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|1. Amed Rosario, SS|
|Born: 11/20/95||Age: 21||Bats: R||Top CALs: Dilson Herrera, Franklin Barreto, Abiatal Avelino, Yamaico Navarro, Alen Hanson|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 190||Throws: R|
Background: Very rarely will one see an organization with two top prospects at the shortstop position – the Cubs come to mind when Addison Russell and Javier Baez were making their way up the ladder, or maybe Reid Brignac and Tim Beckham with Tampa Bay, or when the Angels’ system was sporting Erick Aybar and a fully hyped Brandon Wood. Sure, it’s happened throughout the annals of minor league history, but it’s certainly rare. So the Mets, who now own two of the best minor league shortstops in Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario, are in a pretty favorable position – especially considering that (A) prospect attrition makes it nearly impossible that both players reach their full – and by that, I mean peak – potential and (B) Asdrubal Cabrera remains the incumbent for the foreseeable future. And just like his teammate, Rosario had a massive coming out party as he split time between St. Lucie and Binghamton.
After hitting a league average-ish .257/.307/.335 as a 19-year-old in the Florida State League two years ago, the Dominican-born shortstop absolutely toasted the High Class A pitching his second time around, slugging a whopping .309/.359/.442 with 10 doubles, eight triples, three homeruns, and 13 stolen bases. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 32% – easily the best total of his career.
Until he spent 54 games in the Eastern League…
In 234 plate appearances with Binghamton, Rosario battered the opposition to the tune of .341/.392/.481 with 14 doubles, five triples, two homeruns, and six stolen bases. He topped the league average mark by 42%.
Projection: It’s a great problem to have, isn’t it? Two promising shortstops – both of whom are knocking on the club’s big league door – a club that is just entering their window to win.
Here’s what I wrote about Rosario in last year’s book:
“A wrist injury – and subsequent trip to the DL – limited Rosario’s High Class A stint to 105 games. Rosario continued to show a below-average eye at the plate, something to be expected given his youth and level of competition. The hit tool is slowly trending upward. But the power hasn’t started to surface just yet either. CAL’s not overly impressed, but a 19-year-old that can post a 97 wRC+ in High Class A has some upside. He might turn into a Didi Gregorius down the line, offensively speaking, of course.”
Nothing was able to slow down Rosario’s scorching bat. The plate discipline ticked up to average status, as did the power. He’s likely going to see some regression in his return to Class AA thanks to a .433 BABIP. But I still think the Didi Gregorius offensive ceiling holds firm – a bat capable of hitting .280/.320/.440. The defense, according to Clay Davenport’s metrics, remains steady. He could potentially be a franchise cornerstone at an extremely valuable position.
Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2017/2018
|2. Thomas Szapucki LHP|
|Born: 06/12/96||Age: 21||Bats: R||Top CALs: Dan Barnes, Santos Rodriguez, Luis Gomez, Curtis Leavitt, John Sever|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 205||Throws: L|
Background: Since I started writing about prospects in the summer of 2013 the Mets have turned into Pitching Prospect U. Here’s just a list of some of the more notable arms to make their way through the system: Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Fulmer, Jake deGrom, Steven Matz, and Robert Gsellman. That’s pretty absurd isn’t it? It might take the average organization – oh, I don’t know – a freakin’ couple of decades to churn out that level of talent. The Mets did it in a couple years. And that doesn’t include the Dark Knight himself, Matt Harvey. Anyway, Szapucki is poised to be the next great New York pitching prospect – one, by the way, that was unearthed in the fifth round two years ago.
After throwing just 2.1 innings in the Gulf Coast League during his debut, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound southpaw made the Appalachian League look silly during five starts, coughing up just a pair of earned runs to go along with a 47-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just 29.0 innings of work. The front office bumped him up to Brooklyn in July for another four (dominant) starts.
Overall, Szapucki finished the year with 86 punch outs, just 20 free passes, and a nice-and-tidy 1.38 ERA in 52.0 innings of work.
Projection: Let’s chew on Szapucki’s string of dominance. Consider the following: of his nine starts, the lefty punched out at least 10 hitters five times, including his final three games of the year. And what about the remaining four games, you ask? Well, he fanned six, eight, eight, and nine. Granted, the dominance was against the lowest levels of the minors, but I’m excited to see what Szapucki can do in full season ball. Expect him to throw around 110- to 120-innings.
Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2019
|3. Gavin Cecchini, SS|
|Born: 12/22/93||Age: 23||Bats: R||Top CALs: Adrian Cardenas, Francisco Lindor, Jorge Polanco, Daniel Robertson, Ivan De Jesus|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 200||Throws: R|
Background: Heading into the 2014 season if given the choice between which Cecchini brother looked like (A) the better or (B) the safer minor league prospect, I think the overwhelming majority of – honest – analysts and pundits would have opined that Garin, the older brother and Boston’s hot hitting third baseman, was both the better and safe bet to make an impact at the major league level. You see, Garin was coming off of an absolutely absurd showing, hitting a robust .322/.443/.471 with 33 doubles, seven triples, seven homeruns, and 23 stolen bases between the Carolina and Eastern Leagues. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 55%. And there’s younger brother Gavin, who was coming off of a .273/.319/.314 showing in the New York-Penn League with very little power – he slugged just eight doubles – or speed or much of anything else.
Except something happened over the next several years – Garin stopped producing at the plate and Gavin started figuring things out offensively.
After the mediocre – or flat-out disappointing – showing in the NYPL, Cecchini hit a slightly better-than-average .259/.333/.408 in the Sally and spent the second half of 2014 in High Class A as a 20-year-old. But 2015 was his real coming out party. In 109 games with Binghamton, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound shortstop batted .317/.377/.442 with 26 doubles, four triples, seven homeruns, and a trio of stolen bases. His overall production topped the league average by 39% – the fifth best overall showing and the best mark among all players under the age of 22 in the Eastern League that year.
And the young, talented shortstop continued that torrid pace when he moved into Triple-A last year as well, hitting .325/.390/.448 with 27 doubles, a pair of triples, eight homeruns, and four stolen bases while topping the league average mark by 28%.
Projection: Just for the record, I would have voted for Garin as the potential impact player at the big league level. Fair is fair. Anyway, here’s what I wrote about Gavin in last year’s book when I ranked him as the Mets’ #2 prospect and #83 in all of baseball:
“On one hand Cecchini’s offensive spike was a bit predictable: he was constantly facing off against more advanced pitching and his underlying numbers were slowly creeping upwards. On the other hand, however, there’s no one on this planet that would have surmised the young shortstop outperforming J.P. Crawford, widely recognized as one of the top MiLB shortstops, in the Eastern League. But Cecchini did just that, 139 wRC+ vs. 121 wRC+. With that being said, Cecchini doesn’t own a true standout tool. The power is merely average, perhaps even slightly below. He doesn’t offer up a whole lot of foot speed. The plate discipline is merely average. And the hit tool, well, this is the first time he’s topped a .273 average; coincidentally (or not), Cecchini’s also sporting the highest BABIP of his career (.348). Cecchini, as CAL would agree, looks like a solid big league regular, perhaps a few ticks better.”
One year later and it still looks spot on – only with added insurance. Amed Rosario has been the far superior defender, so Cecchini will likely have to wait for Neil Walker to leave to take over second base.
Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
|4. Robert Gsellman, RHP|
|Born: 07/18/93||Age: 23||Bats: R||Top CALs: Tim Alderson, Tommy Hunter, Aaron Thompson, Matt Harrison, Troy Patton|
|Height: 6-4||Weight: 205||Throws: R|
Background: The Gazelle continued him meteoric rise through the minor leagues, going from a 20-year-old hurler in the South Atlantic League in 2014 to a (fantastic) September call-up last season. In between, a whole lot of minor league success, very few walks, and an increasing punch out rate. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound right-hander opened up last season in the Eastern League, throwing 66.1 innings with a decent 48-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio to go along with a solid very Gsellman-like 3.25 FIP. The big righty got the call up to the bandbox known as Las Vegas and got rocked over his first three starts, allowing 15 earned runs in just 10 innings, but settled down thereafter. The Mets made it official and beckoned for Gsellman in late August where he convinced any naysayers that he belonged in a big league rotation: 44.2 IP, 8.46 K/9, 3.02 BB/9, and a 2.63 FIP.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote about the right-hander in my book two years ago:
“Gsellman is built in the mold of org-mate Gabriel Ynoa – a strike-throwing, free-pass limiting, homerun curmudgeon. It’s more about pitchability than power. Again, like Ynoa, McAllister popped up as a top comp. There’s some hope here, but I need to see it against some older competition first.”
