Astromets Top 83 Prospect Series: 34-45 | Astromets Mind

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Astromets Top 83 Prospect Series: 34-45

            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

Might be something to these righties
            For various reasons, these righties haven’t received as much attention as the guys at the top of the list, but they were impressive starting in the lower levels last year. It’s a testament to the talent in this system right now that these guys get pushed into the 30’s, as they would’ve been much higher in years past.

      34)   John Gant RH/SP (22)
2014 stats:
A: 21 GS, 123 IP, 107 H (5 HR), 2.56 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 22.4 K%: 7.8 BB%

Gant was Mr. Consistency throughout the season, and I was a little surprised he never got a shot with St. Lucie in 2014, but he should be starting there in 2015 – he likely stayed with Savannah for the playoffs. He never allowed an OPS for the month above .671, and had pretty equal L/R splits for the season – he was actually better by OPS against lefties, despite lefties hitting for a higher BABIP against him (.312 BABIP/.573 OPS vs. LHB, .282/.623 vs. RHB). He allowed 3 R or less in 16/21 starts, and went at least 5 IP in 19/21 starts (6+ IP in 12/21 starts). He projects as more of a backend starter, but I’m not too concerned about his ability to stick as a starter, as he seemed to get better as his starts went on. Stuff-wise, like so many of the Mets young starters, Gant has a fastball that can reach the low-90’s, a decent change-up, and a big loopy curveball – I love big curveballs.

He buckled a lot of knees with this curve

The bottom just drops out on this pitch

      35)   Logan Taylor RH/SP (23)
2014 stats:
A: 8 GS, 48.2 IP, 41 H (7 HR), 2.77 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 19.6 K%: 7 BB%

Taylor missed significant time in 2013-14 after needing Tommy John Surgery, but he went right back to dealing with Savannah when he returned in July. This 6’5 righty uses his height to get a nice downward plane on his fastballs, though he hasn’t leveraged that skill into high groundball rates yet. He likes to use multiple grips on his fastball, and he can reach back to hit the mid-90’s with his heat. He also features a beautiful big curve that’s comparable to any Mets prospect not named Thor. It didn’t seem like he was throwing many change-ups, so scouts are going to be talking about his lack of a third pitch forcing him into the pen down the line, but his fastball/curveball combo should allow him to at least reach the upper levels of the system before he needs to switch. I’m just looking for a full season of health from Taylor in 2015, because if that happens, people will be talking about him again next year.

      36)   Miller Diaz RH/SP (22)
2014 stats:
A: 13 G (11 GS), 68 IP, 44 H (3 HR), 2.25 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 28.7 K%: 9.8 BB%

Diaz had a very strong season for Savannah in 2014, he just didn’t have a very full season, making only 5 appearances from June onward. In 5 seasons as a starter, the 68 IP in 2014 is his career high – he will have pitched in extended spring training and fall instructs, but only the Mets have that data available. His low-90’s heat and devastating change-up (see the Fangraphs link) generate a lot of swings-and-misses, and while that walk rate is dangerously high, he has been effectively wild so far in his career – he’d rather give up the walk and go after the next guy than leave a meatball over the middle of the plate. He can get away with that at the lower levels, but let’s see him do it at the upper levels (and stay healthy for a full season). He seems like an obvious candidate for a move to the bullpen, but I’d be surprised if that happens to start 2015.

      37)   Corey Oswalt RH/SP (21)
2014 stats:
A-: 12 G (11 GS), 67.2 IP, 55 H (1 HR), 2.26 ERA, 2.69 FIP, 21.5 K%: 5.5 BB%

Oswalt doesn’t have the same overwhelming stuff most of the other pitchers on this list have, but he breezed through NYPL thanks to an advanced approach. His change-up is probably his best pitch at this point, as his fastball ranged from the high-80’s to the low-90’s (he throws a two-seamer more often, but will also throw a four-seamer), and his curveball could get a bit slurvy. When right, his curve is hard and has the potential to be his best pitch, but he was too inconsistent with it in 2014. He’s the type of pitcher who will have to prove he can be successful to scouts at every level, but it’s the coaches within the organization that he needs to worry about, and the Cyclones coaching staff raved about him last summer. His projection right now is that of a backend starter who may max out in the upper levels due to underwhelming stuff, so I understand if you’re less than excited right now, but there is a person attached to that arsenal, and that person seems to understand pitching – you can find some post-game interviews from Oswalt on youtube if you’re interested in hearing him talk about his game.

Upper Level Depth Guys
            These guys could each make a case for starting somewhere on the crowded Las Vegas roster in 2015, but have flaws that make them long shots to ever be considered major league starter material. Still, they are valuable to the Mets as upper level depth, and any of them could find themselves as an emergency call-up soon, or as a major league bench player someday.

