Astromets Top 83 Mets Prospect Series: 16-24 | Astromets Mind

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Astromets Top 83 Mets Prospect Series: 16-24

            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: 1-9 | 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 unexpected SS prospect

      16)   Matthew Reynolds RH/SS (24)
2014 stats:
AA: 58 G, 242 PA, .355/.430/.422, .433 BABIP, 144 wRC+, 5 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 16.9 K%: 12 BB%
AAA: 68 G, 301 PA, .333/.385/.479, .404 BABIP, 124 wRC+, 16 2B, 4 3B, 5 HR, 19.9 K%: 7 BB%
AFL: 21 G, 89 PA, .234/.326/.442, .259 BABIP, 109 wRC+, 5 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 19.1 K%: 12.4 BB%

I covered Reynolds surprise 2014 with a lot of detail here, so excuse me for not going into as much detail in this space. In summary, while his BABIP was unsustainably high for the season, part of that was due to Reynolds approach as he reworked his offensive game. The bump in power shown with Las Vegas was not completely due to playing in a more offensive environment, but also because he started to use the whole field more. His defense at shortstop is average at best, but that’s still better than what Wilmer Flores can provide. While he might not be capable of replicating that BABIP/AVG, he should see improvements in his K: BB ratio that will help offset the loss in BABIP luck. Overall, I think he could be a solid starter at 2B or SS with the Mets should they need him in 2015, either because of injury or ineffectiveness from Wilmer.

Reynolds BABIP was aided by a large number of liners/flares that landed well in front of outfielders

Always hustling, Reynolds turned this into a double

He started driving the ball more to LF like this when he reached Vegas

Exciting young right-handed outfielders
            These young righties are starting to make a name for themselves at the lower levels and have at least one offensive tool with special potential – speed for Champ, power for Wuilmer. They both have some work to do at the plate, but they both project to be above average defensively too. Too bad the Mets can’t combine them into one super prospect!

      17)   Champ Stuart RH/OF (22)
2014 stats:
A: 81 G, 330 PA, .256/.341/.340, .370 BABIP, 96 wRC+, 5 2B, 5 3B, 3 HR, 29.4 K%: 10.9 BB% (29/33 on stolen bases)

Although Champ is still more potential than results, he is probably my favorite prospect in the system, so excuse me if personal bias has him a little too high for your tastes. Defensively, his speed and strong arm will allow him to stick in CF at any level. He still has plenty of work to do offensively, but he has a solid foundation there, and has the potential to add at least average pop to the profile. He started his season in extended spring training, but was impressive enough there that the Mets felt he could handle the SAL, and he proved them right over his first two months in the league – he hit .298/.401/.371 with a 28.3 K%: 15 BB% over his first 180 PA, good for a 125 wRC+. He’d slump the rest of the way, and his K: BB ratio went the wrong way over the final stretch, but it was overall a solid season for someone who was likely slated to go to Brooklyn back in April. In 2015, I’ll be looking for Champ to continue to improve his K% while keeping up an above average BB%, add a little ISO to his slash line, and continue to steal a lot of bases with a high success rate.

This triple was very nearly a homerun

Another ball off the end of the bat that he drives to the wall for a double

No wall would contain this blast from the Champ

      18)   Wuilmer Becerra RH/OF (20)
2014 stats:
R: 58 G, 228 PA, .300/.351/.469, .372 BABIP, 133 wRC+, 10 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 24.1 K%: 6.1 BB%

Becerra is just the next top prospect who can trace his Mets lineage back to a seemingly irrelevant minor league signing made on December 21, 2009 – the signing of R.A. Dickey, aka the gift that keeps on giving. Coming off a healthy offseason of training and with good reports out of extended spring training, Becerra put together the type of season the Mets were dreaming of when they somehow got the Blue Jays to add him to that amazing trade. Now he’ll just have to do it again above the rookie level. Wuilmer currently has a little better than average speed, but he’ll probably grade out as average when he finishes bulking up. He’s got a strong arm in RF, with the potential to be above average out there, though he’s still pretty raw. The best tool for Becerra is his plus raw power, which was on display during a 4-homer month in July. I’ve seen people express mechanical concerns about his swing, but that’s not uncommon among teenagers, and the Mets will surely be working on cleaning things up. Becerra crushed lefties to a .989 OPS in 2014 (.261 ISO), but more than held his own against righties (.771 OPS). Another positive trend for Becerra in 2014 was that his walk rate improved every month – 0% in June, 5.4% in July, 8.8% in August. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up playing in 2015, as he’ll probably start the year in extended spring training, but the Mets might not want to wait until June to send him to Brooklyn, so he may follow the Champ Stuart path to Savannah.

