First Quarter Stock Up, Stock Down for New York Mets' Top 10 Prospects
The New York Mets are in search of offense, promoting both Wilmer Flores and Eric Campbell to help the big league squad score more runs.
An impressive 15-11 record in April has been erased with a poor start to May. Now standing at 17-19, the “Amazins” are four games back in the National League East, tied with the Philadelphia Phillies for last place.
Flores and Campbell may not be the only ones getting the call from Triple-A to the big leagues over the next week or two. Manager Terry Collins is looking for any spark he can get.
The minor league season is a quarter of the way through, and a number of the organization’s top prospects are performing well. A handful of them could see midseason promotions if they continue putting up their current numbers.
Let’s take a look and see who has watched their stock go up, down or stay even so far this season.
*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.
No. 11 Prospect: SP Steven Matz, High-A St. Lucie
2014 Stats: 6 GS, 2-2, 2.14 ERA, 12 BB, 30 K, 33.2 IP
Steven Matz has certainly shown the ability to adjust to the next level of competition in the Florida State League. While he didn’t throw his first pitch in professional ball until 2012 after getting drafted in 2009 (Tommy John surgery), he’s made up for lost time.
His 2.14 ERA is currently the 11th-best in the league, while his 30 strikeouts are the 10th-most.
Matz’s first 23.2 innings included just four walks and 23 strikeouts, but his control has lacked over his most recent 10 frames.
The southpaw has allowed eight free passes during that time, preventing him from working into the sixth inning in either of his last two appearances. Despite allowing 19 baserunners (11 hits, eight walks), he still minimized the damage to just four earned runs, which is impressive.
If he’s able to get control of the strike zone again—which he most likely will soon—he’ll continue to stay on the fast-track toward getting a promotion to Double-A Binghamton sometime this summer.
No. 10 Prospect: 2B Dilson Herrera, High-A St. Lucie
2014 Stats: 36 G, .297/.347/.361, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 27 R
Dilson Herrera continues to be a force in the leadoff spot for St. Lucie, collecting four multi-hit games over his last 10.
Rotoworld noted a dramatic decrease in his strikeout rate, dropping from 23 percent last season to 14 percent so far in 2014.
He’s still a few years away from being ready for the big leagues, but that’s a trend the organization would love to see continue.
Herrera has collected eight extra-base hits through 155 at-bats this season (five doubles, one triple, one home run), with all but two doubles coming against right-handed pitchers. As a right-handed hitter, his .306/.366/.378 line against them is very impressive.
The second baseman recently turned 20 years old, giving him plenty of upside as he continues moving through the farm system.
He has leadoff potential, flashing some speed with seven stolen bases. He’ll keep working on his .315 on-base percentage when the bases are empty.
When he gets on base, he normally scores—his 27 runs scored are good for third in the Florida State League.
Trading away John Buck and Marlon Byrd to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Herrera and Vic Black looks better each week.
No. 9 Prospect: SS Gavin Cecchini, Low-A Savannah
2014 Stats: 32 G, .278/.348/.437, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 22 R
Gavin Cecchini continues his power surge with Savannah. Over his last 10 games, he’s hit three doubles, one triple and a home run.
This is the same player we watched put together a .318 slugging percentage over his first two professional seasons.
Right now, he’s slugging over 100 points higher than normal.
It’s unknown whether this production is sustainable for Cecchini. He doesn’t have that kind of offensive reputation, so it doesn’t seem likely. It is still encouraging to watch, however, especially since Historic Grayson Stadium isn’t kind to hitters.
Contrary to many Savannah hitters, Cecchini has enjoyed more success at home. Through 58 at-bats, he’s posted a .293/.354/.414 line.
What is likely most attractive to the front office is his .348 on-base percentage, which is nearly 40 points higher than his previous career high. Sustaining that level of production is more important to his overall development heading into the summer months.
No. 8 Prospect: RF Cesar Puello, Triple-A Las Vegas
2014 Stats: 28 G, .227/.272/.268, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 12 R
After a breakout season with Binghamton in 2013, there was hope Cesar Puello would continue building on the .326/.403/.547 line he put together.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case.
Puello has the lowest batting average of anyone with at least one hit for the 51s. He’s struggled the most away from Cashman Field. In 30 at-bats on the road, he owns a .100/.182/.133 line with one RBI and only one extra-base hit.
The outfielder was also away from the team for a few days this week, getting placed on the temporary inactive list for undisclosed reasons.
New York promoted Flores and Campbell in the last week to hopefully jump start the offense. Even though there is already a logjam in the outfield, Puello could’ve gotten a call if he were performing well.
Getting a promotion to the big leagues is the furthest thing from Puello’s mind at the moment. He needs to get himself right at the plate and start playing every day in Las Vegas before any talk of The Show is brought up.
Right now, it’s looking like his huge year in Double-A last season was a fluke.
No. 7 Prospect: C Kevin Plawecki, Double-A Binghamton
2014 Stats: 22 G, .307/.333/.420, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 12 R
It took Kevin Plawecki about a month in Double-A to get acclimated, but he’s finally getting the hang of things. He only suited up for 14 games in April, struggling to a .250/.300/.304 line in 56 at-bats.
He not only wasn’t driving in runs (three RBI in April), but he had a hard time collecting extra-base hits.
Through his first eight games in May, he’s already outperformed what he did the month before. In 32 at-bats, he’s hitting .406 with his first home run, four doubles and five RBI.
The last 10 games have been his best, posting a .350 batting average. He’s currently enjoying an eight-game hitting streak, including five multi-hit performances.
