Astromets Top 83 Prospect Series: 25-33 | Astromets Mind

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Astromets Top 83 Prospect Series: 25-33

            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

A couple of potentially exciting outfielders you might not know much about
            These two are likely to be considered stretch picks, as I may be the only one to include either in my top-26, but they both had underrated 2014’s and have breakout potential for 2015.

      25)   Eudy Pina RH/OF (24)
2014 stats:
A+: 126 G, .263/.328/.402, .318 BABIP, 109 wRC+, 21 2B, 6 3B, 9 HR, 20.4 K%: 7.7 BB%

Pina got a little attention at the beginning of spring training with the Mets in 2014, but has mostly flown under the radar in his 6 seasons as a Mets minor leaguer. This athletic righty has some underrated power, good speed and a good arm for RF. After a sluggish two months to start the season, his power was on full display during a monster June with St. Lucie, when he had 18 XBH (7 homeruns) in 89 PA, which was good for a .405 ISO for the month. He cooled down again near the end of August, but for those two ‘J’ months he looked like a potential star - .367/.398/.634 with 25 XBH (8 homeruns) over 178 PA with a 19.7 K%: 3.9 BB% ratio, which was good for a 191 wRC+. He obviously has to either prove that two-month stretch wasn’t a fluke, or at least find a middle ground between that stud and the dud who had a 58 wRC+ over the first two months, but the potential is here. He could also benefit from some lessons in stealing bases, as he only went 5/11 with St. Lucie in 2014. It’s possible I look like a fool next year for having him this high, but I really think 2015 will be the year he puts it all together for a full season.

      26)   Victor Cruzado S/OF (22)
2014 stats:
A: 107 G, 421 PA, .273/.371/.404, .327 BABIP, 120 wRC+, 14 2B, 6 3B, 7 HR, 18.5 K%: 13.8 BB% (10/17 on stolen bases)

Cruzado was one of the first international signings of the Alderson era, back in May 2011, and he was playing in the Dominican Summer League by the end of that month. He doesn’t have the best power or speed in the system, but he plays good defense in the outfield, has good plate discipline, and is a switch hitter who has hit everywhere he’s been. Cruzado had a strong start to the season, missed a few weeks in June with a minor injury, and then finished the season on fire – he had an .878 OPS with 14 extra base hits and 32 SO: 36 BB over 206 PA from June 29th on. Cruzado was noticeably better from the left side in 2014, although 3 of his 7 homeruns came from the right side in about a third of the plate appearances. He didn’t show any splits in 2012-13, so it’s possible that his struggles from the right side were more BABIP related, although he struck out at a higher rate from that side in 2014 too – 21.8 K% vs. L compared to 17.4 K% vs. R. Cruzado should start to garner more attention if he can continue to hit with St. Lucie in 2015. He’s probably a bit of a surprise pick to be this high, but I really liked what I saw throughout 2014.

Picked up a couple of RBI's after roping this one passed a diving second baseman

This ball was crushed so deep that the cameras couldn't find it
He has a pretty similar swing from the right side

Impact Relief prospects
            These righties have some seriously live arms and the potential to thrive in the backend of a major league bullpen. Robles has the strongest chance of making an impact with the Mets in 2015, but Tapia and Morris should be knocking on the door by some point in 2016 too.

      27)   Hansel Robles RH/RP (24)
2014 stats:
AA: 30 G (18 GS), 110.2 IP, 107 H (10 HR), 4.31 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 22 K%: 9 BB%

It was never hard to imagine Robles would thrive out of the bullpen, but the Mets did the right thing by letting him start through AA, as he’ll have learned a lot more about pitching by working through a lineup multiple times than he would have by surging through the minors at the back of the pen – a la Akeel Morris. And man did Robles thrive out of the bullpen – 20 IP over 12 appearances, 1.80 ERA, 2.10 FIP, 11 H allowed and 29.6 K%: 8.6 BB%. He then struck out 13/27 batters faced in the postseason, with only 6 singles (0 walks) allowed. Featuring a fastball that sat 97-96 MPH out of the pen and a very nice change-up, Robles should compete for the 51s closer job out of Spring Training and, assuming continued success, be one of the first arms called up when they need him. He’s already on the 40-man, so he has that edge for when the Mets inevitably need a new bullpen arm. I honestly wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him winning a spot out of spring training if there is space for him. Also, if he does have success with the Mets, expect plenty of Zoolander references - That Hansel's so hot right now!

