Astromets Top 83 Mets Prospect Series: 1-9 | Astromets Mind

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Astromets Top 83 Mets Prospect Series: 1-9

            For this top prospect list series I tried to include as many players as possible, as I watched a lot of talented Mets prospects in 2014, and was following the progression of those I couldn’t watch. I do not include any Dominican Summer League players here, as I know next to nothing about those guys and they are so far away. I started by separating players into different groups and then essentially ranked those groups. Still, a lot of these players become interchangeable beyond the top 25 or so prospects. Also, there are a number of ’50+ future value’ players (per Fangraphs Kiley McDaniel), so the very top of the list is pretty interchangeable too. I don’t think I missed any obvious stateside prospects, but I apologize in advance for when I did, and I'll address them at the end.

Other entries from this series: 10-15 | 16-24 | 25-33 | 34-45 | 46-55 | 56-62 | 63-74 | 75-83

*All stats listed are regular season only and from Fangraphs; age to start 2015 season listed; pitchers roles are based on what they did in 2014, not what they might do in the future

The Clear #1

      1)   Noah Syndergaard, RH/SP (22)
2014 stats:
AAA: 26 GS, 133 IP, 154 H (11 HR), 4.60 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 24.9 K%: 7.4 BB%

Considering you already know a lot about Thor, the main thing I want to say about Thor is that his 2014 was better than his ERA indicates. He sat 95-97 MPH with his heater and could still work it up to the 98-100 MPH range late in the game. His change was solidly in the 85-88 MPH range, though he didn’t use it as often as his curve, which ranged from 78-82 MPH. After a nice start to the year, he had a rough 5-game midseason stretch (10.42 ERA) in his first taste of the PCL as a 21-year old, but that was right after missing some time with a non-serious injury, and he allowed a .420+ BABIP during that span. He appeared to be back to himself for a July 6th start at Albuquerque, but struggled when he’d next pitch 11 days later – Thor doesn’t appear to do well with a lot of time off in between starts. His final 9 games of the regular season were Thor at his best – over 48.1 IP, he allowed 48 H (1 HR) and a 2.61 ERA/2.93 FIP despite a .370 BABIP against, thanks to a 27.9 K%: 8.2 BB% and 75.8 LOB% (he had a low 67.2 LOB% for the season). Thor had two noticeable differences in his L/R splits from the 2014 season (not including BABIP) – righties hit him for more power (.155 ISO vs. R, .097 ISO vs. L) despite Thor having significantly better K: BB rates against that side (28.8 K%: 5.9 BB% vs. R, 20.2 K%: 9.1 BB% vs. L). One thing to keep an eye on moving forward is if he can do a better job of holding runners on 1B, as runners went a little wild running on the Thor/Plaw combo down the stretch, and Travis d’Arnaud hasn’t been much better than Plaw at throwing out base stealers. Finally, the biggest improvement that I (and occasional radio announcer Jerry Reuss) noticed about Thor from throughout the season was his improved pitch selection/sequencing. While his fastball will always be his bread-and-butter, he can’t have guys sitting on it like they were in the first half, because they’ll keep fouling it off until they can square one up.

He got Carl Crawford swinging a couple of times in this start

I love the way the ball rockets out of his hand
That's Lord Charles to you Jesus Montero

The Studs
            You should already know a lot about these guys, so I’ll just try to add something new here. With the obvious inclusion of Thor, this is the main group that puts the Mets in the top-5 of minor league farm systems right now, and they could all see significant major league time this summer.

      2)   Steven Matz, LH/SP (23)
2014 stats:
A+: 12 GS, 69.1 IP, 66 H (0 HR), 2.21 ERA, 2.73 FIP, 21.5 K%: 7.3 BB%
AA: 12 GS, 71.1 IP, 66 H (3 HR), 2.27 ERA, 2.64 FIP, 24 K%: 4.9 BB%

I know were all rooting for him, but it’ll be hard to find fans out there who want Matz to succeed more than I do, as I take a lot of extra pride in the fact we went to the same high school – I know it’s silly and that ultimately means very little, and I didn’t even like going there. It’s not common you see a prospect make the mid-season jump to AA and actually improve on their A+ stats, but Matz (and Herrera) managed to do just that. Although he can’t get the same top speeds on his fastball as Thor, he appeared to use his mid-90’s fastball, change-up and curveball repertoire in much the same way during the 2014 season – both established the fastball early, would work the change-up in more during the 2nd and 3rd time through the lineup, while dropping in curves at any point. Matz doesn’t have a big loopy curve like Thor, instead throwing a sharper breaking curve that he kept at the bottom of the zone well. He reached peak form in August and finished the year white-hot, culminating in his best performance of the season in the EL championship game. Over his last 7 starts, including the postseason, Matz threw 42.1 IP, allowed 32 H (0 HR) and a 1.49 ERA/1.87 FIP, with a 29.5 K%: 5.5 BB%. Although slightly better overall against lefties, Matz did not show any noticeable L/R splits at either level of the minors last year. The Mets need to make room for Thor and Matz in their rotation at some point in 2015, because these two appear as special as the 3 top-notch starters who recently ascended to the majors.

