The rosters for the Mets four full-season minor league affiliates and are out, as the season gets underway Thursday. Let’s take a sneak peek at the roster for each team and the players we’ll be watching closely this season.
The 51s have an outstanding starting rotation headlined by Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and Jacob deGrom, as least they will at the start of the season. All three guys should make their major league debut at some point this season, although Montero and deGrom could do so out of the bullpen. Logan Verrett and Daisuke Matsuzaka will round out the rotation, which isn’t a bad thing. In the Vegas bullpen, there are several guys to keep a close eye on, including Josh Edgin, Vic Black, Jeff Walters, Erik Goeddel, Joel Carreno, and even veteran Kyle Farnsworth. I expect constant moving and shifting between this group and the major league staff, but even in a hitter-friendly league I think the 51s will have a good pitching staff this season.
The lineup doesn’t look bad either. Cesar Puello, Matt den Dekker, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis should get a majority of the playing time in the outfield, with old man Bobby Abreu and Eric Campbell seeing time as well. Campbell will also split time at third base with Zach Lutz and at first base with Allan Dykstra, giving the 51s good power at the corner positions. Danny Muno, Wilmer Flores, and Anthony Seratelli will handle the middle infield positions. I would expect Flores to get a lot of time at shortstop early in the season. At catcher, the 51s are in good shape with Juan Centeno and Taylor Teagarden, both could make a big league appearance at some point this season.
Even though the 51s could lose some key players throughout the season, the Mets are giving Wally Backman a lot to work with, and with Backman running the show I expect these team to win some games and perhaps return to the playoffs this year.
The B-Mets have a nice rotation, but it lacks eye-catching prospects. Darin Gorski should be able to have his way with AA hitters, and Greg Peavey should be fine as well at the top of the rotation, but the rest of the rotation consists of middle of the road prospects like Matt Bowman, Rainy Lara, and Tyler Pill, who I like, but who may not standout in AA. Of course, we shall see. The bullpen is loaded with lefties, including Jack Leathersich and Adam Kolarek, who spent some time in big league camp during spring training. Chasen Bradford and Cody Satterwhite are also guys that could be key guys for the B-Mets and could be MLB middle relievers if thing go well for them this season.
Outfielders Cory Vaughn, Darrell Ceciliani, and Travis Taijeron all return to the B-Mets this year, which could give them one of the best outfields in the Eastern League. Dustin Lawley could also see some time in the outfield, but he’ll mostly play third base, with Jayce Boyd and Matt Clark at first base. Boyd got us excited last year, but he has a lot to prove now that he’s at AA, and he needs to show more home run power. Wilfredo Tovar and Matt Reynolds will be the middle infielders. I’m not sure if the organization is all that high on Tovar anymore, so he needs to get off to a good start, while Reynolds also needs a strong start after a disappointing season in A-ball last year; if he hits enough, he can be a versatile utility man in the big leagues. Of course, the B-Mets primary catcher will be Kevin Plawecki, who has a lot of people excited, but like Boyd, he was a little old for A-ball last year and needs to prove he can hit like that in the upper levels.
The B-Mets were dominant in the Eastern League last year before falling apart in the playoffs, and while they should be a decent team, I’m not sure this is a roster that will get back to the playoffs.
The St. Lucie rotation is absolutely loaded, and includes many of the same pitchers who led Savannah to the South Atlantic League Championship last year. Domingo Tapia and Michael Fulmer return to St. Lucie hoping to rebound and earn a mid-season promotion to Binghamton, Tapia after terrible control issues last year and Fulmer after an injury-plagued 2013 season. Joining the rotation from Savannah will be Steven Matz, Luis Cessa, Gabriel Ynoa, and Matt Koch. That’s one heck of a rotation. Some names to watch in the bullpen include Seth Lugo, Bret Mitchell, and Beck Wheeler.
Albert Cordero and Cam Maron will handle the catching; both are just about done as meaningful prospects barring an exceptional season in 2014. Phillip Evans and Dilson Herrera should be the primary middle infielders in St. Lucie. Evans needs to start to show something at the plate, while Herrera is someone who could break out in his first full season in the Mets organization. Aderlin Rodriguez remains in St. Lucie after missing a lot of time due to injury last year, and he’s someone that needs to show something and move up to AA by midseason. Brandon Nimmo headlines the outfield; I expect him to have a real breakout season after the hand injury held him back last year. Surrounding him in the outfield will be Maikis De La Cruz, Gilbert Gomez, and Eudy Pina, none are particularly exciting prospects right now.
Outside of Nimmo and Herrera, and some incredible power from Rodriguez, I don’t see a whole lot of offense coming from this team, but if the bullpen holds up, St. Lucie has a real chance to win the first half division title and get back to the postseason on the strength of its rotation, which could eventually lose a couple members to midseason promotions.
As has been the case in recent years, I expect Savannah to pitch this season. The rotation of Chris Flexen, John Gant, Robert Gsellman, and Robert Whalen will be excited to watch; I especially like Flexen. The Gnats also have a few intriguing arms in the bullpen, including Miller Diaz, Akeel Morris, and Robert Coles.
Despite another healthy collection of arms, the highlight of the Savannah roster is in the infield with the Mets last two first round picks: Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini. The Mets haven’t sent many high school draftees to Savannah for their first full season, but I agree with doing so with Smith. He’s fairly polished for such a young player and had a great debut in the GCL last summer. I wouldn’t expect to see him promoted at any point this year, and if it doesn’t work out the Mets can always bring him back to extended spring training and then send him to Brooklyn for the summer. L.J. Mazzilli is another guy to watch, as he’ll be the every day second baseman, who should be looking to earn a mid-season promotion. The outfield of Patrick Biondi, Jared King, and Stefan Sabol is solid but unspectacular, although some like King a lot, but I see him as a tweener who’s at most a fourth or fifth outfielder in the big leagues.
I see this Savannah team being much like past teams: strong on pitching but potentially weak on hitting. I think King will hit some, but a youngster like Smith can’t be relied on to carry the lineup, so offensively Mazzilli and Cecchini will be important to producing runs. Meanwhile, the pitchers are very intriguing, but whether they’ll have the same high level of success as Savannah’s pitcher staff last year is uncertain.
CLICK HERE to take a look at my list of the Mets top 50 prospects heading into the season.