This was from one of his better starts during the season

He struck out a number of lefties that day

      28)   Domingo Tapia RH/SP (23)
2014 stats:
A+: 21 GS, 109 IP, 104 H (5 HR), 3.96 ERA, 4.39 FIP, 12 K%: 10.9 BB%

Tapia is an extremely frustrating prospect because he has the stuff to be a very good pitcher, but seemed to take a step backwards while repeating at the A+ level in 2014. He saw some big improvements in his walk rate, but his strikeout rate bottomed out, and his groundball rate slipped a little too. He throws a mid-90’s sinker – his heater has been clocked at 100 MPH – a very nice change, and an improving slider. Some of his problems have been related to repeating his delivery, but that’s something the Mets have been working on with him for a while. I think he should get another chance to start in 2015, but should he fail to show improvements early, the Mets should see if can thrive out of the pen. I think he can see a Robles-like boost to his numbers in the pen, as he’ll be able to go max effort on his strong fastball/change-up combo.

      29)   Akeel Morris RH/RP (22)
2014 stats:
A: 41 G, 57 IP, 19 H (1 HR), 0.63 ERA, 1.90 FIP, 42.2 K%: 10.4 BB%

Despite the awesome numbers, I’m a little hesitant having Morris this high, as he’s still just a relief pitcher who only needed a mid-90’s fastball to dominate the SAL last year. His change-up improved throughout the summer, but his breaking ball is still inconsistent, and he’ll need at least one of those pitches to work and compliment his fastball moving forward. There was speculation that the Mets kept him in Savannah so they wouldn’t have to protect him on the 40-man in the offseason, but they did that anyway, so I see no reason for him having spent a full season there. Still only 22, there wasn’t necessarily a need to rush him to the upper levels, but just look at that dominance – he was no longer being challenged. Now that he’s on the 40-man roster, there should be a bit of a rush to get him to the upper levels. So, assuming he continues to dominate on the mound, expect him to move up the system quickly this season.

He made SAL hitters look foolish all season long
A different angle on his motion, look how early the batter swings
Looks like a solid breaking ball that brings a lefty to his knees

Future ‘impact’ utility infielders
            These two could potentially have a few successful seasons starting at 2B or 3B in the major leagues, but questions about how much offense they will provide likely limit them to bench roles at the highest level. Considering they can both handle SS acceptably, they could be very valuable bench players on any team, as backup shortstops tend to provide very little offensive value.

      30)   Daniel Muno S/UT (26)
2014 stats:
AAA: 117 G, 435 PA, .259/.372/.418, .296 BABIP, 110 wRC+, 13 2B, 1 3B, 14 HR, 18.9 K%: 13.8 BB%

Muno is an interesting prospect to me because he’s got good speed, a great eye at the plate, and solid pop for a middle infielder. Offensively, he provided nearly identical value to Mazzilli at the same age in his 2012 with St. Lucie. Defensively, he seems a bit more advanced than Mazzilli, especially at SS. He hasn’t hit for a high average across AA/AAA, but that’s a function of his slightly below average .296 BABIP over the past two seasons. After a sluggish start to the season over the first two months (when he only had a .279 BABIP), Muno followed with a two month stretch with Las Vegas during which he was one of the hottest players in the PCL – from 5/28-7/23, Muno hit .305/.421/.565, .344 BABIP over 161 PA with 17 XBH (8 HR) and a 19.3 K%: 14.9 BB%, which is good for a 157 wRC+. He cooled off the rest of the way, but was also very unlucky considering his .257 BABIP. People tend to agree that line drive rate is a big factor in BABIP, and Muno’s line drive rate during that stretch is 10 percentage points higher than it was for the season – the caveat being that minor league batted ball data is somewhat unreliable. He tends to hit righties better and for more power, opting for a more contact oriented approach against lefties, so he might thrive as the long side of a platoon. He’ll probably start the season as the 51s third baseman, but I’d be surprised if we don’t see him in Queens at some point this year.

This was a pinch-hit two-run homerun to tie a game in the 9th inning

Slapping a double down the LF line

This liner would be played off the wall perfectly to limit Muno to a single after just missing a homerun

      31)   L.J. Mazzilli RH/UT (24)
2014 stats:
A: 66 G, 284 PA, .292/.363/.428, .332 BABIP, 122 wRC+, 9 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 16.9 K%: 10.2 BB%
A+: 64 G, 274 PA, .312/.363/.456, .344 BABIP, 134 wRC+, 20 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 12 K%: 5.8 BB%
AFL: 15 G, 60 PA, .306/.433/.469, .389 BABIP, 154 wRC+, 3 2B, 3B, HR, 20 K%: 15 BB%
(Had 5 PA’s with Las Vegas and will start the season serving a 50-game suspension for a ‘drug of abuse’)