And I followed that up with this in last year’s tome:
“An intriguing young arm that’s never really missed a whole lot of sticks at any point in his career, sans a 12 game stint with Brooklyn in the New York-Penn League several years ago. But Gsellman offers up poise well beyond his years. He compensates for a lack of punch outs by generating a ton of action on the ground; he’s totaled at least a 51% groundball rate at any level since 2013. He could be a solid backend starter, whether he gets the chance in New York’s loaded rotation is a whole other question. Look for him to be eased in at the big league level, perhaps making a mid-season call up to bolster the club’s pen.”
A couple things here:
- During his debut Gsellman showed a low- to mid-90s fastball, a hard 88 mph slider, a low 80s curveball, and a hard 87 mph changeup.
- Don’t expect him to miss about a bat per inning like he did in New York. Remember: it was late August/early September, so there were a lot of youngsters flooding the scene. Meaning: they were inexperienced and Gsellman took advantage of it. However, his K-rate in Triple-A, 7.4 K/9, looks like a safe ceiling to bank on.
He’s a very good, safe backend starting pitcher for the next decade or so.
Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
|5. Dominic Smith, 1B|
|Born: 06/15/95||Age: 22||Bats: L||Top CALs: Jake Bauers, Jose Osuna, Nick Longhi, Edwin Espinal, Chris Marrero|
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 250||Throws: L|
Background: It took more than 1,200 trips to the plate for the former first round pick to slug 10 dingers. But Smith, who stands just 6-foot but a hulking 250 pounds, bashed 14 long balls in 542 plate appearances in the Eastern League last season – a positive sign for the 21-year-old. Overall, Smith hit.302/.367/.457 with an 130 wRC+.
Projection: It’s. About. Damn. Time. Here’s some bad news, though: despite slugging a career best 14 homeruns and extra-base hits (45), Smith’s Isolated Power was just an average-ish .155. To add some context to that, consider this: among all Class AA first baseman with at least 350 trips to the plate, Smith’s ISO ranks 18th out of 30.
And now the good news: homeruns came in bunches for the former first rounder – he slugged 10 of his 14 dingers over his final 63 games. Meaning: maybe, just maybe, something clicked in Smith because pro-rating that amount over a 162-game season is 26 long balls. If this second half surge proves to be the new norm, Smith could very well take the position over at the big league level in a year-plus. If not, he’s a poor man’s Eric Hosmer.
Ceiling: 3.0-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2017/2018
|6. Desmond Lindsay, CF|
|Born: 01/15/97||Age: 20||Bats: R||Top CALs: N/A
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 200||Throws: R|
Background: The 2015 second round pick got off to a blistering start in his professional career, walloping a healthy .304/.400/.464 with four doubles, two triples, one homerun, and three stolen bases against the Gulf Coast League competition. But his 14-game stint in the New York-Penn League – he batted .200/.308/.267 – greatly deflated his overall numbers. Well, Lindsay proved that he was finally ready for short season ball last season as he battered the NYPL competition to the tune of .297/.418/.450 with five doubles and four homeruns. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by an impressive 66% – the top mark among all New York-Penn Leaguers.
Projection: There’s really nothing to not like about Lindsay – he plays a premium defensive position, showcases 20-homer potential, walks a massive amount of the time, doesn’t swing-and-miss much, and has a smattering of speed. Add it all up and it looks like not only is Lindsay ready for full season action, but he could be primed for one of the bigger breakout prospects in 2017.
Ceiling: 3.0-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2019
|7. Marcos Molina, RHP|
|Born: 03/08/95||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: Carlos Vazquez, Jose Rodriguez, Casey Meisner, Zach McAllister, Arquimedes Nieto|
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 188||Throws: R|
Background: One of the most underrated minor league arms – until Tommy John surgery forced the Dominican-born right-hander to shut it down in 2015. Molina missed all of 2016, but made a handful of mediocre appearances in the Arizona Fall League at the conclusion of last season.
Projection: I’ve been on Molina’s bandwagon for the last couple of years, writing the following in my book in 2015:
“Simply put, Molina’s the best pitching prospect you’ve never heard of – YET. Molina, who stands a solid 6-foot-3 and nearly 190 pounds, has improved his strikeout rate for the second consecutive season, going from a lackluster 6.5 K/9 in the DSL to 7.3 K/9 in his stateside jump in 2013 to a career high 10.89 K/9 in the NYPL last season. What makes It even more impressive: his walk rate has essentially remained the same. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him ascend to the club’s top pitching prospect – or overall prospect, for that matter – as soon as next season (assuming Noah Syndergaard is promoted). You’ve been warned.”