      38)   Travis Taijeron RH/OF (26)
2014 stats:
AA: 101 G, 387 PA, .248/.357/.476, .321 BABIP, 132 wRC+, 30 2B, 15 HR, 27.6 K%: 12.4 BB%

Taijeron is the outfielder most likely to replicate Andrew Brown’s success for Las Vegas, and his AAAA spot with the Mets. It’d be hard for anyone to be as hot as Brown was early in the year for the 51s in 2014, but Taijeron should offer similar overall offensive and defensive value in RF when he makes it there. Considering the offensively “starved” environment of the MLB, and the recent uptick in average strikeout rates, Taijeron’s high K% is less scary than it would’ve been five years ago. Still, he’ll have to prove he’s not going to strike out 30+% of the time at the next level for him to be taken more seriously. I’m a little surprised Taijeron hasn’t received some attention this offseason, though maybe people didn’t realize just how hot he was in the 2nd half for Binghamton – over 240 PA starting June 7th, Taijeron hit .286/.396/.552 with 18 doubles, 12 homeruns and a 27 K%: 13.3 BB%. As far as L/R splits, Taijeron crushed lefties to the tune of a .931 OPS, but still handled righties just fine (.769 OPS).

Had two doubles off breaking balls this game that looked identical

This long homerun got stuck in the batters eye behind CF

      39)   Darrell Ceciliani LH/CF (24)
2014 stats:
AA: 106 G, 430 PA, .289/.332/.405, .351 BABIP, 103 wRC+, 17 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 20.7 K%: 5.1 BB% (16/23 on stolen bases)

It’s been a long ride for Ceciliani since his breakout campaign with Brooklyn in 2010, but he finished 2014 looking as strong as he has since then (at least in my eyes). He hit two homeruns in a game at Akron on June 10th and stayed hot the rest of the season, managing a .316/.355/.451 slash over his last 231 PA’s. I think that level of offense, along with his strong defensive reputation in CF and excellent speed, make him the most likely candidate from this group to win a starting job in the majors someday. I haven’t been as impressed with his play in CF as others, as I’ve seen him struggle with balls to the warning track, but he does everything else well and can usually get away with playing a little shallower than most center fielders. Unfortunately his K:BB ratio went the wrong way during his hot finish to the season, so that is something to keep an eye on in 2015. Also, his 5.1 BB% for 2014 was a career low, and he showed average or better rates before AA, so he may be able to boost his value with improvements in that department.

The first of two blasts from July 14

The second homerun that day was a moon shot

      40)   Jayce Boyd RH/1B (24)
2014 stats:
AA: 119 G, 477 PA, .293/.382/.414, .331 BABIP, 126 wRC+, 22 2B, 2 3B, 8 HR, 14 K%: 10.9 BB%

Boyd is a pretty unique story, as he keeps his first rib in his car with him as a good luck charm. The injury limits his throwing ability, which limits Boyd to playing 1B, the only position he’s played for the Mets anyway. Boyd doesn’t provide a typical first baseman’s offensive profile (minor league career high of 9 homeruns), which is why I’ve placed him so far down on this list, but he does provide plenty of offense. His combination of excellent plate discipline and good hit tool allow him to be a high average/high on-base percentage player, and he’s big enough to believe in future power gains. Boyd showed some of that power during a red hot 2nd half, hitting .361/.450/.525 with 18 XBH (5 HR) and a 11 K%: 12.8 BB% over his final 218 PA (starting on June 29th), good for a 160 wRC+. It will be interesting to see how much power he can provide in 2015 after a season of adjusting to his new body and a full offseason of training. He’s a personal pick to surprise in 2015, as I believe in his potential to add the necessary power to his game.

Boyd knew this one was going out

Always nice when our prospects beat up on the Yankees prospects

      41)   Dustin Lawley RH/3B/LF (26)
2014 stats:
AA: 120 G, 487 PA, .235/.292/.438, .287 BABIP, 99 wRC+, 29 2B, 1 3B, 20 HR, 27.5 K%: 7.2 BB%

Lawley may be the next Zach Lutz of the system, except without the crazy injury history and with the ability to play LF too. He has some serious in-game power (note the 50 XBH with Bingo, after 66 in 2013), but some serious holes in his long swing. If you like math, you might appreciate the symmetry to his season in his OPS by month: .528 in April followed by .736, .900, .753, .624 totals from May-August. If you’d like Lawley to succeed, you might not appreciate that as much. He did manage to keep hitting for power throughout the summer, he just struggled to hit often, and still struck out 29.4% of the time in his best month. There is something to be said about a player who has had back-to-back 20+ homerun seasons in the minors, and just like with Taijeron, the strikeouts are less of a problem than they would’ve been 5 years ago. Still, it’s hard to get too excited about a prospect with a sub-.300 OBP for a season with AA. He had more success against lefties in 2014, striking out only 24.5% of the time and powering out a .226 ISO, but he still only had a .294 OBP against them. Considering the extreme offensive environment that is the PCL, don’t be surprised if his April (or whenever he gets the promotion) numbers have fans calling for his shot in Queens.

