Perhaps 2015 will be the season that the Mets finally return to the playoffs. And if that does happen, you can credit an elite farm system for taking them there and not roster built with free agent dollars.
The Mets’ system is still flush with talented arms such as Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, however, the emergence of a bevy of surprisingly talented position players has catapulted the system into the Top-5 range in baseball as we approach a new year.
I just completed my own Mets Top 15 Prospects for my site Grading on the Curve. I asked Joe D. if it would be okay to share it here on MMO as we also get ready to roll out the MMO Top 25 in January. I’m also part of the very talented Metsmerized minor league staff that is helping to put that together.
So, without further adieu, here are fifteen of the most elite players in the New York Mets farm system including my analysis, ETA, and projection.
15. Matt Reynolds, SS
H/W: 6’1”/198 lbs
Analysis: Booked as a glove-first potential utility infielder, Reynolds’ prospect stock hit rock bottom after he posted an abysmal .226 batting average for Advanced-A St. Lucie in 2013. Despite his struggles in the Florida State League, the Mets aggressively pushed Reynolds to Double-A Binghamton to start the 2014 season, and it was in Binghamton where the young shortstop turned his career around. He opened the season hitting a scorching .355, to go along with a .430 OBP and 75 hits in just 58 games. His performance earned him a promotion to Triple-A Vegas by midseason, and there, in 68 games, Reynolds continued to flourish by batting .333 with an .864 OPS at the minor league’s highest level. .
2015 Forecast: Scouts and analysts close to the Mets say that Reynolds may have a shot to break camp in Queens as a backup infielder, however, his lack of power (5 and 6 home runs in 2013 and 2014, respectively) and minor league experience will likely limit him to Triple-A, at least to start the 2015 season. Should Ruben Tejada and/or Wilmer Flores struggle, Reynolds would be the next man up on the depth chart. In the worst-case scenario, the Mets call him up in September.
MLB ETA: 2015 as a backup infielder or even a starter should the other Mets’ internal options fail.
14. Gabriel Ynoa, RHP
H/W: 6’2”/158 lbs
Analysis: A quick look at Ynoa’s Earned Run Average from the last three seasons (2.23, 2.72, 4.07) shows a concerning trend as the young righty climbs the minor league ladder. However, Ynoa’s stellar walk ratio (1.5, 1.4, 1.6 BB/9) has stayed constant from his time in the New York-Penn League to last season’s campaign in Double-A Binghamton, proving that he has not and will not relinquish his calling card (control) as he continues to get closer to the big leagues. Furthermore, Ynoa was 3.6 years younger than the average Eastern League ballplayer, so even his seemingly pedestrian 4.21 ERA in Binghamton is impressive. Gabriel does not possess elite talent, however, his age, minor league numbers, and pitching poise make him a good candidate to quickly ascend from unknown prospect to a starting-caliber major league talent, just like the rise of Rafael Montero in 2013-14.
2015 Forecast: Ynoa will likely begin the 2015 season with Double-A Binghamton, but considering he already pitched decently in 66.1 innings with the B-Mets last season, a strong performance should lead him to a midseason promotion to Las Vegas. The elite arms ahead of Ynoa on the depth chart (Syndergaard, Matz, Montero) will keep him from reaching the bigs in 2015, barring an injury epidemic, but trades or injuries could open up a spot for Ynoa on the Mets roster by midseason 2016
MLB ETA: Mid-season 2016 as a reliever, 2017 as a starter
13. Michael Fulmer, RHP
H/W: 6’3”/200 lbs
Analysis: The Mets selected Michael Fulmer in the supplemental first round of the 2011 draft, and the big righty proved his worth right out of the gate. In his first full season of pro ball, Fulmer posted a stellar 2.74 ERA, with 101 strikeouts and only 38 walks for Single-A Savannah. But after tearing his meniscus during spring training the following year, he fell off the prospect radar and became an afterthought behind more impressive Mets pitching prospects like Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard.
Even considering his lost 2013 season, Fulmer is still one of the more exciting arms in the Mets’ system. In his 2014 return, he sported a solid 3.97 ERA and walked only 31 batters with the St. Lucie Mets, eventually earning a promotion to the B-Mets before a shoulder strain ended his season in August. While the Oklahoma native allowed far too many hits in 2014 (118 in 98.2 innings), there’s nevertheless a lot to like about this former top-100 prospect. His fastball still reaches 95 MPH and his put-away slider has the potential to be an above-average major league pitch.
