Andres Gimenez, Brett Baty
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Thanks to a stellar draft, an international free agent, and a breakout season, the New York Mets’ farm system is far better than most know.

The New York Mets‘ minor league season ended on Tuesday when the Brooklyn Cyclones won their first-ever New York-Penn League championship. With the minor league season wrapped up, it seems appropriate to look in on how the Mets top prospects have performed this year.

Key

20 – Awful
30 – Well Below Average
40 – Below Average
45 – Fringe Average
50 – Average
55 – Above Average
60 – Plus
65 – Plus-Plus
70 – Well Above Average
80 – Elite

10. RHP Josh Wolf

Age – 19, Height/Weight – 6-foot-3 170 pounds, Fastball – 60, Curveball – 60, Changeup – 45, Control – 50

The last of the trio of 2019 draft picks on this list. Josh Wolf has had a great start to his career. He was limited to just five starts and eight innings after being drafted, all of them in the Gulf Coast League. He pitched to a 3.38 ERA, with 12 strikeouts, and only one walk.

Wolf is a project pitcher with two plus pitches. He has a delivery that can lead to injury, and he has an issue controlling the ball in the zone. That’s why he had an issue limiting hard contact. The hope is that his changeup develops and he can become a viable starting pitching prospect.

The reality though, is that Wolf is likely ticketed for a future relief pitcher role. With his plus fastball and curveball that could be a great thing for him. He has the potential to be a backend of the bullpen guy, potentially a closer.

It’ll be interesting to see where the Mets start Wolf next season. He could potentially end up in Columbia, but considering that he never pitched in Kingsport, that seems like an incredibly aggressive push. It’s more likely that Wolf starts in Kingsport and has a second year of short-season ball under his belt. Taking things slow might be the best approach for a project pitcher like Wolf.

9. LHP Kevin Smith

Age – 22, Height/Weight – 6-foot-5 200 pounds, Fastball – 50, Slider – 60, Changeup – 45, Control – 50

Kevin Smith came out of nowhere for the Mets this year. A seventh-round pick in the 2018 draft, Smith opened the year in High-A St. Lucie. He was not a touted prospect. However, Smith quickly caught the attention of scouts.

In St. Lucie, Smith was dominant. In 17 starts, Smith pitched 85.2 innings to a 3.05 ERA, with 102 strikeouts to just 24 walks, exploding onto the prospect scene as a potential starting pitcher for the Mets.

After his excellent start to the year in St. Lucie, the Mets called Smith up to Binghamton. He continued to excel there. He started six more games, pitching 31.1 innings to a 3.45 ERA, with 28 strikeouts, and 15 walks. The numbers in Binghamton were down from St. Lucie, but still impressive for a guy playing in his first professional season.

The issue for Smith though, is that he doesn’t have the raw stuff to be a starter. Smith’s fastball sits in the high 80s-low 90s with little movement. His slider is a major weapon, especially against lefties, but it’s his only plus pitch. His changeup is fringe-average. It needs to get a lot better for him to continue on as a starter.

As it stands, Smith has trouble getting right-handed hitters out. His low three-quarter arm slot makes it easier for them to see the ball and he hasn’t overcome that yet. If he can improve his changeup, there’s hope that Smith could be a back-of-the-rotation starter. Until he proves he can do that though, his future is likely in the bullpen, similar to a pitcher like Corey Oswalt.

8. RHP David Peterson

Age – 24, Height/Weight – 6-foot-6 240 pounds, Fastball – 55, Curveball – 45, Slider – 60, Changeup – 55, Control – 60

Peterson had a disappointing year for the Mets. When they drafted Peterson, they thought they were getting a quick-moving back-end-of-the-rotation pitcher. That hasn’t been the case.

Peterson played the whole season in Binghamton. He started 24 games, throwing 116 innings to a 4.19 ERA, with 9.47 K/9, and 2.87 BB/9. That ERA isn’t what the Mets were hoping for from Peterson. There is a silver lining to this though, and that’s Peterson’s FIP and XFIP. For the second straight season, Peterson’s FIP and XFIP outperformed his ERA substantially.

