30. Luis Cessa, RHP
Last Year: Not ranked
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 20.9
Acquired: IFA, 2008
2012: 72.1 IP, 5.5 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9, 8 H/9 for Brooklyn (SS-A)
Risk Factor: High. Secondary stuff is all projection at this point and Cessa is a long way away from the majors.
Ranking based on: Video Look/The usual sources
The Short of It: Cessa’s fastball puts him above some other Brooklyn arms with gaudier numbers, but the secondary stuff is still quite raw.
The Long of It: Cessa had the best combination of age/velocity of the Brooklyn starters. He’s younger than the arms that throw about as hard as he does (Mateo, Hilario, Robles), and he’s got a bit more velocity than the guy in his age range (Ynoa). The fastball can touch 95, but sits more 91-93 and what I assume is a two-seamer shows good armside movement. There’s still some rawness here, especially mechanically, as Cessa struggles to finish his pitches and his command and control can come and go. The secondary stuff is not very advanced. He’ll show a slider, curve, and change, but none even approach average at this point. Cessa was strong down the stretch, posting a 21:2 K:BB ratio in his last six regular season starts, but still struggled to miss bats with his array of sub-par off-speed offerings.
The Projection: The safe projection here is some kind of reliever. Cessa has a live arm and could add some velocity in shorter stints. It’s certainly possible that one of the secondary pitches improves enough to make him a two-pitch reliever, but it’s tough to bet on two getting good enough to allow him to stay in the rotation. Still, I like him as a potential sleeper.
What’s next: Cessa will work on refining his secondary stuff against South Atlantic League hitters in Savannah. Given the amount of work needed here, he’s likely to move more slowly than the rest of his 2012 rotation mates.
29. Gilbert Gomez, OF
Last Year: Not ranked
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 21.1
Acquired: IFA, 2008
2012: 344 PA, .253/.360/.341, 71 K / 48 BB between Savannah (A) and St. Lucie (A+)
Risk Factor: High. In the words of Toby Hyde, Gomez is “only slightly less raw than carpaccio.”
Ranking based on: Multiple Live Looks/The Usual Sources/A pleasant chat with Mike Newman
The Short of It: Gomez has some intriguing tools and a more advanced approach than you might think, but he’s…well… only slightly less raw than carpaccio.
The Long of It: I considered Gomez for last year’s list, but he ended up just missing because I had no idea what to do with his weird 2011 season. He started in the GCL and didn’t hit all that much, but earned a battlefield promotion to the Florida State League when the entire St. Lucie outfield ended up hurt. He then proceeded to mash Advanced-A pitching for a month while still just 19. I got a good look at Gomez this year in Savannah and, well, I’m still a bit confused. His swing is complicated with a high leg kick and long load that affects his ability to make consistent contact; however, he did show some raw power potential in BP. Advanced approach at the plate considering the obvious rawness in other aspects of his game. Solid-average runner, but showed sub-optimal instincts on the base paths. Probably not fast enough for a center once his frame starts to fill out. Arm is average, but Gomez had trouble pulling the trigger on throws and can be a bit of a scattershot. Left fielder at higher levels?
The Projection: Gomez’s swing needs to be calmed down and he has to turn some of that raw power potential into in-game power, but I could see him as a useful fourth outfielder that can draw a walk and give you a bit of pop off the bench. That’s going to take some time though, and there’s the distinct possibility that Gomez never figures out upper level pitching.
What’s next: Gomez will get another shot as an every day outfielder in St. Lucie.
28. Cory Vaughn, OF
Last Year: #15
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 23.9
Acquired: 4th round, 2010
2012: 535 PA, .243/.351/.463, 114 K / 65 BB for St. Lucie (A+)
Risk Factor: Medium-High. Questions about how much contact he’ll make at higher levels. Lack of projection relative to jump in dificulty between current level and majors.
Ranking based on: The usual sources
The Short of It: Vaughn’s polish, power, and patience should have made mincemeat out of FSL pitching, but his complicated swing just doesn’t make enough good contact.