2015 Forecast: If Fulmer can stay healthy and continue his success with Double-A Binghamton in 2015, he should be able to earn a promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas by season’s end and become a number-three starter or a valuable trade chip for the Mets as soon as 2016.
MLB ETA: Injuries will hold Fulmer back from reaching the big club next season, but mid-2016 as a reliever or Opening Day 2017 as a member of the starting rotation are not out of the question.
12. Akeel Morris, RHP
H/W: 6’1”/170 lbs
Analysis: It was only two years ago that Akeel Morris concluded the worst season of his young pro career by posting an 0-6 record and 7.98 ERA as a starter for the Kingsport Mets of the Rookie League. That implosion may have been the best thing for the young right-hander, however, as Morris has become a lights-out hurler in the pen, finishing the 2013 and 2014 seasons with a 1.00 and 0.63 ERA, respectively. Some of this excellent work may be due to his pitching repertoire, which plays up from the ‘pen. A 95 plus mile per hour fastball accompanied by a “defined curve” allowed Morris to toy with Single-A hitters in the last two seasons.
2015 Forecast: Double-A is often the level which separates the real prospects from the busts, and that is likely where the 22-year-old Morris is headed in 2015 since the Mets’ front office added him to the 40-man roster before the Rule V Draft. Should he continue his success in Binghamton, there is no reason Morris can’t refine his game and ascend to Triple-A Vegas by the end of the 2015 season.
MLB ETA: Late-2015 may be a bit too optimistic, but Morris could break camp with the Mets as a member of the bullpen in 2016.
11. Jhoan Urena, 3B
H/W: 6’1”/200 lbs
Analysis: I’ll be honest, before Jhoan Urena’s breakout showing in Brooklyn in 2014, I had no idea the Mets possessed such a talented infield prospect. Urena did hit .299 for the GCL Mets in 2013, but his lack of power (6 doubles, 0 home runs) left the teenager mostly off the prospect map heading into the 2014 season. But after finally reaching the .300 clip, smacking 20 doubles, and posting a career-high .787 OPS along with 85 hits in just 75 games, Urena has skyrocketed up Mets prospect lists and established himself as a legitimate positional prospect within a pitching-rich Mets system.
2015 Forecast: Exciting bat speed and control manifesting in a 20-year-old kid has to excite the Mets about the potential to develop a long-term replacement for David Wright at the hot corner or Daniel Murphy at second. Given his youth, I don’t expect the Mets to push Urena to High-A St. Lucie to open the 2015 season, but rather have the youngster continue on his level-per-year track, which would ticket Urena to start 2015 in Single-A Savannah, his first full season of ball.
MLB ETA: Late-2017 or midseason 2018: at this point Murphy will likely have left in free agency or trade and Wright will be around 35 years old.
10. Dominic Smith, 1B
H/W: 6’0”/185 lbs
Analysis: Selecting high school players in the first round of the MLB Draft is quite a gamble, but it looked worth the risk when the 18-year-old Dominic Smith, selected 11th overall in the 2013 June Amateur Draft, batted .301 with an .837 OPS in his first season of professional ball. The Mets’ brass believed this performance (along with scouting reports noting Smith’s pure swing and maturity) merited skipping Smith to Single-A and allowing him to begin the 2014 season with the Sand Gnats. It would be forgiving to say that the 19-year-old smith struggled in 2014. The young first baseman played his home games in the infamously large Grayson Stadium, but even that does not excuse Smith’s minimal power: he hit just one home run in 461 at-bats, unacceptable for a player that counts raw power among his top tools. Furthermore, while Baseball America dubbed Smith as the “best pure hitter in the prep class” prior to the draft, 2014 scouts were extremely unimpressed by Smith’s swing, approach, and footwork. Here’s what Roto Scouting had to say about the Mets’ top first base prospect, the report was published in April 2014.
“On offense, Smith struggled to make solid contact, repeatedly beating balls into the ground…Smith has a tendency to fly open with his front foot. When this happens, he spins off the baseball instead of driving through. Combine this with a flat plane swing and it appears as if Smith is selling out for power, while generating none.”
I’m not ready to give up on Smith just yet, evident by his top-10 ranking, but it certainly seems that the Mets have a lot more developing to do than they originally planned.
2015 Forecast: Given his lack of success with Savannah, I expect the Mets start Smith again with Savannah and go from there. Lucas Duda’s 2014 breakout season takes some pressure off Smith, so expect the New York front office to take things more slowly and develop the big lefty’s skills before exposing him to the higher levels.