Mazzilli has been older than his peers at every level in the minors, but that shouldn’t diminish the fact that he’s hit a lot at every level so far too. This 50 game suspension for a ‘drug of abuse’ (Mets minor leaguers need to stop smoking weed already – wait until retirement guys, it’ll probably be legal by then) is actually a pretty big set back, as he might’ve been close to forcing his way to Las Vegas in the amount of time he’ll miss serving the suspension – at the very least he could have spent the time adjusting to the tougher pitching of AA. His mostly likely outcome should he reach the majors has always been that of a utility infielder, but some evaluators are starting to come around on the idea he could start as a 2B for a few seasons. While I don’t necessarily disagree with that assessment, I think things would have to be going very poorly for the Mets if Mazzilli is starting for a significant amount of time anytime soon. But utility infielders with the offensive potential of Mazzilli can be very impactful, as all teams need to lean on their bench players for stretches during the long haul of a 162 game season. As far as L/R splits, Mazzilli showed a platoon advantage during the 2014 season, but his .775 OPS vs. righties was more than acceptable (he had an .874 OPS vs. lefties). While he proved capable over 14 appearances at SS with Savannah in 2014, it seems unlikely he’ll get more chances at the position in the minors considering the talent the Mets have there at every level except A+ (for now). In that case, he’ll probably have to be considered an emergency SS only.

Mazzilli's only hit with Las Vegas

Rookie Ball with Expectations
            These guys aren’t close to the majors but already have strong reputations and at least one tool that can be considered among the best in the system – power for Lupo and the glove at SS for Ramos. I have seen both ranked higher on other lists, but they are just too far away with enough questions for me to put them any higher on this list. Still, I’m really excited to see what they can do in 2015, and hopeful they’ll be higher in these rankings next year.

      32)   Vicente Lupo RH/OF (21)
2014 stats:
R: 44 G, 165 PA, .278/.415/.504, .405 BABIP, 165 wRC+, 9 2B, 7 HR, 31.5 K%: 17.6 BB%

Lupo had a bumpy start to the season, as he struggled to hit in June and was arrested for ‘drag racing’ with teammate Wuilmer Becerra in early July – neither player had a valid drivers license. Even worse, he was losing the race – Becerra was clocked at 107 MPH, Lupo at 104. Fortunately they just received fines, and Lupo would win a much more important race for the Kingsport Mets later in the season – a race home to win a game on a walk-off steal. According to a reliable source, despite the steal that night and 7 total for the season (without being thrown out), Lupo does not appear to be very fast. He is very powerful though. And that power was on full display during a beastly August, when he hit 6 homeruns and 6 doubles in just 84 PA – the second straight August he would beast out. While Lupo was off the charts against lefties for the season (1.210 OPS over only 38 PA), he still handled righties just fine (.830 OPS over 127 PA). He still has plenty to work on though, as he struck out more than 30% of the time in the Appy league – talk about a three true outcome hitter, he’s in Jack Cust territory. I’m a little skeptical about whether he’ll hit enough at higher levels, and while not old, he’s no longer young for the league he’ll be playing in this season. Still, he has been listed as a sleeper pick in multiple Mets prospect lists this offseason (if everyone thinks he’s a sleeper, is he still a sleeper?), because that power is for real – so don’t sleep on him!

      33)   Milton Ramos RH/SS (19)
2014 stats:
R: 51 G, 185 PA, .241/.299/.355, .296 BABIP, 87 wRC+, 9 2B, 5 3B, 18.4 K%: 7.6 BB%

I’m a little unsure about having Ramos this high, as he’s the farthest away of the ‘all glove, no hit’ shortstops in the system, but his in-season adjustments with the GCL Mets (as reflected by his improving numbers each month) ease my concerns some. Also, as first mentioned by Toby Hyde, his debut season stateside compares favorably with the debuts of Cecchini and Rosario. After going only 2-23 in his first week with the GCL Mets, Ramos finished hitting .266/.327/.399 over his last 160 PA, including 14 XBH and 16.9 K%: 8.1 BB%. He seems likely to start the season with Kingsport, but it’s possible a spot will open with Brooklyn if Rosario starts a domino effect by forcing his way to St. Lucie – aka, Rosario forces his way to St. Lucie, opening up a spot for Guillorme with Savannah. It’s also possible that extended spring training puts him ahead of Guillorme on the Mets depth chart, though I don’t see why the Mets would want Guillorme to repeat at the GCL level. I should stop speculating about what this front office will choose to do though, as they always manage to surprise everyone.

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