*Publisher’s note: You can also find this article on my blogging colleague Steven Inman’s Mets-centric blog www.Brokemets.com. I highly recommend reading it, especially if you are a Mets fan. My heartiest congratulations to Steven for graduating from St. John’s University.
With a week remaining before the 2014 MLB Draft kicks off, the Mets have a very big decision to make. Armed with the tenth pick, which was protected from being lost to a team that let go of a big money free agent, the Mets have myriad options for their next big prospect.
Before going into who the Mets should take, let’s take a look at the first round strategy of GM Sandy Alderson.
Ever since Alderson took over as the Mets’ GM, he’s opted to take high ceiling talent out of high school; in fact, of the five first round picks he’s had (this includes the compensatory picks he’s gotten from losing Pedro Feliciano and Jose Reyes), only one, catcher Kevin Plawecki of Purdue University, came out of college. The players he’s taken in the first (and compensatory) rounds are as follows:
2013: Dominic Smith, first baseman, Serra High School, Los Angeles, CA.
Smith, who was viewed as one of the top hitters in his class, was valued for his stroke as well as his fielding ability. He’s been compared to Adrian Gonzalez, and in a particularly weak year for first base prospects in MLB, he’s ranked second, although he’s made strides to justify that ranking after a slow start in Low-A Savannah. Given the team’s unsurprising trade of former top pick Ike Davis and commitment to Lucas Duda (who will be 31 or 32 by the time Smith makes his MLB debut) it’s almost a certainty that Smith will be playing first base at Citi Field in the latter half of the 2010’s.
2012: Gavin Cecchini, Shortstop, Alfred M. Barbe High School, Lake Charles, LA
Cecchini is a big time hit or miss prospect who was taken for his value as a defensive star. Although he’s had a slow start to his career due to injury, the fact that he’s only 20 years old serves as a reminder that high school talent often takes more time to develop, meaning he could conceivably be held in the minors until 2017, much like Smith. Cecchini seems to be destined to make up half of a double play combo with one of two top international prospects: Dilson Herrera, who was acquired in the Marlon Byrd trade, or Amed Rosario. Whomever is the odd man out in that group is either going to be traded or coerced into playing third base. Should Cecchini lose out on the shortstop battle, he could be tried out as a third baseman, in fact, his older brother Garin is a top third base prospect for the Boston Red Sox.
Kevin Plawecki, Catcher, Purdue University
When Kevin Plawecki was drafted, one of the big things that stood out about him was the fact that he’s a guy who constantly gets on base. A guy who also rarely strikes out, Plawecki reminds some Mets people of Daniel Murphy, except he’s slower and plays a more challenging position. As I’ve made mention before, teams are starting to understand the importance of carrying two starting level catchers on the big league club, and Plawecki with Travis d’Arnaud could actually prove to be a solid combination. Should the Mets opt to deal him, he may have some value for a team that could use a starting catcher, as evidenced by the Mets’ discussions during the offseason between the Diamondbacks.
2011: Brandon Nimmo: Outfield, Cheyenne East High School, Cheyenne, WY
Alderson’s first pick as a Mets GM is either going to be one of the biggest gem finds or a major novelty gone bad. Nimmo, who gained fame for not playing high school ball (Wyoming doesn’t sanction baseball as a sport in interscholastic competition), was valued for his athletic upside. Nimmo has overcome a predictably slow start in the minors and is currently tearing the cover off the ball in High A St. Lucie, enough to land him in the top 100 prospect list at the final spot. Should he continue that pace, expect him to make a return appearance to the Futures Game in Minnesota.
Michael Fulmer, Pitcher, Deer Creek High School, Deer Creek, OK
Fulmer is the only pitcher that Alderson has drafted in the first round, and for good reason. 2011 was a great year for Oklahoma prep pitchers, and Fulmer has followed Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley’s success pattern. Although he suffered a setback from his development after injuring his leg, he should be with the major league club by 2017, likely as a long reliever/spot starter.
