The 2014 Futures Game will kick off All-Star Weekend Sunday at 5 p.m. ET, and the New York Mets will have two of their best prospects representing Team USA, Noah Syndergaard and Kevin Plawecki.
While the Mets have a number of prospects good enough to play, a maximum of two players from each team are selected (except from the home team, which can have three). Syndergaard was an obvious choice, as he is the team’s best overall prospect, and he started the game last year.
The Mets have better prospects than Plawecki, but he is no slouch, and with the dearth of catching throughout baseball and Plawecki’s offensive profile, he makes sense as the second player to represent the Mets.
Prospects have become more and more popular over the years as more information has become available about them, but most fans have never seen their favorite prospects play outside of grainy online footage. The Futures Game presents an opportunity for fans to see prospects for themselves while they play against the best of their peers.
With Syndergaard and Plawecki playing, I’m here to give you their scouting reports so you know what to look for when you tune in to the Futures Game.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP
DOB: 8/29/1992 (21)
Height/Weight: 6’6”, 240 lbs
2014 Stats: 7-4, 5.31 ERA, 1.506 WHIP, 82:23 K:BB ratio for Triple-A Las Vegas
ETA: Late 2014, May 2015
Strengths: Plus-plus fastball that he can spot on both sides of the plate when he’s on; curveball that has made major strides in recent years; improving changeup; legitimate chance to have three plus offerings; workhorse-type body, 6’6” and built sturdily; projects to be able to hold up over 200-plus innings.
Weaknesses: Not too many. Command has been down this year, causing him to get hit harder; curveball and changeup still not major league plus pitches; needs to improve secondary pitches if he wants to reach ceiling of No. 2 starter.
Syndergaard was the second-best prospect acquired in the R.A. Dickey trade prior to last season, but in the past year, he has emerged as not only the best prospect from that trade, but also the best prospect in the Mets' system.
The big Texan’s numbers have always backed up his stuff prior to this season. He dominated Low-A as a 19-year-old in the Toronto Blue Jays' system with a 3.11 ERA and just 16 walks in 63.2 innings. He did even better as a 20-year-old with the Mets, with a 3.00 ERA and 1.074 WHIP between High-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton.
I was bullish on Syndergaard prior to this season in a piece I wrote arguing that he would be better than current Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler. That was no slight to Wheeler—who I have some concerns about but still really like—but more so my endorsement of Syndergaard.
Syndergaard has struggled this year for the first time as a professional, but his prospect status remains steady. He has a 5.31 ERA and 1.515 WHIP in Triple-A, but he is still just 21 and is pitching in one of the most hitter-friendly leagues in the minors.
Struggling is also a part of the developmental process. He might not make the major leagues as soon as many expected or hoped, but he’s still very advanced for his age, and fans shouldn’t be concerned about his future.
Fans should already know the basics of what to look for in the Futures Game considering he started the game last season. Syndergaard should come in and light up the radar gun with his plus fastball, and unless he gets uncomfortable as a reliever, he should shut down the opposition.
His fastball velocity should come as no surprise and play up in a one-inning stint, but seeing whether or not he locates the pitch well should be interesting.
Also, facing elite prospects in the Futures Game is an ideal situation to determine whether or not Syndergaard’s secondary offerings are good enough to get out major league talent instead of just fooling minor league hitters.
DOB: 2/26/1991 (23)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 225 lbs
2014 Stats: .326/.378/.487, 6 HR, 18 2B in 58 games at Double-A, .176/.282/.294, 1 HR, 1 2B in 11 games at Triple-A
ETA: May/June 2015
Strengths: Elite contact-hitter; almost never strikes out; solid gap power; average receiver behind the plate and improving.
Weaknesses: Marginal power projection; not a threat to throw runners out behind the plate; needs to make himself more viable defensively.
Plawecki was the second-best catching prospect in the Mets' farm system coming into the season behind Travis d’Arnaud, but he would easily be the best in many systems across baseball.
The Mets drafted Plawecki in the supplemental first round with the 35th overall selection. It seemed like the Mets picked him too high at the time considering he lacked the defensive or offensive potential to be a star player. However, Plawecki has maximized his potential to this point in his career, and now he projects to be a well-above-average offensive catcher in the major leagues.
The former Purdue Boilermaker struck out just 29 times in his three years in college and has continued to make tons of contact, striking out just 8.8 percent of the time in 2013 and 10.8 percent of the time this season.
Plawecki should hit for a high batting average, but he would be much more valuable if he worked deeper counts and sacrificed his contact rate for a higher on-base percentage. Because he is so great at making contact, he often does so early in the count to avoid falling behind and striking out. If he laid off pitches he couldn’t drive, his OBP would rise and so would his offensive value.
While he still needs to improve defensively to cement his status as an everyday catcher, his ability to play catcher adequately while hitting for a high batting average should allow him to have a long major league career.
The Mets have a dilemma ahead of them once Plawecki becomes major league-ready, as Travis d’Arnaud was once a highly heralded catching prospect who has struggled to start his career. D’Arnaud has showed signs of turning it around, and as long as both are healthy and capable of producing at the big league level, the Mets will have the good problem of not having enough at-bats for the both of them.
Plawecki will have value as a trade chip this offseason, and if d’Arnaud proves himself through the rest of the season, it might make sense for the Mets' future. However, trading him would be tough, even if d’Arnaud performs, considering d’Arnaud’s injury-riddled past.
As far as the Futures Game is concerned, fans will have the opportunity to see Plawecki in multiple facets of the game. Unlike Syndergaard, who will be limited to just one inning of work, Plawecki is one of two catchers on the Team USA roster and should play a large chunk of the game.
With the amount of talent on the USA pitching staff, fans will be able to see how Plawecki receives while catching electric pitches. Also, the athletes on the World squad could force Plawecki to show off his supposedly improved throwing arm.
At the plate, Plawecki should have a number of at-bats versus elite pitchers. Fans should look for him to make hard contact, hoping he has the chance to hit one into the gap or down the line for a double.
Follow Sean on Twitter: @SCunninghamPG.