And here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:
“And through his first five starts of 2015 Molina looked up to the challenge; he tallied a 28-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 27.0 innings. And remember: he closed out the previous season in the New York-Penn League. Assuming there aren’t any Steven Matz – or worse – setbacks, Molina still offers up plenty of upside in his powerful right arm. Last year I pegged him as a three-win player with a high risk, and he’s done nothing to change that – unfortunately.”
Well, I’m still sticking by him as a potential upper to mid-rotation arm – albeit one with a significantly greater risk than the typical arm, at least until he makes it completely back. Here’s hoping for a full recovery.
Ceiling: 3.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2018
|8. T.J. Rivera, IF|
|Born: 10/27/88||Age: 28||Bats: R||Top CALs: Luis Maza, Jesus Guzman, Kevin Howard, Grant Green, Christian Colonel|
|Height: 6-1||Weight: 205||Throws: R|
Background: Question: at what point do we ignore age, lack of big league experience, and the fact that a player continually gets passed over – year after year? Admittedly, I’m not sure of the answer. But with respect to Rivera, I think the time is now because years of impressive production continue to mount. Last season, the defensive-jack-of-all-trades hit an impressive .353/.393/.516 with 31 doubles, one triple, 11 homeruns, and a trio of stolen bases as a 27-year-old with Las Vegas as he bounced between the PCL and New York. His overall production in Triple-A, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 42% better than the league average. Oh, yeah, Rivera managed to slug .333/.345/.475 with four doubles, one triple, and three homeruns en route to posting a 119 wRC+ during his 33-game stint with the Mets last season as well. For his minor league career, which spans six seasons, 625 games, and more than 2,600 plate appearances, Rivera’s sporting an impressive .324/.371/.434 triple-slash line.
Projection: I guess the first comparison I think is Justin Turner – who cashed in this offseason in big way after a string of impressive offensive performances with the Dodgers. And Rivera, who’s entering his age-28 season, could follow in his footsteps. River doesn’t possess a ton of patience at the plate, but compensates with an above-average hit tool and solid-average power with plenty of defensive versatility. I would put a lot of money on Rivera’s ability to become a league average – or perhaps, slightly better – bat at the MLB level. If I’m an opposing General Manager, I absolutely make a call to New York to see if I could pilfer the underrated infielder. Without. Question.
Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
|9. Wuilmer Becerra, RF|
|Born: 10/01/94||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: Manuel Hernandez, Jose Rivero, Elier Hernandez, David Bote, Manuel Sanchez|
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 225||Throws: R|
Background: Now that the R.A. Dickey era in Toronto has come to a close, let’s take a quick look back at the seven-player mega trade. The deal sent Dickey, knuckleball-receiving catcher Josh Thole, and Mike Nickeas to Toronto in exchange for Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, and Becerra. In terms of FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Toronto received 5.2 wins; New York’s trio of player totaled more than 13.0 wins. And that’s before you factor in that Syndergaard and d’Arnaud are still under team control for several years and Becerra is just starting to find himself as a minor leaguer. Becerra, the oft-forgotten piece to that deal, had a strong showing in the Appalachian League three years ago, posting a 133 wRC+. But he was more or less in an age-appropriate level. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound right fielder followed that up with another solid showing in the Sally, hitting .290/.342/.423 with plenty of extra-base firepower (27 doubles, three triples, and nine homeruns). New York promoted the toolsy outfielder up to High Class A where he was handling the advanced pitching rather well, hitting .312/.341/.393 with a 115 wRC+ before a torn right labrum ended his season prematurely.
Projection: Last year I ranked Becerra as the seventh best prospect in the Mets’ system (#216 overall), writing:
“Becerra has now strung together back-to-back seasons of noteworthy production. After a slow April, he batted an impressive .298/.350/.419. The power is solid-average, but there’s 20-homer pop in the barrel of his bat. The eye has taken a step backward since posting a 9.7% walk rate in 2013, but it should be no less than an average skill when it’s all said and done.”
Becerra got off to a blistering start with the St. Lucie Mets, hitting .335/.370/.426 over his first 52 games. But an 11-for-50 stretch killed his overall production a bit. I still think he’s more likely to hit for better power than Dominic Smith. There’s 15/15, perhaps 20/20 potential in his future. Keep an eye on his walk rate, though – he posted a 3.4% BB-rate last season, by far a career low.