Sandy Alderson’s strategy deviated from his predecessor, Omar Minaya, who drafted low ceiling/high floor talent. Although most of Minaya’s choices were destined to be average (or in the case of 2007 and 2008 first rounders Nate Vineyard, Reese Havens and Brad Holt, marred with injury and unfulfilled promise) Minaya does have the claim to fame that his final first round pick, Matt Harvey, is one of the best young pitchers in baseball.
Moving on, the question remains: Who should Alderson select with the tenth overall pick?
Generally, given the amount of time prospects take to develop, coupled with the choice between high school, JUCO and college talent, general managers go with the Best Player Available. Although Alderson didn’t necessarily need a first baseman, and many experts thought he would have gone after a college outfielder like Fresno State’s Aaron Judge, Smith was the best player available.
If we went by the best player available based on Baseball America and MLB.com’s top 200 and 100 prospect lists, then the Mets would have two different choices: Baseball America’s #10 player in their top 200 is LSU ace Aaron Nola, who’s bounced up and down the draft board, going as low as the 20’s and as high as top ten. MLB.com has University of San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer as their ten pick. Zimmer has stayed pretty consistent, getting picked in the top 15 in most mocks.
Looking at the Mets’ top 20 prospects, which is what I use as a basis for my mock drafts, it’s clear that once Noah Syndergaard makes his big league debut, the Mets will not have a legitimate top ten right handed pitching prospect. With Rafael Montero and Jake deGrom likely up for good, and Syndergaard coming up, Alderson, unless he invests his pick in a bona fide arm, will not have a top pitching prospect to advance through the system and excite and distract the fan base. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the options that Alderson has:
First, let’s get one thing abundantly clear: Carlos Rodon will not fall out of the top three. Despite his struggles this year at NC State, Rodon’s still got an impressive resumé, as well as covetable attributes that will make him a top pick. The same goes for Brady Aiken, the prep star from Cathedral Catholic. His stock has risen to the point where he’s in the conversation to be the top pick as well. That, and they are also left-handed pitchers. Tyler Kolek, the consensus top right handed pitching prospect, will also not fall out of the top five.
Let’s take a look at the pitchers that are in range, and that’s 5th best player to 15th best player on Baseball America’s and MLB.com’s lists:
Jeff Hoffman, East Carolina (6)
Erick Fedde, UNLV (8)
Aaron Nola, LSU (10)
Touki Toussaint, Coral Springs Christian High School, Florida (13)
Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt (15)
And now MLB.com’s list:
Grant Holmes, Conway High School, South Carolina (12)
In my two mock drafts, I had the Mets taking a right handed pitcher for the reason stated above: They will need to add a right handed pitching stud in order to balance out their top ten prospects. In the first mock, I picked Touki Toussaint: a high school arm whose raw talent, coupled with his loose arm could make him a deadly young pitcher with #2 starter potential. However, given Alderson’s Moneyball background, which actively discourages the drafting of prep arms in the first round, the chances of Toussaint wearing a Mets jersey seem slim.
In the second mock, I had the Mets taking Tyler Beede. Beede is a familiar name, as he was a first round pick three years ago by the Toronto Blue Jays. However, Beede decided against going pro and went to play for Vanderbilt. Beede’s game is great, but some mechanical fine tuning could make it better. He’s been consistently challenging both Nola and Rodon as the top college pitcher this year, and his Golden Spikes nomination last year indicates he has high level pro potential.
If I were Alderson, I’d want a battle tested pitcher, a pitcher that has faced top flight competition. Right off the bat, that eliminates Toussaint and Grant Holmes, a big pitcher from Conway High School. Because high school baseball talent is relative to the state that it’s played in, even if Toussaint and Holmes were among the best talents that year, keep in mind they were facing typical prep talent. Not every South Carolina and Florida prepster is going to play division one ball in college, and even if they did, they wouldn’t all play in the power conferences like the SEC or the ACC.
