New York Mets Top 10 Prospects For 2017
After a run to the 2015 World Series, the New York Mets fell back some in 2016. Do they have the players in their system to bounce back in 2017?
Our minor league top 10 series is coordinated by Benjamin Chase, one of our contributors at Call To The Pen.
He has poured over thousands of minor league games over the course of the year via milb.tv along with speaking with a number of team and independent scouts. These lists are based out of those conversations.
Each system will have prospects from 10 to 1, and then finish with one newcomer to the system that is worth keeping an eye on that is not in the top 10 at this time.
Conversations are certainly encouraged in the comments section on each system as we go along!
Mets System Review
The New York Mets have used their minor league system to feed their major league club extremely well with arms in the last few years, whether it was directly to the starting rotation in guys like Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard (originally acquired in trade, but developed in the Mets system), Jacob deGrom, Zach Wheeler (see Syndergaard), or Steven Matz, or even fill in guys like Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, the Mets have had an abundance of arms.
Heck, the team has even been using arms as currency in trades in the last few years, trading away such arms as Jon Niese, Akeel Morris, John Gant, Robert Whalen, Michael Fulmer, Matt Koch, and Luis Cessa to fuel their runs just in the last two seasons.
Now they look forward after the team faced what often happens with arms, injuries, to many of their top guys in 2016. There are guys who can come in and be back-end filler of a rotation, but they just don’t have that Harvey/Syndergaard type coming along, unless Zack Wheeler can return from two years off for Tommy John pitching to key their 2017 rotation.
On the hitting side, there is some very exciting ceiling on a number of low-level prospects, but the Mets really have a very top-heavy system in prospects. After their first three overall prospects, there is a significant drop off as far as combination of floor and ceiling that those three possess and among the rest of their prospects, they tend to have a large mix of high-floor or high-ceiling guys that begin to really thin quickly on a list. Those places putting together top 20 or top 30 lists for the Mets will be featuring a lot of org filler types that could be guys who get a major league inning or two along the way, but will primarily end up riding a lot of AAA to MLB planes in their careers at best.
What does this mean for the big league club? In short, the New York Mets need to focus on winning while they have the arms in house and cheap as they just don’t have the talent in the pipeline to keep it up when those guys start hitting free agency.
10. Thomas Szapucki, LHP
Birthdate: 6/12/96 (20 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: rookie, short season A
Stats in 2016: 52 IP, 1.38 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 9.76 BB%, 41.95 K%
Last year’s 5th round selection was viewed as a solid lottery ticket as a high school lefty. He chose to sign rather than attend the pitching factory that is the University of Florida.
Szapucki made that look like a bargain pick for the Mets with his performance in 2016. He came out and dominated the Appalachian League for 5 starts before being bumped up to the New York-Penn League for 4 starts to finish his season.
Szapucki works with a fastball/curve combination that is absolutely incredible to watch work against hitters. He gets tremendous movmeent on the mid-90s fastball and then his curve showed to be a power curve, with tremendous depth that seems to drop multiple planes in its last few feet before it gets to the plate.
Szapucki is not just a two-pitch guy with a solid change that he showed much more feel for in 2016.
Szapucki has a bit of a herky-jerky delivery that could be a rough thing on his arm health going forward, and scouts are a bit worried about this in projecting Szapucki as a starter.
He’ll make his move to full-season ball in 2017.
9. Wuilmer Becerra, OF
Birthdate: 10/1/94 (22 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: high A
Stats in 2016: .312/.341/.393, 1 HR, 7 SB
A forgotten piece of the R.A. Dickey trade that also brought Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud to the New York Mets from the Toronto Blue Jays, Becerra struggled to get all his tools to come together until a breakout 2015.
Becerra was moved up to high A in 2016, and while his season rate stats were solid, he fought off injuries that kept him to just 65 games on the season.
Becerra was a legit big-time prospect coming from Venezuela in 2011, receiving a seven-figure bonus from the Blue Jays.
He’s flashed raw power and a big arm since his signing, but he’s struggled to show either in game.
2015 started to see Becerra put it together, and the reports I got on his 2016 discussed his defensive skills working very well in right field now, improving his footwork to get to his fringe-plus arm.
His biggest challenge in 2015 and 2016 was rough pitch recognition. His strikeout rate was a respectable 20-ish percent, but he still struck out at nearly 6 times the rate he walked, which is where the big issue lies.
The Mets will likely push Becerra up to AA in 2017, and his pitch recognition will be the one major thing that will determine his future path.
