Reviewing Baseball America’s 2018 Top 30 Mets Prospects: #5 Thomas Szapucki

The Mets #5 prospect had an early end to his 2017 season thanks to Tommy John. He took all of 2018 to recovered (this was planned, it’s even written in his Baseball America 2018 scouting report) and he finally returns next year.

In 2017 there was a lot of buzz around Thomas Szapucki. He made himself known over 9 starts in 2016 with a 0.62 ERA over 29 innings in Kingsport and a 2.35 ERA over 23 innings in Brooklyn. The start of his 2017 season was derailed due to shoulder issue and he pitched 6 games, 29 innings with a 2.79 ERA before needing Tommy John.

His numbers looking great, in the minors he has a 2.27 career ERA with a 1.02 WHIP. But this is over 83.0 innings in 5 seasons where he has missed considerable time due back stiffness, shoulder problems and now a season and a half with Tommy John. His stuff is good, it’s just a massive question as to how he bounces back from Tommy John and can he pitch a full season.

BA gives him a 55 ranking with a 60 fastball, 50 curveball, 60 slider, 45 changeup and a 45 control. The high ranking fastball/slider is a calling card for the Mets system that loves sliders as an out-pitch.

Baseball America closed with saying that he easily could have been the #1 prospect last year if he had a full, healthy season and still sees him as a #3 type starter. The Mets are desperate for starting pitching prospects, especially since the Cano/Diaz trade sent Dunn to Seattle. At 23 years old, and coming off Tommy John, I imagine that if Thomas is healthy this year he has an inning cap that takes him off the field around August. He probably should go straight to Binghamton but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mets keep him St. Lucie for a month or so, especially considering the temperatures in Binghamton and the length of time he has missed from the field.

If he has a strong, healthy campaign, he should be in Syracuse during the 2020 season and then make either a late 2020, 2021 major league debut.

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Merry Christmas Mets – Here’s Wilson Ramos!

BVW followed up his end of Winter Meetings signing of Jeurys Familia with Wilson Ramos. Unlike the Cano/Diaz trade which were discussed heavily in the media for at least a week before they happened, the Familia and Ramos signings seemed to fall out of thin air. Familia was signed in the middle of the night East Coast time with fans finding out about it around 4 AM Thursday morning. It was publicly known that Mets met with Ramos last week but little was known about their meeting. Then at around 5 PM on Sunday, the Mets had a new catcher.

The Familia and Ramos signings were also shrewd, team friendly contracts. In a bloated high end relief market with Kimbrel asking for 9 figures, BVW got Familia for 30 million. In a market where Grandal was going to get 60 million and Realmuto was going to cost the Mets the future, BVW got Ramos, the second best free agent catcher on the market for 19.

Ramos is an interesting signing. He’s consistently played well, as designated by a career .273/.317/.439 slash line and a 102 DRC+. So he’s 2% better than the average major leaguer in a position that’s difficult to put up good, comparable numbers. The knock on Ramos has been his injury history which seems like a dangerous combination given this is the Mets.

Once you move beyond the injuries, which hamper cumulative stats like BWARP (where he has only 19.7 in his career), you can see the promise that Ramos can bring.

Last year he had a 117 and 109 DRC+ with the Phillies and Rays respectively. The year before that he had a DRC+ of 99 and before that 116. His 2015 year was his worst offensively but he also only played 25 games. So 2018 117/109 DRC+, 2017 99, 2016 116.

We can’t compare d’Arnaud’s 2018 because he only played in 4 games but in 2017 he had a DRC+ of 99 and in 2016 79. Last year Plawecki had a DRC+ of 88, 2017 103 (by far his best) and 2016 only 70.

Ramos is a huge upgrade at catcher, and it’s only for two years. It’s hyper risky due to his injury history. He might not feel like an upgrade because his name doesn’t care the same weight as Realmuto or Grandal.

Of course, this only matters with what the Mets do next. How do they fill in that last outfield spot? Who do they get as another lefty in pen?

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Reviewing Baseball America’s 2018 Top 30 Mets Prospects: #6 Mark Vientos

It’s a race to finish this Top 30 article series by the end of the year! Today we will look at a prospect the Marlins were supposedly interested in as part of a package for Realmuto, Mark Vientos!

Trading Mark would have been a shame. There’s a great anecdote in the Baseball America book that Mark’s father is a Mets fan and was super excited when the Mets drafted him. That’s the type of story that needs to be followed to a conclusion with Mark breaking into the majors with the Mets.

