Ranking the 10 Best Hidden Gems in the New York Mets Farm System
The New York Mets want to build a team around their farm system, and the successful promotions of players like Jacob deGrom show that it can be done.
Most of the big names have reached the majors already, such as deGrom, Rafael Montero and Travis d'Arnaud. But who’s next in line after them?
Although these players may not reach the majors for years, they are already showing vast potential. More importantly, they are producing like future contributors at the major league level.
Here are the top 10 hidden gems in the Mets farm system.
10. Jose Medina, SP
Years down the road, Jose Medina could make waves as the best left-handed starter in the Mets farm system.
He received the a Sterling Award from the organization last season in the Dominican Summer League II.
In 12 starts, the 17-year-old out of Mexico had an unbelievable 0.35 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and 41/6 K/BB ratio in 52.0 innings. While it was only the DSL, that kind of command and low walk count is unheard of for a 17-year-old.
As the above press release stated, Medina’s ERA was the lowest in all of the minor leagues among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched.
Because of his age, it will be years before Medina’s name begins surfacing at the major league level. But when that time does come, he could be one of the more exciting prospects on the team.
9. Dario Alvarez, SP/RP
In the next couple of years, Dario Alvarez could become one of the best left-handed pitching prospects in the entire Mets farm system. And it has been quite the journey for him to get where he is.
Alvarez played in the Philadelphia Phillies organization from 2007-2009, never making it past the Dominican Summer League. He was then out of baseball from 2010-2012 before making the most of his second opportunity with the Mets in 2013.
This year, Alvarez is having a career year in his first exposure to Class-A hitters. In 10 games and three starts, he has a 1.44 ERA in 31.1 innings to go along with an impressive 48 strikeouts and 10 walks. Opponents are hitting just .217 against him this season.
Recently, Alvarez had his first rough outing of the season. Of the five total earned runs he's allowed this year, four came in the lone bad outing. Without that implosion, his ERA is an exemplary 0.32.
However, Alvarez is now a 25-year-old in Class-A. His development has been visibly slower than most prospects, with even more years to go before he is close to major league-ready. But with a strikeout rate that was hovering above 40 percent for much of this season, he is not a lost cause yet
Alvarez features a fastball-slider-changeup combination, predominantly relying on his fastball and slider that he consistently throws for strikes.
If he maintains this pace of production, he should have a future on the Mets pitching staff. Only time will tell whether it's as a starter or reliever.
8. Jeff McNeil, 2B
Last year’s 12th-round draft pick out of Long Beach State University, Jeff McNeil has produced exceptionally in his brief professional career.
Right away, what jumps out about his numbers so far is that his production this season, at Class-A, is almost identical to last season’s production in Rookie ball. Take a look at the below chart. McNeil finished 2013 with 164 at-bats, and the chart shows what he did in his first 164 at-bats this season.
In short, he moved up to a league with better pitching and picked up right where he left off.
The 6'1", 165-pounder is even flashing some power, now with 16 doubles, two triples and two home runs in 178 at-bats. He now holds a .337/.408/.483 line for the season. A power-hitting second baseman is extremely rare, so the Mets should be more than happy with McNeil’s current .483 slugging percentage.
The 22-year-old may not become a star, but if he continues to hit for average and get on base, the Mets will find a way to get him playing time.
At worst, he could become a promising utility player. It is not the sexiest role, but utility players can be vital for teams with playoff hopes. McNeil already has good speed (13 stolen bases this season) and experience at shortstop and second base, which can only help his cause.
In a small sample size, McNeil has been a model of consistency and the ability to adapt to higher levels. If this trend continues, he could move up to full-season ball as early as this year.
7. Dilson Herrera, 2B
Dilson Herrera is considered the No. 9 prospect for the Mets, according to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, so that is why he only comes in at No. 7 on this list. That said, he should be considered one of the top hitting prospects in the Mets farm system.
Herrera is an above-average fielder, but a below-average arm has moved him permanently to second base. With Pittsburgh, he showed decent speed and power, though the latter could partially be due to a pull-happy swing. The 20-year-old also needed to improve his plate discipline and cut down his high strikeout rate.
Less than a year after the trade, Herrera has improved dramatically on offense.
Despite a recent cooldown at the plate, he is still hitting .308/.349/.406 with 12 doubles, one triple, three home runs, 20 RBI, 40 runs and 11 stolen bases. While his walk rate has not improved much from last season, his strikeout rate has plummeted from 26.2 percent to 13.4 percent.
One of the bigger improvements in Herrera’s game is a newfound ability to hit to both fields. His swing and approach have each gotten much better, and in time, his walk rate should catch up.
Considering the Pirates only rented Byrd and Buck for the final few months of the season, the Mets may have received a huge steal in Herrera.