8. Anthony Kay, LHP
Birthdate: 3/21/95 (21 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: None
Stats in 2016: None
Kay was ridden hard and put up wet by UConn this spring, and that led to many teams backing away from a guy who was considered a likely mid-first-round pick late in May.
His physical showed concerns in his elbow, and that led the New York Mets to cutting the bonus they offered to Kay. He then had Tommy John surgery in October, so there was legitimacy to those concerns.
Before being hurt, Kay was the type who was a perfect “command and control” lefty. He has a fastball that sits in the low 90s and runs to 95-96, a slider that works well to generate weak contacts, and a change that really moves well.
Kay is the type that once healthy should move very quickly through the Mets system, though his ceiling is likely as a #4 starter who has been compared to guys like Mark Buehrle.
Kay will be out all of 2017, so we won’t get to see him until 2018.
7. Merandy Gonzalez, RHP
Birthdate: 10/9/95 (21 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: short season A
Stats in 2016: 69 IP, 2.87 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 9.34 BB%, 24.57 K%
If there’s a guy to dream on as a starter in the lower part of the New York Mets system, Gonzalez is that guy.
He was signed in 2013 out of the Dominican Republic. While he didn’t move quickly his first 2 years, he showed very well in the New York-Penn League.
Gonzalez works with a fastball that sits 92-96, touching 98. He pairs that with two above-average off-speed pitches. He has a very good feel for his change, and his curve has excellent bite low in the zone.
Gonzalez has a great frame and simple, easy delivery that should allow him to stay as a starter going forward. He is near-impossible to square up, though hitters were able to get the ball through the NYPL infield plenty.
Gonzalez will see full-season ball in 2017, and with the strides he made in 2016, he could jump multiple levels in the 2017 season.
6. Gavin Cecchini, SS
Birthdate: 12/22/93 (22 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: AAA, MLB
Stats in 2016: .325/.390/.448, 8 HR, 4 SB
Cecchini was selected by the New York Mets in the first round of the 2012 draft with the 12th overall selection. He has a brother, Garin Cecchini, who was in the Brewers organization in 2016, and his father was a long-time coach, so he has a definite “baseball rat” mentality.
Cecchini has never really been accused of having any individual tool that was the type that would stand out to scouts, outside of a high level of baseball instincts.
Cecchini has a solid line drive stroke that he can utilize his above-average speed to get plenty of doubles and triples. He has a very solid pitch recognition, walking and striking out around a 10-13% rate throughout his career, including in AAA this past season.
Cecchini has enough range and fringe-plus arm to play at short, second, or third, and his solid contact abilities should allow him a high floor as a utility guy, but he could have a very solid career working as a 2-hole hitter in a big league lineup.
Cecchnini will be likely to see the big leagues for an extensive run in 2017, whether he breaks with the big league club or comes up in the season.
5. Desmond Lindsay, OF
Birthdate: 1/15/97 (19 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: rookie, short season A
Stats in 2016: .303/.433/.451, 4 HR, 3 SB
Lindsay has tremendous raw tools, but his injuries thus far have prevented Lindsay from pushing forward, in spite of making a big impression everywhere he plays..
Lindsay shows solid pitch recognition to go with an average to above-average contact ability, allowing him to hit for a good average at lower levels. He will need to work on consistency in his swing in order to get similar results as he moves up in the system.
Lindsay has had hamstring issues bum him this season, but he should have the chance to make a big impression when healthy in 2017 in full season ball.
Lindsay has the natural athleticism to end up in center field, but he was a high school infielder that is still in the process of transitioning to the outfield.
Right now, the most playable asset for Lindsay is his plus speed. He’ll be able to move forward quickly as he makes the adjustment to center field.
4. Brandon Nimmo, OF
Birthdate: 3/27/93 (23 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: AAA, MLB
Stats in 2016: .352/.423/541, 11 HR, 7 SB
Drafted in 2011 out of Wyoming, where he didn’t have a high school team, but still had made enough of an impression on a national basis to be drafted 13th overall, it seems like Nimmo has been around forever as a prospect.
Nimmo has taken his raw tools and turned them into solid overall skills across the board. His best tool is his contact ability, which he pairs with great pitch recognition to rack up a ton of hits.
Nimmo really doesn’t have a plus tool anywhere but in his contact tool, but everything across the board is average to above-average. Nimmo will work well in a corner outfield spot, but he could handle center in a pinch due to excellent instincts that he uses to make up for lesser overall speed.
Nimmo’s profile is that of a guy at the top of the lineup, but with the New York Mets bringing back Yoenis Cespedes, there’s really nowhere to play Nimmo in 2017, meaning he’ll likely find his way back to AAA until injuries or performance issues bring him back up to the majors.