That being said, don’t look Vientos in the bigs soon, mostly due to his age. He’s quite young. He turned 18 in December the year he was drafted.

Baseball America before last year gave him an overall rank of 55, with a 50 hit, 55 power, 30 speed, 50 fielding and 55 arm. Those numbers also match their write up noting his arm strength, how the Mets hope his swing translates into power.

In his rookie year he hit a combined .262/.318/.398 between the Gulf Coast league and Kingsport where he was 2.5 years younger than average and 3.3 years younger than average respectively. Baseball America noted that if he had a good spring he could make it to Columbia in 2018. That didn’t happen, but his 2018 in general definitely good enough to lock him into Columbia.

Last year, still 2.3 years younger than the average player in Kingsport, he hit .287/.389/.489 hitting 11 homers in 262 PA’s. Technically Brooklyn should be next but if he has a good spring, I think the Mets have to give him a shot in Columbia. If he was one year older, and he put up those numbers in Kingsport I would be more confident that he would be starting the season out in Columbia.

So lets see what Vientos does! He’s still growing into his frame. It would not be a surprise if he started in Columbia or if he started in Brooklyn and played the last 6 weeks of the season in Columbia.

My concern right now about Vientos is outside of his control. I would want to keep Vientos for at least two more years before deciding if he was going to come up to the majors with the Mets or be traded to another team. His stock value in the short term is probably just going to increase, and it feels like the Mets could regret having him as a side-piece in a trade deal rather than a center-piece.

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Get To Know a Rule 5 Pick – Braxton Lee

The Mets drafted 4 players total in the Rule 5 draft during the winter meetings, including three players in the minor league round. One of those players, Braxton Lee, should sound familiar to you if you watched the Mets last year. He made his major league debut for the Marins and played in 8 games where he got 18 PA’s and hit .176/.222/.176 including three games and 8 PA’s against the Mets where he he had 1 hit. It was his most PA’s against any one club last year.

Across three levels for the Marlins’ minor league system last year, he hit .233/.316/.294. In his minor league career he has slashed a .265/.338/.317. Important wrinkle in his stats: he is not one of those players whose stats have mostly improved or mostly recessed at each level. He hit only .209/.269/.256 in 2016 and then the next year hit .309/.395/.384.

Coming into last season, Baseball America had him ranked as the Marlins #21 best prospect with a 40 ranking, but only medium risk (only four players out of the 30 on the Mets prospect list received a risk rating that low). Baseball America notes that he focuses on contact first with with his swing, and is more valuable defensively than anywhere else (a good arm and is speedy, but also apparently can’t run the bases particularly well).

Braxton Lee makes perfect sense for the Mets because they are desperate for outfield depth but have too many outfielders of similar offensive capability to provide consistent playing time for an up can coming outfield bat. Furthermore. The Mets, especially when Cespedes comes back, don’t yell outfield defense is our cornerstone. The more frequent injuries to Juan Lagares and the Mets trying to make three corner outfielders play in a game built for two beg for someone like Braxton Lee.

The Mets missed out on Billy Hamilton to round out the outfield bench. Braxton Lee could make an excellent, value type player on the bench to tighten up the end of game defense. He is sure to get a lot of looks in Spring Training.

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Get To Know A Rule 5 Draft Pick – Kyle Dowdy

For the first time in a while (possibly 2014 when the the Mets picked up Sean Gilmartin) the Mets selected a player in the Rule 5 draft this week and did not trade him to another team (yet). The Mets selected Kyle Dowdy from Cleveland citing that he could provide rotation depth in the upcoming season.

Kyle Dowdy was drafted in the 12th round of the 2015 draft by the Tigers. He was traded at the deadline this year with Leonys Martin to the Indians for prospect Willi Castro, who was ranked as the Indians #7 prospect by Baseball America last year.

Over his career, the right hander has posted a 27-27 record over 78 games and 365.2 innings with a 3.99 ERA and 1.332 WHIP. His first year was his best in the minors, posting a 2.84 ERA over 107.2 innings in low-A ball where he was 1.3 years above the average age in the league. His numbers took a dip the following year, 3.83 ERA and a 4.57 RA9 over 134.0 innings in A+ ball where he was almost a year older than average.

Last year he split time between Detroit and Cleveland’s AA teams and Detroit’s AAA team posting a combined 5.15 ERA over 124.0 innings. His best stint was his 54.1 innings with the Tigers’ AAA club where he posted a 4.47 ERA over 54.1 innings. It has been reported that his velocity jumped a bit after being traded. This is a positive sign.

