Brandon Nimmo has been tearing it up, but he’s not the only Met prospect who’s sizzling.
As the weather heats up so are some of the Mets top prospects down on the farm. A few got off to slow starts this year but have recently begun to turn it up a notch, while others started out the season like a house on fire only to have since cooled. So who’s hot now? Just some of the best hitting prospects the Mets have that’s who. All four levels of the system can boast at least one guy who is feasting on his league’s pitching these days. Let’s take a closer look:
Savannah Sand Gnats
Dominic Smith – The sweet swinging lefty first-baseman whom the Mets tabbed with their 1st round pick in last year’s draft, started the season slowly posting an anemic slash-line of .217/.267/.253 for the Sand Gnats in 83 April at-bats. May has been a completely different story as the soon-to-be 19-year-old begins to settle into life in the SAL. Playing in an advanced league for his age Smith finds himself going up against competition three to four years older than himself. Despite this he is starting to show why the Mets jumped at their chance to bring this player into the fold right out of high school. Since May 1st, Dominic has posted a much improved slash-line of .302/.400/.349. He exhibits all the tools and potential you look for but of course is still a long way off as far as helping the big league club. First up for Dom to work on is his defense and pitch recognition. He already has very good athleticism and a good fundamental grasp of the strike zone, but needs to hone this skill as he sees more advanced breaking pitches. Eventually as he matures physically, his sweet line drive stroke will begin to develop the lift and carry you find in good power hitters, but in the meantime we must content ourselves with baby steps.
Gavin Cecchini – A 20-year-old shortstop who swings from the right side, Cecchini was the Mets 2012 1st round draft pick the year before his Savannah teammate Smith. Gavin also started this season a little slowly right out of the gate as he got himself acclimated to a new level of competition. His April slash-line reads: .228/.311/.337 while the same numbers so far in May are: .326/.362/.558. Cecchini shows the natural fielding ability that should allow him to remain at shortstop and he basically just needs at-bats, and to be challenged with tougher competition like any minor leaguer. Although they could arrive in NY quicker, the safe bet is to assume that both Smith and Cecchini will come to spring training in 2017 with a legitimate chance at winning their respective starting jobs with the big league club.
St. Lucie Mets
Phillip Evans – This 21-year-old shortstop whom the Mets drafted in the 15th round in 2011, was then signed to an over-slot contract in order to keep him from spurning the Mets and going to San Diego State. After a tough 2013 season at Savannah where Evans slashed a meager .203/.268/.263, the 5’10” 185 lb. right-handed hitter has bounced back admirably so far in the much tougher Florida State League in 2014. Evans had a great April in which he batted .295 for the month, but in May he has been even better. For the year his slash-line is presently: .299/.343/.370. He is also half way to setting a personal high for RBI in a season having driven in 15 runs so far. His high for ribbies right now is the 29 he knocked in for Brooklyn in 2012. As a shortstop Phil can make the highlight reel on any given evening, throwing his body around all over the left side of the infield, but he struggles with his consistency and needs to cut down a bit on his errors as he advances. As a hitter he shows an athletic approach and makes good contact, and although power is not a big part of his game he shows good ability on the bases and driving in runs. One thing you always sense when talking to Phil’s teammates is that he is very well liked and appreciated in the clubhouse and shows signs of being a natural leader. Hopefully Evans continues to rise through the levels ahead and could potentially break into the bigs sometime in 2016.
T.J. Rivera – This native of the Bronx was not even drafted coming out of college and maybe he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder because he absolutely destroys opposing pitching on a regular basis. He was signed to a free-agent contract in 2011 out of Troy University, and has reached his fourth level in the system in this his fourth season with the organization. In his three plus seasons so far the right-handed hitting Rivera has a career slash-line of: .313/.365/.412, but he is also playing in the Florida State League where the average age is 23, as a 25-year-old. It remains to be seen if Rivera, who profiles as a utility player can move quickly enough up the organizational ladder to make any kind of impact. As an undrafted minor league free agent the odds are very long for TJ, but this season he has been raking to the tune of: .392/.424/.552 and when you can put up those kind of numbers, anything is possible.
Jayce Boyd – The 6th round pick of the Mets in 2012 out of Florida State University, Boyd is a 23-year-old right-handed hitting, 6’3″ 185 lb. first-baseman with good power potential. It has been a Jekyl and Hyde season for Jayce so far at Binghamton this season. In April he struggled mightily with Eastern League pitching putting up a slash of: .182/.270/.258, but has exploded this month with a line that reads: .333/.450/.606 with nine runs scored, three doubles, two home runs, and five RBI in 33 May at-bats. Although he hasn’t put up big power numbers yet, he does show the ability to hit the ball very hard, and very far, so the statistics should be there at some point. In the meantime he needs to improve his pitch recognition, refine his approach at the plate and get better on defense. If he accomplishes those tasks there is no reason why he won’t be fighting to break in to the bigs sometime by the end of next season.