Upper level starting depth that may become top relief prospects
            These righties have some plus pitches but questions from scouts about their ability to stick in a major league rotation. They would project to be mid-rotation starters at the highest level, and their proximity to the majors puts them ahead of the next group on this list. If they are moved to the pen, they have the stuff to be great there.

      19)   Cory Mazzoni RH/SP (25)
2014 stats:
AAA: 9 GS, 52 IP, 54 H (6 HR), 4.67 ERA, 4.18 FIP, 22.3 K%: 5.5 BB%
(5 rehab starts made at lower levels)

I can’t help but wonder what Mazzoni’s role on this team would be had he not run into injury problems the past two seasons – he threw 144.1 IP while reaching AA in 2012, but hasn’t matched his inning total from that 2012 2nd half with Bingo either of the past two seasons. Without watching him pitch, it’s easy to buy into the narrative that Mazzoni doesn’t have a 3-pitch repertoire good enough to start, but having watched him down the stretch with Las Vegas, I disagree. His fastball/slider combination is generally agreed upon to be above average, but it’s the value of his splitter (which he used as his ‘change-up’ with Las Vegas) that is contested. The splitter got a lot of swings-and-misses with Las Vegas, especially after he had some time to adjust to the league – he had 7+ strikeouts in 4 of his last 5 appearances, boosting his K: BB ratio to 27.1 K%: 1.5 BB% (!). The improved K: BB numbers did not help his run prevention in the super-offensive PCL environment (he allowed a .349 BABIP over that span), but his FIP was a nicer 3.54 during the final stretch. I was surprised the Mets didn’t send Mazzoni to the AFL to get more innings, but I guess they wanted him to just have a full offseason to rest his arm and train, as opposed to all the rehab he’s been going through the past two offseasons, and I’m OK with that. If the Mets weren’t loaded in their starting rotation, I’d be arguing that he’s a candidate to force his way into the rotation at some point this summer – considering his age, there isn’t as much of a need for the Mets to wait for the super two deadline with him, so he might get the nod if a spot opens up very early in the summer. Since the rotation is loaded, Mazzoni’s best shot of making an impact with the Mets this summer will be in the bullpen, where I think he should take over for Carlos Torres as the long man eventually. This wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of him starting at some point down the line either, as plenty of good starters have made their major league debut in the bullpen (that used to be standard operating procedure for rookies). Mazzoni showed interesting L/R splits this past season, as he held righties to a lower OPS and less power, but struck out lefties at a higher rate - .708 OPS/.115 ISO/18.3 K% vs. R, .747 OPS/.177 ISO/28.4 K% vs. L. I think the K% reflects how good his splitter was down the stretch, as he tended to use it more against lefties, but the ISO reflects that the splitter was a meatball when he left it up.

He wasn't afraid to challenge lefties inside

Impossible to hit, but hard to lay off - good elements of a strikeout pitch

When he stays down in the zone, it's hard to hurt him

      20)   Michael Fulmer RH/SP (22)
2014 stats:
A+: 19 GS, 95.1 IP, 112 H (7 HR), 3.97 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 19.8 K%: 7.1 BB%
(1 injury shortened start for AA)

I was really excited for Fulmer’s first start with AA, but was worried pretty early on in the appearance when the B-Mets announcer was reporting fastball velocities around 90 MPH. He’d finish the season on the DL for the second straight year, and eventually require surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow. Normally that fastball hits 95 MPH with some consistency, making it easily his best pitch. He also throws two solid-to-plus breaking pitches, with the curveball showing more future potential, and a fringy change-up. He’ll have to improve on the change-up or how he uses it, because lefties were all over him in the FSL - .869 OPS/14.4 K% vs. L, .570 OPS/25 K% vs. R. Fulmer was shaky in 2 of his first 3 appearances (he only allowed 1 ER on 5 hits over 7 IP in his second start), allowing 16 ER on 25 hits over his first 13 IP. He’d allow 2 ER or less in 11 of his next 16 starts, good for a 2.84 ERA/3.55 FIP over that span. Between the injury shortened seasons and ROOGY profile, many have already predicted Fulmer will be better suited for a role in the pen, making 2015 a very important season for him.