MLB ETA: MLB.com says 2016, but that seems too optimistic at this point. Smith should join the big league roster by midseason 2017.
9. Marcos Molina, RHP
H/W: 6’3”/188 lbs
Analysis: After posting a mediocre 4.39 ERA and giving up 56 hits in 53 innings for the GCL Mets, it wasn’t surprising that Marcos Molina didn’t make many top prospect lists before the 2014 season. But after dominating the New York-Penn League in 2014, he has vaulted himself into the conversation as one of the best arms in the entire Mets system.
In 76.1 innings pitched with the Brooklyn Cyclones, Molina easily paced the NYPL with a stellar 1.77 ERA and 91 strikeouts against only 18 walks, an outstanding 5.1 K/BB ratio. Furthermore, the Dominican phenom allowed only two home runs and finished the year with a superb 0.84 WHIP, even more impressive when you realize that Molina is only 19 years old.
2015 Forecast: Considering Molina’s recent success and a fastball that can reach 96 MPH, the 2012 signee is certainly a Top-10 prospect in the Mets’ system. While it’s not hard to get excited about Molina’s 2014 performance, the righty’s first exposure to full-season ball in 2015 will be a big test of his organizational standing. He has been overshadowed by the Mets’ incredible pitching depth, but if his power arm can carry 2014’s success into next season, Molina may challenge Steven Matz for the coveted title of the Mets’ top pitching prospect by the end of 2015.
MLB ETA: If everything breaks right, Molina will be pitching for the Binghamton Mets by the end of 2015. That would put him in prime position to latch on to the big club in late-2016 as a reliever or possibly open the 2017 season as a member of the starting rotation.
8. Rafael Montero, RHP
H/W: 6’0/185 lbs
Analysis: Heralded as one of the two arms (Syndergaard being the other) that would eventually lead the Mets back to the World Series, Montero’s lack of progress during the 2014 season caused him to be surpassed by the wily veterans Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon, as well as upcoming prospect Steven Matz on the depth chart. But despite receiving noticeably less attention than he did a season ago, Montero continued to pitch well in the minors, finishing out the year with a 6-4 record and a 3.60 ERA for Triple-A Las Vegas and even seemed to hold his own in the big leagues (4.06 ERA in 8 starts). However, it was the loss of his control, the skill that made him so talented, that caused a precipitous drop in Montero’s prospect stock. During 2011-2013 minor league seasons, Montero’s BB/9 rates sat at 1.6, 1.4, and 2.0, respectively, extremely impressive considering the Dominican pitched over 348 innings total in those three seasons. For some reason, however, Montero’s walk rate rose to almost 4.0 BB/9 in the minors during 2014 and to nearly 5.0 during his time in the bigs. With the Mets, the rookie looked uncomfortable, unprepared, and hesitant, surprising considering scouts raved about Montero’s pitching knowledge and IQ years before he reached the big stage.
2015 Forecast: It’s clear that Montero has nothing left to prove down in Triple-A, but the Mets have at least six starters that are more ready to help them win games right now. That means that the 24-year-old Dominican is likely headed to the bullpen, a fate the Mets’ front office was hoping for him to avoid, at least to start the 2015 season.
MLB ETA: N/A, reached the Majors in 2014.
7. Michael Conforto, OF
H/W: 6’1/211 lbs
Analysis: Conforto was praised as the most polished college bat in the 2014 June Amateur draft, and the former Oregon standout proved his worth right out of the gate. In his first experience of pro ball with the Cyclones, Conforto batted .331 with an .851 OPS in 186 at at-bats, even earning a promotion to Single-A Savannah to participate in the playoffs at the end of the season. Some analysts felt the Conforto pick was too safe a move, especially when Trea Turner, a player that filled the Mets’ need at shortstop, was available. However, Mets scout Tom Gamboa, with over 40 years of baseball experience, had this to say about the newest Mets prospect.
“It’s just rare to see that kind of selectivity in somebody that is so young… Everything we had heard — he was one of the top college hitters in the country — has proved to be true in pro ball.”
Tommy Tanous, the Mets’ scouting director, backed up Gamboa statment’s with praise of his own.
“He really opened our eyes”
2015 Forecast: Considering rave reviews on Conforto, it’s clear that he is highly valued within the organization. The Mets’ recent signing of Michael Cuddyer allows Conforto plenty of time to develop, so the 21-year-old will likely begin the season with Single-A Savannah. Due to his advanced age and plate approach, however, I would not be surprised if Conforto is playing in Double-A Binghamton by season’s end.