The second aspect of a battle tested pitcher is the college conference they play in. The Mountain West and Conference USA, once upon a time, were college hotbeds, but now they’re essentially a tick below the real power conferences. Sure, pitchers like Hoffman and Fedde may get the opportunity to play a power conference team here and there, but ultimately, unless it was consistent, it’s a waste of time for Alderson to even think about Fedde and Hoffman.
This leaves it to two pitchers: Nola, and Beede.
Nola, the ace at LSU, is a pitcher who, while he isn’t going to blow you away with any special pitch, has great command and control of his offerings. He won’t be an ace at the major league level, but his dependability will be an asset to any team that needs a pitcher who can go deep into innings.
Beede, on the other hand, is an anti-Nola. His fastball is his best major league offering, going from the low to mid 90’s, and his ceiling is a front-end starter, possibly as high as #2. What Beede lacks in his game is pitch consistency. While Beede does have devastating offerings, like his fastball, curve and change up, they are only effective if he can consistently locate the strike zone.
So who should Sandy pick if it comes down to Nola and Beede?
In a perfect world, Nola will fall to the tenth spot where Alderson can nab him. His consistency and even strength in his offerings mean that either he’s going to be an above average hurler with little to no need to tinker, or, if there is room for improvement, establish a dominant pitch or make each pitch better. Nola’s mechanics are excellent and he is battle tested against the highest possible level of competition in college baseball. It seems that Nola is one of the very few high ceiling/high floor talents, and although Alderson isn’t the type of general manager who goes for safe picks, getting that combination will pay off rather quickly.
MLB prospect expert Jonathan Mayo released his top 100 prospect list on January 23rd and for the most part, it seems as if there are no real surprises. There are plenty of newcomers, some of which impressed enough that they warranted top consideration, plenty of prospects also graduated from the list and are replaced by those who have similar caliber.
While last year’s profiling counted down from 100-1 (and did not finish), this year, Minor League Madhouse will be profiling the top prospects by division. How is that going to work? Quite simply, I will be going over each team’s top 100 prospects. I will look at their movement from last year’s list, when they were drafted/signed, what their strengths are, and how they fit into their future team. Twitter handles will also be provided for prospects. We start off with the NL East.
Prospects: Lucas Sims, RHP (60) and Christian Bethancourt, C (82)
Sims: Drafted in the first round out out Brookwood High School in Georgia with the 21st pick in the 2012 draft.
2013: Pitched for Rome in South Atlantic League, Went 12-4 with a 2.62 ERA and 136 K’s.
The Braves have a knack for developing young pitchers out of high school, just ask Tom Glavine. Sims, a local product, has been nothing short of impressive since being drafted. He has a decent pitchers toolbox with the fastball, curveball, changeup combo, but does need to improve mechanics in his delivery. Sims takes over as the Braves’ top pitching prospect after Sean Gilmartin was traded to Minnesota for Ryan Doumit. He clearly has a ways to go before he’ll settle in the Atlanta rotation, but should he develop the way that he has, he could be an ace for the Braves staff.
Bethancourt: Signed as an international free agent in 2008.
2013: Played for Mississippi in Southern League and Major League club. Hit .277 with 12 HR’s and 47 RBIs in AA, had one appearance in MLB. Played in Futures Game.
Barring a major setback or the team wanting him to develop in AAA, Christian Bethancourt is pretty much set to take over as the catcher for the Braves in 2014. And why not? Bethancourt is a defensive star, with a solid arm, and decent plate skills. He is scrappy, and profiles as a 5-7 hitter in any lineup. Having seen Bethancourt play in the Futures game, albeit for a pinch hit appearance, I can honestly say that he’ll be a decent catcher.
Prospects: Andrew Heaney, LHP (29), Colin Moran, 3B (51) Jake Marisnick, OF (65), Justin Nicolino, LHP (81)
Heaney: Drafted in the first round out of Oklahoma State University with the 9th pick in the 2012 draft.
2013: Pitched for Jupiter of the Class A Florida State League and Jacksonville of the AA Southern League. Combined for a 9-3 record, 1.60 ERA and 95 K’s.