He got the call on his first strikeout in AA

That is some sharp movement, and probably his best pitch of the night

Savannah righties, Tier 1
            These talented young righties had great seasons with the Sand Gnats in 2014 and currently project as mid-rotation starters at the highest level, which gives them a slight edge over the next group on my list. Although the AA rotation figures to be pretty stacked in 2015, these guys have the potential to force their way to that level at some point this summer.

      21)   Robert Whalen RH/SP (21)
2014 stats:
A: 11 G (10 GS), 62.2 IP, 44 H (2 HR), 2.01 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 20.8 K%: 7.5 BB%
AFL: 6 GS, 18.1 IP, 18 H (3 HR), 6.87 ERA, 5.85 FIP, 18.3 K%: 12.2 BB%
(3 appearances, 2 starts rehabbing at lower levels)

Whalen’s strong start to the season with Savannah was interrupted when a small cut on his hand became infected and he had to sit out two months recovering. Fortunately he came back healthy and as strong as he had been before the infection, and the Mets sent him to the AFL to make up for lost innings. He was predictably overmatched some as an A-ball pitcher going up against a collection of the minors’ best talent in the AFL. Considering that, the fact that he had an average K% during his time there is a promising sign that his stuff is for real. Whalen features a nice low-90’s fastball/big curveball combination – sound familiar? – and an improving change-up, with solid control of all 3 pitches. He was a groundball machine during the regular season, inducing a 59.3% GB rate on balls in play. Although Whalen was no slouch against lefties (.678 OPS/.291 BABIP), he was nearly untouchable against righties (.399 OPS/.207 BABIP). While those BABIP’s seem unsustainably low, Whalen was so much better than his opposition in the SAL league that maybe they’re not actually so unreasonably low – if you’re consistently inducing weak contact and groundballs, you don’t expect the opposition to get many hits. The Gnats defense wasn’t terrible, but it’s not like Savannah had top-notch defense around the diamond in 2014. Either way, it is unreasonable to expect him to keep getting such BABIP results at the higher levels of the system. He only allowed 3 ER in two of his starts, and never failed to go 5 IP in any of his Savannah starts – his first appearance was a piggyback start that lasted 4 innings.

Overpowers this lefty with an inside heater
He could drop these big curves over a corner whenever he needed a strike

Or he could drop them to the bottom of the zone when he was looking for a swinging strike

      22)   Robert Gsellman RH/SP (21)
2014 stats:
A: 20 GS, 116.1 IP, 122 H (2 HR), 2.55 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 18.4 K%: 6.8 BB%

Gsellman was very consistent for the Gnats in 2014, as he allowed 2 ER or less and went at least 5 IP in 16 of 20 starts. The two homeruns he gave up were in back-to-back starts in June, so he had a homerless streak of 47.1 IP to start the season and 61.1 IP to end the season. He was a groundball heavy pitcher, inducing a 56.3 GB% for the season. He’s currently a 3-pitch guy, with a fastball in the 90-93 MPH range – he throws a sinker more often but has a four-seamer too – a pretty advanced curveball, and a solid change-up. He seemed to use his big 6’4 frame to get even more of a downward plane on his sinker and change-up. He had no L/R splits in terms of OPS, although he had more success striking out lefties in 2014 – 21.9 K% vs. L, 15.4 K% vs. R. I didn’t see enough of him to observe a noticeable difference in approach against L/R hitters, but it’s possible he’s more comfortable throwing his change-up against lefties, in which case it may be a better pitch than it’s been given credit for – one knock on his change-up was that he leaves it up sometimes. Gsellman is just a very solid package, and I look forward to following his progress with St. Lucie this summer. (Check out the link for some video, I won't slow this page down further with more gifs of him)

A nice angle of his delivery

Upper level ‘Dillon Gee’s’
            These righties have made it to the upper levels of the minors thanks to a polished approach and good control of their average four-pitch mix, much like Dillon Gee had. While they might not sound like the most exciting prospects, especially behind all the potential top of the rotation studs in the system, there is plenty of value in being able to eat innings with average-ish results at the end of a rotation. Also, these two have had more K: BB success in their first taste of the upper levels than Gee had, and have been better at not giving up homeruns, which has long been Gee’s Achilles heel. As of now, it looks like it would take a lot for either of these starters to crack the Mets rotation with their considerable depth, but they will provide depth in case of injuries (which always happen) or trade, if they don’t get included in a trade themselves.

