4 Potential First-Round Targets for New York Mets in the 2014 MLB Draft
Entering the latter stages of their rebuilding program, the New York Mets have a crucial amateur draft coming up in June.
Over the recent years, the Mets have drafted very young players with an emphasis on tools rather than filling needs. With a much deeper farm system than just a half-decade ago, the Mets could potentially alter this strategy for 2014.
The Mets seem primed to compete next season, as well as try to push for an optimistic 90-win season this year.
Therefore, it is reasonable to believe the Mets may emphasize filling holes with veteran collegiate talent. Draft picks out of college need much less grooming time in the minors, so a player who is drafted in 2014 could be in the majors by 2015 or 2016, right when the Mets plan to compete again.
At the same time, if a high-ceiling player were available for the Mets at pick No. 10, recent history shows they will not be afraid to pull the trigger.
With these ideas in mind, here are four potential draft targets for the Mets with their first-round pick in 2014:
Michael Conforto; OF, Oregon State University
If the Mets are serious about competing soon, Michael Conforto should be at the top of their draft board.
In his third year as a corner outfielder at Oregon State, Conforto has done nothing but rake since he arrived to college.
As a freshman, Conforto quickly became a household name. He showed an incredibly advanced hitting approach, finishing with a .349/.437/.601 line in 58 games. Conforto had 14 doubles, 13 home runs and a Pac-12-leading 76 RBI.
This year, Conforto bounced back from an early power slump to post one of his best seasons for No. 1-ranked Oregon State.
In 53 games, he has already amassed 15 doubles, two triples, seven home runs, 55 RBI, 50 runs and 49 walks. His slash line currently stands at a gaudy .364/.518/.582. Conforto leads the Pac-12 in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and runs, and his 55 RBI are second in the conference.
Not surprisingly, Conforto recently was awarded the Pac-12 Player of the Year for the second consecutive year.
Last season, Conforto hit .328/.447/.526 with 14 doubles, 11 home runs, 47 RBI and 48 runs.
Conforto’s speed is a bit pedestrian (11 career steals in 21 attempts), and his defense is nothing special. However, these are his only significant downsides, as Conforto’s offensive potential is quite evident.
At 6’2” and 215 pounds, Conforto projects as a corner outfielder with potential plus-plus power. His shaky defense may even work in the Mets’ favor, for it increases the likelihood he is available at No. 10. As the video shows, Conforto is patient enough to let the ball reach the plate, where he then shows off a quick and powerful swing.
The Mets have stressed plate discipline for years to the players in their system. If they truly plan to draft players who fit with the organization’s philosophy, Conforto must be at or near the top of their priority list.
Aaron Nola; RHP, Louisiana State University
The last position the Mets need to add depth to is pitching. But as draft picks go, Aaron Nola out of LSU might be as close as you can get to a sure thing.
Nola is everything college coaches want in a collegiate "Friday Night Pitcher." Whenever Nola steps on the mound, regardless of the stage, he delivers. It is no coincidence that the Tigers have won the SEC in all three of Nola’s years at Baton Rouge.
Already a two-time SEC Pitcher of the Year, Nola finished this season 10-1 with a ridiculous 1.49 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and a 127/26 K/BB ratio in 109.0 innings.
Nola’s stats speak for themselves. He will go down as one of the greatest to ever play at LSU. In his three-year career, Nola is 29-6 with a 2.10 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. He averaged 1.41 BB/9 and 9.36 K/9, which portray just how commanding Nola has really been.
Nola has three plus pitches in his running fastball that can touch mid-90s, curveball and changeup.
At 6’1” and 183 pounds, Nola is lean and fit. He also has a rare pitching motion that is both deceptive and easy on his arm, which is evident in the embedded video.
As many scouting reports on Nola will tell you, his impeccable command is the main reason why Nola is such a sure thing. He has a repeatable motion and pounds the strike zone with three quality pitches. Additionally, Nola should not need more than a full year of minor league ball before he is ready to jump to the majors.
