Only two days after naming the Mets as the 6th best Minor League system, ESPN’s Keith Law unveils his 2014 Top 100 Prospects and lo and behold – five Mets…
What separates this Top 100 from others we’ve seen so far, is the Nimmo sighting. At the same time, there’s no mention of Wilmer Flores.
Anyway, here goes:
No. 24 Noah Syndergaard
Syndergaard had an awesome 2013 season from start to finish, improving in multiple ways as the season went on while putting up superb numbers as a 20-year-old in high Class A and Double-A, and still has room for further improvement.
He already has the build of a workhorse starter, with velocity up to 98 mph that’s easy like Sunday morning and the ability to get downhill plane on it when he stays on top of the ball. His changeup is comfortably plus already, but his curveball, a grade-40ish pitch in high school and early in his pro career, is already solid average, and plays up because he gets on top of the ball and releases so close to the plate; hitters swing and miss at it like it’s a sharper, harder pitch.
It’s very unusual to have a pitcher this young show this kind of athleticism, present command and pure stuff and even if Syndergaard doesn’t improve further, he’s at least a quality third starter who can handle 200-inning workloads, but the curveball could get a little tighter and push him up to a No. 2 or better.
No. 36 Travis d’Arnaud
d’Arnaud would be a top-10 prospect if he could stay on the field, but 2013 was yet another injury-shortened year for the twice-traded prospect who has reached 400 plate appearances in just two of his six full pro seasons.
When he’s on the field, he’s an impact player on both sides of the ball, featuring outstanding receiving (including pitch-framing) ability, an above-average arm, and good relationships with pitchers, as well as above-average power that should lead to 20-25 homers if he plays a full season. His hand-eye coordination is excellent but his approach isn’t as polished, as he’s not a patient hitter and struggled terribly against both sliders and curveballs in his brief major league time in 2013.
A premium defensive catcher who even hits .240 with power is still a highly valuable commodity right now, as replacement level at catcher is low enough to give a GM the bends, so for d’Arnaud the main issue is just trying to avoid the trainer’s room so he can get 450-500 plate appearances in 2014.
No. 37 Dominic Smith
Smith was the best pure hitter in the 2013 draft class, sporting a beautiful left-handed swing and flashing above-average power, along with plus defense at first base and an arm that reached 92 mph when he was on the mound in high school.
When Smith keeps his weight back, he generates big-time power from his lower half, with hard contact thanks to quick, strong wrists. He had a habit of drifting too quickly over his front leg, something the Mets seem to have worked on eliminating. He’s a low-heartbeat hitter, approaching at-bats as if he were much older and more experienced. Smith is athletic but not a runner, and his footwork has limited him to first base, where he projects as a 70-grade defender thanks to incredibly soft hands. He has areas to work on, mostly recognition of breaking stuff and keeping his focus on using the whole field, which is minor stuff compared with the bigger issues of swing mechanics and plate discipline.
His ceiling is an impact bat at first, a cleanup hitter with 25-30 homer power and .300-plus averages to go with outstanding defense. I’d like to see him challenged with an assignment to the low Class A Sally League this year, as he’s too advanced a hitter for short-season ball.
No. 60 Rafael Montero
Montero has a lower ceiling than the pitchers ahead of him on this list — and even many of the pitchers behind him — but he’s extremely advanced right now and has better stuff than your standard “command right-hander,” which is often a euphemism for a guy with a light fastball.
He will show plenty of 93s and 94s and commands the heck out of it to both sides of the plate, pairing it with an above-average slider and an above-average changeup, nothing knockout but all very effective because he can locate. His arm is quick, and while he’s got a slight build for a starter, there isn’t much effort involved in his delivery. My one concern on Montero is that he’s a fly ball guy and could be homer-prone in the majors, although in his favor is the fact that in Las Vegas, a brutal park for a fly ball pitcher, he gave up just four homers in 88 innings.
He has the stuff and control (walking just six men in his final six starts of 2013) to contribute in the majors right now, and if the Mets need an extra starter in April or May, he should get the call before Noah Syndergaard.
No. 92 Brandon Nimmo
Nimmo was the Mets’ first-round pick in 2011 out of a high school in Wyoming that didn’t have a baseball team, which left him with limited experience, mostly Americal Legion ball and some showcases the summer before his senior year. Despite having several above-average tools, he didn’t have a lot of reps against decent pitching and moved slowly through short-season ball before reaching the hitter’s graveyard of Savannah this season.
He raked away from Savannah (.302/.421/.405) and showed great patience at the plate, a hugely positive marker for a player as inexperienced as he is. Nimmo has great rotation in his swing but can be a little long to the ball because he loads his hands high, behind his left shoulder. He’s a fringe-average defender in center — better with reads than with range — but he’ll be plus in either corner. The main areas for improvement for Nimmo are against left-handed pitchers — against whom he was better this season but still not where he’ll need to be to play every day — and staying healthy, as he had a nagging wrist injury last summer on top of knee surgery in high school.
High-OBP guys with other tools, especially defensive ability, are pretty uncommon, and a healthy Nimmo should be an average to above-average regular by the time he’s 24.
…Very well done by Law, and great insights too.