20. Juan Lagares, OF
Last Year: #14
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 24
Acquired: IFA, 2006
2012: 548 PA, .283/.334/.389, 93 K / 37 BB
Risk Factor: Low-Medium
Ranking based on: Multiple Live Looks
The Short of It: I got suckered in by Lagares’ BABIP-driven 2011 season, but the package here still looks like a future major leaguer.
The Long of It: Lagares is a tough rank for me. I saw plenty of him in live game action this year, but some box score hunting indicates that he went 3-18 with a couple of walks in games I attended. And frankly, it felt like he did worse than that. I still have some confidence in the hit tool, but I think this year’s .283 BA is a much more reasonable projection of what he’ll hit in the majors than 2011’s .349. He was surprisingly passive at the plate, which could account for his modest BB rate spike this year. The extra walks are nice to see, but the approach also put him in plenty of bad counts. The main issue for me is that I just don’t see much in the way of secondary skills here. He’s knocked six home runs in 561 AA at-bats, and he doesn’t generate much power from his lower half. Lagares’ improved 2012 walk rate was still just 45th out of the 59 qualified Eastern League hitters. He’s also only an average runner, which probably keeps him from an everyday center field spot. The defensive tools profiles well in right, as Lagares has a good arm, but the bat just won’t play in an outfield corner. Classic tweener skillset.
The Projection: Lagares looks like a fourth outfielder to me. He has a pretty big platoon split (which might actually make him more useful to the Mets right now), and could probably spot you on occasion in CF. He’s an alternate universe Scott Hairston of sorts. Even if the bat stagnates, the platoon split could make him a useful contact-oriented pinch-hitter against LHP, or in other words, what Terry Collins seems to think Justin Turner is. And heck, he was signed as a shortstop, so he might be better at that than Turner too.
What’s next: The friendly confines of Kaufman Stadium should give Lagares’ triple slash a kick in the pants, and given the Mets dearth of right-handed bats (and outfielders in general) Lagares could start accruing MLB service time in 2013.
19. Collin McHugh, RHP
Last Year: #22
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 25.8
Acquired: 18th round, 2008
2012: 148.1 IP, 8.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9, 7.5 H/9 between Binghamton (AA) and Buffalo (AAA)
Risk Factor: Low. McHugh is major-league ready.
Ranking based on: Live Look/Multiple Video Looks
The Short of It: McHugh got knocked around in the bigs in 2012, but his 80 makeup still gives him a shot at being a major league starter.
The Long of It: I love watching McHugh pitch. I made an offhand remark about my aesthetic preferences when it comes to prospects in Volume 16 of the podcast, and McHugh just tickles my fancy. When I saw him in Binghamton he was willing and able to throw any of his five pitches for strikes and then he’d mix up his approach the next time throught the line-up. Of course, the reason he has to mix his pitches so well is none of them stand out as above-average major league offerings. Neither of his two fastballs light up the radar gun, and he leaned heavily on the four-seamer over the two-seamer, which Josh Smolow thinks is a mistake. McHugh’s slow, looping curve is worthy of a gallery showing in DUMBO, but I don’t know that it’s a true swing-and-miss offering against major league hitters. I did like what I saw out of his change-up, though he didn’t throw it much when I saw him live, or in the majors for that matter, and the slider/cutter/slutter was pounded during his brief stint with the Mets. None of the five pitches would grade out as better than average, but they all have their uses. When McHugh is mixing them well and keeping hitters off-balance, he mowed through upper minors line-ups. He’s probably going to have to adjust how (and how often) he uses each pitch at the top level, but by all accounts he’s an incredibly smart pitcher with elite makeup. He simply has an incredibly small margin for error against major league hitters.
The Projection: McHugh will likely take to the bump again for an MLB team, but if he’s going to stick in the back-end of a rotation, he’s going to have to adjust his approach. I’m certainly not going to bet against him at this point.
What’s next: McHugh has an outside shot at a rotation spot if someone gets hurt, but most likely heads to Vegas in April.
