s enjoyed four multihit efforts over his last 10 games played, while also collecting 16 walks over that same span of time. The way he’s been swinging the bat is impressive, but his ability to get on base is sure to make the Mets’ front office smile.
Nimmo’s .514 on-base percentage and 24 walks this season both lead the FSL by a comfortable margin. Last season, Allan Dykstra drew 102 walks and posted a .436 OBP with Double-A Binghamton, which turned some heads. Apparently, it’s now Nimmo’s turn to display those skills.
When a player is hitting .379, it’s clear he's performing well in most situations, but Nimmo has shown a lot of growth against southpaw pitchers. He’s posted a .345/.406/.448 line in 29 at-bats, a huge jump from the .240/.354/.281 he hit against them last season in Savannah.
Hitting .524/.667/.714 in 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position will also help a player get off to a fast start.
Nimmo came into this season knowing his progression is important for the rest of his minor league journey, and he’s taken full advantage of his opportunity.
No. 4 Prospect: SS/2B Wilmer Flores, Triple-A Las Vegas
20 G, .250/.319/.333, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 13 R
Wilmer Flores was struggling to hit over .200 in the season’s first two weeks. After hitting .321 in 424 at-bats for Las Vegas in 2013, the Mets know he’ll eventually find his stroke again at the plate.
He’s been playing shortstop consistently for the first time since 2011, which undoubtedly has played a role in his lackluster start. As he gets more comfortable at his old position, his offensive performance continues to improve.
Flores has recorded at least one hit in nine of his last 10 games, including three multihit performances. While he’s only collected four extra-base hits this season, none of them have come at home, despite Cashman Field favoring hitters.
He’s only posted a .240/.309/.240 line at home in 50 at-bats in 2014.
His bat has come alive over the final two weeks of April, but he’s not necessarily hitting the cover off the ball. The Mets are aware of his offensive potential and really want him to focus on playing shortstop every day.
However, if he wants to get a chance to play that position in the big leagues this year, he’ll need to hit the ball with some more authority in Triple-A first.
No. 3 Prospect: 1B Dominic Smith, Low-A Savannah
22 G, .208/.262/.247, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 7 R
Dominic Smith’s first taste of full-season baseball has not gone the way he was hoping. The last week has gone much better than the first three, collecting three multihit games, as well as recording at least one double in three straight contests.
Smith told Steven Falk of the Asbury Park Press he had a similar start in 2013 after getting selected with the 11th overall pick in the MLB draft:
"I started out hitting .140 my first month of the season and finished the season hitting over .300. I’m not worried (about the slow start.). It’s not bothering me. It’s a long season — a 140 games."
No one else should be worried about the slow start, either. As Smith said, it’s a long season and he’s not even 19 years old yet, so he has plenty of growing to do.
Most of his struggles have taken place on the road, but he’s only recorded one RBI through 77 at-bats because he’s hitting just .048/.087/.048 in 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
No. 2 Prospect: SP Rafael Montero, Triple-A Las Vegas
5 GS, 3-0, 3.95 ERA, 8 BB, 27 K, 27.1 IP
Rafael Montero’s first three starts were fantastic, walking three while striking out 18 in 17.1 innings of work, picking up two wins. He’s come back down to Earth in his last two outings, despite maintaining an undefeated record.
The right-hander’s most recent start came on April 24 against the Tacoma Rainiers. He allowed three runs on six hits (one home run), two walks and three strikeouts in six innings. After allowing just one free pass over his first 11 frames, Montero has walked seven in his last 16.1, which is not like him.
This is the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, so that could be having an effect on him. There is no cause for concern, as Montero is still performing well in the overall scheme of things.
As the calendar flips to May, Backman should start using the righty in relief situations to get him comfortable for a possible role in the big league bullpen. If he’s going to be successful, he’ll need to improve on the 8.74 ERA he owns with runners on base this season.
No. 1 Prospect: SP Noah Syndergaard, Triple-A Las Vegas
5 GS, 3-2, 5.04 ERA, 10 BB, 21 K, 25 IP
Noah Syndergaard’s first month in Triple-A has certainly been an adjustment. His debut on April 4 against the Fresno Grizzles went well, getting the win in a six-inning effort, but he’s had mixed results since.
What looks to be the biggest issue after his first five starts is the number of runners he’s allowed through 25 innings of work. With a career WHIP of 1.15 over the course of his minor league career, “Thor” has kept runners off the bases for the most part.
Syndergaard’s walk rate has elevated, allowing 3.6 free passes every nine innings—a spike from a career mark of 2.6. He’s also watched the opposition hit .296 off him, while accumulating more hits allowed than innings pitched.
The PCL favors hitters, so this is something Syndergaard must learn from, similar to what Zack Wheeler, Montero and Jacob deGrom all experienced last season. As the year progresses, he’ll make the adjustments necessary to be prepared for his MLB debut this summer.
*No. 5 prospect Amed Rosario hasn’t started his season yet with the Brooklyn Cyclones. He will not be included until he’s active. The Cyclones begin their season on June 13.
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