Knees buckled

O, you thought that wasn't going to bounce?

'Let me just see if he'll swing at a high heater'

'If I pull the string like so...'

      3)   Brandon Nimmo, LH/OF (22)
2014 stats:
A+: 62 G, 279 PA, .322/.448/.458, .401 BABIP, 165 wRC+, 9 2B, 5 3B, 4 HR, 18.3 K%: 17.9 BB%
AA: 65 G, 279 PA, .238/.339/.396, .283 BABIP, 107 wRC+, 12 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 19.4 K%: 12.9 BB%
AFL: 21 G, 98 PA, .202/.306/.238, .298 BABIP, 59 wRC+, 3 2B, 28.6 K%: 12.2 BB%

I have often read concerns that Nimmo would lose the speed needed for CF as he continued to beef up to add power, but early reports out of the Mets spring training camp suggest that Nimmo looks even more ripped than last year, but is lighter overall. Hopefully that will quell some of those concerns, although it’s hard to imagine he’d push Juan Lagares out of CF with the Mets anyway. Nimmo got off to a very quick start with St. Lucie, showing that he was over the wrist injury that plagued him for much of his 2013 with Savannah. He struggled a little after his initial promotion to AA, but much of that was against lefties, an issue which I addressed in my last post before my laptop died, causing me to lose all my data and stop blogging for awhile. Considering I addressed most of his season in that post, and included a lot of gifs at the bottom, I won’t waste much more space here talking about him. I will just say that his higher upside left him above Dilson, despite Dilson’s better season with the bat allowing him to make his major league debut in 2014.

      4)   Dilson Herrera, RH/2B (21)
2014 stats:
A+: 67 G, 309 PA, .307/.355/.410, .353 BABIP, 120 wRC+, 16 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 14.2 K%: 5.8 BB%
AA: 61 G, 278 PA, .340/.406/.560, .389 BABIP, 166 wRC+, 17 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 18.7 K%: 10.4 BB%
Majors: 18 G, 66 PA, .220/.303/.407, .256 BABIP, 105 wRC+, 1 3B, 3 HR, 25.8 K%: 10.6 BB%

I wonder how high Dilson would rank in national rankings if he could play an average SS, as his bat was off the charts in 2014 – talk about seeing improvements from A+ to AA. Unfortunately, the Mets tried that experiment when Bingo was in need of a SS and they chose T.J. Rivera instead. While he’d certainly be a better emergency shortstop than Eric Campbell was, his range and arm did not play well on that side of the diamond. He does look strong in the field at 2B, and will be an upgrade over Daniel Murphy when he reaches the majors for good. He was easily the most exciting position player to watch in the Mets minor league system last year, as it seemed he could pick up multiple hits (including at least one extra base hit) on any given night with Bingo, and often did. Despite a very low .256 BABIP with the big league club, Dilson managed to provide better than average offense (by wRC+), and so a case could be made for the Mets to start him with the big league club this April. But I think with that spike in K% at the highest level, Dilson will be best served by going down to AAA to start the year against some smarter pitchers than he saw in the minors during 2014. Still, I won’t be surprised if his hot hitting forces the Mets to make a move to make room for him at the keystone sack in Queens.

Such easy opposite field power for a 'little guy'

Already a Philthy killer!