18. Cory Mazzoni, RHP
Last Year: #33
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 23.5
Acquired: 2nd round, 2011
2012: 144.1 IP, 6.5 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9, 9.6 H/9 for Binghamton (AA)
Risk Factor: Medium. Shows three pitches, and two are good enough right now to at least make him a pen arm.
Ranking based on: Video Look/The usual sources
The Short of It: Another strikethrower from the 2011 draft class who needs to figure out a way to miss more bats if he wants to stay a starter.
The Long of It: I was very cautious on Mazzoni coming into 2012. Despite a college performance similar to Mike Pelfrey’s (with a matching big fastball to boot), something about the profile here just screamed middle reliever. Could be that he’s an undersized right-hander. Could be his use of a splitter instead of a traditional change. But regardless, after reading Alex’s draft report on Mazzoni, I didn’t see all that much to separate him from Verrett and Pill. Frankly, I still don’t. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a better prospect than those two, and I think he could see MLB action as soon as this summer if the Mets were to move him to the pen full-time, but there’s just not a lot of ceiling here. Reports had the fastball velocity down into the low-90s, which isn’t too surprising, though I think he could get some back with a move to the pen. The breaking ball is a bit slurvy, functional but inconsistent. It should at least keep righties honest. The splitter looked nasty in short bursts, but Mazzoni used it sparingly, probably to keep the pitch from getting overexposed. I don’t know that his splitter is enough keep the platoon split manageable against line-ups that will lean left-handed every time he starts. While Mazzoni doesn’t have the effort in his delivery that Robles has, both pitchers generate velocity from smaller frames by taking very long paths to their release point, and lefties get a good long look at the ball before it leaves Mazzoni’s hand.
The Projection: Middle reliever for me, though I think he has a better chance than the other arms in this tier to pitch in the 7th or 8th inning due to the extra ticks on the fastball. The splitter could be an out pitch in the pen where it can be a more prominent part of his repertoire as well.
What’s next: Mazzoni will likely log another handful of starts at AA before heading to Vegas. I doubt the Mets will move him to the pen until they have to, but given the Mets back-end starter depth, the bullpen might be Mazzoni’s fastest path to the majors.
17. Phillip Evans, SS
Last Year: #12
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 20.6
Acquired: 15th round, 2011
2012: 329 PA, .252/.328/.337, 48 K / 31 BB for Brooklyn (SS-A)
Risk Factor: Medium-High. The risk here isn’t so much about the gap between the current and the future projection, rather that there may not be enough of a gap between current and the future projection.
Ranking based on: Multiple Live Looks/A pleasant chat with Jason Parks
The Short of It: 2011 prep pick has a polished bat for his age, but a limited ceiling and questions about how he’ll handle upper level pitching keep him out of the Top 15.
The Long of It: Evans added some bulk in the offseason, bringing with it some solid pull power, but Parks thinks he’s pretty much maxed out his physical tools at this point. He does look more physically mature than say Nimmo, and I don’t know how much power he’ll be able to get out of the frame in the long term. Works hard at shortstop and has good instincts/actions, but doesn’t have the range for the position and can’t make all the throws. Future second baseman. Good approach at the plate, but can be beaten with better breaking stuff. Below-average runner and a bit raw on the basepaths at times. No standout tools but no real weakness either. Reminds me a little bit of Justin Turner. Gap between where he is now and the majors outdistances what the gap between his current and future projection, but good bet to get the most out of his talent.
The Projection: I’ve seen some people whose opinions I respect give utility-type grades for Evans, but I’m sticking to my guns. I think he can be an average MLB second baseman for a few years. Certainly possible he ends up as a utility guy who can play shortstop once a week.
What’s next: Evans will head to Savannah. I expect the Mets to give Evans more time play himself off short, but possible he moves over to second base full time as soon as next year if the Mets decide to start Cecchini in full-season ball.
16. Luis Mateo, RHP
Last Year: Not ranked
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 23.1
Acquired: IFA, 2011
2012: 73.1 IP, 10.4 K/9, 1.1 BB/9, 0.2 HR/9, 7 H/9 for Brooklyn (SS-A)
Risk Factor: High. Already had an elbow issue, and the Mets have started tinkering with his mechanics. I don’t think he’s got that much projection left or anything, which is a problem since he was in short-season ball last year.
