New York Mets 2014 Mock Draft: Projecting Their Top 5 First-Round Targets
The players available to the Mets will depend on how the draft shakes out before their pick, and some of the five players discussed here will probably be gone by the time they select. However, each of them has a very good chance of still being available when the Mets pick, and each appeals to the organization in a unique way.
In January, I looked at four potential players the Mets could target in the first round, and all four are still possible picks. However, as the spring season has progressed, teams have more knowledge of all the available players, and a clearer picture of who could be available when the Mets get to pick.
Although shortstop Nick Gordon has raised his stock to the point where he won’t be available to the Mets anymore, you can read about his report in the above link along with three other targets, Touki Toussaint, Derek Fisher and Kyle Schwarber.
The players listed here are all college players, but that does not mean the Mets are not considering high school prospects. If for some reason an elite high school player such as Gordon or Alex Jackson falls, the Mets would absolutely consider jumping on them, but that is unlikely. Also, these are just five players they could target, not every player under consideration.
Here are five players the Mets will target in the first round of the MLB draft, listed in no particular order, although the level of their interest is discussed in every slide.
Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State University
Michael Conforto is a similar draft prospect to D.J. Peterson from the 2013 draft, a player the Mets were reportedly very interested in. While Peterson was a right-handed corner infielder, Conforto is a left-handed corner outfielder, but both dominated the college ranks at the plate.
Conforto fits the Sandy Alderson type of player—he makes hard contact and doesn’t swing at anything outside of the strike zone. As a bat-first prospect with an advanced approach at the plate, he is expected to rise quickly through the minors. His .383 batting average and .535 on-base percentage exhibit his preparedness for a challenge beyond the college ranks.
In a system starved for offense at both the minor and major league level, Conforto should appeal immensely to the Mets. However, he lacks the ideal ceiling and all-around value teams want in a top-10 pick, as he is limited defensively and doesn’t have high-end power.
Still, there is a very good chance Conforto will be available when the Mets pick at 10. While they should focus on selecting the best player available, adding an advanced hitter like Conforto to their system could be a hard opportunity to pass up.
Bradley Zimmer, OF, University of San Francisco
Along with Conforto, Bradley Zimmer is considered among the best available college bats in a draft light on position players.
While Conforto is a safe bet to be a solid major league hitter, Zimmer has the higher ceiling and could potentially develop into an impact player.
Zimmer has a chance to stick in center field, but could eventually be pushed into a corner outfield spot. Even if that happens, he would be a plus-plus athlete in the corner, giving him much more defensive value than Conforto.
The University of San Francisco product could also be a dynamic player on offense. Despite standing at 6’5”, he is a base-stealing threat, recording 21 stolen bases already this season.
Zimmer also has projectable power despite having only seven home runs on the season. He has a large frame and is just 205 pounds, and with his natural hitting ability he could become a solid power hitter if he adds some strength.
If the Mets decide they want to go with a college bat and both Zimmer and Conforto are available, they will have to decide if they want the safe option in Conforto or to take the chance that Zimmer will become a stud in a professional environment. Given that Zimmer’s floor is also high—albeit not as high as Conforto’s—I assume Zimmer would be the choice in that scenario.
Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina University
Jeff Hoffman has become the biggest mystery of the draft since it was recently revealed he needed to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Prior to the news, Hoffman was under consideration for the top pick in the draft, and it was unlikely he would fall anywhere beyond No. 4.
Now, it’s anyone’s guess as to where he will land. Any team that selects him will be taking a major risk, but with the upside of landing one of the most talented players in this draft.
In 2012, Lucas Giolito was a similar case to Hoffman, as arguably the most talented right-handed starter in the draft who required Tommy John surgery. The Mets passed on Giolito and instead selected shortstop Gavin Cecchini, which seems to indicate they may also pass on Hoffman. However, Giolito looks like he could become the best prospect in all of baseball, and Sandy Alderson may not want to miss out on the same opportunity twice.
I would guess the most likely destination for Hoffman would be with the Toronto Blue Jays, who have the No. 9 and No. 11 picks. With two high selections so close to each other, taking a risk on Hoffman makes sense for them, as they have the opportunity to hit with another pick if Hoffman never returns to his prior form.
Toronto picking Hoffman ninth would render this discussion null and void. However, if the Blue Jays wait until the 11th pick to nab the talented righty, the Mets could snag Hoffman instead.
Sean Newcomb, LHP, University of Hartford
While the Mets are already lauded for their tremendous pitching depth, adding a left-handed college starter with as high a ceiling as Sean Newcomb's to their system will be very tempting.
Although Newcomb pitches in the relatively weak America East Conference, he has been remarkably dominant. Through 13 starts this year, he has a 1.36 ERA and 0.96 WHIP while giving up zero home runs.
Newcomb was an intriguing name coming into the season as a lefty with overpowering stuff who had yet to dominate opposing hitters. His shaky command is still a concern, as he has walked 34 batters in 86.1 innings. Still, the fact that he has given up just 49 hits in that same time shows how good he could eventually become.
Despite being a college pitcher, Newcomb likely wouldn’t be an incredibly fast riser in the minors. He still has kinks to work out before he can harness his stuff, but his ceiling as a front-of-the-rotation starter coming from the left side makes him an enticing pick.
The Mets do not need Newcomb in their system, but the smartest organizations do not draft by need but instead by talent. If the Mets’ scouting department believes that Newcomb’s problems can be fixed with professional coaching and experience, drafting him at No. 10 could be a huge steal.
Aaron Nola, RHP, Louisiana State University
Pitchers like Aaron Nola are always controversial around the MLB draft. Nola has dominated college baseball for the past two years, pitching to a 1.57 ERA in his sophomore campaign and a 1.42 ERA so far this season, all while pitching in the super-talented SEC.
However, Nola does not have overwhelming stuff despite his success. He comes from a low arm slot on the right side while utilizing a sinking-fastball that hovers slightly above 90 mph, an average changeup and a curveball, which is his only legitimate swing-and-miss offering.
Nola does not have the arsenal of a typical first-round pick, but his superior command is what makes him enticing. His unspectacular array of pitches limits his ceiling to being a No. 3 starter, but his command gives him a high floor and should let him rise through the system quickly.
While their offerings aren’t identical, Nola is a similar prospect to Rafael Montero. Like Montero, Nola relies on the command of all three of his pitches to get hitters out. However, Montero proved through every stage of his minor league career that he could survive on his command, while Nola has yet to prove it beyond the college level, and has a lot left to prove in the coming years.
Although it is definitely possible that Nola is selected prior to the Mets’ pick at No. 10, I would advise them not to take Nola if he is available because of his lack of ceiling and the team's current pitching depth. While pitchers are dropping like flies around baseball and there is no such thing as too much pitching depth, if the Mets draft a pitcher they should target ones with higher ceilings, like Sean Newcomb and Touki Toussaint.
It should be noted that while Nola is seen as a No. 3 starter at best, the same was thought of Michael Wacha in 2012. The Mets passed on Wacha, and his stuff improved immensely in his short time in the minors. Although I do not expect Nola to experience a similar uptick in velocity, recent regrets like Wacha could influence the Mets' decision.
All NCAA statistics courtesy The Baseball Cube.
Sean also writes for Perfect Game and covers amateur prospects along with his Mets coverage. Follow him on twitter: @SCunninghamPG.