It is my turn to roll out some profiles on who we feel are the top prospects in the Mets minor league system right now. As Sean mentioned in the first post of the series, which you can read here, the list was compiled after much deliberation, arguing, and name-calling. To be honest, a lot of that had to do with my new name being Perseus and Sean requesting to be addressed as Batman…but nevertheless, let us move ahead into the top twenty with #16- #20.
20. Hansel Robles, RHP
Weight: 185 LBS
Signed as an international free agent in August of 2008, Robles did everything in his power last season to dispel the idea that he projects to be a reliever. Arguably, Robles had the best season of any arm in the Mets system with an ERA of 1.11 over 72.2 innings, which led the New York Penn League. If you include his final start in the post season, he finished the year with 45 straight shutout innings, a WHIP of .784 (47 H/10 BB) and 0 home runs allowed. His 66 strikeouts were nothing to sneeze at, resulting in an 8.2 K/9 compared to an exceptional 1.2 BB/9 ratio. He can throw a fastball, slider, change-up, and an occasional curve ball.
Outlook: It is hard not to fall in love with what Robles did last year, but one has to remember that it was in his age 21 season, which is a little old for the NYPL. His fastball is a plus pitch, with good movement and good control while his changeup is just average. His slider comes in at around 87/88 MPH, but he struggles to control it and his curveball is scarcely used. His fastball sits at 91-92, and tops out at 94 and the change comes in at 82, which helps his cause. Robles will continue to get innings as a starter until he runs into some trouble, which I agree with completely. I have a bit more hope for Robles than others, but tempering my expectations, I think he projects to be a middle of the rotation starter in a best case scenario. Robles has a good jump ahead of him from Brooklyn to Savannah, but I think we can expect to see him in St.Lucie by the end of 2013.
19. Kevin Plawecki, C
Weight: 205 LBS
Age: 21 (22 in February)
The 35th pick in the 2012 draft, Kevin Plawecki, was selected with one of the comp picks we received for losing Jose Reyes. At the time of the draft, I liked him a lot more than I did Cecchini, and I went out of my way to compare him to Paul Lo Duca in terms of an offensive ceiling. The main criticism about the pick was not so much a knock on Plawecki, but rather that the Mets made a big reach taking him with the 35th pick when he could have been around in the third. One of the things that scouts keyed in on was that he had a long swing and it cut some of his power away, but he made strides to fix that in his first pro season since coming out of Purdue. Down in Brooklyn, Plawecki put up a .250 average with a 1:1 BB/K rate (25:24). The NYPL is a pitching dominant league, so try not to get too down on the .250 average, especially when he accompanied it with seven homers and eight doubles in just 216 at-bats.
Outlook: Plawecki is not a defensive wizard, as he gets by with a below average arm, but he is an intelligent baseball player. Intelligence at the catcher position is key, and he was known for calling his own games when he played at Purdue. I believe in Kevin Plawecki more than most, and I actually think he will pan out to be a solid major league regular. (Think AJ Pierzynski) Also, considering the fact that he was drafted as a junior in college, it puts him on somewhat of a fast track to the major leagues. His 2013 season will be key in determining what kind of player he will really turn out to be, as he makes the same jump as Hansel Robles to Savannah and potentially St. Lucie.
18. Rainy Lara, RHP
Weight: 180 LBS
Age: 21 (22 in March)
I never understood why Rainy Lara received so little attention last season. I mean, his name alone warrants a further look, right? Lara has been consistent and impressive at each level he has pitched at, and showed some real potential while closing and starting games for Brooklyn. He is coming off a strong 2012 campaign in the NYPL where he posted a 2.91 ERA in 68 innings pitched. His BB/9 ratio was a solid 1.6 compared to a scintillating 10.2 K/9. He also managed to keep his WHIP under 1.00 in what turned out to be a solid breakthrough campaign.
Outlook: Lara possesses a fastball that sits in the low 90s, an above average change-up, and an average breaking ball. His ceiling might not be too high as a starter, perhaps a mid or back-end of the rotation starter, but you never know. He was a Brooklyn Cyclone last year, so the same disclaimer added to Hansel Robles has to be applied here – be careful not to make too much of his numbers in the NYPL. That being said, Lara has some experience working out of the pen and projects to be a useful pitcher in one way or another. If I had to give you one reason to rank him slightly above Robles, it would be his height. His frame gives his pitches a little boost, his change-up especially, and it may end up being the difference between him and Robles down the line.
