The New York Mets may not have a lot of elite talent in the high minors, but they do have some good depth options in case of injury.
A lot has been made of the New York Mets‘ lack of top-end talent in the high minors. Much of it is true; the Mets don’t have their top prospects close to major league ready. They don’t have an elite prospect ready to step in if someone gets injured.
The Mets’ lack of prospect elite prospect depth at the top has led to a lot of questions about their real possibilities this season. If a starting pitcher gets injured what happens the Mets go to Michael Wacha? Nobody wants that, but it might be a reality.
If Amed Rosario gets injured or if Robinson Cano goes down for an extended period of time again, what happens? Is Luis Guillorme (and his near non-existent bat) going to play every day? That’s hard to sell. Do Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis mover over to second and third and Dom Smith play LF? That would be a quick way to make your defense significantly worse.
These are all real questions that the Mets have to keep in mind. It’s why so many fans have derided the team for their inability to go out and get quality depth in free agency.
Despite all the noise, the Mets do happen to have a few prospects who can be expected to make some sort of impact in the majors in 2020. Some of them might even be here to stay after a call-up.
Andres Gimenez, SS
Andres Gimenez has been talked about for what feels like a decade now. He first signed with the New York Mets in 2015 as an international free agent. Ever since, he’s been one of the Mets’ top prospects.
He’s still a top prospect, but after a down year in 2019, his stock has fallen. He’s no longer the Mets’ top prospect on any board. MLB Pipeline has him as the Mets’ third-best prospect and the 84th best prospect in baseball.
He dominated the Arizona Fall League, winning the batting title. That helped him bounce back in the eyes of some evaluators. He’s not a flashy prospect, but his glove is elite and his hit tool is above average. That’s worth something at the major league level.
Even if he breaks out in 2020 at AAA he doesn’t have a spot on the major league team. McNeil is playing third base, Rosario has shortstop, and Cano has second base. There’s no room for Gimenez, but one injury could change everything.
If any one of those three players gets hurt and Gimenez is playing well, it’ll be a no brainer to call him up and take their spot. If that happens, he might not let that spot go.
Fans will get a first-hand look at Gimenez in spring training. His presence on the 40-man roster means he’ll be in camp for most of the spring. Expect him to get a decent amount of game time, especially early on.
David Peterson, LHP
The New York Mets drafted David Peterson out of Oregon University in 2017. Peterson was supposed to be a quick-through-the-system middle-of-the-rotation arm. That hasn’t happened.
Instead, Peterson has labored through A+ and AA in 2018 and 2019. Last season, he posted a 4.19 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 9.5 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9—not exactly the numbers that fans and scouts want to see.
The low FIP is encouraging. It’s showing that Peterson is getting unlucky, which is not uncommon for a ground ball pitcher in the minors. The issue is that Peterson’s ERA has hovered above four at both AA and A+. That could be an effect of the BABIP against, but considering that’s also been consistent from A+ to AA that seems unlikely.
It’s looking more and more like Peterson is going to be a back of the rotation groundball pitcher. He’ll start this year in AAA and he’ll likely be the first starting pitcher called up from Syracuse if the Mets need one.
When they call him it could go one of two ways. Either he’s the mediocre back of the rotation starter he’s advertised to be at this point, or a better field and better defense could turn him into a Mark Buehrle-esque pitcher.
That could start as soon as next week. David Peterson is a non-roster invite to spring training. He’ll likely get game time early on in camp before being cut and sent to the minor league facility.
Thomas Szapucki, LHP
Injuries have derailed Thomas Szapucki’s career to this point. Szapucki was drafted by the New York Mets in 2015 out of high school. He broke out as a potential elite starting pitcher prospect not soon after. Then he tore his UCL and had Tommy John surgery in 2017. It cost him nearly two full seasons.
Szapucki finally got back on the field in 2019. He shot through the Mets farm system going from A ball to AA. He ran through the minor league system dominating at every stop he made.
The only issue was that he took a long time to stretch out in 2019, meaning he didn’t throw a ton of innings. He shouldn’t have any innings limitations in 2020, but his career as a starter is now in question.
Szapucki will have to prove that he can maintain velocity late in games—something he struggled with in 2019—if he wants to keep starting. It’s possible he ends up in the bullpen if the Mets want to fast track him to the majors.
It’s still possible that Szapucki has a major league career as a starter. His path is very similar to that of Steven Matz’s minor league life.
Szapucki is going to start the 2020 season in AA. His stuff is too good to say there’s little chance he’ll reach the majors this season. He still has front-of-the-rotation stuff if he can just prove he’s healthy and he dominates like he did last year the Mets could have a secret weapon in the minors.
Kevin Smith, LHP
Kevin Smith is the third left-handed pitcher on this list. If there’s one thing the Mets’ farm system has its left-handed pitching. The New York Mets drafted Smith in 2018 and he broke out in a major way in 2019.
After dominating at Brooklyn after being drafted the Mets were aggressive with Smith. They sent him straight to A+ and he excelled. He was so good that he earned a promotion to AA halfway through the season.
His peripheral numbers dipped in AA, but his ERA and FIP were both still terrific. Smith came from out of nowhere in 2019, but after being named the Mets Minor League Pitcher of the Year for 2019 he’s not under the radar anymore.
Smith’s biggest issue is that his stuff is lacking. All three of his pitches sit around average but play up due to a high spin rate. That likely won’t be enough to succeed at the major league level. That’s led many to question his eventual role and ceiling.
Some believe that Smith’s baseball IQ and his command will allow him to be a starter moving forward. He could potentially earn a spot as a back end of the rotation starter sometime in the future.
Others believe that Smith is headed for the bullpen. His clear lefty/righty splits and his lack of stuff make it unlikely he could survive as a major league starter.
If Smith heads to the bullpen expect to see him sooner rather than later in 2020. He would make for an excellent lefty-swing man. Fulfilling a similar role to Seth Lugo. Not to mention the Mets only have one other lefty in their bullpen.
Smith will join Peterson and Gimenez in Mets camp. He’s a non-roster invite like Peterson. Expect to see early on in camp before he gets cut and sent back to the minor league facility.
Ryley Gilliam, RHP
Ryley Gilliam is the most likely to make an impact in 2019, by far. Gilliam was drafted by the New York Mets in 2018. He’s a relief pitcher and he likely would have hit the majors in 2019 if not for an injury.
Gilliam went from A+ to AAA in the span of one season. He dominated his way to AAA, but stumbled once there. He only threw nine innings at AAA in 2019, but they were ugly.
It’s possible he worked his way through his issues in 2019 and made it to the majors if not for the injury. Even if he didn’t work through his issues the Mets’ bullpen was a disaster. It’s likely his upside would have been too good to resist if he was healthy.
After his season ended prematurely due to injury Gilliam was sent to the Arizona Fall League. He was even more dominant there pitching to a 0.96 ERA.
The Mets’ bullpen is likely set for Opening Day already, but don’t be surprised when Gilliam is called up early in the season. Someone is bound to get hurt or struggle and Gilliam will be there to pick up the pieces.
His fastball and curveball are both plus pitches that give him a real chance to be a dominant closer one day. Even if he never reaches that ceiling it wouldn’t be shocking to see Gilliam end up a dominant set-up man.
Gilliam is yet another non-roster invite to spring training. Expect him to stay around longer than Peterson and Smith due to is role as a reliever. Mets fans should get a decent look at Gilliam during spring training.