The Long of It: Let’s talk a little bit about DIPS theory. Toby Hyde and I are both fond of saying that minor league BABIP is nor major league BABIP. You can’t assume that high BABIP in the minors will inevitably regress in-season or season-to-season. You would expect good hitting prospects to make more good contact and have more balls drop in against minor league pitching and minor league defenses. Vaughn posted big BABIPs at both Brooklyn in 2010 and Savannah in the first half of 2011. Then in the second half at St.Lucie he posted a .247 BABIP, and in a full season there this year, .274. His K rates have remained rather constant (a tad high, but hardly too troubling for a hitter with his power potential), so you have to start looking for reasons this is happening beyond just a long run of bad luck. Well, there is one: His swing is a mess. I remember being cautiously optimistic about Vaughn in early 2011. He was performing well in Savannah, despite the utterly atrocious right-handed hitting environment of Historic Grayson Stadium, and we were all eagerly awaiting his inevitable promotion to St. Lucie. Then in response to someone, Mike Newman tweeted out some video he had taken of Vaughn’s swing. And yeegads. I often say I am not a hitting mechanics guru, and most assuredly, I am not a hitting mechanics guru, but I don’t see how he gets to the majors with that swing. A near arm bar is a pretty big red flag that even I can see. Better fastballs will exploit the holes there, which I think we’ve already seen happen in St. Lucie, and he won’t be able to adjust to better breaking balls which is why I suspect the K rate will rise in Binghamton.
The Projection: I’ve been trying to talk less about ceiling this year, but I think with Vaughn it’s a useful discussion to have. I been asked a few times lately if Vaughn could fill the Scott Hairston role on the Mets at some point as a 4th OF/Lefty masher. Well sure, but that’s the ceiling here. Vaughn had a pretty big platoon split this year, and like Hairston, he’s a pretty good athlete with major league bloodlines. However, Hairston was a Top 50 prospect who killed minor league pitching and was initially drafted as a second baseman. His career as a 4th OF would have been under his mean projection. Just worth keeping in mind. Comps are never simple.
What’s next: 776 Florida State League plate appearances are enough I think. Vaughn should head to Binghamton.
27. Steven Matz, LHP
Last Year: Not ranked
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 21.8
Acquired: 2nd round, 2008
2012: 29 IP, 10.6 K/9, 5.3 BB/9, 0.3 HR/9, 5 H/9 for Kingsport (R)
Risk Factor: How high do you want to go? It’s higher than that.
Ranking based on: A very, very difficult balancing act between potential and risk
The Short of It: What was that Jason Parks said on the podcast? It’s easy to sell dreams? Big-armed lefty gives you plenty to dream on, but zero track record of health.
The Long of It: You know the story: Mets take shot on local boy with big arm with their first pick in the 2008 draft. Local boy is dogged by injuries for the next four years, sources even start hinting at a possible retirement, and then he emerges in the Appalachian League this year, setting the Mets blogosphere aflame. A scout told Toby Hyde that both the change-up and curve have a chance to get to average, and Matz was sitting 93-95 and touching 98 with the fastball. Suddenly, he’s threatening Mets Top 10 prospect lists. Then his shoulder tightens up in early August, and he recedes into the mists once again. I don’t really know what to do with him. I’ve seen some people argue that you have to treat him as a recently drafted college arm, but that would be a college arm that didn’t throw any competitive innings while he was in college. I’m not one to poo-poo lefty velocity, but it’s tough to see a scenario where Matz’s arm holds up long enough that he has a big league career, and nearly impossible to see that happening as a starter. He’s still this high only because I’m not one to poo-poo lefty velocity.
The Projection: He’s a still relatively young lefty with plus velocity and has shown some feel for secondary offerings. He’s also pitched 29 innings in four years. There’s simply no evidence he can hold up to a starter’s workload, and he’s a long way away from being a power pen arm. Wouldn’t be shocked if he never sees AA.
What’s next: Assuming his arm is still attached come April 1st, I imagine the Mets will send Matz to Savannah to try to get him 80-100 innings.