Heaney’s first full season of baseball was certainly one of the more dominant ones. Although he started out with an injury which kept him out for a month, he managed to dominate the Florida State League, earning him a quick promotion to the Southern League where he continued to flourish. Heaney has a weird delivery which baffles hitters on both sides of the plate. He has pinpoint control, and he knows the strike zone. Heaney could find himself competing for a starting rotation spot this year in a rotation that already has one of the best young arms (Jose Fernandez) in the game.
Moran: Drafted in the first round out of the University of North Carolina with the 6th pick in the 2013 draft.
2013: Played for the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Atlantic Coast Conference in the NCAA, and the Greensboro Grasshoppers of the Low A South Atlantic League. Won ACC Player of the Year, named consensus NCAA All American, and was a finalist for Golden Spikes Award. Hit .299 with 4 home runs and 23 RBI for Greensboro.
Colin Moran was one of the better prospects in the 2013 MLB draft, in fact, some had him as the number one pick. Although he fell 5 spots, he’s still regarded as a high level prospect. Despite taking a while to sign, Moran did show promise in his short stint at Greensboro. While he’s no Giancarlo Stanton, he certainly has decent hitting ability and solid defense, reminding me of a collegiate David Wright. Moran projects as a 5-7 hitter in the Marlins lineup, but could move to a 2-5 hitter, perhaps a 3 hitter, if he continues to show his ability.
Marisnick: Drafted in the third round of the 2009 draft out of Riverside Poly High School by the Toronto Blue Jays. Traded to the Miami Marlins with Justin Nicolino, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis, Yunel Escobar, and Anthony DeScalfini for Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, John Buck, Emilio Bonifacio, and Mark Buehrle.
2013: Played for Jupiter of the Class A Florida State League, Jacksonville of the AA Southern League, and the Major League Club. Hit a combined .289 with 12 HR and 46 RBI in the minors, and .183 with 1 HR and 5 RBI in the majors.
I honestly didn’t like the Marlins rushing Jake Marisnick to the majors so quickly, mainly because he missed out on AAA. That being said, I don’t think they’ll make the same mistake again. Marisnick, when developed properly, has a great arm and fast legs. He and Christian Yelich should make up the other two outfield spots for Miami in the future. Marisnick’s one knock however is his plate patience, which can be fixed if he’s allowed the time to mature.
Nicolino: Drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft out of University High School in Orlando by the Toronto Blue Jays. Traded to the Marlins in the Marisnick deal.
2013: Pitched for Jupiter and Jacksonville, Posted a combined 8-4 record with a 3.11 ERA and 95 K’s.
Nicolino was part of the famed Toronto Blue Jays 2010 Arms Class which included Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard. Two years later, he was dealt to the Miami Marlins and proceeded to have a generally solid year. After having success in single A Jupiter, Nicolino was promoted to Jacksonville where he put up pedestrian numbers due to the class shift. Nicolino, whose fastball is decent and whose control is generally solid, would benefit from an extended stay in Jacksonville, but could find himself in the majors by late 2014-mid 2015. With him, Fernandez, and Heaney, as well as the other arms obtained in the fire sale trades, the Marlins could have a very scary rotation set for the future.
New York Mets:
Prospects in top 100: Noah Syndergaard, RHP (11), Travis d’Arnaud, C (22) Rafael Montero, RHP, (85)
Syndergaard: Drafted in the first supplemental round of the 2010 draft out of Mansfield Legacy High School by the Toronto Blue Jays. Traded to the New York Mets with John Buck, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra for R.A Dickey, Josh Thole, and Mike Nickeas.
2013: Pitched for St. Lucie of the Florida State League and Binghamton of the Eastern League, went a combined 9-4 with a 3.06 ERA and 133 K’s, Pitched in the 2013 Futures Game.