The Mets will now need to keep Dowdy on the roster for the entire season to keep him. While he has spent most of his time starting in the minors, barring either an unforeseen terrible event (pitcher injury), or a surprising one (somehow Vargas isn’t on the team anymore), Dowdy will be competing for a spot in the rotation. The extra velocity on his fastball last season comes into play here as he’ll mostly be competing against other hard throwers the Mets have stockpiled in sell-off’s the last few years (minus Gerson Bautista – have fun in Seattle!)

I’m not 100% sure how Dowdy fits on the club, but selecting him is a move that ultimately only costs the Mets 50k if it doesn’t work out and if it does gives them another value arm.

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Reviewing Baseball America’s 2018 Top 30 Mets Prospects: #7 Marcos Molina

No suspense or click bait here – Marcos Molina is no longer on the Mets. He was released after a terrible first half of 2018 to make room for Matt den Dekker (who was a necessary signing and then immediately got injured) and then Molina got suspended for PED use.

Molina was signed by the Mets in 2012 and made it to Brooklyn at age 19 in 2014 where he was 2.4 years younger than the average player in the league. He posted a 1.77 ERA over 12 starts and 76.1 innings and blew up on everyone’s radar as a massive prospect. He then missed significant time due to Tommy John in 2015 and 2016.

When he came back in 2017, he was still able to post a 3.21 ERA over 18 games, 17 starts over two levels despite having a dip in velocity. Baseball America was still projecting him as a #4 starter since he was boasting a 60 control, he just needed to regain a few ticks on his fastball.

Then last year happened. In 16 starts between Binghamton and Las Vegas he posted a 6.94 ERA over 81.2 innings leading to his release.

Right now he is pitching for the Gigantes in the Dominican Winter League where he he has posted a 2.70 ERA over 4 relief appearances in 3.1 innings. I wouldn’t say his road to the majors is over, he’s still 23 years old. He just needs to find a team that will take a chance with him and let him serve his suspension. I do wonder if he’s candidate to go overseas to the KBO or NPB (I’m not sure if our suspension rules effect that).

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Mets Bring Back Familia – Who Should Be The Last Bullpen Piece?

The Mets signed Jeurys Familia to a 3-year, 30 million dollar deal last night that just makes too much sense. There’s a lot of relievers still on the market looking for closer jobs, longer term deals etc. Familia likes the Mets. The Mets like Familia. This deal seems incredibly fair.

Now the Mets have a closer in Diaz and a set up man in Familia. Or, if we think of leverage situations, the Mets have a former closer to go to before the 9th inning to get them through a tough spot. Before this move, Gsellman projected to be the set-up man and while he improved last year, Familia is a better option.

All of Diaz, Gsellman and Familia are right-handed pitchers. Right now on the roster Zamora is the only lefty, so the Mets should go out and get another lefty. Here are some of their options:

Zach Britton – He would be an elite option who is probably looking for a closer job. He would be an extremely expensive addition to the bullpen but a top of the pen of Diaz/Familia/Britton would be just awesome

Andrew Miller – He’s the other half of the top lefty relievers left on the market (and I think the only top two on the market to begin with). Similar story with Britton, he’s also in line to make a lot of money. His addition makes a lot sense and would be part of an amazing Diaz/Familia/Miller bullpen.

Oliver Perez – Seriously. He’s a lefty, he’s way down on the cost list and at age 36 he posted a 1.39 ERA over 32.1 innings with the Indians last year. If we are just looking for competition with Zamora, Perez is an option.

Tony Sipp – Same as Perez, if we are just looking for competition there’s Tony. He’s coming off a year where he posted a 1.86 ERA over 38.2 innings.

Luis Avilan – Non-tendered by the Phillies, he posted a combined 3.77 ERA over 45.1 innings between the White Sox and the Phillies last year. Unlike the last two pitchers on the list, he’s considerably younger (28/29) and has a 3.09 career ERA.

Jerry Blevins – A fan favorite coming off an ineffective year. This seems very Mets to sign him and while there usually is a chorus of “we’re putting the same losing team back together”, I don’t know how many people would complain about having this fantastic personality back

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Reviewing Baseball America’s 2018 Top 30 Mets Prospects: Desmond Lindsay

Baseball America’s report on Desmond Lindsay starts the same way every other report about Lindsay does – Desmond was the 2015 top draft pick for the Mets because the Mets jumped into the market early that off-season giving up their first round pick for signing Michael Cuddyer. Thus Lindsay, who has been considered somewhere between 5 and 15 in the Mets farm system for a while has been forever linked with Cuddyer.