Peterson had a 3.19 FIP and a 2.91 XFIP. Those would indicate that Peterson’s groundball pitching style has worked against him due to poor defense. This would make sense considering Peterson is striking out batters at a decent rate and not walking many. This is also supported by the .340 BABIP against. The underlying numbers certainly favor Peterson who has pinpoint control and good enough stuff to be a major league starter.

The big question for him is whether or not he can prove those number right at Triple-A next season. With the offensive explosion in baseball and the ridiculous home run numbers, having a heavy ground ball pitcher should be exactly what the Mets need. However, as evidenced by Marcus Stroman, that doesn’t always work out.

Peterson has seen his stock fall, seemingly unfairly. It will be up to him to prove that he is a better pitcher than his ERA. There is a real chance that Peterson ends up in the Mets rotation at some point next year. Hopefully, by then fans will be excited by the progress made, and not hoping that the underlying numbers prove something that Peterson hasn’t shown in a few years.

7. LHP Thomas Szapucki

Age – 23, Height/Weight – 6-foot-2 181 pounds, Fastball – 60, Curveball – 60, Changeup – 50, Control – 50

Szapucki was once a rising star in the farm system. A future frontline starter with all the potential in the world. All of that came crashing down when Szapucki tore his UCL at the beginning of the 2017 season.

This was Szapucki’s first year back from Tommy John, and he reminded everyone why he was once a top prospect in the system.

Szapucki started the year in Columbia where the Mets slowly got him up to speed. He pitched in 11 games, starting eight. He pitched to a 2.08 ERA, with 10.8 K/9, and 4.15 BB/9 in 21.2 innings. The goal of Szapucki’s stint in Columbia was to stretch him out and get him used to pitching in real games again. Once the Mets felt that was accomplished, they moved him up to St. Lucie.

In St. Lucie, Szapucki made nine starts. In 36 innings Szapucki had a 3.25 ERA, with 10.5 K/9, and 3.75 BB/9. Szapucki was reminding everyone who he was with his performance this season. That prompted a promotion to Binghamton.

Szapucki started only one game in Binghamton. He threw four innings, allowed zero runs, struck out four and walked one. It was an impressive performance to cap off an impressive year.

If Szapucki can stay healthy then there is no reason to doubt that he will be a starting pitcher in the MLB. He has the raw stuff, and his command is good enough to succeed.

6. 3B Mark Vientos

Age – 19, Height/Weight – 6-foot-4 185 pounds, Hit – 50, Power – 55, Speed – 40, Arm – 60, Fielding – 45

Vientos impressed in his first action last year. He showed off his power and advanced hit tools against lower-level competition, prompting the Mets to send him to Columbia to start this year.

Vientos struggled mightily to start the year. He spent the rest of the season trying to recover from his awful start, but the damage had been done. He was no longer the rising star in the organization. Rather, he had become a disappointment with plate discipline issues that could end up killing his prospect status altogether.

Vientos did eventually turn it around finishing very strong over the last two months to drag him to a slash line of .255/.300/.411. the power is still there for Vientos, but he saw a decline in that department this year. This isn’t surprising for a 19-year-old in his first full season action. The real issue is his on-base percentage. Vientos showed impressive plate discipline last season, but that was not the case this year. His walk rate dropped from 14.1% to just 4.8%, while his strikeout rate rose from 16.4 % to 24.2%.

That sudden lack of discipline and pitch recognition is a killer for Vientos’ prospect stock. Hopefully, the turnaround he showed at the end of the year is real, and he’ll be able to carry it over to next year. If not Vientos might just be another disappointing early-round bust for the Mets.

New York Mets

5. RHP Matt Allan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Do_ZPYPFtPA

Age – 18, Height/Weight – 6-foot-3 225 pounds, Fastball – 60,  Curveball – 65, Changeup- 55, Control – 55

Drafting Matt Allan made the Mets’ 2019 draft class one of the best in baseball. They were able to select a top-15 prospect in the third round. Allan rewarded with the Mets with his performance in his first half-season with the team.