      5)   Kevin Plawecki RH/C (24)
2014 stats:
AA: 58 G, 249 PA, .326/.378/.487, .344 BABIP, 140 wRC+, 18 2B, 6 HR, 10.8 K%: 6.4 BB%
AAA: 43 G, 170 PA, .283/.345/.421, .299 BABIP, 99 wRC+, 6 2B, 5 HR, 12.4 K%: 8.2 BB%

It’s easy to forget now, but Plaw actually struggled out of the gate with Bingo in April, before getting white hot in May and June, which forced the Mets to promote him. He’d pick up a game-tying homerun in the 9th inning of his first game with the 51s, but then spent the next week hitting into a lot of poor BABIP luck, resulting in a 1-19 despite only 3 strikeouts. From that point on his numbers pick up nearly where they left off with Bingo – he hit .318/.373/.450 with 9 XBH (4 HR), good for a 116 wRC+. My point in doing that was to remind you how much of a difference 20 at-bats can make over a small sample size of data, as the season is about to start, and people are about to get excited over much smaller sample sizes. People get on Plaw for not showing enough power despite being a big guy – listed as 6’2, 225 pounds on – but I think there’s more future power in the bat than most give him credit for, especially if he can stick at catcher. Despite gaining a reputation as a catcher that pitchers like to throw to, he’ll need to improve his rate of throwing out base runners trying to steal against him to stick as a starting catcher in the majors. While it’s not always the catcher that runners will steal bases on, Plaw’s throws to 2B were often wild with Las Vegas, and he needs to be able to bail out his pitcher at least some of the time or teams will start stealing against him all day. It’ll be interesting to see how the Mets handle their catching situation this year, but if Plaw and d’Arnaud are both with the franchise come August, I think the Mets should promote him to backup catcher for a playoff push and so he’d be available if the Mets make the playoffs.

Doubling into the LF corner

Picking up a key hit to RF with the bases loaded

      6)   Cesar Puello RH/OF (24)
2014 stats:
AAA: 105 G, 371 PA, .252/.355/.393, .305 BABIP, 98 wRC+, 20 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 19.4 K%: 8.1 BB%
(Will be out of options, so might not be long for the Mets)

As I made my way through my first prospect list over the past week, I became more confident putting guys where my gut says they should go, which is how Puello made it into this group, even though most people will think this is crazy high. I still believe in the bat, and don’t think his season was nearly as bad as some claim when given context. First of all, he definitely struggled a lot in April, as it looked like he was often reaching for pitches out of the zone, which led to pop ups and weak contact. But it came out later that he was still dealing with the biogenesis scandal, and that he was often going between court and the stadium. He was finally able to put that part of the season behind him in early May, and his numbers the rest of the season are perfectly fine for a players first taste of AAA – from May 9th on (he went 0-4 that day, but it was his first game back from the final court stuff), Puello finished the season with a 119 wRC+ and 26 of his 29 extra base hits for the season (all 7 homeruns) over 272 PA. This includes a stretch in June where he went 0-23 over 9 games, and then he might’ve tried to play through a concussion later in the month. After returning from the concussion on July 6th, Puello was even better, although speculation that he was already in Backman’s doghouse was at it’s highest. He’d only earn 153 PA with the 51s the rest of the season, but he hit .285/.388/492 with 17 XBH (5 HR) down the stretch, good for a 131 wRC+. Aside from the low homerun total for the PCL, if this were any other player, people would look at his progress throughout the season as a positive thing. People would also be encouraged that he managed the 2nd lowest K% of his career (best since 2010) and his best BB% ever. But considering his biogenesis ties, which we don’t know the full details about, the unsubstantiated reports that the front office doesn’t like him, the slow start (and low homerun total), and finishing the year in Wally’s doghouse, Puello has all but been written off by a lot of people. Of those concerns, only the low homerun total is important to me, but he improved his HR output later in the season too. He definitely showed significant L/R splits in 2014, as he hit lefties for more power, but at least some of the large split is due to BABIP - .647 OPS/.267 BABIP vs. R, .942 OPS/.385 BABIP vs. L – and he also showed improvement against righties down the stretch (93 of those final 153 PA were against righties). Overall, he still has five-tool potential at the highest level, and that’s why he’s listed this high. It’s unfortunate that he doesn’t have one option year left with the Mets, as they’ll either have to carry him out of spring training or expose him to waivers. I think he could’ve been a fine option as the short-side of a platoon in LF/RF to start the year with the Mets (with hopes that he won over a starting OF spot in time), but it appears like it will be harder to work him into the OF rotation with Cuddyer and Mayberry added to the mix. This may sound weird to say, but aside from injury to another OF rotation player, a minor spring injury to Puello might be the best thing to happen for the Mets chances of keeping him, as they could DL him and then send him to the minors for rehab. I really have no clue what’s going to happen with Puello, and it will be a shame if he ends up elsewhere, but I still believe in his upside. Of course, considering nearly everyone else's much lower ranking of Puello, this has the possibility of being my biggest blunder on this list.