6. Akeel Morris, SP/RP
A 10th-round pick by the Mets in 2010, Akeel Morris has developed quite nicely out of tiny St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.
Morris began his career as a starter with a devastating fastball. The results were there at times, but consistency was not. For 2012 and 2013, he was used as both a starter and reliever as he looked to control that electric, mid-90s fastball.
Last season, Morris took a major step in his development.
In his first season of Low-A ball, he threw 45 innings and finished with an astounding 1.00 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 60 strikeouts and just one home run allowed. He allowed 23 walks, which was middling but a noticeable improvement from the previous season.
In 2014, he is already the best reliever for the Class-A Savannah Sand Gnats.
Morris began the season on an incredible scoreless streak of 24.1 straight innings. He is now 3-0 with a 0.31 ERA and just 11 hits allowed. More impressively, he has 45 strikeouts to 12 walks in only 28.2 innings. Righties have hit a pitiful .052 against him so far.
There is still an outside chance Morris becomes a viable starting pitcher. However, due to a violent delivery and overabundance of pitching prospects around him, his’ future with the Mets is likely as an effective setup man in the bullpen.
As Morris lowers his walk rate and improves his curveball and changeup, look for him to light up the Mets bullpen by 2017.
5. Vicente Lupo, OF
You never really know what you’ll get with international prospects once they sign, and that has certainly been the case for raw power-hitting outfielder Vicente Lupo. The 20-year-old signed with the Mets in July 2010, and since then, his professional career has been like night and day.
In 2011, Lupo’s first professional season in the Dominican Summer League, he posted just a .197/.325/.379 line with 59 strikeouts in 49 games. He's incredibly strong and showed that power at times, but his first season was a disappointment.
One year later, Lupo utterly dominated the DSL.
In 65 games, he cruised to a .343/.500/.608 line. Of his 70 hits that summer, 31 of them were extra-base hits, including 10 home runs. He also managed 12 stolen bases and drew more walks than strikeouts, which is an incredible feat for a power hitter.
The Dominican Summer League is generally not a hitter-friendly league, which makes Lupo’s numbers even more impressive.
The next season, Lupo ran into some bad luck.
He became dangerously ill with malignant hypothermia. On top of that, he battled through injuries to his wrist and back. Not surprisingly, in just 109 at-bats, Lupo hit .220/.310/.385 and sported a 50/13 K/BB ratio.
Injuries and illness should not impact plate discipline, so it is disappointing to see such a disparity in plate discipline between 2012 and 2013. That said, look for a bounce-back year for a healthy Lupo in 2014. In time, he projects as a formidable corner outfielder with potential plus-plus power and decent speed.
If Lupo can stay healthy and continue his development, the Mets will have a legitimate power-hitting prospect for the first time in a while.
4. T.J. Rivera, 2B/SS
T.J. Rivera has consistently produced like a top-20 prospect rather than the undrafted free agent that he was just a few years ago.
Last season, his first full season in Class-A, he had a commendable .289 average in 125 games. Rivera led the Florida State League with 145 hits as well as a total of 39 multi-hit games. He was the picture of consistency all year, with a nine-game hitting streak in May, a 14-game hitting streak in July and a 13-game hitting streak in August.
Over his three-plus years in the minors, 2013 was the first season Rivera had a combined batting average below .300.
This year, he is tearing up Class-A pitching. In 47 games, he's mashing a .359/.396/.495 line with 15 doubles, four home runs, 43 RBI and 33 runs.
The knock on Rivera is that he does not have the tools of other top prospects and elite middle infielders. Because of this, hi accomplishments can quickly fly under the radar. Funnily, the Mets themselves have an accomplished but underrated second baseman: Daniel Murphy.
Murphy and Rivera are similar players. They are both tireless workers who have become quality hitters and serviceable defenders. But Rivera may already be a better defender than Murphy.
However, Rivera also has just 10 walks in 194 at-bats this season. Considering the B-Mets (Double-A) are full up the middle with Wilfredo Tovar and Matt Reynolds, he must improve his discipline to move up the organization.
At this pace on offense, though, Rivera will certainly get a chance at higher levels. In a couple of seasons, look for his bat to compete for a spot on the Mets roster.
3. Matthew Bowman, SP
Until this season, Matthew Bowman had done nothing but produce since 2012, when the Mets drafted him in the 13th round out of Princeton University.
Bowman, who turned 23 Saturday, has three quality pitches in his low- to mid-90s running fastball, slider and changeup. In his first professional season, he immediately showed serious potential. Playing in Rookie ball, Bowman finished with a 2.45 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 30 strikeouts to just two walks in 29.1 innings.
Since then, he has flown through the organization and is already in Double-A.
After he began this season 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA in his first three starts, Bowman came back down to Earth in two of his last four starts. He gave up a combined 15 earned runs in those two nightmarish starts, compared to just four total earned runs in the other five starts.