Allan started out in the Gulf Coast League where he was dominant. He appeared in five games, starting four of them. In those games, Allan pitched to a 1.08 ERA, 11.8 K/9, and allowing a .167 BAA. He looked way too good for the level.

In response, the Mets called Allan up to Brooklyn, skipping Kingsport. Allan made just two appearances for Brooklyn this season. The first didn’t go very well. Allan allowed two runs, struck out three and walked one in two innings of work. The other appearance was in the deciding game of the New York-Penn League championship. In Game 3, Allan pitched three perfect innings, striking out two. His fastball hit 97.

There is a lot of work to be done with Allan, as there is with any prep pitcher, but he has a chance to be special. He has ace level potential. Allan will likely start next season with Columbia, and that’s when his development will really begin. He will be an exciting one to watch in 2020.

4. SS Andres Gimenez

Age – 21, Height/Weight – 5-foot-11 161 pounds, Hit – 50, Power – 35, Speed – 60, Arm – 60, Fielding – 60

Gimenez’s star has fallen hard this year. He came into the season as the Mets No. 2 prospect behind Pete Alonso, and he was a top-60 prospect in baseball. However, he disappointed mightily this year at Double-A Binghamton.

Gimenez hit just .250/.309/.397 this season. This was one of the best power seasons that Gimenez has had in his career, and that’s something to be commended. However, he isn’t a power hitter in any right. At best, he is a gap power hitter who can rack up the doubles. He is really carried by his hit tool and his fielding.

Gimenez has long been called one of the best defensive shortstops in minor league baseball. That still holds true, but it won’t matter if he doesn’t hit. Gimenez posted by far the worst batting average and on-base percentage of his career. His strikeout rate was the highest it had ever been at 21.3%.

Gimenez is likely going to start next season in Triple-A, and he needs to have a big year to prove he is an MLB player. Even if he does have a big year, there isn’t much room for him on the MLB roster with Amed Rosario at shortstop, Robinson Cano at second base, and Jed Lowrie at third. Even Jeff McNeil will likely be pushed back to the outfield. The hope might be that Gimenez can play some third and take Lowrie’s spot there, but his bat would be awful in a corner infield spot.

Gimenez is a name to watch on the trade market for the Mets. Even after a down year, Gimenez is still a top-100 prospect in the eyes of most evaluators. With no spot on the MLB roster, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Mets sell low on a once top prospect in baseball.

3. 3B Brett Baty

Age – 19, Height/Weight – 6-foot-3 210 pounds, Hit – 55, Power – 65, Speed – 40, Arm – 60, Fielding – 45

Brett Baty had an up-and-down first year with the Mets. After being taken ninth overall in this year’s draft, Baty was assigned to the Gulf Coast League. Baty dominated the league in a similar fashion to Francisco Alvarez. He hit .350/.480/.650 in five games. After that, the Mets aggressively pushed him up to Kingsport.

Baty struggled at Kingsport in a major way. He hit .222/.339/.437 in 42 games. Two things were evident from Baty’s time in Kingsport. The first is that he understands how to take a walk. His knowledge of the strike zone at such a young age is impressive and should help him as he goes through the system. The second is that he was still hitting for power. Baty had 30 hits in 42 games for Kingsport. Twenty went for extra-base hits, he had a 12.7% extra-base hit rate. Considering his poor hitting overall that’s incredibly impressive.

Despite his struggles in Kingsport the Mets continued to be aggressive with Baty. They called him up to the Brooklyn Cyclones for the end of the season. The Cyclones were in the middle of a very intense playoff race when Baty was called up, and manager Edgardo Alfonzo stuck him in the lineup. Baty struggled, hitting .200/.529/.300 in four games. Again Baty showed his ability to take a walk. The Cyclones won their division and prepared for the playoffs.

