2013 New York Mets Top Prospects

 

System Overview: Along with right-hander Zach Wheeler, the recently acquired Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard give the Mets three upper-tier prospects, all of whom have the ceiling of All Star-caliber players.

d’Arnaud, the team’s top prospect, lost a significant part of the 2012 season in the Toronto system due to an injury, but profiles as a middle of the order hitter whose bat plays at any position if the team opts to move him away from behind the plate. Wheeler, acquired in the Carlos Beltran deal with San Francisco, is likely to settle in as a very good number two. And Syndergaard is likely to follow suit a couple years later.

Behind the elite three is an intriguing mix of young, lower level arms. Michael Fulmer, Rafael Montero and Domingo Tapia all have varying chances of being long term starting options at the big league level. Jeurys Familia, whose command could push him out of the rotation, and left-hander Jack Leathersich could potentially anchor the bullpen for years to come.

The problem with the system, however, is a lack of quality bats behind d’Arnaud. Wilmer Flores has plenty of offensive upside, but it remains to be seen if he can stay at second base where his bat could be become above-average. Brandon Nimmo, despite a lower batting average last season, showed enough offensive promise to become a solid-average center fielder. And Gavin Cecchini and Kevin Plawecki, both of the team’s first round picks last year, failed to impress during their debuts. As the Orioles can attest, putting a tremendous amount of the organization’s future in young arms could lead to unfortunate results.

 

 

#1. Travis d’Arnaud, Age: 24, Position: C

Before suffering a season ending knee injury in June, d’Arnaud, the centerpiece in the R.A. Dickey deal with Toronto, was on pace for his most successful season to date, hitting .333/.380/.595 in 67 games for the Blue Jays’ Triple-A club.

Along with decent peripherals — 6.3% BB-rate and 19.5% K-rate — he showed tremendous power, slugging 21 doubles, two triples, and 16 homeruns. His total offensive production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 47% better than the league average.

Defensively, he managed to nab 30% of would-be base stealers last season, tied for the best mark in his career.

Projection: Granted, Las Vegas is an offensive boon, but d’Arnaud has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues, whether the Mets push him back to Triple-A to extend his free agency is another question. But make no mistake about it; he’s an elite prospect, arguably the best in baseball given his potent offensive skills and position. And at his peak, d’Arnaud profiles as a .290/.360/.470 hitter.

Ceiling: 5.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average to Inevitable

 

#2. Zack Wheeler, Age: 23, Position: RHP

Acquired from San Francisco for what amounted to 44 games of Carlos Beltran, Wheeler dominated Double-A (116.0 IP, 9.08 K/9 and 3.34 BB/9) before being promoted to Triple-A for a brief six-game stint. In all, the young right-hander tossed 149 innings while averaging 8.9 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9. He also generated a generous amount of groundballs too (45.1%).

Projection: The talent is certainly there for Wheeler to step in and become one of the better pitchers in baseball. But his command, which has improved each season, will ultimately determine whether he can become a legitimate ace or a good number two. And the root of the problem seems to be lefties. Since 2011, he’s averaged 5.71 BB/9 against them versus just 2.53 BB/9 for right-handers.

Ceiling: 5.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average

Update: Through the first nine games of his career, Wheeler is showing a mid 90s fastball, upper 80s slider, high 70s curveball, and a mid 80s changeup. 

 

#3. Noah Syndergaard, Age: 20, Position: RHP

Absolutely dominated the A-ball competition last season to the tune of 10.6 K/9 to just 2.69 BB/9, Syndergaard has the size and numbers that suggest frontline starting pitcher. For kicks, the 6-foot-5 right-hander mixed in an elite number of groundballs too, nearly 54% of the contact against him was of the worm-burner variety.

Projection: Big and projectable, Syndergaard showed a tremendous feel for pitching against older competition. And it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the Mets to push him to Double-A for at least half the season. As with every young pitcher, though, he’ll need a bit of luck to avoid serious injury. But if he can stay healthy the sky could be the limit. And just for comparison’s sake, Wheeler, who was a year older at that time, averaged 10.7 K/9 and a whopping 5.8 BB/9 during his season in A-ball.

Ceiling: 5.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

#4. Wilmer Flores, Age: 21, Position: 2B/3B

Flores quietly put together his best season to date in 2012, taking important developmental steps forward against a more advanced level of competition. After hitting .289/.336/.463 with St. Lucie, the young infielder was promoted to Double-A where he continued to shine (.311/.361/.494). In total, he hit .300/.349/.479 between both stops, with blossoming power (30 doubles, two triples and 18 homeruns). His production for the year was 28% better than the league average.

