Talking Mets Minors With Prospect Expert John Sickels
During Spring Training some of the best young prospects in the New York Mets system will get their chance to play with the major leaguers and show off what they can do. There are a fair amount of Mets fans who know quite a bit about our top prospects, but for those who don’t MMO is pleased to bring you an interview with one of the most respected experts on baseball prospects and minor league baseball.
John Sickels, wrote a column called “Down on the Farm” for ESPN from 1996 until 2005. He now has his own site dedicated to baseball prospects, the one and only, Minor League Ball. John does a tremendous job analyzing individual prospects and evaluating all 30 MLB farm systems. His rankings and projections are always well received and respected. I am an avid reader of Minor League Ball, and I’d encourage all of you to check it out. John is also a very talented and accomplished baseball writer who wrote a biography of Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller entitled, “Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation.”
Every year John puts out a book profiling roughly 1,000 minor leaguers. It includes each prospects stats, a brief overview plus a scouting report on the player, and of course grades for every player. It is a must read for any baseball fan and it is considered to be one of the most prominent annual prospect books.
Mets Merized Online: You are a big fan of Brandon Nimmo. How do you think his tools will eventually project to the major league level?
John Sickels: If he reaches his maximum potential, I see him as a guy who hits .280-.300 with 15-20 homers, 15-20 steals, and a high walk rate leading to a strong OBP. Add in an above-average glove. I could see him as a taller, lankier Nick Markakis.
MMO: What players in the Mets minor league system do you consider to be sleepers?
JS: I like Akeel Morris a lot. Very live arm. Drafted in the 10th round out of the Virgin Islands. People who follow the Mets closely are quite aware of him, but the casual fan probably isn’t. We’ll have to see if he is a starter or reliever going forward, but the arm strength and ceiling are impressive.
MMO: What do you think of Jenrry Mejia’s potential going forward after his Tommy John surgery?
JS: It is the same as it was before the surgery: if his secondary stuff is there, he could be a number two or three starter. At worst he should be a strong relief pitcher. Keep in mind that Tommy John recovery is far from automatic, so let’s keep expectations cautious until we see how his stuff and command rebound.
MMO: Can Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler make an impact this season or will we have to wait until 2013 to see them in the majors?
JS: Harvey should be a candidate for the second half of 2012, assuming he pitches as he should in AA and/or AAA. Wheeler is much more of a 2013 guy.
MMO: Other than Kirk Niewenhuis and Jenrry Mejia, are there any other Mets prospects that you think have a chance to make an impact this year?
JS: Reese Havens could if health allows. Harvey could. I’m a big fan of Jeurys Familia as well. With Harvey, Familia, and Mejia, the Mets have three power arms who could be/should be ready to do something positive by mid-season. If Dan Gorski performs well in his Double-A transition, you could see him sneak in there as well. Chris Schwinden doesn’t have the upside of the others, but he could be useful too as an inning-eater or long relief type.
MMO: You dropped Wilmer Flores from a B+ prospect to a B- prospect this year, which moved him from the Mets top prospect prior to 2011 to their ninth best prospect. Other than the possible position change from short to third, what was your basis for the drop?
JS: Lack of power development. His bat just isn’t coming along as projected and as a third baseman, he’s got to hit a lot more than he’s done so far. That said, he is still just 20 years old, and the fact that he makes contact is a good marker. It is way too soon to give up on him…all that talent in still in there, but they’ve got to unlock it somehow.
MMO: Based on your past assessments of Ruben Tejada, do you believe that he is a viable major league starter?
JS: I don’t think he’ll hit enough to be a long-term regular starter for a contending team, but he should have a very long career as a utility guy and occasional starter.
MMO: Would you say that the Mets farm system has improved over the years and if so, what do you believe is the biggest reason behind the improvement?
JS: Yeah, it has improved. They’ve been investing more in the draft, and I don’t think the farm system was ever as bad as some people felt to begin with. A big problem was just rushing people too quickly but they’ve slowed that down the last couple of years.
MMO: After one year of the new management, do you feel that the Mets have handled their prospects better than they have in the past?
JS: Yeah, I think so. But it takes 2-3 years until you know for sure, and with the financial situation of the team it will be very interesting to see how they manage prospect acquisition.
MMO: Where would you rank the Mets farm system in the NL East?
JS: I currently have them third, with the Braves and Nationals ahead of them. The Mets are in better shape than the Phillies and Marlins at this point. Overall, I ranked the Mets 15th in baseball, exactly in the middle.
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