We have voted on our Top 5 Prospects for every position in the Mets minor league system. This time it’s the right-handed starting pitchers turn. We already did shortstops, third baseman, catchers, second baseman, first baseman and outfielders.
This Top 5 includes a pitcher who made his Major League debut this season, the Mets 2016 first round draft pick, two pitchers who where added to the 40-man roster. This is a talented group of pitchers that will all be featured in the Top 30 of our prospects countdown.
2016 team: Brooklyn Cyclones
2016 Stats: 14 G, 6-3 W/L, 2.87 ERA, 14 GS, 69 IP, 65 H, 27 BB, 71 K 1.33 WHIP, 9.3 SO/9, 8.5 H/9
Merandy had a solid season in the talented Cyclones rotation that also included Harol Gonzalez, Thomas Szapucki and Justin Dunn. Gonzalez followed up his great stateside debut season going 6-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 14 starts for the Cyclones. In his minor league career, the 20-year old has pitched to a 17-10 record with a 2.93 ERA in 236.1 innings.
Gonzalez limited his walks in 2016 and showed his potential with a fastball which mostly sits the 92-94 MPH range. His fastball was even been clocked at 97 during this season.
Gonzalez also throws a curveball and a change-up. His change needs the most work and maybe with help from Dan Warthen he can learn a slider to go with it. If he reaches his potential, especially with his secondary stuff, he could be another good arm in the Mets system. If his secondary stuff stays inconsistent he can still become a two pitch pitcher and turn into a successful reliever.
We expect to see Merandy make his full season debut in 2017, likely in the Columbia Fireflies rotation.
#4 Chris Flexen
2016 team: St. Lucie Mets
2016 Stats: 25 G, 10-9 W/L, 3.56 ERA, 25 GS, 134 IP, 125 H, 51 BB, 95 K 1.31 WHIP, 6.4 SO/9, 8.4 H/9
It was an up and down season for Flexen in so many aspects for the 22-year old. Major plus this season was that Flexen showed he was healthy and he was able to pitch a full season. It was the first season that Flexen pitched more than 100 innings in a season. It was also his first full season after he underwent TJS. Flexen had TJS in 2014 and was outstanding in his comeback in 2015 with a 2.42 ERA in 52 innings.
There is still a lot of potential for the Flexen who has a mid-high 90’s fastball with late life to it to go with a very solid curveball. He also features a change-up and slider, but both pitches are below average at the moment.
Flexen was added to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft in December showing how the Mets still believe in his upside. Another arm with lots of potential in the Mets system that needs to work on his secondary stuff and should start the 2017 season in Binghamton.
2016 team: Scottsdale Scorpions (AFL)
2016 stats: 7 G (2 starts), 3.78 ERA, 16.2 IP, 16 H, 7 BB, 8 K, 1.38 WHIP
Molina didn’t pitch during the 2016 regular season, but we have not forgotten the just turned 21-year old right-hander out of the Dominican. Molina made his return to the mound during the Arizona Fall League after being out since August of 2015 from Tommy John surgery.
In the AFL, Molina showed some small changes in his delivery, which could be huge. Molina, before the surgery, had one of the worst deliveries I’ve seen. He hardly used his lower half, putting a lot of pressure on his arm which could have been a reason for his TJS at such a young age. Molina made changes in his delivery to use his lower half better having, a bigger stride to home plate and improving his arm path.
We got some more good news out of the AFL as Molina had his fastball clocked between 87-95 mph. Before the surgery Molina mostly sat between the 90-94 mph. He also provides a sharp slider and solid curve to go with a good change-up.
The most important for Molina in 2017 staying healthy while continuing to improve his mechanics. I guess he will be part of a very talented St. Lucie Mets rotation with an innings cap for his 2017 season.
#2 Justin Dunn
2016 team: Brooklyn Cyclones
2016 Stats: 11 G, 1-1 W/L, 1.50 ERA, 8 GS, 30 IP, 25 H, 5 ER, 10 BB, 35 K, 1.16 WHIP
The Mets made a surprise pick in the first round of the 2016 Draft when they took a pitcher while many (including me) expected the Mets to take a position player. The Mets took right-hander Justin Dunn out of Boston College with the 19th overall pick of the draft. Dunn, started the season in the bullpen for Boston College and was later moved to the rotation were he had a lot of success.
When the Mets drafted Dunn, they wanted to ease his innings as he already threw 20 innings more than he did in his 2015 campaign. The Mets let Dunn make eight three-inning starts to go with three short relief outings. Dunn did show his potential in his brief time in the Mets organization, he struck out 10.5 per nine innings and pitched to a 1.50 ERA in eleven games.
Dunn possesses a mid 90’s fastball that reached 99 when he was coming out of the bullpen for Boston College. He also has a slider in the mid 80’s as his best secondary pitch. His slider has a sharp break and is seen as a plus pitch. He also throws a looping curve and a change-up but both pitches are inconsistent and need work.
Dunn also needs work on his stamina as he showed a drop of velocity in the later innings in his outings. Dunn still needs time to adjust back into a starters role, but he has a lot of upside as another power arm in the Mets system.
I expect Dunn to be part of the St. Lucie pitching staff and expect the Mets will keep an eye on his innings in his first full season of pro ball.
2016 team: New York Mets/Las Vegas 51s/Binghamton Mets
2016 MILB Stats: 20 G, 4-9 W/L, 3.99 ERA, 20 GS, 115 IP, 113 H, 58 R, 51 ER, 31 BB, 88 K 1.25 WHIP (between Triple-A Las Vegas and Double-A Binghamton)
2016 MLB Stats: 8 G, 4-2 W/L, 2.42 ERA, 7 GS, 44.2 IP, 42 H, 12 R, 12 ER, 15 BB, 42 K 1.27 WHIP
What a year it was for Robert Gsellman. He started the season dominating in the Eastern League as he pitched to a 2.71 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP in 66.1 innings before his well earned promotion to the Las Vegas 51s. Not surprisingly Gsellman struggled in the PCL to start his Triple-a career.
Most pitchers have a tough time in that hitters friendly league so for me it was nothing to worry about yet. Most important for me was how would Gsellman adjust to the league and he did that very good. After his early struggles, Gsellman had a very solid 3.72 ERA in his last six Las Vegas starts with 35 strikeouts in 38.2 innings during that span.
In the majors, Gsellman was even better going 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA as the Mets had developed another quality arm through the minors.
The biggest difference for Gsellman was that he had more velocity in his fastball. In 2015, Gsellman was mostly throwing a sinking fastball in the low 90’s while in 2016 he was mostly between 93-95 with the same movement. He even topped out at 98 MPH this season.
I see Gsellman as a big part of the Mets club in 2017 as he improved from a potential middle of the rotation starter to a potential top of the rotation starter with his added velocity and slider that already proved to be a big weapon for him.
Honorable Mention -
The Mets have a very good group of right-handed pitching prospects in the system right now even after trading John Gant, Robert Whalen, Michael Fulmer, Matt Koch and Luis Cessa. We could have easily made this list go to 10 pitchers and still had good quality arms.
The group of guys we talked about for the end of this list were Harol Gonzalez, Andrew Church, Nabil Crismatt, Ricky Knapp, Cameron Planck and Jordan Humphreys. For the purpose of our voting on each position we have Gabriel Ynoa as a reliever because that is where is he best served in near future at the big league level.