If the Mets do land Nola, the names competing next spring for the Mets rotation could include Nola, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee, among others.
In short, starting pitching is clearly not a position of need for the Mets in the coming years. But the organization could not be faulted for taking a special player like Nola.
Bradley Zimmer; CF, University of San Francisco
As the offseason signings of Curtis Granderson and Chris Young portray, the Mets appear to value the threat of a smart hitter with good speed and power potential.
Bradley Zimmer of the University of San Francisco exemplifies these traits and then some.
Right away, one can tell how physically impressive Zimmer is, standing at 6’5” and 205 pounds.
Zimmer also complements his size with surprisingly quick foot speed, with 43 stolen bases in 169 collegiate games.
He has displayed the speed necessary to play center field every day at the next level. Throughout his career, Zimmer, brother of Kansas City Royals rising prospect Kyle Zimmer, also showed off a cannon out of center field, adding to his case as a five-tool player.
In 2014, Zimmer batted an amazing .368/.461/.573 with 10 doubles, seven triples, seven home runs, 31 RBI, 42 runs and 21 stolen bases.
Zimmer started all 54 games this year and recorded a hit in all but 10 of them. Considering that includes a modest five-game hitless streak, consistency is one of Zimmer’s better traits. In the embedded video, Zimmer has a beautifully level swing, which is uncommon in a lefty. He can confidently drive the ball to both fields, which should help him maintain a reputable batting average.
Again, recent history shows the Mets see the value in adding smart, patient hitters with a combination of threatening power and speed.
As Zimmer’s USF bio page boasts, Zimmer was the only player in the nation who ranked in the top 50 in steals and top 60 in slugging. Zimmer tallied 31 walks in 220 at-bats as well, equating to a solid 14.1 percent walk rate.
If the Mets emphasize tools in their draft strategy, Zimmer’s name should be by the top. He has legitimate five-tool potential, and in a short time would project to add another power-speed threat into the middle of the Mets lineup.
Derek Fisher; OF, University of Virginia
Derek Fisher is not the safest pick the Mets could make, but he has perhaps one of the highest ceilings in the entire draft.
Like Zimmer, Fisher has a fearsome blend of speed and power. However, the 6’3”, 210-pounder has had trouble consistently tapping into his raw power.
That is precisely the biggest fear that many have about Fisher’s development.
In 2011, Fisher was one of the top high school prep prospects in the country, as evidenced by the swing he showed off as a teenager in the embedded video. Fisher had a very high price tag, and the Texas Rangers were unwilling to oblige such a raw talent. Fisher chose to follow up his commitment to University of Virginia.
Three years later, Fisher has developed one of the best swings in the draft.
Fisher has consistently displayed an ability to spray the ball all over the field. With quick hips and a level bat, Fisher has a contact-focused swing. While not necessarily bad, coaches will want to tap into his raw power. In turn, Fisher could take more time than most college prospects to develop, which may lower his draft stock.
On defense, Fisher has plus speed and arm strength exclusively out of left field.
While Fisher was limited to just left field at Virginia, he has enough foot speed and arm where a professional coach may give him a viable shot at center field. If Fisher’s defense holds up at center, it can only add to his value in the long run.
In the end, Fisher will make a name for himself through his results at the plate.
In 143 career games in college, Fisher has hit .289/.379/.479 with 30 doubles, 12 triples, 17 home runs, 115 RBI, 105 runs and 16 stolen bases.
As his statistics convey, Fisher has become an impact player on offense. But he is simply not putting up the numbers people expected of someone with so much raw power.
Fisher is one of the top hitters available in terms of talent, but his slow development could affect his draft stock. At pick No. 10, though, the Mets can afford to take a chance on an unproven player if he has star potential.
That is exactly what Fisher is still. He has all the tools to be an elite offensive talent, but he has simply not been able to find the right swing to put it all together.
If the Mets take a chance on Fisher, he could become an All-Star outfielder, providing average, power, speed and above-average defense.