26. Matt den Dekker
Last Year: #27
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 25.7
Acquired: 5th round, 2010
2012: 585 PA, .274/.321/.458, 154 K / 34 BB between Binghamton (AA) and Buffalo (AAA)
Risk Factor: Low. Den Dekker is close to a finished product and close to ready to play in the majors in some capacity.
Ranking based on: Multiple Live Looks/Video Looks
The Short of It: Den Dekker’s glove will likely get him to the majors and keep him there, but his age and hit tool make it unlikely he’ll turn into more than a bench guy.
The Long of It: This was really the tale of two halves for den Dekker as he dominated in Binghamton (.340/.397/.563 64 K / 20 BB) and then collapsed in Buffalo (.220/.256/.373 90 K / 14 BB). And really, even when I saw him live in the first half of 2012, he didn’t look all that different from the player I saw struggle in the Eastern League in the second half of 2011. (and much of his ‘bounceback’ was likely due to an unsustainable .429 BABIP in Bingo) Den Dekker has some serious pop on contact, but he just isn’t going to make enough contact. He chases offspeed stuff out of the zone, and is particularly vulnerable to left-handed breaking balls. But even on fastballs, his max-effort swing can be beat inside or up above his hands. Of course, den Dekker’s calling card is plus centerfield defense, and he delivers on that. He’s a good runner, though not a true burner, and he gets excellent jumps and takes good routes to balls. His arm is average, but accurate. He should be a solid +5 major league centerfielder, but he’s not an elite defender in the Carlos Gomez or Ben Revere mode, as he just doesn’t cover the same sheer length and width of outfield grass that they can.
The Projection: The K rate and platoon issues eat too much of Den Dekker’s offensive value to project him as a regular, even in centerfield, but the glove and power/speed combo could make him a useful fourth OF/occasional platoon guy. The downside here isn’t much different, but if the contact issues could end up limiting him to more of a late inning pinch runner/defensive sub role who rides the AAA shuttle.
What’s next: Den Dekker could make the team out of Spring as a 5th OF/defensive replacement, but it might be worth seeing if he figures out AAA with another go round. I have my doubts though, and the Mets could use his glove.
25. Wuilmer Becerra, OF
Last Year: Not ranked
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 18.5
Acquired: Trade, 2012 (R.A. Dickey)
2012: 39 PA, .250/.359/.375, 7 K / 4 BB for GCL Blue Jays (R)
Risk Factor: Very High. Even if he wasn’t coming off getting hit in the face by a pitch, he still has exactly 39 professional plate appearances at this point and is the youngest player on this list. Dreaming on tools at this point.
Ranking based on: A stray scouting report here and there.
The Short of It: Non-elite prospect in the Dickey trade has some tools and is probably a more valuable asset than Mike Nickeas. Hair’s not as nice though.
The Long of It: To be perfectly honest, putting Becerra on this list while not putting Vicente Lupo on it is kind of silly. But rules are rules. I could throw a dart somewhere between 20 and 40 and be pretty content with ranking Becerra there. Ultimately I just went up the list until I found a prospect I’d rather have in my organization than Becerra. So tools and potential wins out here, sorry double-D. Lupo would probably be somewhere in the 25-35 range for me if I listed him this year, but I think you can make an argument (granted, one based on very few data points) that Becerra is the better prospect. He’s a tad younger, had a stronger amateur pedigree (seven-figure bonus last year), and from reports has louder overall tools. More speed than Lupo, enough arm for right, probably a similar power ceiling (for whatever that’s worth when projecting teenagers not named Miguel Sano). Parks raved about the tools package here and listed Becerra among his Mets “Prospects on the Rise.” I don’t have much else to offer here other than a blind guess (“or anywhere else on this list,” you scoff), but you should probably feel free to read these reports on Becerra from BA and Jays Journal. And if it’s not obvious, that’s basically what I did here.
The Projection: Above-average major league rightfielder. In six years or so. Maybe.
