Ranking the New York Mets 9 Most Major League Ready Prospects

Sean Cunningham@@SS_CunninghamContributor IIDecember 2, 2013

Ranking the New York Mets 9 Most Major League Ready Prospects

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    Noah Syndergaard could make a huge impact for the 2014 Mets.
    Noah Syndergaard could make a huge impact for the 2014 Mets.Elsa/Getty Images

    The New York Mets still have a number of holes to fill in free agency, but the organization will likely have to get contributions from its own farm system if it wants to compete in 2014.

    Fans got a preview of many of the organization’s prospects in 2013, watching players such as Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores and Matt den Dekker at the end of the season.

    This list is composed of the top nine prospects in the Mets farm system who could make an impact in 2014. The rankings are based on a combination of player’s talent along with the likelihood they play an important role for the 2014 Mets. 

    The list only includes players who are close to the major leagues, eliminating prospects like Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith from the discussion, as well as players who have made their major league debuts, making players like d’Arnaud and Flores ineligible. 

    So without further ado, the top nine major league ready prospects for the New York Mets.

1. Noah Syndergaard

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Noah Syndergaard, along with Travis d’Arnaud, is the best prospect in the New York Mets system and should make his major league debut in 2014.

    The big Texan hurler acquired in the R.A. Dickey trade took huge strides in 2013, elevating himself from an intriguing power arm in the lower minors to a potential front-line starter on the precipice of making the major league rotation.

    Syndergaard sits at the top of this list because of both his elite status as a prospect and how he is following the same trajectory as Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler in their paths to promotion.

    In 2013, Syndergaard pitched to a 3.11 ERA in 12 starts for Single-A St. Lucie before being promoted to Double-A Binghamton, where he had a 3.00 ERA in 11 starts. He pitched 117.2 innings split between both levels in which he struck out 133 while walking just 28. Syndergaard’s control and ability to put away hitters should make him a successful pitcher as soon as he is promoted to the big league level.

    Syndergaard’s 2013 numbers suggest he could potentially be major league ready following spring training, but in order to retain financial control of him the Mets likely will not promote Syndergaard until June or July.

    If Syndergaard stays healthy and continues his domination of minor league hitters, he should fit into the back end of the Mets rotation for much of 2014.

2. Rafael Montero

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Rafael Montero could be ranked number one on this list, as he is more major league ready than Syndergaard and will probably be the first pitcher to get called up if there is a vacancy in the big league rotation.

    Montero has rocketed through the Mets farm system, who just two years ago was playing in the Gulf Coast League. In 2013, he toyed with Double-A hitters for most of the season posting a 2.43 ERA with 72 strikeouts and just 10 walks in 66.2 innings.

    He continued his success in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League, pitching to a 3.05 ERA. To put the ERA in perspective, Oakland Athletics playoff star Sonny Gray had a 3.42 ERA pitching most of 2013 in the PCL. In a league where hitters can post obscene numbers, Montero’s success bodes well for his major league future

    While Montero’s minor league performance is something Mets fans should get excited about, as a prospect he has many holes which are holding him back from being first in these rankings.

    Montero is small, standing at just six feet and 160 pounds. His size has caused many scouts to question whether he can handle the workload of a major league starter.

    Baseball Prospectus’ chief prospect writer Jason Parks explained in his 2013 season preview that he felt Montero was a high-risk prospect despite his performance, as he saw Montero’s changeup as below average and he had questions about Montero’s ability to hold innings. Despite these flaws, Parks acknowledged Montero’s “tremendous feel for pitching,” which helped Montero to his outsanding 2013 season.

    Even if Montero never pans out as the starter Mets fans hope, his floor as an effective major league reliever makes Montero a valuable entity and should allow him to make an impact on the big league roster in 2014.

3. Cesar Puello

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    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    The highest ranked position player on this list, Cesar Puello is a high-ceiling prospect with a plethora of athletic tools.

    In 2013, all of his tools finally translated onto the field, as he torched Double-A as one of the minor league’s most productive hitters. As a 22 year old in Binghamton prior to his suspension, Puello batted .326 with 16 home runs in just 91 games. He got off to a slow start in April, but had a monstrous June, earning the Eastern League Player of the Month. In June, Puello hit .441 with eight home runs, 24 RBIs, and an absurd 1.362 OPS.

    There are questions about Puello’s connections to Biogenesis, affecting his prospect status. This connection brings up some questions about Puello’s character, but on the field he has always been a hard-nosed player. MetsMinorLeagueBlog.com’s Toby Hyde believes in Puello as a prospect, and cites how Puello is, “always willing to take a pitch and get his uniform dirty.”  

    Also, Puello’s problems as a prospect have never been about his athletic abilities, but his ability to translate those tools onto the field. Performance-enhancing drugs will not take away the holes in Puello’s swing, but in 2013 he showed that he made progress as a baseball player more than as an athlete, exhibiting how his improvement was less Biogenesis related.

    Despite Puello’s tools and impressive 2013 season, many scouts still aren’t sold on Puello as a major league quality player. ESPN’s Keith Law has stated he is not a fan, believing that Puello is an extra outfielder at best.

    Puello’s 2013 performance also hasn’t convinced the Mets. Baseball America’s Josh Norris wrote that “people within the Mets organization have told [him]… that they don’t really consider him a prospect.” It’s clear that Puello’s performance does not tell the whole story considering how scouts still don’t have faith in him.

    With the Mets still likely to acquire a corner outfielder this offseason, if there is an injury to one of the starting outfielders or Juan Lagares’ bat disappears, along with Eric Young Jr. Puello is the organization’s best replacement option. With the tools he brings to the table, he could be an impact player at the big league level.