MLB ETA: 2016, likely after the super two deadline.
6. Amed Rosario, SS
H/W: 6’2″/170 lbs
Analysis: The Mets’ shortstop issues have been well-documented over the last few seasons, but while many analysts are proposing that the Mets acquire a player outside the organization, the answer may actually lie within, if the Mets are willing to wait. Amed Rosario has been steadily climbing the Mets’ organizational ladder during the last two seasons, showing improvement each stop along the way. Rosario, only 18 years old, broke out during the 2014 season with Brooklyn, and his performance may be a harbinger of things to come for the talented shortstop. He batted .289, posted a .717 OPS, and knocked 77 hits in 68 games (all career highs). While Rosario’s career highs are not particularly impressive, the fact that the young prospect posted these marks at an age when most players are still in high school demonstrates that this teenager is ready to match his talent to production. Amed’s quick hands, elite bat speed, and incredible defensive potential will give him the chance to become a solid starting major league shortstop sometime in the future.
2015 Forecast: Rosario will likely continue his steady ascension through the system with Single- A Savannah. Should he continue to improve his approach and refine his tools, Rosario has a chance to reach High-A St. Lucie, if the Mets believe he’s ready. If all breaks right, Rosario will be a Top-100 prospect in baseball and could challenge for the top prospect spot in the Mets organization.
MLB ETA: Best-case he’s in Queens by midseason 2017, but it’s more likely he challenges for a roster spot during the spring of ’18.
5. Kevin Plawecki, C
H/W: 6’2”/225 lbs
Analysis: In most systems, Kevin Plawecki would be praised as the unquestioned catcher of the future; he’s a player you can count on to call a good game and contribute with the bat. Remember, however, that the young Travis d’Arnaud has that position secured after rebounding in the second half of last season. d’Arnaud may have closer to All-Star potential, but right now, Plawecki looks like a safe bet to be a top-flight starting catcher as well. Plawecki, 24, has solid bat control, a line drive swing, and is a good receiver behind the plate, at least by MLB.com standards. He will never top 20 home runs in a season, but his 2014 slash line of .309/.365/.460 is very attainable for the young backstop when he reaches the big league level. Furthermore, MLB.com praises the 2012 First rounder as a “leader” and a player who “looks more than capable of being an everyday player in the big leagues”
2015 Forecast: Having already accrued 152 at-bats in Triple-A and achieved moderate success (.283 BA, .766 OPS), Plawecki is nearly ready to contribute at the big league level. Nevertheless, he will likely begin the 2015 season in Vegas and move to Queens if d’Arnaud gets injured or the super two deadline passes, whichever comes first.
MLB ETA: Plawecki will likely join the Mets by the 2015 midseason, but with no veteran catcher on the books yet for the Amazins, Plawecki could win the job as backup to d’Arnaud with a solid showing in Spring Training.
4. Brandon Nimmo, OF
H/W: 6’3”/205 lbs
Analysis: We’ve now reached the real elite prospects in the Mets system, but even the promising Brandon Nimmo had a polarizing 2014 season that clouded his future as a potential big league regular for the Mets down the road. Nimmo began the year scorching hot with the St. Lucie Mets, posting a ridiculous .448 On Base Percentage and smacking 73 hits in only 62 games. This performance forced the Mets to finally promote their 2011 first round pick to Double-A, but the big outfielder faltered against the more advanced pitching. While he continued to exercise his excellent bating eye in Binghamton, Nimmo’s batting average fell nearly .100 points (to .238) and his OPS dropped to .735. Still, despite the lackluster finish, 2014 marked a season in which Nimmo posted career highs in RBIs, steals, batting average, and home runs. Additionally, scouts and analysts across baseball seem to like Nimmo’s skill set; a rival scout said “[Nimmo] could start on a first-division team”, and Keith Law praises his “short swing” and “line-drive approach”. If Nimmo continues to match his talent to production, he’ll be knocking on the door to the big leagues in the very near future.
2015 Forecast: Given his marked improvement across the board, I have no trouble believing that Nimmo will rebound from his poor Double-A performance and continue to stride towards becoming the best positional prospect in the Mets system in 2015. Nimmo should start next season in Double-A and swiftly move to Triple-A if everything goes as expected.