What’s next: Per Baseball America, Becerra had recovered enough from his broken jaw to participate in some baseball activities during the Instructional League. Assuming his recovery continues to go smoothly, Becerra will be due for a dose of extended spring training and then a return to the GCL this summer.
24. Tyler Pill, RHP
Last Year: #34
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 22.8
Acquired: 4th round, 2011
2012: 113 IP, 8.4 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 0.4 HR/9, 8.7 H/9 between Savannah and St. Lucie
Risk Factor: Medium-High. Pill gets a bump from the default Medium ranking for pitchers due to an elbow scare and the lack of a clear out pitch.
Ranking based on: The usual sources
The Short of It: Pill had a successful year between the two A-ball levels, but will have to prove his fringy stuff can get more advanced hitters out before I jump on the bandwagon
The Long of It: The latest in a long line of Mets pitching prospects with fringy fastballs, solid command, and that good ol’ pitchability trait, Pill sits in the upper 80s with the fastball and offers a curve and a change-up that have the potential to be average major league offerings. Baseball America’s reports on the secondary stuff were enthusiastic coming out of Cal-State Fullerton, but the reports from this year suggest the offspeed stuff still needs further refinement. Pill posted good numbers at both A-ball levels, but the gaudy K/9 is a little deceiving as Pill gave up an awful lot of hits to South Atlantic and Florida State League batters. AA will be the test of the stuff, as that’s where command/deception guys make their bones, so we’ll see if Pill turns into Collin McHugh or Greg Peavey in Binghamton.
The Projection: Tyler Pill is the first prospect on this list to fall into what I am calling “The Dylans” range of outcomes. His ceiling is something along the lines of Dillon Gee, and his floor is something along the lines of Dylan Owen.
What’s next: Pill’s forearm tightness at the end of the year turned out to be nothing, and he made more starts at St. Lucie than Montero, Verrett or DeGrom. No reason he shouldn’t open 2013 in Binghamton.
23. Logan Verrett, RHP
Last Year: #32
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 22.7
Acquired: 3rd round, 2011
2012: 103.1 IP, 8.1 K/9, 1.1 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9, 7.6 H/9 between Savannah (A) and St. Lucie (A+)
Risk Factor: Medium-High. Like Pill, Verrett had some arm trouble in 2012 and has to prove his stuff can get out more advanced hitters.
Ranking based on: Live Look/The usual sources
The Short of It: Verrett is an aggressive strike-thrower with a solid slider, but the lack of a third pitch or even average fastball velocity could leave him exposed at higher levels.
The Long of It: Verrett fills up the zone with an 88-90 mph fastball that’s a bit too hittable at times. Slider was the best secondary pitch, a low 80s offering with late break and depth that flashed plus, but too many were just ‘eh,’ and a few were hung. Overall it’s an average pitch that could get Sally League hitters to swing and miss. I think he’ll need to get more consistency if he’s going to throw it at the same volume or with the same level of success against upper level hitters. Didn’t throw the change-up much when I saw him, but Chris Blessing of Bullpen Banter saw him with a good one. Also has a show-me curve in the upper 70s that he’d occasionally throw to righties for a surprise strike one. He works quickly and goes right after hitters, but the stuff is too hittable when it’s in the zone. Polished arm that throws strikes and has an idea about approach and sequencing, but just doesn’t have the stuff to match. There will be a lot of those types in this general range. I saw him after he had missed some time with a shoulder impingement, but there didn’t seem to be any ill effects and I’m not too concerned about it going forward. Still, it did happen.Verrett’s another classic AA test guy. He’ll need to prove his stuff can get Eastern League hitters out before I fully buy-in.
The Projection: The projections for Pill and Verrett are pretty similar. Verrett’s slider probably gives him a better chance to get to the show in some capacity, but there’s not all that much to separate the two in my mind.
What’s next: Verrett is part of a glut of guys who could start next year in AA. Who gets the nod could come down to who looks better next Spring and how willing the Mets are to send their upper level arms to Vegas. If Verrett does start 2013 back at St. Lucie, he likely won’t be there long.