Ranking based on: Multiple Live Looks/Conversations with contacts
The Short of It: Lanky righthander dominated younger competition in 2012 with fastball/slider combo, but lacks a third pitch and profiles best as a reliever.
The Long of It: I’ll probably be lower than most on Mateo. He’s got a big arm, but he dominated a league of younger bats. Yes, that’s due to various circumstances that kyboshed his first two professional contracts, but you can’t just hand wave the age difference. The stuff is quite good. Fastball can touch 96, but was down to 91-93 for the most part when I saw him in the NYPL playoffs. He had been more 92-94 earlier in the season. Fastball command is so-so, I watched Hudson Valley square 95 mph fastballs when he left them in the zone. Slider is a plus pitch and just completely overmatched Penn League hitters. Doesn’t show much else, and uses pretty much brute force to get guys out. Strategy seems to be get ahead with the fastball, put guys away with the slider. I have my doubts about how that will play multiple times through the line-up at higher levels. Reportedly has a change-up in there somewhere, but I certainly didn’t see much of it in the two starts I saw. Not that he needed it at this level. Mechanics can get a little squirrely at times, and the Mets started to tweak things this season as the delivery looked noticeably different the second time I saw him. Could be related to the small velocity dip, I suppose.
The Projection: I just don’t see a starter here. Mateo’s a two-pitch pitcher with iffy mechanics. I’d make him a reliever and just let it fly. Outside shot he develops into a late inning guy, health risk/age lowers the floor a bit. One of the riskier guys in this tier of pitchers simply due to how far away he is from the majors, and keep in mind he is older than 2011 college picks Verrett and Pill, one or both of whom will likely start in Binghamton this year.
What’s next: Mateo should skip Savannah and head right to St. Lucie. You’d like to think he’ll move fast given the polished breaking ball, but he needs to improve his fastball command and show a third pitch if he wants to stay a starter long term. I think he’d move quite fast as a pen arm, but I don’t see that move happening until 2014 at the earliest.
15. Jacob deGrom, RHP
Last Year: Not ranked
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 24.8
Acquired: 9th round, 2010
2012: 111.1 IP, 7.8 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 0.3 HR/9, 7.4 H/9 between Savannah (A) and St. Lucie (A+)
Risk Factor: Medium-High. Older prospect dominating lower level competition, secondaries needs to improve, minor injury concerns.
Ranking based on: Video Look/The usual sources
The Short of It: Converted infielder has plus fastball and developing secondary offerings, but history and age suggest he’s a reliever in the end.
The Long of It: After missing all of 2011 due to Tommy John surgery, deGrom quickly established himself as one of the more intriguing arms in the Mets system with a strong 2012 campaign. DeGrom shows two different above-average fastballs, a two-seamer with good run and sink, and a four-seamer that can touch 96. I was a bit more impressed with the four-seamer which has that pop at the end that I love to see, but they were both very good offerings that deGrom consistently threw for strikes. DeGrom throws a slider and a change as well. In the start that I watched he threw the slider more, and it flashed solid-average, but he had trouble with his release point at times. This is in line with what Toby Hyde saw from deGrom this year, secondary offerings that look solid on some nights, fringy on others. The Tommy John surgery is well in the past now, and there’s nothing in his delivery that screams injury risk, but it did happen. It’s less of a ding than his age-relative-to-league issues, but the stuff here should be good enough to handle AA. You could go higher on deGrom if you believe more strongly in a starter projection than I do. The arm is for real.
The Projection: DeGrom probably has the best chance to make it as a MLB starter out of this range of pitchers, but the track record for late pitching converts suggest the pen will be his eventual home. That’s fine, as the pair of fastballs and potential solid-average slider could make him a successful set-up man in the Bobby Parnell mold.
What’s next: DeGrom only made four starts for St. Lucie in 2012, so I imagine the Mets will want him to get another half-dozen or so in the Florida State League before moving him up to Binghamton. That said, his arsenal is certainly ready for AA, and I have no idea how the backlog of A+/AA pitchers (Verrett, Pill, Montero, Mazzoni) is going to shake out exactly.
