The New York Mets had a number of prospects that made their Major League debut during the 2016 season to varying degrees of success.
The Mets also saw contributions from other players that made their big league debuts in 2016. T.J. Rivera stepped in to play second base when Neil Walker was hurt, Ty Kelly hit lefties well, Brandon Nimmo had a few big pinch hits down the stretch and Josh Smoker gave the Mets some much needed depth in the bullpen.
Overall, during the 2016 season, eight Mets players made their major league debuts. Here are six players I believe will make their big league debut for the Mets in 2017:
1. David Roseboom LHP – There will be injuries in the Mets bullpen and Roseboom will start the season with the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s only one level away from getting the call. The 24-year old was spectacular in 2016 with the Double-A Binghamton Mets pitching a 1.87 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and held batters to a .170 average.
The native New Yorker also struck out 54 batters and walked only 18 in 57.2 innings. He became the B-Mets closer after the trade of Akeel Morris and went 14 for 15 in save chances. He continued his straong season the Arizona Fall League with a 0.79 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 11.1 innings.
2. Paul Sewald RHP – I was a little surprised last summer when the Mets bullpen was starting to look tired that Sewald never got the call despite pitching well in the Pacific Coast League for the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s. Sewald continued his great minor league career with a 3.29 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 11.0 K/9 in 65.2 innings for Vegas in 2016. For his career, he has a 2.20 ERA, 1.03 and a 10.7 K/.9 rate.
Sewald relies on control, pitching down in the zone and a great slider to be successful and was able to do so without a big fastball in a tough pitching environment. I would expect to Sewald sooner rather than later in 2017 being one of the best reliever options the Mets will have in the minors.
3. Champ Stuart OF – The plus side for the 24-year old outfielder is that he has legit 80 grade speed (40 SB in 2016) and is a superb defender. The bad side is that he struck out a whopping 168 times in 459 at-bats during the 2016 season. He did hit a respectable .300/.329/.400 in the Arizona Fall League with 12 steals and only one caught stealing.
Two years ago, the Mets purchased Eric Young Jr. in August to be a pinch runner and defensive specialist down the stretch. I envision the same type of role for Stuart in September/October and could be used even more given his superior defensive skills compared to Young.
4. Corey Taylor RHP – The Mets 7th round pick from 2015 has been a pleasant surprise in the bullpen and could be on the fast track to the major leagues. He started his pro career by dominating the New York-Penn League for the Brooklyn Cyclones with a 1.50 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Mets then had him skip over the Columbia Fireflies and start the 2016 season with St. Lucie. That worked out just fine, Taylor collected 20 saves as the St. Lucie closer with a 1.87 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.
Taylor was then sent to the Arizona Fall League last year and continued his strong body of work. Reports from the AFL had his fastball up to 96 MPH and an improved slider at 87/88 MPH. Big key from in 14 inning stint in the AFL was his 17 strikeouts compared to only one walk. During the regular season he only struck out 7.7 per nine innings. Taylor will certainly start as the Binghamton Mets closer and shouldn’t be long before Warthen gets his hands on the 24-year old.
5. Dominic Smith 1B – The 21-year old Smith has spent the offseason with a personal trainer making sure he’s in great shape coming into the 2017 season. He’s lost 20-25 pounds while still adding some muscle. Smith hit 14 home runs in 2016 after hitting 10 in his previous three minor league seasons. He finished the season slashing .302/.367/.457 with 29 doubles and 91 RBI. He also struck out only 74 times and walked 50 in 542 plate appearances.
Smith will start the year in Triple-A and already is a major league caliber defensive first baseman. Lucas Duda spent most of the 2016 season on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his back leaving the Mets to sign James Loney to play first. The Mets have Wilmer Flores whom made his first start at first last year (27 for the season). He looked good at first base, but has struggled against right-handed pitching (.661 OPS) during his career.
If Duda is injured again with something that requires a lengthy DL stint the Mets could look to the young Smith. Of course, it could depend on at what point in the season the injury happens and the seriousness. If Smith is hitting like he has the past two years the Mets could also try to get him some major league experience in September given that he could be the Mets long-term and 2018 answer at first base. Smith will have to be added to the 40-man roster following the 2017 season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.
6. Amed Rosario SS – The Mets shortstop of the future, #1 prospect and Top 5 prospect in baseball is coming off a breakout offensive season in 2016. The 21-year old hit .324/.374/.459 with a career high in doubles (24), triples (13), home runs (5) and RBI (71) in 120 games between St. Lucie and Binghamton.
Rosario while still needing some fine tuning on defense (needs to charge in on balls and not always rely on arm) is already a plus fielder at short. He has quick hands, great arm and good lateral movement that give shim above average range. On the offensive side, Rosario shorted his swing the year that helped him make more contact which was a big reason his offensive game has struggled. He’s always made hard contact when he was able to barrel balls.
Rosario, like Smith, would need at least one injury to pave his way to the big leagues. Starting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera had DL stints the past two years and his primary back up Jose Reyes has had his own injuries. Not to mention, that Reyes is also primary backup at third base where David Wright is the starter and has played a combined 75 games the past two seasons. Mets also have Neil Walker coming off back surgery.
One scenario I could see getting Rosario to the big leagues is Walker and Wright getting injured at the same time that puts Cabrera at second base and Reyes at third base everyday. Rosario would then man the shortstop position where he’s a better defender than Cabrera and Asdrubal does have experience at second. The Mets do have good infield depth with T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds and Wilmer Flores as backups.
Rosario is the only player on this list already on the 40-man list which certainly increases his chances of seeing the big leagues in 2017.
Smith and Rosario are the names everyone is excited for but I believe the previous four players could also help the Mets return to their third straight playoff appearance. All six players on this list have been invited to big league camp this spring.
Other players to keep an eye out for possibly making their major league debut in 2017 include right-handed starter Chris Flexen, right-handed reliever Kevin McGowan, left-handed starter P.J. Conlon, right-handed starter Ricky Knapp, utility guy Phillip Evans and right-handed swingman Logan Taylor.