Friends, readers, strangers trolling the Internet for baseball themed porn who accidentally stumbled on this site, it is time to discuss the state of the Mets minor league system in Year Two of the Alderson administration. Baseball America ranks the Mets’ system as 25th in the game, down from 20th last year. While this may seem as a regression, the book on the Mets system for years has been an overall lack of depth coupled with the presence of a few blue chippers than can blossom into game changers at the major league level. This is still the case, and personally I think things are looking up from a year ago. Let’s see how this shakes out.
As befits a club with the pitching rich history of the Mets, their strength lies in power arms. BA lists Matt Harvey as the #54 overall prospect in the game and Zack Wheeler (acquired for Carlos Beltran from the Giants) as # 35. Both of them project as a top of the rotation starters, if not capital “A” aces. Wheeler, the Mets top prospect, had an ERA of an even 2.00 after coming over to the Mets (pitching at St. Lucie) while switching back to his old mechanics from high school, allowing him to improve his K/BB rate to 31/5 in 27 innings at High A . Harvey had an astounding pro debut, posting a 3.32 ERA and K/BB ratio of 64/23 in 136 IP in his rookie season. True, that walk rate predictably bumped up a bit after an in season promotion to AA Binghamton, but the fact is that the Mets have two of the more promising arms in the game, and both will be in the high minors this season (Wheeler will begin at Binghamton, while Harvey will go to AAA Buffalo).
Jeurys Familia will join Harvey on the Bisons, but he is more of a question mark. While he boasts a 99 MPH fastball, he has had trouble developing his secondary pitches – especially the changeup. He will remain in the rotation for now, but do not be surprised to see a shift to the bullpen at some point. With a plus heater and a breaking ball, he could easily be the Mets closer of the future. Speaking of future and bullpen, Jenry Mejia (remember him?) will return to the mound this summer after recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Mets still have yet to learn what they have in the young Dominican. Mejia did not begin pitching until he was 15, and has never really learned how to corral and refine the raw power of his arm. TJ does not help, and where he will report to when he returns is still up in the air. Consensus is he is definitely a major league pitcher (he already has some MLB experience under his belt), but the important thing for him this season is 1) fully heal and 2) see if he has the secondary pitches and stamina to stay as a starter. If not, he will also head to the pen.
Not to go all Generation K on you here, but the Mets have four highly esteemed power arms and three of them (I’m assuming Mejia will be handled cautiously) will be in the high minors this season, meaning help is on the way. The bad news is that the Mets will unlikely being any of them to Queens this year – better to delay the arbitration clock on them and not waste MLB service time on a team that won’t compete (sorry).
In a word: offense. The Mets do not have a player in the high minors that figures to be an impact bat. Sure, there is some attrition in the last few years as there are more homegrown youngsters on the big league Opening Day roster, but other than Ike Davis, no one who has come through the Mets system since Wright and Reyes has figured to be more than a good complimentary piece on a contending team (yes, that includes Lucas Duda). Last year’s first round pick, OF Brandon Nimmo is in the fold but he will start the year in extended Spring Training and eventually land at Low-A Savannah. He is not on the fast track and will definitely need a few years before he can be expected to contribute. Cesar Puello, who overcame a sluggish first half to hit .294/.33/.474 in the second half at St Lucie last year, is the Mets top position prospect after Nimmo. He’ll be 21 and should get his first taste of AA, but this potential top of the order outfielder probably has some polishing to do in terms of handling breaking balls and getting off to better starts. When he is on his game, he is a legitimate five tool threat. OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis and the oft injured 2B Reese Havens profile as a nice fourth outfielder and an offensive minded infielder, respectively. If, or when, the deadline deals come, look for the Mets to be sellers and while you can never have enough pitching, they would be wise to add an everyday impact bat if they can find one
So where do we go from here? The arms look ready to contribute within the next two years, and the bats need a boost. The main question Sandy & Co. should be asking is who is going to be an above average contributor when this team is ready to contend again – let’s say, in three years. If they choose to swallow hard and trade David Wright, that wait time may be trimmed to two years. The other way to speed up the process is through the draft. Last year, Sandy broke with Mets tradition of sticking to MLB’s unenforced slot recommendations for draft signing bonuses. As a result, the Mets’ talent haul was significantly better than in years past, starting with Nimmo and extending to SS Phillip Evans (11th round) and OF Bradley Marquez (16th round). And not a moment too soon. For years, smart teams figured out that if you ignore MLB’s’ slot recs and spend, for example, another $5MM in the draft, you could land better talent and turn your team around better than if you spent that money on a so-so major leaguer.
To commemorate the occasion, MLB changed the rules. The new CBA now effectively limits how much each team can spend in the draft, with stiff financial penalties for those that exceed those limitations. Sooooo, the Mets window to flex their financial might (such as it is right now) is closed. The good news is that they still have one of the smarter front offices around, four of the first 75 picks, and at least one major trading chip come July. When and if Wright goes, it should be the last bitter pill for fans to swallow for a while – unless Fred and Jeff have something else up their sleeve; and really with this crowd, who the hell knows.. In the meantime sit tight. The talent is not overflowing, but it is there, there should be more coming, and it should be arriving on a diamond near you sooner rather than later.