3. Justin Dunn, RHP
Birthdate: 9/22/95 (21 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: short season A
Stats in 2016: 30 IP, 1.50 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 7.94 BB%, 27.78 K%
Dunn was a college reliever with an intriguing arm coming into the year, a guy considered to be a flyer type of pitcher that would possibly make an elite reliever, but did have the pitch mix to convert to starting.
Dunn followed the lead of a number of recent college relievers and started in his junior season, and in course, he ended up really jumping up draft boards, pushing into the first round.
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Dunn works with a plus fastball that can touch the upper 90s and sits 92-95 MPH. He throws two solid breaking pitches. His looping curve is roughly 20 MPH off of his fastball and 10 MPH slower than his other pitches, which allows him to get plenty of swing and miss with it.
His slider is his best off-speed pitch, with hard break that is nearly impossible to square up. His change is more average, but he does have good arm action, just needing consistency.
Dunn struggled some to get deeper into games as a pro, but the New York Mets did protect him well by giving him short appearances after a heavy work load in the college season.
His work load will be managed very closely as he moves up, likely to full-season ball in 2017.
2. Dominic Smith, 1B
Birthdate: 6/15/95 (21 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: AA
Stats in 2016: .302/.367/.457, 14 HR, 2 SB
The New York Mets selected Smith out of high school at #11 in 2013, and he was considered by many to be the top high school pure bat in a draft that contained such prominent players as Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows.
Smith has always shown tremendous bat-to-ball ability, showing extreme hand-eye coordination and the ability to barrel balls, even if it took until this year to start seeing his raw power start to come to fruition in game.
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Smith is an adept fielder around the first base bag, likely a Gold Glove caliber player once he gets to the big leagues. While he doesn’t profile elsewhere, his glove work and picking balls out of the dirt will allow his entire infield defense to play up around him.
Smith may not ever be a guy who hits 30-40 home runs, but he very well may be a guy who profiles with a .300 average and 20-25 home runs and a good amount of doubles from the left side. Some compared his likely offensive outcomes to a former Met first baseman, John Olerud.
Smith will likely see AAA in 2017, and he could make an appearance at the big league level in season at some point. With Lucas Duda in his final year of arbitration this season, Smith may have a clear path to the starting role in 2018.
1. Amed Rosario, SS
Birthdate: 11/20/95 (21 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: high A, AA
Stats in 2016: .324/.374/.459, 5 HR, 19 SB
Rosario entered the year as a guy who I was snapping up in dynasty leagues based on reports from spring training about the way the ball was rocketing off of his bat, and he carried that spring work forward into the regular season, producing 24 doubles, 13 triples, and 5 home runs, with more to possibly come.
The best part was that Rosario was able to add this power production to his offensive game while not sacrificing anything in his defensive skill set, which has always been his calling card.
Rosario is a fringe-plus fielder with a plus-plus arm that works extremely well at shortstop, especially with his excellent instincts off the bat. He has tremendous footwork as well, allowing him to likely profile at short even as he ages some and loses a touch of speed.
Rosario currently is a plus runner, but he’s not got great instincts in base stealing. He uses his running more in base running than stealing, taking an extra base frequently.
Rosario’s total package as a player has moved him into the top 10-20 prospects in the entire game. The New York Mets saw him hit well in AA for 50+ games in 2016, so it’s quite feasible that they’ll move him to AAA in 2017 with the timing being excellent as Asdrubal Cabrera‘s contract is over after next year (a 2018 option with a small-enough buyout to make it worth just buying him away).
Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Peter Alonso, 1B
Birthdate: 12/7/94 (21 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: short season A
Stats in 2016: .321/.382/.587, 5 HR
After a tremendous final stretch of his junior year, the New York Mets tabbed Alonso in the 2nd round of this past June’s draft. Alonso was a guy that some thought was a steal at that point, yet others were wary of taking still for 3-4 more rounds, so the thoughts on him were quite split.
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Alonso has a tough road ahead as a right-handed hitting and throwing first baseman, as that puts tremendous stress on his bat to perform. He did just that in the New York-Penn League, with a .969 OPS and 18 extra base hitts in 109 at bats.
Alonso does have a very solid swing that gets through the zone quickly, though he does tend to be more doubles power than home run power, but the raw power is definitely there in batting practice, so there is hope he could tap into it further in games.
While he’s stuck to first base defensively, Alonso does have solid hands at the position and should play well there. He’ll have an uphill climb, however, behind Dominic Smith in the system.
Agree? Disagree? Someone you have a question about from the system? Leave a comment down below!