Lindsay’s history with the Mets also has paralleled the Mets from 2016 on as he has been consistently fighting injuries that rob him of playing time. Or as Baseball America puts it “flashed impact potential in pro ball – but only in glimpses and only in between injuries”.

They ended their report on the player drafted for his hitting that a healthy season would be critical and a chance to play in a more hitter friendly place like St. Lucie would help him.

He’s considered a top prospect with these glimpses of potential because of his slash line between his first season and his second season. In 2015 he slashed .263/.364/.386 and then in 2016 he slashed .303/.433/.451.

Last year he was able to get in 90 games, his most ever in a minor league season but struggled hitting .223/.317/.325. The Mets then sent him to the Arizona Fall League to get more playing time where he did better hitting .286/.355/.643 in 8 games.

Where he has been fighting injuries in his Mets career, he will now find himself fighting time. To protect him in the Rule V draft, the Mets will have to add him to the 40-man roster after next season. If he takes a big, healthy step forward, this probably happens. While he should, based on his numbers and his age, still only 21, play in St Lucie at the start of the season, with the Mets lack of depth in the outfield in the system, he will see playing time in Binghamton at some point. Look for him getting playing time early on in Spring Training.

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Reviewing Baseball America’s 2018 Top 30 Mets Prospects: #9 Chris Flexen

Happy first day of the Winter Meetings! While we anxiously wait for whatever BVW has up his sleeve in Vegas, let’s talk about a pitcher who’s season ended this year in Vegas.

Due to the injuries and trades on the 2017 Mets team, Chris Flexen got an extended look throughout the end of the season finding himself in 14 games, 9 starts pitching 48.0 innings with a 7.88 ERA. Going into the off-season, he was considered the Mets 9th best prospect by Baseball America who rated him with a 50 fastball, 55 curveball, 45 slider, 50 change-up and a 50 for control. Chris, like Nimmo also endeared himself to the fans through an appearance at the Queens Baseball Convention (and since he spoke first, he technically was the first ever current player of the Mets to do so at the QBC).

The closing words on his profile for BA is how the Mets generally see him. Right now he doesn’t have a knockout pitch so his ceiling is a 5th starter or a reliever. Unfortunately for Chris, he pitches for the Mets who used him in 4 games last year, once in May, twice in June and then once in July, which was not conducive to developing any sort of rhythm. So Chris allowed 9 earned runs, but 13 total off 14 hits in 6.1 innings.

In August he was diagnosed with torn meniscus which ended his season. While he struggled in random appearances at the major league level last year, he posted a 4.40 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP in Las Vegas, which isn’t the easiest thing to do. The WHIP speaks more towards the concerns about him, but a 4.40 ERA over 92.0 innings in Vegas isn’t bad.

Right now he projects to be in Syracuse on Opening Day. With the Mets incredibly thin at starting pitching and long relief, he looks to come up as soon as someone is injured.

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Reviewing Baseball America’s 2018 Top 30 Mets Prospects: #10 Luis Guillorme

Earlier in this series I discussed how Corey Oswalt was misused by management in terms of being jerked around off his pitching schedule. We also talked about Tyler Bashlor being on the roster for a while but going through long periods of not getting in a game. Well there’s one more player the Mets did this to, and it was more inexplicable, Luis Guillorme. Jeff and Fred Wilpon For some reason Jose Reyes kept getting playing time over the young defensive wiz, and it has led to serious questions as to what’s next.

Baseball America talks about the main reason why everyone knows Luis – the one handed amazing catch in the dugout during spring training where he picked a bat off in the air like it was nothing. This is his main draw – he has amazing reflexes!

The knock on Luis is he doesn’t hit for power. This didn’t stop him from getting the MVP award in the South Atlantic League in 2015. With his great defensive skills and contact prowess, he should have been a major utility piece for the Mets last year struggling with defense. But the Mets gave him an extremely limited role. He ended up hitting only .209/.284/.239 in 35 games and 74 PA’s despite what felt like him being up in the league for a sizable chunk of the season. It’s just not fair.

Depending on what the Mets do next year, he’ll probably start the year in Syracuse. Personally, if the Mets don’t sign some infield depth for the bench, Luis should be on the major league team, regularly coming into the game after the 7th inning. Hopefully he gets an AB or 2 in the process.

The worst case scenario is the Mets call him up, either early or in the season or right away, and then don’t use him again. He needs regular playing time as well.

Essentially, dear Mets, please do not sign Jose Reyes this year to block Luis Guillorme. He was right on track where he should have been in his development until the Mets Mets’d everything up.

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