New York Mets: Ranking the Top 10 Prospects Ahead of Spring Training
Between recent promotions to the big leagues and dipping into the till to facilitate trades for the likes of Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes, you'd think that the New York Mets are no longer deep with quality prospects.
You'd be wrong.
Ranked as the seventh-best farm system heading into 2017 by ESPN.com's Keith Law, the Mets are admittedly light on pitching—only three of the 10 prospects on our list call the mound their home. But the system is flush with talent around the diamond, particularly in the middle of the infield.
What follows is a look at the top 10 prospects in the Mets' system, ranked on their current level of talent and upside.
10. SS/2B Andres Gimenez
Age on Opening Day: 18
Height/Weight: 6'0", 165 lbs
2016 Stats (Dominican Summer League)
62 G, .350/.469/.523, 27 XBH (3 HR), 38 RBI, 13-for-21 SB
Named the second-best prospect in the 2015 International Free Agent class by Baseball America's Ben Badler, Andres Gimenez is a lesser-known but highly talented middle infielder in the lower levels of the Mets farm system.
For those wondering, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., son of future Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, ranked first in the class.
A smooth fielder with a strong arm, there's little question that Gimenez can stick at shortstop. He's not likely to outgrow the position as he adds bulk to his wiry frame. He was impressive in his professional debut, hammering pitchers of a similar age in the Dominican Summer League.
"Gimenez led the circuit in on-base percentage (.469) while ranking second in average (.350) and doubles (20)," wrote BA's Matt Eddy. "He can be a plus hitter with above-average wheels and above-average ability at shortstop."
Mature at the plate for his age, Gimenez makes consistent hard contact and showed the ability to drive the ball into the outfield gaps. As he bulks up, more power should come with it.
Gimenez is still incredibly raw and carries a high level of risk. But the Mets couldn't have asked for a better start to his professional career.
9. C Tomas Nido
Age on Opening Day: 22
Height/Weight: 6'0", 205 lbs
2016 Stats (A+)
90 G, .320/.357/.459, 32 XBH (7 HR), 46 RBI, 0-for-1 SB
Some players from the Mets 2012 draft class have already reached the big leagues, a list that includes two players—Matt Bowman and Robert Whalen—selected after New York took Tomas Nido in the eighth round with the 260th overall pick.
That's not a knock on Nido, as catchers typically take longer to develop than others.
After struggling to produce offensively, including a .241/.284/.306 slash line over parts of two seasons with Low-A Brooklyn, Nido took the next step in his development last year, hitting .320 with a .816 OPS for High-A St. Lucie, winning the Florida State League batting title.
"It's a good feeling to be hitting like this," he told MiLB.com's Guy Curtright. "Defense had always been my strength before." And it still is, as Nido threw out a ridiculous 42 percent of base-stealers during his breakout season.
Added to the 40-man roster this winter, Nido will be a participant in spring training, giving Mets fans their first glimpse of the team's potential catcher of the future.
8. SS Gavin Cecchini
Age on Opening Day: 23
Height/Weight: 6'2", 200 lbs
2016 Stats (AAA)
117 G, .325/.390/.448, 37 XBH (8 HR), 55 RBI, 4-for-5 SB
Another member of the 2012 draft class who has already reached the big leagues is Gavin Cecchini—selected 12th overall. He didn't get much playing time with the Mets in a playoff race but performed when called upon, going 2-for-6 with a pair of doubles, two RBI and two runs scored.
MLB.com's Prospect Watch described the 23-year-old as "a real 'baseball player,' the type whose whole is greater than the sum of his parts." Essentially, Cecchini isn't exceptional in one area—he's just solid across the board.
But that hasn't stopped him from continuing to hone his craft, and he made an impression while at the Arizona Fall League.