22. Wilfredo Tovar, SS
Last Year: #31
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 21.7
Acquired: IFA, 2007
2012: 473 PA, .270/.345/.360 40 K / 39 BB between St. Lucie (A+) and Binghamton (AA)
Risk Factor: Low. I’m pretty sure Tovar will be getting paid to play baseball somewhere for the next decade.
Ranking based on: Multiple Live Looks/The usual sources
The Short of It: Tovar could play a major league shortstop today, but he gets the bat knocked out of his hands by better stuff.
The Long of It: Best infield glove in the Mets system and it’s not all that close. Smooth actions and more than enough arm and range for shortstop. Like den Dekker, very much the tale of two halves for Tovar. After a really strong start in the Florida State League that brought on some Tejada comps, Tovar saw his walk rate slashed in half in the Eastern League. Tovar continued to post solid contact rates for Binghamton, but AA pitchers were more willing and able to challenge him in the zone. Tovar just doesn’t have the pop to make them pay, and better fastballs will take any sting out of his bat. There’s simply no reason for advanced pitchers to be careful around Tovar, as at worst he might slap a single off them. Tovar has never posted an ISO over .101 outside of a small sample in the 2011 Arizona Fall League, and he doesn’t even have Tejada’s ability to drive a ball into the gap. He’ll make enough contact to hit .250-.260, but the lack of secondary skills make it unlikely he’s a starter, even considering the defensive profile.
The Projection: Tovar is likely to end up as what I thought Ruben Tejada would be, a useful, glove-first utility infielder. The downside here is something like Omar Quintanilla, who as you might recall made a playoff roster this year. Every team needs shortstops.
What’s next: Even the PCL Pacific division won’t be enough to give Tovar’s bat any pop, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Tovar gets another go-round at Binghamton so the Mets can stash more major-league-ready depth at AAA.
21. Darin Gorski, LHP
Last Year: #16
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 25.5
Acquired: 7th round, 2009
2012: 139.2 IP, 7.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.3 HR/9, 8.2 H/9
Risk Factor: Low-Medium. Gorski was recently added to the 40-man roster and is expected to compete for a 2013 bullpen spot. He doesn’t have much projection left and is old enough to be out of the pitcher injury nexus. Breaking ball probably needs to get a bit better to sustain a long major league career though.
Ranking based on: Live Look/Video Look
The Short of It: Gorski’s backend starter ceiling hasn’t changed despite his struggles at AA, but his lack of stuff means everything is going to have to go right.
The Long of It: Advanced hitters figured Gorski out some in 2012. They didn’t chase change-up out of the zone or backdoor slider, and the fringe-average fastball got punished when he was forced to come in. Fastball was 88-90, touching 91. Good command in April, not so much in July. Forced to nibble too much. Change-up is a solid-average-> plus pitch, arm action is very good and the pitch has real depth to it. Slider still lags behind, 79-81 with a more slurvy break. Needs to get better for him to even be a LOOGy, despite the large platoon split in AA. Very little margin for error, command needs to be plus, or he’ll be knocked around in AAA/MLB. Seems like the type of profile that could use a cutter. Like the delivery and he has a classic pitcher’s build, but the stuff is the stuff.
The Projection: He doesn’t have Gee’s breaking ball(s), but that’s probably the upside here, a fifth starter that can eat some innings for you, but will struggle with the longball. More likely outcome is a Pat Misch/J.C. Romero type, depending on whether a club wants to use him as a starter or in the pen.
What’s next: Vegas is a rough environment for a guy with Gorski’s profile, but that’s also the profile that absolutely needs to log innings against AAA hitters. Still, I could see Gorski back in Bingo as the odd man out if Familia, Mejia, Wheeler and McHugh all miss out on 2013 Opening Day roster spots. I think it’s unlikely he makes the 25-man as a second LHP, and he’s not a great fit for it, but he’s only competing against Scott Rice, Aaron Laffey, and Rob Carson right now.