4. Jeff Walters

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    Jeff Walters, the former seventh-round pick out of the University of Georgia, made a name for himself in 2013 as the closer for the Mets Double-A affiliate.

    As a 25 year old, Walters pitched to a 2.03 ERA and broke the Binghamton Mets saves record with 38. While saves are a mediocre tool for evaluating relief pitchers, he has proven he can pitch at the end of games effectively.

    Walters’ plus stuff along with his command and ability to put hitters away make the chances of him becoming a solid major league reliever very high. In the current state of Major League Baseball, teams are always desperate for relief pitching at the trade deadline, and as the Mets proved in 2007 relief pitching can make or break a team’s season. 

    With Walters, the Mets have a cost-controlled reliever for the next number of years who, while he might not be the sexiest prospect, should improve the Mets pitching depth in 2014 and beyond.

5. Jacob deGrom

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    Jacob deGrom is a likely major league pitcher who will more than likely end up in the bullpen.

    The lanky Florida-native is an interesting story, as he was a shortstop at Stetson University for his freshman and sophomore seasons before converting to a starting pitcher for his junior season. His late-in-life conversion to a full time pitcher could either help deGrom’s chances at becoming a starter due to reduced mileage, or could force him to the bullpen due to his lack of built-up arm strength.

    DeGrom propelled through the Mets farm system in 2013, starting with his brief domination of Single-A, pitching just 12 innings with a 3.00 ERA. He then advanced to Double-A, where he struggled but still made his way to Triple-A where he turned heads early on before falling back to earth. He finished the season with a 4.51 ERA between the three levels, numbers not indicative of an effective major league pitcher.

    His struggles are understandable due to his lack of experience and how fast he was advancing levels. But, compared to the other hard throwing righty relievers who are younger than deGrom, his performance was lacking and shows how he was not quite ready for the major league level. 

    However, if deGrom continues his rapid rate of improvement, he should make the majors in 2014. With his big-sinking fastball and consistent improvement, deGrom should be an effective reliever for the Mets, with a chance at being a starter if the Mets give him the opportunity.

6. Jack Leathersich

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    Jack Leathersich is the relief pitcher Mets fans have been most excited about over recent years, due to his obscene strikeout numbers at the minor league level. In 2013, the lefty recorded an outrageous 102 strikeouts in just 58.1 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A.

    The former fifth-round pick out of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell has many more question marks than the two likely relievers ahead of him in the rankings, which is why he places lower on this list.

    Leathersich has always had issues with walking too many batters, something a pitcher can get away with at the minor league level. As Mets fans have witnessed over the past few years with Josh Edgin, lefty relievers who can strike people out become useless if they don’t throw strikes. 

    While Leathersich struck out 102 batters in 2013, he also walked 45 men in 58.1 innings. Furthermore, his struggles increased after he was promoted to Triple-A where he averaged a walk per inning. Leathersich needs to fix this problem if he wants to have a long and successful major league career.

    Leathersich should make his big league debut in 2014, and is a promising prospect because of his strikeout dominance and the fact that he is left-handed. Fans should temper their expectations, however, due to his potential volatility caused by his command struggles of the past.

7. Cory Mazzoni

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Cory Mazzoni has long been in the Mets discussion of potential relievers. As a second-rounder out of North Carolina State, Mazzoni always sported a plus-fastball reaching the mid-to-upper nineties.

    Mazzoni was seen as a potential reliever for the 2013 Mets, but injuries held him back and have also lowered his placement on this list.

    The right-hander has also never posted elite strikeout totals, despite the plus-velocity of his fastball, something worrisome for a potential reliever who would be expected to come in and strand runners.

    Mazzoni is still being implemented as a starter, but his role in the big leagues will likely be coming out of the bullpen. Odds are he will be given that opportunity in 2014, where Mazzoni will need to prove he can put hitters away.

8. Danny Muno

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    Danny Muno slides into this list due to his quality season in 2013 and his ability to play either middle infield position.

    Muno exploded onto the Mets minor league scene in his initial season for the organization. He raked in the New York Penn League, batting .355 with a .980 OPS.

    The young switch-hitter’s career halted in 2012 when he was suspended for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy. His performance also declined drastically, batting just .280 at High-A St. Lucie with very little extra-base power.

    In 2013, Muno’s performance was still underwhelming, but he exhibited qualities that should translate to the big leagues. Despite batting just .249, he posted an OBP of .384. Having such a respectable OBP with such a low batting average shows that Muno has a quality approach at the plate and should be able to improve his batting average. Also, considering Sandy Alderson’s appreciation for patient hitters, Muno could get an opportunity to perform at the big league level. 

    If the Mets fail to acquire a shortstop via trade or free agency, Muno could get an opportunity to play a role on the 2014 Mets.

9. Travis Taijeron

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    Travis Taijeron has numerous holes as a prospect, but his immense power could propel him to a role on the Mets.

    Taijeron, old for a minor leaguer at 24, has hit for power throughout his minor league career. After being drafted in the 18th round in 2011, he hit 19 home runs in 2012.

    In 2013, Taijeron finally made it to Double-A, where he continued his power prowess despite struggling in numerous aspects of the game. He hit 23 homeruns spending time with both High-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton but struck out 131 times in just 120 games.

    Sandy Alderson covets power, and while the odds of Taijeron becoming a starter at the major league level are very low, his age and power production at Double-A could make him an option for the 2014 Mets bench, providing Terry Collins with a legitimate pinch-hitting power threat.  

    Dustin Lawley is another player with a chance (albeit just as slim as Taijeron) of being a role player as a pinch hitter off the bench for the Mets, as he too has significant raw power but poor overall hitting ability.

    You can follow me on Twitter at @S_CunninghamBR