If he could just minimize that hitch some

I love the pitchers reaction here - 'Aw, shucks, not again'

Roping a double into the gap off the end of his bat

      42)   Cory Vaughn RH/OF (25)
2014 stats:
AA: 50 G, 199 PA, .190/.281/.293, .238 BABIP, 63 wRC+, 9 2B, 3 HR, 23.6 K%: 7.5 BB%
AAA: 65 G, 228 PA, .228/.326/.386, .288 BABIP, 87 wRC+, 8 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 25.9 K%: 11.4 BB%

Vaughn is the only prospect of the group to spend considerable time in AAA – Lawley had 21 PA’s there to end the 2013 season – though he was more of a 4th outfielder with Las Vegas. Considering his poor performance in the first half with Bingo, I didn’t understand the promotion at the time – I knew someone would have to go to make room for Nimmo, just didn’t understand why Vaughn got the nod. In retrospect, considering his 4th outfielder status with Las Vegas, perhaps Vaughn was just the low man on the totem pole. Vaughn’s L/R splits were pretty extreme in 2014 - .555 OPS against righties, .827 against lefties – and that is far from a new trend, so perhaps he can be a future platoon option, but platoon outfielders are a dime a dozen in AAA. When he did connect, he provided some of the most impressive homeruns I saw in 2014, but 10 homeruns is not a very impressive season total, and a far cry from his minor league high of 23 in 2012.

Demolished this pinch-hit homerun off that Dr. Pepper billboard

Even the road crowd showed their appreciation of this blast

Vaughn would end up with a triple off this hit down the LF line

Had to prove that he can do some damage against righties too

      43)                  Kyle Johnson RH/CF (25)
2014 stats:
AA: 103 G, 414 PA, .259/.344/.384, .318 BABIP, 104 wRC+, 25 2B, 4 3B, 4 HR, 19.3 K%: 10.1 BB% (12/21 on stolen bases)

There was a point in the middle of the 2014 season when I was calling for Johnson to get the promotion to Las Vegas, as he was hitting well and providing solid center field defense, while the 51s were playing Brandon Allen in LF everyday (oy) – Vaughn got the promo insead. He was good enough to make the AA All-Star team, although it should be noted that these teams often lack the top prospect talents that have already been promoted. Then he went cold and stopped playing as much; or maybe Darrell Ceciliani got hot and started playing more, which led to less playing time for Johnson, and then he got cold. Either way, he did not have a strong 2nd half, and is looking like a 4th outfielder at best right now. Defensively, he plays a solid CF defense, though he’s probably better suited as a backup there. He also showed a strong, accurate arm in 2014 while collecting an impressive 14 outfield assists, so he can be an asset in RF. One realistic way for Kyle to boost his value is a return to his clepto ways, as he went from an impressive 44/55 on stolen bases in 2013 to a rough 12/21 in 2014.

Showing off his nice opposite field approach and speed on this triple

He was a nice leadoff hitter in the first half, leading off this game with a double
He started the next game with a double too

      44)                  Wilfredo Tovar RH/SS (23)
2014 stats:
AA: 78 G, 285 PA, .282/.345/.345, .299 BABIP, 93 wRC+, 8 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 7.7 K%: 7.4 BB%
(Made 7 rehab appearances at lower levels and 2 in September with the Mets)

I think it’s pretty clear what Tovar is at this point: a defensive whiz at SS whose best bet at a major league career is as a backup middle infielder on a team willing to keep an all glove, no bat player on their bench. If he were in the same position 30 years ago, he would definitely have a spot on a major league bench somewhere, if not the shot to start at shortstop. He provides solid minor league SS depth for a team with no clear immediate solution or plan for the position (personally, I’m fine with Flores and Reynolds getting a chance now, and excited about Cecchini or Rosario coming up in a few years). It’s unclear where he’ll play in 2015 – Matt Reynolds should start the year as the 51s everyday SS, and Gavin Cecchini might be ready to start the year with Bingo – and I don’t think that should be a top concern for Mets management. He hasn’t exactly dominated in his two seasons with Binghamton, but you wouldn’t expect to see much gains from another season in the league either.

This is about as much power as Tovar can provide

      45)                  T.J. Rivera RH/UT (26)
2014 stats:
A+: 61 G, 274 PA, .341/.383/.452, .383 BABIP, 139 wRC+, 16 2B, 4 HR, 13.5 K%: 5.1 BB%
AA: 54 G, 221 PA, .358/.394/.438, .399 BABIP, 132 wRC+, 13 2B, 1 HR, 12.2 K%: 5 BB%

Rivera forced his way into the discussion with a ‘breakout’ 2014 across two levels. He didn’t hit for much power, and he definitely had plenty of BABIP assistance – I saw a lot of infield and seeing eye singles with Bingo – but there is now a visible path for Rivera to get to the big leagues. It won’t be easy for him, as he’s a ‘poor man’s’ Daniel Muno at this point, but he’s already far surpassed everyone’s expectations as someone who went undrafted, and so I’m not going to count him out. Defensively, he’s capable of playing 1B/2B/3B well and SS acceptably. You wouldn’t want him playing SS everyday, but you’d be happier with him as the backup/emergency SS than Justin Turner – I only use Turner as the comparison because he’s fresh in the minds of Mets fans, and I am only comparing their abilities defensively. It took several injuries for Rivera to even get his AA chance last year, but he ran with it, and because of that I can’t help but be rooting a little extra hard for him to succeed. Also, this blast was one of the most exciting and unexpected outcomes of the season.

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