14. Gabriel Ynoa, RHP
Last Year: Not ranked
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 19.8
Acquired: IFA, 2009
2012: 76.2 IP, 7.5 K/9, 1.2 BB/9, 0.1 HR/9, 7.2 H/9 for Brooklyn (SS-A)
Risk Factor: High. Big gap between my projection for Ynoa and his present day grades.
Ranking based on: Multiple Live Looks/Conversations with contacts
The Short of It: The youngest of the Brooklyn arms has the Rafael Montero starter kit and big breakout potential for 2013.
The Long of It: Yeah, I’m going to be higher on Ynoa than anyone else. Fastball was 90-92, touching 93 for me. Bullpen Banter had him touching 95 at one point. Other reports had his velocity down some later in the season. Some issues with finishing his delivery/falling off pitches that can lead to occasional command issues. Has a little projection left. Change-up is the best secondary offering. Good deception and can throw it for strikes or fade it out of the zone. It doesn’t take a good one to get swings and misses from NYPL hitters, but Ynoa already has an average one. Slider needs work. Ynoa doesn’t have feel for the pitch yet and tries to aim it, noticeably slowing down his arm action. Can throw strikes with all three pitches. Good makeup reports and Ynoa never gets rattled on the mound even if he’s been knocked around a bit. Loose arm, easy delivery, though he is another guy with a low ¾ arm slot. Reminds me a bit of Rafael Montero when I saw him in Brooklyn in 2011, but Ynoa’s current change-up is better than 2011 Montero’s and he has the age advantage as well. Montero does get the fastball and overall command edge.
The Projection: I think Ynoa can be an average major league starter, somewhere in the #3/#4 range. He might also never make it out of AA. BA projected him as a middle reliever, and that’s certainly a decent 50% outcome. This is an aggressive ranking, but I’m bullish on the slider developing.
What’s next: Ynoa doesn’t turn 20 until a few months into the 2013 season, so no need to rush. He’ll start in Savannah, and I’ll be pestering Toby Hyde after every home start about how the slider looks.
13. Cesar Puello, OF
Last Year: #8
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 22
Acquired: IFA, 2007
2012: 252 PA, .260/.328/.423, 58 K / 7 BB for St. Lucie (A+)
Risk Factor: High. Tools still haven’t translated into baseball skills. Right field projection puts pressure on bat. Chronic injury issues last season.
Ranking based on: The usual sources
The Short of It: Just when you think you are out, Puello suckers you back in again, but issues with plate discipline continue to make him one of the most frustrating prospects in the system.
The Long of It: Sigh. I’ve bounced around a ton on Puello over the last 18 months. Sometimes I think he should be outside of the Top 20 entirely. (and it seems Baseball America, which puts even more of a premium on tools/ceiling than me, agrees this year). Other times, I think you can make a case he should be in the Top 10 over guys like Familia and Cecchini. I haven’t quite split the difference here, but close enough. There’s stuff to like here. Puello added some power this year, though mostly in the form of doubles. He was a very efficient base stealer and is an above-average runner. Scout tweeted out that he looked good on defense in the AFL, though said scout thought he was a rightfielder. He probably has the arm to be a good one. Moreover, Puello looks the part of a top prospect, and it’s easy to forget he was a Top 100 guy as recently as two years ago. But then there’s the bad. Although he played more CF than RF this year, as mentioned, he’s likely not a centerfielder at the big league level. That puts a lot of pressure on the bat. He doesn’t walk. He does strike out. A lot. Thus far Puello’s OBP has been buoyed by the uncanny ability to get hit by pitches. This is probably an identifiable skill at this point, if a sub-optimal strategy for a guy who has had injury issues the last two seasons. Overall at St. Lucie he’s posted a 161:25 K:BB ratio. Yes, he’s been young for the level both years, but like I said about Flores going into 2012, eventually you just need to hit.
The Projection: But the thing about Puello is he has more ceiling than anyone in the ten spots below him or the five spots above him. If he ever does put it all together, there’s an athletic, above-average corner outfielder in there, perhaps something akin to a right-handed Will Venable. But here’s the thing: “if” is an awfully big word in the prospect world. More likely he’s Jeff Francoeur with better hair. More likely still that upper level pitching eats him alive.