On the season, Bowman has a pedestrian 4.18 ERA and 47/14 K/BB ratio in 47.1 innings. But the two poor starts have clearly skewed those numbers significantly.
Most recently, he celebrated his 23rd birthday by going seven innings for three earned runs and a superb 12 strikeouts to zero walks.
Bowman will settle into a groove eventually. He is already producing grounders at an extraordinary rate. In Rookie ball, he averaged 1.89 ground balls per fly ball, which is decent. This season, he averages a much healthier 2.75 ground balls per fly ball.
Additionally, Bowman already has three games this season with over 10 strikeouts.
He is showing poise beyond his years by keeping the ball down and generating plenty of ground balls. At the same time, he has the ability to overpower a hitter and produce strikeouts when necessary.
Despite being the 410th overall pick in 2012, Bowman appears to be on the fast track to becoming a quality major league starter. By 2016, his name could make the list of golden arms vying for a rotation spot.
2. Robert Whalen, SP
If Robert Whalen keeps producing like he has to begin his career, it will not be long until he is one of the top prospects on the Mets.
Whalen, a diehard Mets fan, slipped all the way to the 12th round in 2012 after dealing with what he called a “dead arm” during his senior season of high school. After that, his name was forgotten, as he was shut down much of that summer to recover.
The following season, Whalen dominated Rookie ball en route to earning a 2013 Sterling Award from the organization.
In 12 starts, Whalen finished with a 1.87 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 76 strikeouts and 17 walks in 72.1 innings. He gave up just one home run all season and allowed three or fewer earned runs in all but one of his starts.
This year, the 20-year-old moved up to Class-A, where he has been flourishing. In four appearances and three starts, he is 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 21 strikeouts and seven walks in 20.0 innings. His walk rate will drop quickly as he logs more innings.
This March, Baseball America named Whalen’s curveball the best curveball in the Mets farm system.
He is certainly one of the top names to track. With a superb 3.75 ground balls per fly ball, he should have no problem limiting hits and runs throughout his career. It also helps when opponents are hitting .100 with runners in scoring position, as they are against Whalen this season.
When he does come back, expect Whalen to pick up right where he left off and fly up the prospect rankings in the coming years.
1. Allan Dykstra, 1B
It’s tough to call a Triple-A player a hidden gem, but in a sense, that is exactly what Allan Dykstra—who has no relation to Lenny Dykstra—is.
The Mets traded underachieving pitching prospect Eddie Kunz to the San Diego Padres for Dykstra in March 2011. Kunz briefly flashed potential for the Mets as a 2007 first-round pick, but he did not contribute much to the Mets except for this remarkable blog post where he described one of his outings as "ruff."
Since the trade, Dykstra has relished his second chance, swiftly climbing up the organization after struggling to adapt with San Diego.
At the same time, he is overlooked and not considered one of the top prospects for the Mets, even though he has developed into a poised hitter.
Dykstra spent all of 2013 in Double-A, where he was the Eastern League MVP and the Sterling Organizational Co-Player of the Year. He finished with an impressive .274/.436/.503 line in 122 games with 22 doubles, 21 home runs, 82 RBI and an astonishing 102 walks.
Meanwhile, that same year, Kunz was released by the Padres.
This season, Dykstra’s first exposure to Triple-A, he has put up even gaudier numbers. In 49 games, he already has 17 doubles, eight home runs, 44 RBI, 39 walks, and a .299/.437/.565 line. That equates to a 1.002 OPS.
At 6'5" and 215 pounds, Dykstra has quickly become a fearsome left-handed-hitting presence in the lineup for the Las Vegas 51s.
Even so, it is important to note that he recently turned 27 years old. Per PressConnects.com, general manager Sandy Alderson recently vouched that Dykstra could have a future at the major league level, but there may not be room for him. Dykstra’s below-average foot speed and defense also limit him to being a first baseman only. The Mets already have one of those in Lucas Duda, but Duda is hitting just .236 this season.
As Alderson himself stated, Dykstra is insanely good at drawing walks. That is precisely what the organization values in hitters.
Alderson, and close confidante Paul DePodesta, were even with San Diego, when the Padres drafted Dykstra in the first round in 2008.
Clearly, the 27-year-old is a player on the front office’s radar.
The Mets have a pitiful offense but an on-base machine patiently waiting in Triple-A. This season, they have shown a newfound willingness to call up younger prospects, such as Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom and Eric Campbell. Dykstra’s name should soon appear on that list, as he is undoubtedly the top hidden gem in the farm system.
He is criticized for being a one-dimensional player who can only get on base, but Dykstra happens to be really, really good at getting on base and does not get nearly enough credit for this skill.
The Mets offense desperately needs a boost, and the first place any organization looks is its farm system. The Mets farm system currently boasts a number of hidden gems, but none are better than Dykstra.