Kevin Plawecki – When the Mets took Plawecki in the sandwich round (35th overall) in 2012, they knew they were getting a powerful catcher out of Purdue University. At 6’3″ and 225 lbs. this righty swinger had the ability to hit for power and if he was talented enough defensively to stick behind the plate they might really have a great pick on their hands. Well guess what? He is, and they do. It turns out that the big backstop from Purdue is more than just another pretty face. He is an extremely hard worker and has made it his mission to catch in the major leagues, and I have no doubt that one day very soon, he will. Plawecki has improved his defense steadily since entering the professional ranks through tireless work and study. He handles the pitching staff extremely well, studies the hitters, receives the ball well, frames pitches and is becoming pretty adept at throwing out would-be base stealers. His career caught stealing percentage for his two plus minor league seasons is 33%, and he has a career fielding percentage of .991. But it is as a hitter that Plawecki has shown outstanding development and growth in his brief time with the organization. He started his career in Brooklyn in 2012 and was solid, if unspectacular. In 252 plate appearances he put up a slash-line of: .250/.345/.384, with eight doubles, seven homers and 27 RBI. He ratcheted up his performance in 2013 and really opened some eyes both inside and outside the organization. Splitting the year between Savannah and St. Lucie he put up a slash last year of: .305/.390/.448 in 521 plate appearances, with 38 doubles, eight homers, and 80 RBI. This season he made the significant jump from high-A to AA and hit the ground running. In April he left the gate modestly with a slash of: .250/.300/.304 in 56 at-bats. But here’s where it gets pretty interesting Mets fans. In 36 May at-bats so far Plawecki is lighting it up with a slash-line of: .389/.378/.583 with five runs scored, four doubles, one home run and five ribbies. So as you can see the Mets have something very special in Plawecki, he’s a complete package, the real deal. Here’s what I like most about Kevin as a hitter. In 866 professional plate appearances he has a .371 OBP. Better yet, in those 866 PA’s he has a K/BB ratio of 88/71 for a 1.24:1 K/BB%. A very good defensive catcher who seems to hit for average while making consistent contact, drawing walks, driving in runs and having the strength to hit the ball out of any ballpark are what makes this guy a very intriguing prospect.
Wilfredo Tovar – Speaking of intriguing, let’s look at the case of one of the Mets’ forgotten prospects. He was signed in 2008 by the last regime, as a 16 year-old international free-agent from Venezuela. All this guy does is keep getting better every year. But when you play shortstop in an organization that has prospects who play your position by the names of: Cecchini, Evans, and Rosario it’s easy to be overlooked. All Tovar is, is a true shortstop who plays excellent defense, and is the closest to the majors of any shortstop in the organization. Toiling at AA for his third consecutive season Tovar must feel like an afterthought to a team desperate for improved shortstop play throughout the organization, particularly at the top. But he hasn’t used being largely ignored as an excuse to go in the tank, if anything he has used the motivation to crank it up a couple of notches so far this season. Knowing his employers lacked confidence in his bat, Tovar has gone on the offensive, literally and has been on fire all season so far. After hitting .263 for the B-Mets in 2013 Tovar’s slash for 2014 is: .333/.381/.406 in 105 plate appearances. He has seven runs scored, two doubles, one triple, one homer, 17 RBI, three SB’s, six walks and only five strikeouts. He currently ranks 7th in the Eastern League in hitting. Right now the biggest obstacles between Tovar and the majors are the incumbents Tejada and Flores, and Quintanilla at AAA. If he keeps hitting the way he is now he could wind up at Citi sometime this summer, providing the Mets don’t acquire a shortstop via trade of course….yeah right.
Las Vegas 51’s
Daniel Muno – In Sandy’s first draft back in 2011 the Mets tabbed the switch-hitting Muno in the 8th round. He started out with a big season in Brooklyn his first year in the organization, batting .350. He skipped Savannah and started the next year at Lucie and was doing well, until he was hit with a drug suspension which pretty much wrecked his season. He finished batting .280 for the year. Then in 2013, playing the entire season in the Eastern League with the B-Mets, he seemed to regress with the bat, struggling to make consistent contact. He hit just .249, but thanks to 92 walks his OBP was a respectable .384. As a result he did manage to score 86 runs on the year and chipped in 27 doubles, nine jacks and 67 RBI. Muno made very good progress defensively in 2013 finishing the season with a .980 fielding percentage as a second baseman. He began this year with the Vegas 51’s and after hitting just .247 in April, is heating up with the bat and taking advantage of the fact that he plays in the desert and in a hitter’s park. Since the beginning of May he has hit .296 with a home run and five RBI in 27 at-bats. Playing mostly second base for Wally’s crew Muno has a .975 fielding percentage so far this year. If a need arises we just might see Danny at Citi Field before the season ends.
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I hope you found something of interest here. I know statistics can be a little dry sometimes. I can assure you things will get a little more exciting in the coming days. Before the month is over I will be doing something I haven’t done in a while. I’m going to pack up the old truck with cameras, video equipment, laptop, smartphone, voice recorders, notebooks, pencils, food, booze, donuts and coffee, and I’ll be once again hitting the road for MMO.
First stop? Three games between the B-Mets and the Twins AA affiliate in New Britain, CT. Somebody better tell Larry the scoreboard operator to slide the hell over ’cause Petey’s back in town! I’ll be talking to players and coaches, taking pictures, filming live game action and interviews, eating pork spiedies, writing pieces for MMO, taking more pictures, tweeting during the games live from the press box (my tweets will be like: “Hello? anybody out there? this thing on?….hello, Joe D? Anybody?”).
If you liked this piece I could do one on the pitchers and if there are any B-Mets in particular that you have a question for write the website and I’ll do my darnedest to get you an answer. So be sure to join me, Petey, when I hit the road in a coupla weeks. Remember, Today New Britain….Tomorrow the World!