"He’s getting a lot more patient," Mets minor league hitting coordinator Lamar Johnson told Betsy Helfand of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "He’s taking walks now. He’s getting a little stronger physically, and he’s hitting the ball harder, but the big thing about Gavin is he doesn’t miss pitchers' mistakes. He’s a good hitter, and he’s a guy that whenever the pitchers make mistakes, he puts it in play hard."
With Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera manning the middle infield at Citi Field this year, Cecchini will once again spend the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.
7. Of Brandon Nimmo
Age on Opening Day: 24
Height/Weight: 6'3", 205 lbs
2016 Stats (AAA)
97 G, .352/.423/.541, 44 XBH (11 HR), 61 RBI, 7-for-15 SB
Lost in the conversation about the outfield logjam the Mets head into spring training with is that Michael Conforto isn't the team's only young outfielder left out in the cold. Brandon Nimmo, the team's first-round pick in 2011 (12th overall), is also without a path to playing time in the big leagues.
While his numbers with Triple-A Las Vegas are impressive, they're often misleading. As Baseball Prospectus' Ben Carsley wrote, "offensive performance in Vegas stays in Vegas."
Nimmo has the plate discipline needed to have success in the majors, and he did hit .274 with two extra-base hits and a .666 OPS over 80 plate appearances with the Mets last year. His power, however, remains limited to batting practice exhibitions as he's yet to tap into it consistently in games.
Still young enough to further develop, Eddy offered former big league outfielders David DeJesus and David Murphy as comparisons for the 24-year-old.
6. RHP Robert Gsellman
Age on Opening Day: 23
Height/Weight: 6'4", 205 lbs
2016 Stats (MLB)
8 G (7 GS), 4-2, 2.42 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 44.2 IP, 42 H, 15 BB, 42 K
The question is no longer whether Robert Gsellman can pitch in the majors—his short stint with the Mets last season proved that he could—but rather how high his ceiling is. If we're only going by the numbers he posted, he's got the makings of a front-of-the-rotation starter.
But that's hardly the way anyone evaluates prospects.
"With this stuff now, he’s a No. 4 trending up to a No. 3" wrote ESPN.com's Keith Law, who named him the 76th best prospect in baseball. "I’d be very surprised if he gave the Mets anything less than three years as a solid-average big league starting pitcher."
Armed with four quality pitches and a fearless approach on the mound as he relentlessly attacks the strike zone, he could certainly exceed those expectations.
But there are questions as to whether he can maintain the velocity jump he experienced last season, which saw his fastball tick up into the 94-to-96 mph range. That extra oomph led to some command issues with his heat, especially on the black.
Whether his ceiling is that of a mid-rotation starter or something more, one thing is for certain: He's already exceeded the expectations that come along with being a 13th round pick, as he was in the 2011 draft.
5. RHP Justin Dunn
Age on Opening Day: 21
Height/Weight: 6'2", 185 lbs
2016 Stats (A-)
11 G (8 GS), 1-1, 1.50 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 30 IP, 25 H, 10 BB, 35 K
We're not sure, but the joy that Justin Dunn and his Boston College teammates exhibited upon hearing his name called in the first round of the 2016 draft might have been shared by Mets general manager Sandy Alderson and the rest of the team's front office, also.
He already has the best fastball and slider in the Mets system, using his primary weapons to strike out 10.5 per nine innings in his pro debut at short-season Brooklyn. He generates mid-90s velocity and good life on his fastball—which touched 98 mph—with a loose arm and fluid motion. His mid-80s slider already grades as above-average and should mature into a plus pitch with tight spin and late vertical break.
Dunn is far from a finished product. A reliever in college, Dunn will have to build up arm strength and stamina as he methodically moves through the farm system. His secondary offerings are still a work in progress and need refinement.
If he sticks in the rotation, he could develop into a No. 2 starter. A move back to the bullpen, where his secondary offerings and stamina would be less important, could move him quickly through the system.