Projection: While Flores’ power seems to finally be developing, though some of it can be explained by some favorable home ballparks, his basic plate discipline offers more reason for future production. After witnessing his walk rate decline in the latter half of 2010 (3.1%) and only show modest improvement a year later (4.8%), it spiked to 6.6% during his third stint in High-A and jumped again to 7.3% with Binghamton. If he can continue to keep it near those numbers in the future, Flores could become a dangerous big league hitter. Defensively, the Mets have yet to find a permanent home for him. Third base will be occupied by David Wright for the next several years, and he may outgrow the keystone position.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average

 

#5. Rafael Montero, Age: 22, Position: RHP

Montero began the year in A-ball, making 12 starts with the Savannah Sand Gnats and showed below average strikeout numbers (6.8 K/9) and a miniscule walk rate (1.01 BB/9). He also posted a 3.60 SIERA. They were, simply, vanilla overall numbers for a pitcher that was probably a touch old for the level. However, once upon his promotion to High-A his numbers drastically improved, so much so that he became a dominant force to be reckoned with.

In eight starts (50.2 innings) with St. Lucie, Montero struck out 56 (9.9 K/9), walked only 11 (2.0 BB/9) and posted an impressive 3.11 SIERA.

Projection: It’s hard to really understand the tremendous progress Montero showed by simply moving up a level. Maybe the team had him working more off of a certain pitch to gain a feel for it than he typically would. I don’t know. But the K-rate he showed latter in the season is pretty similar to the number he posted against rookie level competition in 2011 (8.4 K/9). If the results from St. Lucie can be trusted, then Montero could be headed for a number-two-type ceiling.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His CeilingModerate

 

#6. Michael Fulmer, Age: 20, Position: RHP

The 44th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Fulmer showed tremendous poise as one of only ten 19-years-old hurlers in the South Atlantic League. The 6-foot-3 right-hander made 21 starts (108.1 innings), averaging 8.39 K/9 and 3.16 BB/9 with a solid 3.70 SIERA. The lone red flag thus far is a bit of troublesome groundball rate (38.2%).

Projection: After throwing just 5.1 innings following his selection in the draft, Fulmer transitioned particularly well to the profession game last season. He did fade some down the stretch, though that’s to be expected. And while the data is a bit thin for now, he looks to have the potential as a solid mid-rotation-type starter, maybe peaking as a fringe number two — if he can avoid injuries.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

#7. Brandon Nimmo, Age: 20, Position: CF

The thirteenth overall pick in the 2011 draft, Nimmo offered more promise last year than his .248 batting average would suggest. In 69 games with Brooklyn in the New York-Penn League, he showed an elite eye at the plate (14.3% BB-rate), solid-average power (.158 ISO) and relatively strong defensive play in center field.

In total, he hit .248/.372/.406. And his offensive production was 35% above the league average, the highest mark for any teenager in the NYPL.

Projection: The initial returns have been positive for Nimmo. Given his frame — 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds — combined with his youth, there’s plenty of optimism for his power to develop into an above-average tool. And while it’s a relatively small sample size thus far (118 PA), his struggles against lefties (.184/.282/.282) are already a concern.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

#8. Domingo Tapia, Age: 21, Position: RHP

Unlike some of the other higher upside arms in the system, Tapia spent the entire year at one level, making 20 appearances (19 starts) in A-ball. Across 108.2 innings, the young right-hander struck out 101 (8.4 K/9), walked 32 (2.7 BB/9) and posted a strong 3.08 SIERA. But what makes him so intriguing is the number of groundballs he induced. After generating 54.6% in 2011; Tapia actually improved it to 57.7% last year, elite numbers.

Projection: Tapia has the size — 6-foot-4 and 186 pounds — and peripherals to become a valuable innings-eater that could ultimately slide into the middle of a team’s rotation somewhere down the line. Some of his ceiling is tempered a bit because it was done against an age-appropriate level. But if he can maintain those numbers moving forward he’s certainly one to watch.

 Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

#9. Jeurys Familia, Age: 23, Position: RHP

In his first stint with Buffalo in 2012, Familia’s overall numbers took a small step backwards. His strikeout total, 8.4 K/9, was his lowest mark since 2009; his walk rate, 4.8 BB/9, was the second highest of his career, and his SIERA, 4.07, was nearly a full run higher than his 2011 total. On the positive side, the 137 innings was a career best, and he generated an elite number of groundballs (50.5%).

Projection: Long thought of as a potential rotation mainstay for the Mets, Familia’s 2012 definitely adds doubt to his future. He’s typically shown better control throughout his career (3.9 BB/9), but that’s still on the wrong side for an effective starting pitcher. If he can cut that to about 3.4 BB/9, he could develop into a solid mid-rotation starter; otherwise, his long term future may be in the back of New York’s bullpen. He does have a little bit of time to figure it out, though.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win (starter); 1.0-win (reliever)

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate (starter); Above-Average (reliever)

Update: Mid 90s fastball, low 80s slider, and mid 86-87 mph changeup.

 

 

#10. Gavin Cecchini, Age: 19, Position: SS

Cecchini, the 12th overall pick in last year’s draft, looked overmatched during his debut against the Appalachian League competition, hitting .240/.307/.321 with nine doubles, two triples, one homerun and five stolen bases. His total production was 17% below the league average.

