The New York Mets have been widely panned this off season as having a weak farm system. Baseball America recently released their 2018 organizational rankings, and the Mets came in 27th out of 30 MLB organizations. While disappointing, it does not mean the cupboards are bare. Here are five Mets minor leaguers with breakout potential, including what adjustments need to be made for them to jump higher on the radar as Top Prospects.
1. Justin Dunn
Probably the most tantalizing arm in the system that will pitch much in 2018, the 2016 Mets 1st round pick (19th overall) had about as disappointing of a year as he could have in High-A St.Lucie. The K/BB ratio was ugly (75/48 in 95 innings), and at 22 years old, he was facing age-appropriate competition. The good news is, the same stuff that had Mets evaluators excited coming out of the draft, by all accounts was still consistently there. The poor results came from poor ability to repeat a consistent release point, leading to inability to locate his pitches. The good news is, Dunn has the athleticism to improve this aspect with further work with professional coaching. With a fastball that carries plus velocity and movement and has hit as high as 99 MPH, a sharp downward breaking slider that can be a potential plus pitch, and the necessary athleticism to project an average change-up, the ingredients for a quality starting pitcher are here. If Justin comes back to St.Lucie showing more consistent mechanics, look for his 1st round luster to return in a heartbeat.
2. Desmond Lindsay
If Dunn is the most tantalizing arm in the system, Desmond Lindsay might be the most tantalizing bat. While the 2015 2nd round pick doesn’t currently boast any tools that scouts are consistently grading as plus (60 or higher), Lindsay is about as well-rounded of an offensive profile as there is. And that’s not to say he’s all skill, no tools. With plenty of 50-55’s in his profile, he carries above average speed, an average arm, and what scouts generally project to be an average or slightly better hit tool. So where is the excitement?
Lindsay was pegged as a high upside bat coming out of his draft class, labelled by former Mets Special Assistant to the General Manager, Paul DePodesta, as a “hitting machine”. His precocious ability to barrel the baseball as a prep hitter, along with above average bat speed, would have had him probably go in the 1st round of his draft if not for missing almost all of his senior year due to a hamstring injury. Unfortunately, concerns about Lindsay being injury prone have not abated.
After dealing with more soft-tissue leg injuries as a pro, Lindsay was shut down in July last year to have ulnar nerve transposition surgery in his right elbow. Leading up that point, Lindsay had been showing a major adjustment as a 20 year old in low-A Columbia. In April and May, Lindsay was a strikeout machine. But he continued to garner reports of taking good at-bats and running deep counts. Something clicked once the calendar hit June. Lindsay showed he made an adjustment to what the South Atlantic League pitchers were doing to him, and he started hitting, including for power. Lindsay slugged .291/.365/.544 over his last thirty games, or roughly 100 at-bats. A full healthy season is not something we have yet seen from the 21 year old center fielder, but if it happens in 2018, it would go a long way in determining if an every day center fielder is on our hands. As it is, many who have seen him play say he sure looks the part.
3. Mark Vientos
In a way, this is a ‘show-me-more’ list. If unbridled potential belongs on this list, then let’s talk some Mark Vientos. A right-handed, 6’4 SS/3B, signed to an overslot bonus after being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft, Vientos’ build reminds some of Manny Machado. That comp is basically meaningless, as Vientos didn’t exactly tear up rookie ball. After standing out to scouts on the Florida prep scene for his impressive bat speed, Vientos has shown an ability to barrel the baseball with authority, although not always consistently. What scouts dream on is the plus power potential if Vientos fills out his 6’4 frame with muscle over the next few years. While his trial with the GCL Mets was not earth-shattering, it wasn’t a bad first taste of pro-ball, considering Vientos just turned 18 this winter. Mets evaluators will get a good look at Vientos during extended spring training, and once assigned to a short-season A ball squad, it should be interesting to see how he fares as an 18 year old against competition mostly two to three years his senior. While the hope is that the glove plays long term at 3B, the crown jewel here is the bat. But will Vientos’ exciting profile stall out as many talented amateurs before him have? Time will tell.
4. Tomas Nido
So with Nido not being a new name to Mets fans, as the 2012 8th round pick out of high school has been in the system for a while, there could be some prospect fatigue setting in here. After pounding it at St. Lucie in a 2016 breakout campaign, 2017 saw Nido stall out offensively in AA. The good news is, all accounts point to Nido being a strong defensive catcher who will stay behind the dish long term. Now about that bat. While there is no spinning a .641 OPS in the hitter neutral Eastern League, a deeper dive into the scouting report shows that all hope is not lost.
First of all, the offensive bar for a true MLB catcher in today’s game is not all that far to climb. Secondly, catchers often develop late offensively due to all the work it takes to learn all the facets of the catcher’s duties. Thirdly, 2016 happened in High-A as a 22 year old, meaning Nido accomplished his big offensive year against age appropriate competition. Finally, while there is work to do with his approach, and while Nido knows this, scouts have seen some potential power in his swing path as well. Power that can be tapped into with progress in better pitch selection. While playing as a 24 year old in the hitter haven that is Cashman Field this coming season may shine some artificial luster on the bat, it will be fascinating to hear the scouting reports coming out this season. There may still be a true catcher that is almost MLB ready, that can slug something like .250/.300/.450. That’s 2017 Travis D’Arnaud with a signifcantly better glove. A 2-3 WAR homegrown catcher is enough to get me going.
5. Luis Guillorme
Okay, I’ll be honest. Luis Guillorme’s profile just isn’t going to excite a decent portion of the fan base. The game power is basically a 20, and it’s unlikely it ever gets past 30. That being said, I believe I can make a real case for Guillorme as an everyday second baseman. Okay, so power being nil, the dude got his first taste of double-A at 22 and over a good sample size of 480 at-bats, reached base at a .376 clip. Against upper minors pitching, he struck out less than he walked (55 K’s to 72 walks). His career minor league OBP is a hearty .361, and he has climbed the Mets system without delay, playing against age-appropriate competition or older at each step. Are we talking Ben Revere’s offensive peak here with less raw speed, but more on-base ability? I believe that is well within reach. The offensive floor right now seems to be Ruben Tejada (a 2-3 WAR middle infielder at his peak). Okay, almost as if an afterthought, because his god-given talent on D is so smooth and seamless, this all comes together because his glove is a legit 70 at either shortstop or second base. sniff. sniff. What’s that I smell? Is that yet another 3 Win up the middle position player, inching within striking distance of the Show? Hmmm.I don’t know Baseball America. I’m starting to wonder if you’ve been sleeping on my Metsies.