4. Of Desmond Lindsay
Age on Opening Day: 20
Height/Weight: 6'0", 200 lbs
How Acquired: 2015 draft (second round), 53rd overall
2016 Stats (Rk/-A)
37 G, .303/.433/.451, 10 XBH (4 HR), 17 RBI, 3-for-4 SB
A hamstring injury limited Desmond Lindsay to just 37 games in his first professional season, just like a hamstring injury forced the 53rd overall pick in the 2015 draft to miss nearly all of his senior season at Out-of-Door Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
When he's healthy, Linsday flashes five-tool potential and is athletic enough to play center field, despite sticking in the infield corners as an amateur. But he's got to be able to stay on the field to get the reps in to make that transition a successful one.
3. LHP Thomas Szapucki
Age on Opening Day: 20
Height/Weight: 6'2", 205 lbs
2016 Stats (Rk/-A)
9 GS, 4-3, 1.38 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 52 IP, 26 H, 20 BB, 86 K
If you're looking for the prospect in the Mets' system that made the biggest jump in 2016, look no further than Thomas Szapucki, the team's fifth-round pick in the 2015 draft. He used a mid-90s fastball and a power curve to dominate hitters, averaging nearly 15 strikeouts per nine innings of work.
But there's lots of work ahead for the southpaw, who Law has at No. 60 on his top 100 prospects list.
A sore back cut his 2016 season short, and he's going to have to prove that he can carry a heavy load in 2017 when he should make his full-season debut in Single-A ball. His three-quarters arm slot helped improve his fastball command, but his funky mechanics are hard to replicate and need to be cleaned up.
Szapucki also lacks a quality third pitch, with a fringy changeup the closest thing to one. If he can hold up physically and is able to maintain his velocity with improved mechanics, he'll have an excellent chance of reaching his ceiling as a No. 2 starter.
2. 1B Dominic Smith
Age on Opening Day: 21
Height/Weight: 6'0", 250 lbs
2016 Stats (AA)
130 G, .302/.367/.457, 45 XBH (14 HR), 91 RBI, 2-for-3 SB
There's a reason the Mets haven't tried to work out a long-term extension with incumbent first baseman Lucas Duda, and his name is Dominic Smith.
The 11th overall pick in the 2013 draft doesn't have Duda's 30-home run power, but he's a terrific defender at the bag with a natural feel for hitting. That wasn't lost on the folks over at MLB.com, who ranked Smith as the third-best first base prospect heading into 2017.
Smith continues to have a very advanced approach at the plate with outstanding bat-to-ball skills, leading to the consistent batting average, good walk and low strikeout rates. He started to add extra-base pop in 2015 and that translated to more over-the-fence power, particularly in the first half, in the move to Double-A in 2016. He then made adjustments and hit for a higher average in the second half of a year that included a trip to the Futures Game.
Should Duda's back become an issue once again in 2017, Smith could get the call to the big leagues earlier than expected. Otherwise, look for him to make his major league debut in Septemeber and take over at the position in 2018.
1. SS Amed Rosario
Age on Opening Day: 21
Height/Weight: 6'2", 190 lbs
2016 Stats (A+/AA)
120 G, .324/.374/.459, 42 XBH (5 HR), 71 RBI, 19-for-27 SB
Amed Rosario was far from a sure thing when he signed with the Mets for $1.75 million in 2012, a franchise-record for an international free agent. Five years later, the 21-year-old is one of the game's premier prospects, regardless of position.
He never looked overmatched at the plate despite consistently being one of the younger players at whatever level he was playing. His defense was always ahead of his bat until last year when he began to mature physically and delivered a breakout offensive season, dominating across two levels.
While he's always shown the ability to make consistent contact, Rosario's plate discipline could use some refinement, with his strikeout rate trending in the wrong direction as he made the jump to Double-A. That's not enough to sour anyone on his long-term outlook, however.
"Rosario has the potential to be an all-star shortstop with Gold Glove potential who can bat near the top of a lineup," wrote Eddy in his scouting report following last season. With no reason to rush him to the majors, Rosario, like Smith, likely won't arrive at Citi Field until September.