      23)   Matthew Bowman RH/SP (23)
2014 stats:
AA: 17 GS, 98.1 IP, 102 H (7 HR), 3.11 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 22.1 K%: 6.5 BB%
AAA: 7 G (6 GS), 36.1 IP, 38 H (1 HR), 3.47 ERA, 3.04 FIP, 20.9 K%: 5.9 BB%

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Bowman’s strong run with the 51s (other than allowing only 1 HR in that league) was that nobody really saw it coming, and I think that is part of the reason he ended up ranked much higher on others lists. But perhaps that’s not the whole story, as Bowman had a great season outside of a few bumps in the road. The bumps in question represent 3 of 24 appearances on the season: allowing 9 earned runs over 4.1 IP on May 3rd; allowing 6 earned runs over 4.2 IP on May 21st (both with Bingo); and allowing 5 earned runs in a 0.1 IP relief outing on the last weekend of the regular season with Las Vegas, in what was supposed to be a 1 inning relief tune-up for the postseason (his Las Vegas ERA was 2.25 before the appearance). He had one other start allowing more than 3 ER on the season (he gave up 4 ER), and 18 starts where he allowed 2 ER or less – 12 allowing 1 ER or less. Aside from consistently giving his team a great chance to win, Bowman also had an average-ish K% at the upper level and better than average BB%, but his biggest asset was a well above average 62.7 GB% on balls in play for the season – as always, the caveat about minor league batted ball data being somewhat unreliable applies here. Bowman had more success against righties in 2014, and that’s despite righties having more BABIP ‘luck’ - .652 OPS/.358 BABIP vs. R, .734 OPS/.315 BABIP vs. L – but he induced a 60+ GB% against both sides. His sinker would touch 93 MPH occasionally early in his starts (he reportedly hit 95 MPH in pre-draft workouts with the Mets), but generally sat 89-91 with Vegas – perhaps he could reach his peak velocity with more consistency in short bursts out of the pen. His slider appeared to be his preferred breaking ball with Las Vegas, but he’d mix in a curve too. He seemed to hit a wall in his last 3 appearances – the last regular season start, that forgettable relief tune-up and his playoff start – which is not too surprising for someone reaching a new innings high (+11.2 IP from 2013), but he’ll have to prove it wasn’t just the league catching up to him when he returns to Las Vegas this season.

He gets Lindor to chase a curve for strike 3

This pitch just keeps running in on the righty

His first AAA strikeout
The delivery does kind of resemble Tim Lincecum, no?

      24)   Tyler Pill RH/SP (24)
2014 stats:
AA: 22 G (21 GS), 124.2 IP, 115 H (11 HR), 3.83 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 23.6 K%: 5.7 BB%
(Made one spot start for Las Vegas that lasted 4.2 IP)

Pill missed almost all of the 2013 season with a Bennett’s lesion on his pitching shoulder, and struggled in his first three starts of the 2014 season – he allowed 15 ER over 14 IP, including 3 homeruns, 5 walks and only 8 strikeouts – so I didn’t have high expectations when I finally got to watch him for his April 28th start. He didn’t look very special over the five innings against Akron that day, but those RubberDucks hitters just couldn’t square him up for hard contact. Turns out that was the start that the real Tyler Pill showed up, as he’d allow 3 runs or less in 17 of his final 18 starts with Binghamton in the regular season – over those final 115.1 IP (including the 4.2 innings with Las Vegas), he only allowed 98 hits (8 HR) and a 3.28 ERA/3.04 FIP, with a very nice 25 K%: 5.8 BB%. He may not be given credit for having any plus pitches, but striking out a quarter of the 464 batters faced over that stretch is nearly 8 percentage points better than the AA average – tell me that doesn’t impress you. Until Bowman’s strong run with Las Vegas, I had Pill ahead of him on the depth chart, but Bowman took his opportunity and ran with it, leaving Pill to help boost the B-Mets to their championship. Pill didn’t show any L/R splits, which is in line with what he was doing in 2012. He maxes out at around 90-91 with his heater, and his curveball appeared to be his preferred breaking ball, but he spots both pitches, as well as an average change-up and slider, extremely well. He’ll have to prove that he can still be effective hitting his spots with Las Vegas, and the PCL won’t be as easy as the EL – just ask Greg Peavey – but I think he has been extremely underrated on prospect charts this season, as he’s missing from almost all of them. As a bonus to all the good pitching, Pill was a strong hitter in college, and went 8-18 with 2 doubles and a blast while batting for Bingo.

Nice angle of his delivery

Looks like a curve that this lefty could not hold up on

This breaking ball starts on the outside corner and ends up nearly unhittably outside

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