Syndergaard is a special talent, but in order to show it, he needed to get out of a system which had two other promising arms from his draft class. After the Mets acquired him in the Dickey deal, Syndergaard showed how special he was, excelling in the Florida State League, before being promoted to the Eastern league, where he put up similar numbers. Syndergaard was so hyped that he was given the start for Team USA in the Futures game, a high honor. His fastball is a high 90’s pitch and his other pitches are generally solid. He does have good control and command. The Mets will be promoting him, but probably not until mid may or early June. He’ll probably be spending time in Las Vegas, a.k.a Pitchers Hell, but regardless of what happens, he’ll be up.
d’Arnaud: Drafted in the first supplemental round in the 2007 draft out of Lakewood High School in California by the Philadelphia Phillies. Traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010 in the Roy Halladay deal, then to the New York Mets in 2012 in the R.A Dickey Deal.
2013: Played for the GCL Mets, Binghamton, and Las Vegas, before joining the Major League club. Hit a combined .286/3/20 in the minors and .202/1/5 in the majors.
2013 was an aberration for d’Arnaud, the top catching prospect in baseball for the second year in a row. He missed most of the year thanks to a freak foul ball related foot fracture, and had to go through four levels of competition. That being said, d’Arnaud, despite his weak major league debut, is still a prime candidate for the Rookie of the Year award, as his eligibility is still intact. d’Arnaud’s best asset is hitting, and his fielding is definitely a work in progress, in short, he could be another Paul Lo Duca.
Montero: Signed as an international free agent in 2011.
2013: Played for Binghamton and Las Vegas, combined for 12-7 record, 2.78 ERA, and 150 K’s. Played in 2013 Futures Game
Rafael Montero has always been a late prospect, being signed at age 20, a full four years behind the optimum international free agency age, developing slowly until his meteoric rise last season which included an unusually strong showing at the pitchers’ Siberia in Las Vegas. Regardless, Montero may not be with the Mets by the end of the year, as his name has constantly been mentioned in trade rumors. He will be fighting for a rotation spot in Spring Training, but barring an outstanding showing, will be in AAA in order to delay his arbitration clock. Montero does have a solid offering at fastball, and his control is certainly up there. If he stays, he could help ease the long term loss of Matt Harvey and help establish a strong young rotation.
Prospects: Maikel Franco, 3B (26), Jesse Biddle, LHP (53)
Franco: Signed as international free agent in 2010
2013: Played for Lakewood and Reading, combined for a .320 batting average, 31 home runs and 103 RBI. Appeared in 2013 Futures Game
Maikel Franco could join Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard as the next big homegrown Phillies infield star. Blessed with an amazing stick and good fielding capability, Franco absolutely tore through two levels of competition. If Franco continues to play at the level that he has been and incumbent option Cody Asche continues to struggle, Franco could be in the majors by June.
Biddle: Drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft out of Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia, PA.
2013: Played for Reading of the Eastern League, went 5-14 with a 3.64 ERA and 154 K’s. Pitched in 2013 Futures game.
Since being drafted out of high school, the Phillies have had nothing but praise for their local boy, Jesse Biddle. And rightfully so. While his record doesn’t look like that of a top prospect, he actually had a halfway decent year. and capped it off with a Futures game selection. Biddle’s fastball and control are destined to be basic, but his curveball is quite nasty to behold. He’ll likely be spending the bulk of 2014 in Lehigh Valley, but could make it up to Philly by August.
Prospects: Lucas Giolito, RHP (44) AJ Cole RHP, (69)
Giolito: Drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft out of Harvard Westlake School in Studio City, CA.
2013: Pitched for the GCL Nationals and the Auburn Doubledays. Went a combined 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA and 39 K’s.
Before Giolito had to spend a year recovering from a sprained UCL and the majority of his debut season recovering from Tommy John Surgery, there was debate as to the possibility of him being the first overall pick in the draft. While that never happened, the Nationals once again (Anthony Rendon ’11) used their philosophy of drafting high profile names with falling stocks. Giolito showed no long term problems after the surgery, as his triple digit fastball remained intact, but he did play on an abbreviated schedule. Still, in the short time he played, Giolito dazzled, blazing through the Gulf Coast League, then the New York Penn League. Giolito will likely see the full year in short A, but if he continues to develop the way that he has, he could be up in the majors by early 2016.