17. Jacob deGrom, RHP
Weight: 185 LBS
Another solid right handed pitcher in the Mets system? You are correct, sir! I believe Jake deGrom was destined for something special. DeGrom was drafted in the 9th round of the 2010 Draft and immediately had TJ surgery in the Fall of 2010. That sounds pretty bad for a young pitcher, especially when you consider that he missed the entire 2011 season because of said surgery. But like I said, deGrom just might be destined for something special…because he came back topping the radar gun at 97 MPH in 2012. Mets Scouting Director Paul DePodesta raved about him according to Joe D.. He started 2012 in Savannah and was promoted to St.Lucie later in the year, where he actually improved on his numbers. He finished the year with a 2.43 ERA in 111.1 innings and a WHIP of .997. He struck out a solid 96 while walking only 20, and allowed only four home runs all year.
Outlook: Time to get serious. deGrom has definitely got the frame of a pitcher and still has some time to add a little muscle. The downside here is that projecting success for a 9th round pick is a stretch, and one that has already had TJ surgery is pushing it. However, DeGrom has an absolutely electric fastball that sits at 92-96 during all of his starts. He throws a two-seam variation with some sink and a straight four-seam with some more velocity behind it. His success as a starter will be determined, as always, by the development or lack thereof of his secondary offerings (a change-up and a slider), which are average at best right now although his change showed nice improvement at the end of last season. I will say this to sound a little bold, however… DeGrom should be very successful in AA in 2013, and I believe he has a successful major league career ahead of him as a starter, or at the very least as a reliever based on how strong his fastball offerings are and his improving change.
16. Jack Leathersich, LHP
Weight: 205 LBS
Jack “Leather Rocket” Leathersich is quite the interesting case. He was our 5th round pick in the 2011 draft and went on to dominate Brooklyn in his professional debut as a reliever. In 2012, he started the year in Savannah and was on cruise control before he was promoted to St.Lucie. He ran into his first real trouble there, where he posted an ERA of 4.12 in 48 innings compared to his microscopic 0.75 ERA in Savannah in 24 innings. He also showed a little bit less control once he was promoted, with his BB/9 increasing from 3.0 to 4.5. However, those numbers do not tell the whole story as even in St. Lucie, opposing hitters only hit Leathersich at a .224 clip and he allowed only three home runs all year. Did I forget to mention that he struck out a gaudy 113 hitters in 72 innings?
Outlook: Leathersich will likely be making the jump to AA at some point next season, and most of us at MMO believe his success there will be huge for projecting his future. That being said, the fact that he is a relief pitcher allows him to move through the system a little quicker, and he could potentially be competing for a bullpen spot in 2014 if all goes well. After a long look at his stats and game footage, especially his K/9 (14.2 at St. Lucie, 13.9 at Savannah, 18.5 at Brooklyn in 2011), Leathersich has the makings of a successful future reliever in my eyes. Leather Rocket has the skills to be more than just a LOOGY, and in fact, he just might be the top left-handed pitching prospect the Mets have in the system right now. A southpaw with strikeout rates like this is pretty exciting to say the least.
Keep a look out for prospects 11-15 from Sean on Wednesday, and the countdown continues from there as Sean and I double up to give a full breakdown of the top ten Mets prospects. On a personal note, I really enjoy taking part in this series because it promotes great discussion and informs people of what players to keep an eye on. All I ask is that you keep it clean and respectful, as always, or you just might incur my wrath… Oh, one last thing, because you asked, here is a list of ineligibles for this year’s prospect list: Robert Carson, Josh Edgin, Matt Harvey, Collin Mchugh, Jenrry Mejia, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Elvin Ramirez and Jordany Valdespin.
MetsMerized Top 25 Prospects
25. Danny Muno
24. Aderlin Rodriguez
23. Cory Mazzoni
22. Cesar Puello
21. Juan Lagares
20. Hansel Robles
19. Kevin Plawecki
18. Rainy Lara
17. Jacob deGrom
16. Jack Leathersich