All eyes have been on the stars and roster battles during spring training, but don’t forget the New York Mets’ top prospects are there too.
The New York Mets farm system has been criticized the entire offseason. They’ve ranked in the bottom third of the league in all but one ranking. It’s a narrative that’s fired up many of the prospects.
The Mets have a ton of prospects that are close to MLB-ready in camp that have seen their playing reputations suppressed. Andres Gimenez has fallen off many top 100 lists, David Peterson is no longer considered a top pitching prospect, and Stephen Gonsalves went from a top prospect to waived in just two years.
Now all of them are looking to make their mark on the big league team. Many of them have experienced incredible springs, others not so much.
So what does that mean for each of their futures?
Ryley Gilliam, RP
Ryley Gilliam is the organization’s top relief pitching prospect. He’s expected to play a major role in the Mets bullpen in the near future. A 2020 call-up seems a near certainty.
Gilliam dominated the minor leagues in 2019 before an injury ended his season. He was healthy in time for the Arizona Fall League, where he additionally succeeded.
There were high expectations for his spring debut. He hasn’t lived up to them at all though. He’s posted a 16.88 ERA thus far, having recorded just two strikeouts.
He may not be as ready for the majors as scouts and evaluators previously thought. Thus, he might need to spend a lengthy time in AAA, potentially even the whole year.
Gilliam possesses an incredible ceiling. He could be a future closer in the major leagues and that shouldn’t be discounted. However, he’s not that guy right now.
As the Mets move forward and look to build their bullpen past 2020, Gilliam’s name will come up in discussions. Even if he doesn’t make his debut this year, his name will be prominent in the conversation regarding the 2021 bullpen.
Andres Gimenez, SS
Andres Gimenez is one of the organization’s top prospects. He’s arguably one of the top-100 prospects in baseball and he’s close to major-league ready.
That’s why Gimenez has been receiving a ton of at-bats this spring. His 20 at-bats are tied for fifth-most on the team. Amed Rosario has just 18.
Gimenez has taken advantage of his chances. He’s slashing .300/.364/.550. This backs up his dominant performance in the Arizona Fall League where he led the league in batting average and OPS.
Gimenez’s glove still looks phenomenal. The question remains the bat — specifically the power — but Gimenez looks like he’s ready to bust out with a new leg kick.
It’s easy to forget he’s just 21-years-old. Gimenez has future All-Star potential if the power comes. It’s even possible that his emergence could lead to a trade of Rosario. That’s how highly the Mets think of him.
It was reported in the offseason prior to the 2019 campaign that the Mets were so high on Gimenez that they were willing to deal Rosario for J.T. Realmuto.
Mets said “very aggressive” on Realmuto. Debate in room now about whether to give up coveted SS Rosario in package or top SP Syndergaard. Mets didn’t want to open SS hole but that hasn’t been ruled out. Plus, while NYY thing is less a hurdle now, 3 way deals are still complicated
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 11, 2018
A strong spring isn’t going to force the Mets to trade Rosario and open a door for Gimenez, but it’s a good start.
If Gimenez can carry this success into the regular season and force the Mets to call him up, then the clock will start ticking for Rosario.
Ali Sanchez, C
Ali Sanchez is the Mets’ closest catching prospect. He’s going to play in AAA this year and will likely be the third catcher on the depth chart.
His defensive skills are electric. He’s a plus fielder with a plus-plus arm, having thrown out 46% of base stealers in his minor league career. That’s an incredible statistic and a useful skill for a team that gets run on more than anyone else in baseball.
The issue is Sanchez’s bat, and it hasn’t shown up to spring training. Sanchez is hitting a pitiful .143/.143/.286 this spring. He doesn’t have to hit a ton to be useful given his defensive upside, but he needs to show more than this.
If he can be a negative — but not a liability — at the plate, he’ll carve out a role for himself as a backup catcher in the majors. He has a long way to go before he reaches that level though.
Sanchez will have the remainder of spring to work against major-league arms before heading to AAA. Hopefully, he will use that time wisely and grow in the batter’s box. If he does, he could develop into a Martín Maldonado-type player.
Sanchez will have a long career as a strong backup catcher if that happens. He’d probably even earn a starting spot somewhere. That’s if he can hit enough to carry his excellent glove though, which is no guarantee.
David Peterson, LHP
David Peterson is the Mets’ top pitching prospect. He’s the second line of defense for New York if a starting pitcher succumbs to injury, behind the loser of the fifth-starter battle. He’s also a rotation piece for the future.
Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello’s contracts are up at the end of the year and replacing one of them for cheap would be huge. Peterson is the Mets’ best shot at that.
The lefty has pitched just six innings this spring, but that’s tied for second-most on the team. Peterson’s allowed one earned run while recording six strikeouts and three walks in that span.
Peterson is a groundball pitcher with strikeout upside. He had one of the highest groundball rates in all of the minors in 2019 (52.6%), but that leads to some hits. Peterson often allows a high BABIP (3.40 in 2019).
This means that poor defense behind him or just poor luck can be his downfall since most of his game is reliant on getting soft contact. That’s why his minor league numbers are so uninspiring but his FIP is outstanding (3.19 in 2019).
He’s finally proving that his pitching style can work in spring training. With a strong defense behind him, Peterson can be a very effective pitcher. Now, he just needs to translate that into regular-season success before he makes his MLB debut in 2020.
Kevin Smith, LHP
Kevin Smith was one of the Mets’ most hyped prospects coming into camp. He emerged as arguably the top minor-league pitcher in the organization last year and is a quick-rising prospect. However, spring training has brought him back down to earth.
Smith’s playing time has been scarce, as he’s only been on the mound for 2.2 innings. That’s a problem on its own, but the bigger issue has been his failure to make a mark during that span.
Smith possesses an ERA of 13.50 and has recorded just one strikeout in his appearances. That’s not the look that he wanted in a crucial spring training.
There’s been talk of Smith moving to the bullpen due to his strong splits versus right-handed hitters, and this spring hasn’t helped matters. His inability to get righties out with consistency has been a huge issue.
This isn’t the end of the world though. Smith is likely to start the season in AA and will only make a major league debut if he undergoes an incredibly strong season. It’ll likely be one more year before he’s ready for the majors, so he has time.
Stephen Gonsalves, LHP
Once upon a time, Stephen Gonsalves was one of the Minnesota Twins’ top prospects. An ineffective debut and a serious injury later, and Gonsalves was cast away. It wasn’t long before the Mets snatched him up off waivers.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Gonsalves worked with Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner in Minnesota in 2019. It’s clear he sees something in the prospect that the Twins didn’t.
Could that “something” be Gonsalves transitioning to the bullpen? The once-elite prospect hasn’t made a start this spring. He’s instead pitched five innings in three bullpen appearances and has made a mark in that short time.
Gonsalves hasn’t allowed a run yet this spring, and he’s only let up two hits. The issue he’s faced is his command. He’s only struck out three batters and has walked just as many, which isn’t a recipe for long-term success.
But overall, it’s great to see Gonsalves pitching well again. He’ll likely have a part to play with the Mets in 2020. Whether that’s from the rotation or bullpen is up to the imagination, though time as a reliever makes more sense.
His stuff plays up in the bullpen and his starting pitching arsenal makes him a weapon. Look for the Mets to turn Gonsalves into a multi-inning swing reliever in the mold of Seth Lugo.