Cole: Drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of Oveido High School in Oveido, Florida. Traded to Oakland with Derek Norris, Brad Peacock, and Tommy Milone for Gio Gonzalez and Rob Gilliam, Traded to Washington in three team deal for Michael Morse and John Jaso.
2013: Played for Potomac Nationals and Harrisburg Senators. Combined for a 10-5 record with a 3.60 ERA and 151 K’s. Pitched in 2013 Futures Game.
Cole is an interesting story, having been drafted by the Nationals organization out of high school, only to be traded a year later to Oakland, then back to the Nationals two years later. While Cole looked somewhat lost on the West Coast, his return to the DC farm system certainly helped, as he made it over the Single-A hump and had a great Double-A debut. He was rewarded with a Futures game invite and effectively served as Team USA’s closer, helping preserve the 4-2 win. Cole has been a starter in the minors, but his fastball speed could lead to a role in the bullpen, specifically as the team’s eventual closer. Expect Cole to start the season in AAA, but possibly could be in the majors by August if he continues the way he has been.
This is the second part of my two part series on the Futures game, which is the minor league equivalent of the All-Star game. Having already covered Team USA, I now go to the World Team.
I forgot to mention that both Team USA and the World Team are managed by Mets alums. Team USA is managed by Mookie Wilson, while Edgardo Alfonzo will take the reigns as manager of the World team.
Now, let’s go onto the roster. Again, here’s the list, from CBS.
A little disappointing to note that 2012 Futures gamer Jameson Taillon, who hails from Canada, will not be pitching for the team. Still, the pitching is… interesting to say the least. The three most notable names that stick out to me are Yordano Ventura of the Royals, who likely could be called up sometime in the future, Rafael De Paula, who is the Yankees’ best international pitcher, and Rafael Montero, who has come out of nowhere and made himself a topic of conversation, as he seems to be a favorite to make next year’s Mets rotation. Montero will likely start the game this year for the World Team. It’s interesting to also note that the World team has more pitchers in AAA (4) than Team USA (1).
Onto the catchers and infielders. The World Team’s infield looks almost as good as it did last year, when Jurickson Profar was playing on the World team. While Profar is no longer eligible, 2012 Futures gamer Francisco Lindor is. Also playing is Red Sox super prospect Xander Bogaerts, whom people got a good look at in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, and Miguel Sano, who, along with Byron Buxton, looks to provide the Minnesota Twins with a very promising future.
On a name basis, the outfield at least looked promising, but injuries to the two best players, Jorge Soler of the Cubs, and Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals, likely indicate that there will be some shuffling done before All-star Sunday.
The Final vote has five interesting candidates up for selection, although given the outfield situation, it might be cut down to three.
Javier Baez, Outfield, Cubs
Baez, who hit four home runs in a game this year, is part of the Cubs future outfield which will likely consist of him, Jorge Soler, and Albert Almora. He’s a 2011 first round draft pick.
Ji-Man Choi, infielder, Mariners
Choi garnered some attention last year when he won the Arizona League MVP. He’s a contact hitter with barely any power, but is defensively strong.
Carlos Correa, shortstop, Astros
Correa was the first overall pick of the 2012 draft by the Astros. A slick fielder with some hitting ability, he’s made it as high as the Midwest League.
Renato Nunez, third baseman, Athletics
Nunez has jumped on the map this year by destroying Midwest league pitching; he’s hit 13 home runs already. He and Addison Russell may share the A’s left side of the infield by 2018.
Rougned Odor, second baseman, Rangers
Odor is a defensive asset who flashes some hitting ability. Given the state of the Rangers infield for the forseeable future, Odor may find himself as trade bait sometime in the future.
And now, another poll. Who do you want to see in the futures game?
Sadly, I could not find any updates on the World team voting.