MLB ETA: I believe Nimmo will join the Mets in early-2016, but J.J. Cooper of Baseball America thinks the majors is within arms’ reach. “As far as ETA, Nimmo could put himself in position for a call-up to New York with a strong first half.”
3. Dilson Herrera, 2B
H/W: 5’10”/150 lbs
Analysis: Dilson Herrera’s ascent from High-A St. Lucie to a starting major league gig is why the Colombian ranks third in an organization flush with young talent. Herrera sports what Baseball America calls “average power”, but don’t let the seemingly negative connotations of ‘average’ fool you: this kid has the potential to knock 15 home runs in a season, pretty valuable at second base. Furthermore, Dilson’s “super-quick hands, above-average bat speed, and aggressive swing” help him generate extra-base power from his 5’10” frame. Scouts also praise his work ethic and baseball IQ, which, when added to his obvious ability to produce results from his talents, give the Mets a real ballplayer here.
2015 Forecast: Herrera reached the majors at the ripe age of 20 last season, however, it is very likely that he begins the 2015 season in Triple-A, not Queens. In short, the Mets simply have too many second baseman ahead of the Colombian native on the depth chart, but should Wilmer Flores struggle or Daniel Murphy get traded (one of these things occurring is very probable), Herrera will be the next man in line for a call-up.
MLB ETA: N/A, reached the majors in 2014.
2. Steven Matz, LHP
H/W: 6’2”/200 lbs
Analysis: The quick rise of Steven Matz has added even more quality pitching depth to an elite Mets system. Matz, following a similar trend as Brandon Nimmo, began the year dominating the High-A competition and earned a promotion to Double-A. However, unlike Nimmo, the lefty’s production did not taper off at the higher level. The prized prospect pitched to a 2.27 ERA, walked only 1.8 batters per nine, and led his B-Mets to the Eastern League Championship, even taking a no-hitter into the 8th inning of the series-clinching game. Fox Sports expects Matz’s minor league success to transfer to the big leagues, as they list the young lefty’s repertoire as consisting of an above-average fastball with “exploding action”, a “sharp and tight” curve that he uses to baffle left-handed hitters and change eye levels, and an inconsistent change-up he can throw for strikes. From the scouting reports, it looks like Matz is set up for a big league career as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, potentially reaching his ceiling of a number two starter if everything works out.
2015 Forecast: Considering the short work Matz made out of High-A and Double-A hitters, he should be ready to break camp with Triple-A Vegas. However, as of right now, the Mets have at least six starters above Matz on the depth chart, so his only real chance of joining the rotation in 2015 banks on injuries or a trade.
MLB ETA: If he stays healthy, the lefty should be able to reach the bigs in 2015. But should no rotation spot open for Matz, the New York native would be an excellent late-inning reliever or even a lefty specialist if the Mets were amidst the playoff hunt.
1. Noah Syndergaard, RHP
H/W: 6’6”/240 lbs
Analysis: Coming into the 2014 season with the expectation of a call-up, it’s easy to view Noah Syndergaard’s 2014 campaign with the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s as a total failure. The big righty posted a mediocre 4.60 ERA and gave up far too many hits (154 in 133 IP), however, when comparing Noah’s 2014 season to those of his past, there is much evidence for a 2015 rebound. Opposing batters tagged Syndergaard for a career-high .378 BABIP in 2014 (Batting Average on Balls In Play), which could be explained by the problem of pitching in the hostile environment that is the Pacific Coast League. Furthermore, Noah has never allowed a BABIP above .326 in any minor league stint prior to 2014, so we can expect that number to trend closer to his career mark of .290 next season. Additionally, Syndergaard’s K/9 rate of 9.8 (145 K’s in 133 IP) is right in line with his MiLB career average of 10.0 strikeouts per nine, so clearly Noah’s stuff is not the issue: a lack of poise, an awful environment, and some unlucky bounces plagued his 2014 season. Syndergaard’s HR/9 marks, like his K/9 numbers, also don’t differ much from his career output. His 0.7 home runs per nine allowed was only 0.2 off his career mark, impressive considering the Texan pitched the entire season in the light-aired PCL. These stats, coupled with an inflated ERA that actually translates to a much more palatable 3.70 FIP, and the no-doubt #1 Met prospect should be well on his way to a rebound in 2015.
2015 Forecast: Syndergaard will certainly begin the 2015 season with Vegas (the Mets pitching depth and penny-pinching strategy will hold him back), but midseason 2015 is a definite possibility, if not a probability, and it could be sooner due to trades or injuries.
MLB ETA: 2015