Cesar Puello, OF
Last Year: No. 7
Synopsis: No player in the Mets system saw his stock drop further than Cesar Puello, who followed up a breakout 2013 in Binghamton with a disappointing 2014 in AAA Las Vegas. For the year, Puello hit .252 with 7 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 313 at bats. 2015 represents a crossroads for Puello, as he will turn 24 in April. Some reason for cautious optimism exists. Puello’s walk rate and strikeout rate remained essentially unchanged from 2013 to 2014. So while his batting eye remained stable, his value plunged based on a precipitous drop in his isolated power from an elite .221 in 2013 to a merely average .142 last year. That said, these comparisons are both based on sample sizes of about 330 at-bats. There’s time for Puello, but it has to happen this year.
ETA: 2015, Puello will debut in Citi sometime this year, likely as a reserve.
Best Case: Puello becomes a vital part of the Mets bench beginning in late 2015 and competes for a regular role in the outfield in 2016.
Rob Whalen, RHP
Last Year: Unranked
Synopsis: Robert Whalen was a 12th round pick in 2012. He had a solid 2014 campaign in low A and is expected to begin 2015 in high A St. Lucie. Whalen features an average fastball that he supplements with a curve and developing change up. He posted a K/BB ratio of 2.81 in 2014, and like many Alderson pitching prospects, Whalen does not issue many free passes. His arsenal points to a future back-of-the-rotation starter and most scouts see him as a pitcher that will be able to stay a starter as he climbs the developmental ladder. In 62 innings with Savannah, Whalen surrendered just 44 hits while striking out 49.
ETA: 2017, Whalen will probably continue his slow climb through the system.
Best Case: He becomes another Dillon Gee.
Michael Fulmer, RHP
Last Year: No. 15
Synopsis: Oklahoma native Michael Fulmer, a stocky high school righthander drafted by the Mets in 2011, spent 2014 re-establishing himself after suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee in 2013. He logged 95 innings in St Lucie, before finishing up in AA Binghamton and tossing 3 innings. Despite an ERA that approached 4.00, Fulmer finished the season striking out 87 batters in 96 innings, while walking 34. Fulmer features a heavy fastball around 93 mph and good curveball. Several scouts believe Fulmer would excel with a shift to the bullpen, but the Mets are not inclined to make that move. Fulmer will turn 22 in March and is expected to begin 2015 in AA Binghamton.
ETA: Late 2016, Realistically, the Mets are going to want to see Fulmer stay healthy and log significant innings at AA and AAA before he heads to New York.
Best Case: Fulmer becomes a durable number three starter in the mold of Phil Hughes. Should his career path take him into the bullpen, his power curve and fastball combo could see him become a shut down eighth-inning reliever.
Last Year: Unranked
Synopsis: Matthew Bowman is the epitome of the type of pitcher drafted by Sandy Alderson – a durable arm that throws relatively hard and – more importantly – does not walk anyone. Bowman does both and does them well. In 2014, he spent time in Binghamton and Las Vegas logging 135 innings with a 3.20 ERA and 124 strikeouts to go with just 36 walks. Unfortunately, Bowman allowed 140 hits in those 135 innings, which is a bit more than you’d like to see, although he rarely surrenders home runs. In 2014, he posted a fantastic HR/9 innings pitched rate of .48. Bowman is an extreme groundball pitcher who will lean heavily on the infield defense behind him. If Bowman can cut the number of hits allowed even a little, the Mets will have a very valuable asset that is ready for the big leagues.
ETA: 2015, We should see Bowman at some point this season. It’s pitchers like Bowman that give Sandy Alderson confidence in dealing away depth from the major league rotation.
Best Case: He develops into a mid-rotation workhorse in the mold of a vintage Brad Radke.
Champ Stuart, OF
Last Year: Unranked
Synopsis: Champ Stuart was drafted in the sixth round in 2013. At 6 feet and 175 pounds, his signature tool is speed. Stuart, a center fielder, carries a speed tool rating of 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. In 2014, Stuart posted a .256 batting average in 285 at bats with 29 steals in 33 attempts. Unfortunately, he struck out in 29% of his plate appearances and posted an elevated BABIP of .370, suggesting his batting average should have been even worse. Needless to say, the blocking point for Stuart will be the hit tool. The good news is many scouts that watch Stuart play believe he will hit in given enough time in the upper minors. Stuart, a very good defensive outfielder, flashed in-game power at times in 2014. Obviously the ceiling is high for Stuart as a leap in his development at the plate could mean future stardom. He is a true boom or bust prospect.
Best Case: Stuart hits enough in the next two years on the farm and becomes the Mets version of Lorenzo Cain.