Lining a double into the corner
Don't look down or you'll miss this laser of a bomb

This bomb nearly left the stadium against a knuckler

Not quite as studly, but still very good
            As the title of the group suggests, these guys are not quite as good as those in the group above them, but they project to reach the majors as starters in the next few seasons, and any team would be happy to have them in their system.

      7)   Gavin Cecchini RH/SS (21)
2014 stats:
A: 57 G, 259 PA, .259/.333/.408, .299 BABIP, 106 wRC+, 17 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 15.8 K%: 9.7 BB%
A+: 68 G, 271 PA, .236/.325/.352, .259 BABIP, 96 wRC+, 10 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 14.8 K%: 11.8 BB%
(He made one appearance with Bingo after St. Lucie’s season ended)

Gavin had an extremely impressive season as a 20-year old shortstop, essentially conquering both full-season A-ball leagues in one year. His overall St. Lucie numbers might not suggest someone who conquered the league, but after some initial struggles where he looked overmatched, Gavin adjusted and finished the season overmatching the FSL pitchers. Although the results were less extreme, Gavin had the same path to conquering the SAL in the first half of the season. Over his final 138 PA with St. Lucie, Gavin hit .286/.391/.446, .293 BABIP, with 11 XBH (3 HR), and a 10.1 K%: 15.2 BB%, which is good for a 140 wRC+. While you’d like to see that over a longer stretch before declaring a league conquered, I did say essentially, and that’s a huge improvement over the 50 wRC+ he hit to over his first 133 PA with St. Lucie. I think Cecchini has long been looked at as the wrong player for the Mets to use the 12th pick of the 2012 draft on, I know I was guilty of that before 2014, but he really broke out as a top prospect with his performance in my eyes, and I thought his season was an overall success before the huge finale. His hit tool is his current biggest weakness, but he appears to be capable of producing an average ISO, with above average speed and defense from the shortstop position. Add the fact he’ll be starting the year with Binghamton as a 21-year old, and the whole package sums up to a top-10 prospect in this loaded system. He already has an advanced opposite field approach, as evidenced by him hitting nearly 20% of balls in play to RF (the highest of any spot on the diamond), and more than half of balls in play up the middle or to the right side of the diamond. As he learns to pull the ball with more authority, he should be able to tap into that power more. His L/R splits were pretty even for the season, but he did show better power and plate discipline against lefties. Moving forward, I just want to watch Gavin play and see how he quickly he can adjust to the AA level in 2015.

      8)   Rafael Montero RH/SP (24)
2014 stats:
AAA: 16 GS, 80 IP, 69 H (4 HR), 3.60 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 23.7 K%: 10.1 BB%
Majors: 10 G (8 GS), 44.1 IP, 44 H (8 HR), 4.06 ERA, 5.14 FIP, 21.7 K%: 11.9 BB%
(2 rehab starts made in the lower levels)

I think something was wrong with Montero before he even went on the DL in 2014, because he started walking guys at an unusually high rate beginning with his 4th start of the season, and had a 4 walk appearance (in 4 innings) for the first time since he pitched in the Appalachian rookie league. He’s not a new top prospect, and you’ve probably heard enough about him to know that the walks and homeruns at the major league level were a new development, and seen enough of him to make up your own mind about his potential. While it’s almost certain he won’t be a long-term starting pitcher with the Mets, he can still provide them valuable innings out of the pen and in a spot-starter role this summer, and should have some good trade value in the future.

      9)   Michael Conforto LH/LF (22)
2014 stats:
A-: 42 G, 186 PA, .331/.403/.448, .383 BABIP, 153 wRC+, 10 2B, 3 HR, 15.6 K%: 8.6 BB%

After all of the ‘will he-won’t he sign’ and ‘where would the Mets send him if he does’ drama and speculation after the draft last summer, Conforto ended up signing and having a great pro debut with Brooklyn. You could argue that he could have been sent to a higher level and still had a great debut, but I say so what? He hit plenty, helped the Cyclones battle for the postseason, got to meet much of the annoying NY media corps, and went into his first offseason as a pro still feeling very confident. We’ll see where he starts in 2015, but there’s no reason to think he can’t work through the lower levels quick enough to still be in a good position developmentally by the end of the year. Every scout who saw him said they were still impressed with his swing from the left side and advanced approach at the plate, and he appears to have improved his reputation as a left fielder. He didn’t hit lefties for much power, but he still had a good average against that side (.324 average/.333 BABIP vs. L), and a better walk rate than against righties. Now let’s see him do it against some tougher competition.

Slicing a double into the LF corner off a lefty - nice

Another double off of a lefty

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