What’s next: Puello did his usual thing where he goes off at the end of the year and suckers us all back in. So if he’s heathy I see no reason to have him in St. Lucie for a third season. Send him to Bingo where the rubber meets the road and let’s see what we have here.
12. Kevin Plawecki, C
Last Year: Not ranked
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 22.1
Acquired: Supp. 1st round, 2012
2012: 252 PA, .250/.345/.384, 24 K / 25 BB for Brooklyn (SS-A)
Risk Factor: Medium. He’s a ways away, but he could move quickly and I think the floor is pretty high here.
Ranking based on: Multiple Live Looks/The usual reports
The Short of It: Plawecki doesn’t jump out at you tools-wise, but he does enough things well that he should make the majors as a catcher someday.
The Long of It: Supplemental 1st round pick took some flack due to perceived low ceiling, but there’s some real value in his skillset. Advanced receiving skills for a 21-year-old, and the games he called showed a good idea of sequencing and how to attack hitters. I don’t know how much credit to assign Plawecki versus the bench, but I thought it noteworthy. Arm is fringy, but not awful. Raw pop times were generally 2.0 or 2.1. Overall, the defensive package looks average as I think he’ll make up for the throwing limitations with his receiving/handling of the staff. You’d expect a polished college bat to put up a better line in the NYPL, but showed a good eye and contact skills. I did see Plawecki pop up a lot of hittable pitches, but I’m willing to give him a bit of a pass due to his catching a full NCAA season and then going right to short season ball. I think the bat will be fine. He showed more power in Brooklyn than I expected or would project at the major league level, as the swing is pretty compact, but he’s strong enough that I think he could bang out his fair share of doubles and run into 5-10 home runs a year.
The Projection: Right-handed Josh Thole is a really lazy comp. I think he might be enough up an upgrade over Thole around the margins (power, walks, receiving) that he ends up being a thoroughly average major league catcher when all is said and done. Plawecki doesn’t have the clear plus defensive tools that you normally associate with the back-up catcher profile, but I think there’s enough hit tool and OBP here in the projection to make him a useful major leaguer in some capacity. Everybody needs catchers.
What’s next: Plawecki is on the polished college position player track, which likely means an opening day assignment to St. Lucie. His performance will dictate how fast he moves from there. Wouldn’t be shocked if he makes it to Binghamton before the end of the year, but catcher development tracks can be uneven.
11. Aderlin Rodriguez, 3B
Last Year: #13
Age: (as of Opening Day 2013) 21.4
Acquired: IFA, 2008
2012: 515 PA, .263/.321/.476, 101 K / 37 BB between Savannah (A) and St. Lucie (A+)
Risk Factor: High. AdRock started to translate his raw power into in-game power in 2012, but the hit tool is a big question mark and he might be a first baseman in the end.
Ranking based on: Live Look/Video Looks/The usual sources
The Short of It: Best raw power bat in the system mashed his way out of cavernous Historic Grayson Stadium, but the emphasis here is still on ‘raw.’
The Long of It: Massive power. Hit one of the longest foul balls I’ve ever seen in minor league baseball. Easy 7 raw. Unfortunately, there’s enough questions about his pitch recognition and contact ability in general to wonder if it will even play at plus at the major league level. Still, power is in short supply in the Mets system. Close to a one-tool player right now, as he’s a well below-average runner and a poor third baseman. More than enough arm for the position, but his actions are awkward and he will never be described as ‘rangy.’ The bat might play at first, but it’s hard out there for a first base prospect. Now all this probably doesn’t sound like the #11 prospect in the system to you, but if he ever does put it together he could very quickly become the best hitting prospect in the system. I’m betting on the bat.
The Projection: As nice as the arm is, it’s tough to see a major league third baseman here. The bat will be sorely tested with a move across the diamond, though I suppose turning into the more recent vintage of Kendrys Morales is not out of the equation.
What’s next: AdRock will get another shot at St. Lucie, where he will still be young for the level.