Plawecki’s hot start to May has put him in line with what he did last year between Savannah and St. Lucie. This is the kind of hitter New York was expecting to see when the season started.
So far he’s successfully erased the slow start he endured. It’s up to him to keep the momentum going.
No. 6 Prospect: CF Brandon Nimmo, High-A St. Lucie
2014 Stats: 36 G, .343/.479/.440, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 35 R
Brandon Nimmo’s May has started much slower than April. The outfielder finished the season’s first month with a .384/.508/.515 line in 99 at-bats, but has hit .229/.400/.229 in 35 at-bats since.
With how he dominated the league through April, he was bound to come back down to Earth at some point.
The biggest disparity in Nimmo’s breakout season so far has been his home and road splits.
He really enjoys hitting at Tradition Field, posting a .408 batting average in 71 at-bats. Hitting on the road hasn’t come as easy—a .270 average in 63 at-bats.
As his .479 on-base percentage shows, his patience at the plate has reached new heights. Nimmo has drawn 35 walks in 134 at-bats this season. It took him 395 at-bats to draw 71 free passes in 2013.
The outfielder is feeling more comfortable at the plate and is growing into his body very well. If he continues performing at the level he’s showing, he could potentially join Matz in Double-A by midseason.
No. 4 Prospect: SS/2B Wilmer Flores, New York Mets
2014 Stats: 3 G, .167/.231/.167, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R
Despite the organization not being thrilled with Flores’ defense at shortstop, the lack of offense at the big league level led to his promotion from Las Vegas.
Omar Quintanilla was the odd man out, getting designated for assignment and then outrighted to Triple-A.
Flores will be getting most of the playing time at shortstop over the next couple weeks, with Ruben Tejada occupying a spot on the bench.
This promotion comes at a time when Flores was tearing the cover off the ball with the 51s, hitting .307/.360/.500 with five home runs and 25 RBI in 114 at-bats.
He responded well to his recall, collecting two hits Friday against the Philadelphia Phillies.
New York hopes his bat will spur a struggling offense to score some runs. This is Flores’ best opportunity to stick in the big leagues with the Mets. The organization is giving him every chance to grab it and run.
Now it’s time for him to do it.
No. 3 Prospect: 1B Dominic Smith, Low-A Savannah
2014 Stats: 34 G, .263/.328/.305, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 14 R
Dominic Smith earned the right to skip playing with the Brooklyn Cyclones and jump straight to full-season ball with Savannah.
His year couldn’t have started any worse in 83 April at-bats. The young first baseman hit just .217/.267/.253 with one RBI and three doubles.
However, he began heating up over the final two weeks of the month and carrying into his 32 at-bats in May. He’s posted a .375/.459/.438 line with three RBI and two doubles since then.
His power has suffered at Grayson Stadium so far. That’s not surprising, as other hitters—especially left-handed ones—have seen a dip in power performance. Nimmo’s 2013 season with the Sand Gnats is a perfect example.
It’s great to watch Smith find his way out of a slow start for the second consecutive season. He’s showing his ability to work through a prolonged slump without doubting himself along the way.
That’s a quality not many 18-year-old professional ball players possess.
No. 2 Prospect: SP Rafael Montero, Triple-A Las Vegas
2014 Stats: 8 GS, 4-1, 3.67 ERA, 18 BB, 41 K, 41.2 IP
The Mets have been busy promoting position players from Triple-A to ignite the offense. However, Jenrry Mejia’s struggles in the starting rotation could lead to Rafael Montero being the next to make his way from Las Vegas to Flushing.
The right-hander needed 98 pitches to get through 5.1 innings against the Salt Lake City Bees on May 9, but he didn’t give up a hit—walking three and striking out five in his fourth win.
Montero has built the reputation of a strike-thrower throughout his minor league career. Over 390 innings in New York’s farm system, he owns a 1.03 WHIP with a 4.32 strikeout/walk ratio, according to Baseball-Reference.
The talk of putting Mejia in the bullpen has intensified over his last three starts—not working past the fifth inning his last two times out.
Mejia’s next start is scheduled for Wednesday against the New York Yankees. Whether he makes that start remains to be seen.
Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports manager Terry Collins prefers to bring up a starter from Triple-A instead of using Daisuke Matsuzaka. He didn’t name Montero, but he’d be the most logical choice.
Promoting Montero to face the Yankees in the Subway Series at Citi Field may not be the best way to ease him into the major leagues. But if they had to choose one minor league pitcher with the best composure to do so, it would be him.
No. 1 Prospect: SP Noah Syndergaard, Triple-A Las Vegas
2014 Stats: 8 GS, 4-2, 3.92 ERA, 15 BB, 46 K, 43.2 IP
Noah Syndergaard’s most recent start against the Tacoma Rainiers on May 10 didn’t go smoothly, but there were positives to take from it.
He allowed four earned runs on eight hits in six innings but didn’t walk a batter for the first time this season. The right-hander also collected 10 strikeouts—his first double-digit performance in Triple-A.
Syndergaard is expected to make his big league debut this summer—likely after both Montero and Jacob deGrom.
Financial reasons are a part the wait (like gaining an extra year of team control), and both of his rotation-mates have more Triple-A experience—something that’s been on display so far in 2014.
“Thor” has shown his raw ability throughout eight starts with the 51s, but he still needs some time in the Pacific Coast League before being deemed ready to enter the rotation.
The same thing happened to Zack Wheeler last season. There were plenty of times when he looked ready, but the organization wanted to ensure the first time they promoted him would also be the last.
Gaining an extra year of team control was also important in Wheeler’s case.
Syndergaard will make landfall in the majors soon enough. For now, he still has to get more consistent in Triple-A.
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