Projection: Per the usual, any judgment will be withheld on current draft choices until the following year. But make no mistake about it, Cecchini disappointed last season. He showed modest on-base skills (8.5% BB-rate), but his complete lack of power (.084 ISO) is certainly concerning.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#11. Kevin Plawecki, Age: 22, Position: C

The second of the Mets’ first round picks last year, Plawecki was nabbed with the 35th overall pick following an impressive two-year career at Purdue University. He played 61 games for Brooklyn last season, hitting .250/.345/.384, showing a similar skill set as his collegiate days: solid-average plate discipline, good contact skills and below-average power. Defensively, he threw out 32% of attempted base stealers.

Projection: While there may be some growth left in Plawecki’s bat, it’s probably not enough to make him a league average bat in the future. He looks to be .240/.320/.380-type hitter. For now, though, I’ll reserve any other future projections.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#12. Jack Leathersich, Age: 22, Position: LHP

After blowing away low-A competition during his 2011 debut (18.47K and 2.13 BB/9 in 12.2 innings), the strikeouts continued to mount for Leathersich, a fifth round pick out from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

In 24 innings with Savannah last season, the left-hander allowed two earned runs and struck out a whopping 37 batters (13.9 K/9). He was then promoted to High-A and posted even better strikeout numbers (14.2 K/9) in 48 innings. In total, he pitched 72 innings, struck out 113 and walked 32.

Projection: Leathersich’s control seems a bit fringy at this point, but isn’t as much of a concern for now given his elite strike out numbers. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the young lefty make his MLB debut sometime late in 2013.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

#13. Luis Mateo, Age: 23, Position: RHP

Too old for either of his first two stops in professional baseball, but Mateo’s numbers are simply too hard to ignore. In 73.1 innings in low-A last season, the right-hander struck out 85 (10.4 K/9), walked just nine (1.1 BB/9), and posted one of the better SIERA’s around, at 2.19. He also showed a propensity for getting the groundball too (46.8%).

Projection: The numbers are too dominant to ignore, but the level of competition was simply not challenging enough. It will be interesting to see if the organization pushes him straight to High-A, for which he seems to be ready, or simply move him along level by level.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#14. Aderlin Rodriguez, Age: 21, Position: 3B

On the heels of a disappointing 2011, one in which he hit .223/.267/.376 in A-ball, the repeat numbers for Rodriguez were far more impressive. In 83 games with the Sand Gnats, he hit .274/.336/.497 with 21 doubles, one triple and 16 homeruns. He also showed far more patience at the plate (8.2% BB-rate) than he had in other periods of extended play. His total production was 25% better than the league average. The young third baseman was then promoted to High-A and quickly fell back into his old habits (.242/.288/.431 with a 4.9% BB-rate).

Projection: Rodriguez is still incredibly young, but already shows above-average in-game power. He’s likely headed back to High-A to start the 2013, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the level again. If — and it’s a relatively big if — he can maintain a decent walk rate there might be a shot for him to develop into a league average regular. Also, he needs to improve his performance against lefties (.206/.247/.371 since 2011).

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low

 

#15. Tyler Pill, Age: 23, Position: RHP

As a polished collegiate player, Pill was a bit old and advanced for the South Atlantic League, where he made nine starts and averaged 9.4 K/9 to just 1.4 BB/9. Upon his promotion to the Florida State League (High-A), his peripherals took a noticeable turn downward (7.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9).

Projection: While his 2.05 ERA was third among FSL pitchers with at least 60 innings, Pill’s SIERA, 3.52, was far less impressive. And once the organization pushes him to Double-A it would be surprising to see if his strikeout rate is witness to another dive. He’s unlike many other arms in minor leagues, meaning he could develop into a backend starter or a serviceable relief arm or nothing at all.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player (starter); Replacement Level to 0.5-win player (reliever)

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low (starter); Moderate (reliever)

 

#16. Camden Maron, Age: 22, Position: C

A 34th round pick in the 2009 draft, Maron posted an impressive triple-slash line in A-Ball, hitting .300/.403/.408 with 18 doubles, two triples and five homeruns. His total offensive production was 31% above the league average, the second best mark among catchers with 300+ plate appearances.

Projection: Maron offers an elite eye at the plate, walking 13% of the time last year. But there are several red flags that he’ll likely need to overcome to develop into a regular everyday player down the line. While his power took a small step forward last season (.108 ISO), his groundball rate (48.9%) is likely to keep it from developing into anything more than below-average. He also struggled against lefties (.233/.348/.364). And defensively speaking, after nabbing just 13% of would-be base stealers, catcher may not be his long term position. Still, though, he could develop into a useful platoon bat and backup catcher.

Ceiling: 1.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low

 

 

Photo of Travis d’Arnaud Courtesy of BeGreen90 via Flickr.com



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.