Keith Law came out with his annual prospect rankings series recently, including his overall top 100, and his organizational rankings, both of which were rather surprising to some Mets fans. While the list itself has been gone over with a fine tooth comb, probably the most important thing hasn’t been discussed: when will these prospects actually help the major league team?
With a team that will be relying in the coming years on many of their top prospects, this question is by far the most important. Let’s take a look at Law’s list through this particular lens.
Top Mets prospect Noah Syndergaard
At 24, after dominating High-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton, it appears Syndergaard is likely moving up again. Even though he pitched well at both levels, he finished the season with only 54 innings in Binghamton under his belt, meaning a Triple-A promotion could be seen as rather aggressive if it comes right out of spring training. Regardless, there is no question that he will start off in Las Vegas this year, and the real issue will be when he comes up to the big league club.
Zack Wheeler was in a similar situation to Syndergaard’s last year, having made only six starts in Triple-A in 2012. He ended up pitching 68.2 (for a total of 101.2 Triple-A innings) last season, getting a promotion in mid-June. Looking back at how they treated Matt Harvey, the organization may take a more conservative approach. Harvey started 2012 with no Triple-A experience, and tossed 110 innings before being promoted in July. For Syndergaard, the decision, unless he is dominating Triple-A, will probably not hinge on the Super Two deadline, and a timeline closer to Harvey’s is his most likely path.
Having played a month with the Mets last season, there is no question that d’Arnaud will be the starting catcher from the get go. The organization is betting on him being the catcher of the future.
It’s extremely hard to project when an 18 year-old will debut, let alone what he will become, but so far, Smith has earned himself an aggressive promotion this year, possibly even to Single-A Savannah or High-A St. Lucie, skipping short-season Low-A Brooklyn altogether. However, as Law noted, he is not the kind of player that is going to jump levels quickly, at least not until his power develops. This seems to fit the organizational philosophy as well, as Sandy Alderson has been conservative with promoting players. Smith will likely make his debut in 2016, although he may not see significant time until 2017.
This is a very tricky one, and depends on how well he pitches in the spring, as well as the health of other pitchers. Montero will be competing with Jenrry Mejia, John Lannan, and others for the fifth starter spot. After seeing Mejia pitch well in a very limited sample size, the Mets may want to get a good look at him first. Mejia may be the most intriguing fifth starter candidate with his injury-riddled past after being so highly-touted as a prospect.
If Mejia falters or another pitcher gets injured, then Montero will get the promotion. Montero already has 88.2 Triple-A innings under his belt, so there is no need to keep him there much longer. If he is pitching really well, even if Mejia is still healthy, they could expand the rotation to six pitchers just as they did last year with Wheeler.
Nimmo was the biggest surprise on Law’s top 100 prospects list, coming in at 92. Law touted his ability to get on base, which, despite a wrist injury that Nimmo says altered his swing even after coming back, flourished, shown by his excellent .397 on-base percentage. If he can develop some type of power (which doesn’t always show itself in age 20 seasons), he could move to a corner spot (which Law says he would be a plus-defender at), and move up much faster. Otherwise, the process will probably be slow for Nimmo, who, depending on how he hits this season, could make his debt in late 2015 or early 2016.
Plawecki had a huge breakout campaign this past season, showing power and a knack for getting on base in time with Savannah and St. Lucie. Posting an .884 OPS in Savannah, and a .783 OPS in St. Lucie is quite impressive for a catcher. Although he did lose the early-season power he saw with Savannah once getting his promotion, most signs point towards a positive future for the young catcher.
Plawecki’s timetable may be altered by how well Travis d’Arnaud plays on the major league level. If he is a success, and the team has faith that Plawecki could do the same, he may be converted to first base, which would likely delay his debut to late next season. If not, he will still certainly come up in 2015 (barring injury), but an early-season or mid-season debut could be in order.
Herrera is still in the low rungs of the minor leagues, and even with his above-average power for his age and position, he isn’t likely to be a fast-mover. If the Mets try him out at shortstop again, which team officials have said they’ve considered in the past, his path may be even slower.
With a move to St. Lucie coming this year, I’d say he debuts in late 2016, either at shortstop or second base.
As with d’Arnaud, Flores has already played at the major league level. Even so, the Mets may choose to send him to Triple-A to start the season if the team can’t find a roster spot for him. It’s hard to believe that a team would send someone who hit .321/.357/.531 last season in Triple-A back, hitter-friendly park or not. At worst, Flores will end up in a utility role, splitting his time between first, second, and third, and likely stepping in as the starter if David Wright, Daniel Murphy, or Lucas Duda get hurt.
9. Cesar Puello
Puello’s performance-enhancing drug suspension brought into question the validity of his incredible season in Double-A, and in doing so threw off his path to the majors. Puello got 377 plate appearances in 91 games with Binghamton last year, putting up a fantastic .326/.403/.547 slash line with 16 homers and 24 stolen bases. While he had put up solid numbers in the past considering his age and experience, Puello had never come close to the numbers he put up in 2013, also the year he was connected with PEDs. Coincidence? Too early to tell.
Either way, Puello’s time in Double-A is over, so expect to see him sometime in September or early next year.
10. Amed Rosario
Scouts say to avoid looking at last year’s numbers and just look at the tools, which are raw, but nonetheless there with Rosario. However, the 18 year-old shortstop played 58 games in Kingsport last year, an aggressive assignment for a first-year international signee. This isn’t the type of player that will skip over levels in consecutive years, so he will likely end up in Brooklyn this year. Projecting a debut for someone this young and this undeveloped is a hopeless task, but Rosario is still a long way away, and a debut some time in 2018 is the best estimate right now.
(Photos by Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)
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