Ceiling: 2.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2018/2019
|10. Brandon Nimmo, CF|
|Born: 03/27/93||Age: 24||Bats: L||Top CALs: Sean Henry, Shane Peterson, Jose Osuna, Brandon Jones, Mitchell Haniger|
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 205||Throws: R|
Background: As I noted in last year’s book, no prospect – or player, for that matter – can enflame the passion of Mets’ fans than Brandon Nimmo. I cannot tell you the pure amount of hatred and vitriol I’ve received over my analysis of the former first round pick. So let’s check back in on the Wyoming-born center fielder. After splitting time between Binghamton and Las Vegas in 2015, Nimmo once again made stops at two different levels – he appeared in 97 games with Las Vegas (again) and had a couple different cups of coffee with the big league club as well. The lefty-swinging Nimmo put together his finest showing to date in the PCL, hitting a robust .352/.423/.541 with career bests in doubles (25) and homeruns (11) while legging out the second most triples over his six-year career (eight). His time in the Big Apple didn’t go so well: he batted an empty .274/.338/.329 with just two extra-base knocks – a double and a homerun. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 13% below the MLB league average.
Projection: OK. Time for a jog down memory lane! Here’s what I wrote in my first book in 2014:
“Sorry, Mets fans. Nimmo is going to be another Sam Bowie. Or Steve Chicott, the high school catcher the club picked instead of Reggie Jackson. Whichever analogy you prefer, of course [for passing on Jose Fernandez, who was taken directly following the outfielder selection in the draft]. Nimmo has one above-average tool: his ability to walk. He hasn’t run at all, or hit for power, or hit left-handers. And, not to pile on, but his K-rate, 27.3%, is encroaching red flag territory. Maybe he develops into a useful fourth/fifth outfielder.”
I followed that up with this in my 2015 book:
“Alright, maybe I was bit too harsh on the guy the Mets chose instead of Jose Fernandez, but let’s delve into the numbers a little bit deeper, ok? Nimmo started the year off as hot as Pete Rose walking through Hell wearing a gasoline suit – he hit .384/.508/.515 over his first 26 games – but he cooled dramatically afterwards, hitting .250/.361/.402 over his final 101 games, numbers more or less in line with his career norms by the way. (And that’s not including his chilly .202/.306/.238 performance in the Arizona Fall League, either.)
And, yes, he still walked at a tremendous rate. But the power was simply average for the majority of the year, he still ran rather infrequently (at least not enough to boost his value) and – here’s the doozy – he still can’t hit southpaws (.232/.347/.317 against them this year and .220/.331/.298 in his career).
So, I’m not backing off of my evaluation from last year. And CAL is suggesting that I could be right by listing Aaron Hicks, Robbie Grossman, Dan Brewer, and LeVon Washington as four of his top five comps. Fourth outfielder/solid platoon guy.”
And, finally, here’s what I opined in last year’s edition:
“Nimmo is sporting a [tremendously] strong eye at the plate; he walked in 11.1% of his plate appearances last season and has found first base via the free pass in about 14% of the time in his career. It’s safe to say it’s an above-average, repeatable skill with the floor of something around 8.5% to 9% at the big league level.
Going down the list from two years ago, Nimmo still isn’t running very frequently or successfully at this point in his career. Last season he swiped five bags in 11 tries, and he’s gone 30-for-52 in his five-year professional career. He also isn’t hitting for a whole lot of power either. Even prior to the knee injury he posted a .123 Isolated Power. And then, of course, is his complete inability to hit fellow southpaws; he “batted” .242/.349/.264 against them in 2015, numbers that more or less far in line with his career mark. Finally, CAL remains utterly unimpressed as well, linking him to Andrew Lambo, Shane Peterson, Daryl Jones, Tyler Austin, and Michael Reed.
In the end, I think, people associate Nimmo’s lofty draft status as a harbinger of things to come, but in reality he’s never likely going to live up to those expectations. Instead, the former first rounder looks like a platoon specialist given his inability to hit LHP. There’s definite value in that, especially if he proves to be an adequate defender, but there’s no way he can overcome it.”
Yes, Nimmo still walked a crap-ton in the PCL last season – 10.4% – but for the first time since high school, I would presume, he didn’t look completely hapless against southpaws: he slugged .354/.423/.551. But here’s the thing, though, we have seasons-and-seasons of data available to suggest that everything about that isn’t going to be repeatable – just like his .411 BABIP in Triple-A or the .365-mark in New York. Once you adjust for the level of regression he’s going to suffer through, I still stand by original analysis: he’s a fringy big league regular whose defense, according to Clay Davenport’s metrics, is better suited in a corner outfield position.
Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com