Baty didn’t play at all in the first round of the playoffs for the Cyclones. After the first round ended the Mets called up Jed Lowrie from his rehab. That opened up a spot in the lineup for Baty. He played in all three games during the New York-Penn League championship. Baty went 3/9 with two walks, and two runs scored, he was the designated hitter in all three games. With Baty in the lineup, the Cyclones won their first-ever New York-Penn League title.

Baty will likely move on from Brooklyn to start next year. He will likely be in Columbia to start the season. The hope will be that Baty figures out how to make more contact with the ball than he did in Brooklyn and Kingsport. He has a special skill set, the only question is whether or not he can put it all together.

2. C Francisco Alvarez

Age – 17, Height/Weight – 5-foot-11 220 pounds, Hit – 60, Power – 55, Speed – 40, Arm – 55, Fielding  – 50

Last summer, the Mets gave the international free agent from Venezuela—Francisco Alvarez—a franchise-record $2.7 million signing bonus. This summer he played his first games for the franchise. The Mets were so high on Alvarez that they decided to bring him stateside to start the season. He began his career in the Gulf Coast League, which is the lowest level of minor league baseball with games played in America.

Alvarez destroyed the league. In seven games, Alvarez hit .462/.548/.846, with two home runs, and four doubles. The Mets saw everything they needed to from him at that level and called him up to Kingsport—the highest level of rookie ball in the minor leagues.

Alvarez spent the rest of his season with Kingsport and he continued to dominate. He slashed .282/.377/.443. The power numbers dropped off, but he continued to display his skill with the bat. He can flat out hit for power. There was no other Mets minor league hitter who had a year like Alvarez. He looks like a future top prospect, and one of the top catching prospects in baseball. He’s going to be 18 years old all of next season.

Alvarez is likely going to skip over Brooklyn and go straight to Columbia next year, similar to what the next prospect on the list did. Alvarez might be the most exciting prospect in the Mets system if he can stick at catcher.

The only issue so far is his defense. After the Mets signed Alvarez, everyone knew he could hit, but nobody knew if he could stick behind the plate. He’s big and unathletic back there, and his receiving skills are raw. To Alvarez’s credit, the early reports are that he looks good behind the plate, but Alvarez also played the role of designated hitter a lot. He played 27 games at catcher and 15 as the DH.

Elite catching prospects are the single hardest things to find in baseball. If Alvarez can stick behind the plate the Mets might have something special with him.

1. SS Ronny Mauricio

Age – 18, Height/Weight – 6-foot-3 166, Hit – 55, Power – 50, Speed – 45, Arm – 60, Fielding – 50

There is little debate over who the Mets’ top prospect is right now. Ronny Mauricio looks like a star in the making. The switch-hitting shortstop spent the entire year in full-season ball with the Class-A Columbia Fireflies. Mauricio didn’t look like the elite prospect that many expect him to one day be, but he was taking the right steps. He led New York’s minor league system in hits this year. He looked like he belonged in full-season ball. That’s not an easy thing for an 18-year-old to do.

Mauricio’s season was not without its struggles. He continues to be a free swinger, walking only 4.6% of the time this year. He didn’t hit for much power with a .086 ISO. Despite a poor showing in a couple of important stats, this isn’t a reason for concern. A lot of Mauricio’s star relies on future projection. He still has so much room to grow into his big 6-foot-3 frame. He was also one of the youngest players in full-season Class-A ball this year.

Mauricio is a lot like Amed Rosario was at that age. Free swingers who play to their level of competition before they break out. Amed was at short-season Class-A ball when he was 18. He only played eight games at the level Mauricio was in all year at the same age. Now, Rosario spent his entire 19-year-old season at High-A ball St. Lucie.

That’s the level Mauricio is going to play at next year. Rosario struggled and had to repeat St. Lucie before breaking out and becoming one of the best prospects in baseball at 20 years old. The hope for the Mets is that Mauricio makes that big jump next year proving that he is one of the elite prospects in all of baseball. As it stands, Mauricio is considered a top-100 prospect by every major ranker. The highest he’s ranked is 25th by Fangraphs.

2020 is going to be a big year for Mauricio. Keep an eye on him to make waves.

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