Updated: New York Mets’ Top 25 Prospect List

Here is my latest Top 25 Prospect List for the New York Mets:

#1- RHP Noah Syndergaardmr.met
#2- C Travis d’Arnaud
#3- 2B Wilmer Flores
#4- RHP Rafael Montero
#5- OF Cesar Puello
#6- 1B Dominic Smith
#7- OF Brandon Nimmo
#8- SS Amed Rosario
#9- C Kevin Plawecki
#10- 2B Dilson Herrera
#11- SS Gavin Cecchini
#12- RHP Jacob deGrom
#13- LHP Steven Matz
#14- LHP Jack Leathersich
#15- RHP Luis Mateo
#16- RHP Domingo Tapia
#17- RHP Michael Fulmer
#18- RHP Cory Mazzoni
#19- RHP Gabriel Ynoa
#20- RHP Vic Black
#21- 1B Jayce Boyd
#22- RHP Hansel Robles
#23- OF Dustin Lawley
#24- 2B T.J. Rivera
#25- OF Travis Taijeron

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New York Mets Pitching Prospect To Watch In 2014: LHP Steven Matz

steven matz

Steven Matz with the changeup grip.

Steven Matz is often the forgotten Mets prospect due to all the time he has missed with injuries since being drafted in 2009. He finally pitched in his first professional game in 2012, and has put up solid numbers ever since.

Matz is a southpaw with an electric fastball that touches 95 mph, a solid curve ball, and an above average changeup in his arsenal. His mechanics aren’t perfect, which causes concerns due to his past injury history. His lower and upper-half seem to be slightly out of sync causing him to use his arm more.

Matz has predominantly been throwing fastballs, which was probably part of his development plan in 2013. Getting back his command, after missing the amount of time he did, is of the upmost importance. In the video below, you can see he throws some really nice pitches, but he also misses the strike zone quite badly on a few. In time, this should correct itself as he logs more innings pitched.

Matz had an excellent year in Savannah last year, pitching in 106.1 innings with a 2.62 ERA, and a 3.18 SO/BB ratio. He seemed to get stronger as the season progressed, prompting Stefan Sabol to say this about him in a recent interview over at MetsMinors.net:

“I think everyone improved through the year but there were two people who really impressed me throughout the season and they were Steven Matz and Beck Wheeler. The adversities they have had to overcome in the past in their careers and to have the season they had this year was nothing short than amazing.”

While throwing a mid-90s fastball could lead to dominance over lower-level hitters, he will need to have command over that fastball and compliment it with a solid second and third offering to be successful at the higher levels.

Due to the strides Matz made in 2013 added to the fact that he’s left-handed and can pump in 95 mph fastballs, he is atop my list for Mets pitching prospects to watch in 2014. He will start the season with St. Lucie, and hopefully remain on the path to helping the Mets at the major league level in the next couple of years.

Kevin Plawecki Is A Top Five Prospect For The New York Mets

syndergaard 280 wideBaseball America (B.A.) released their latest issue which not only featured Noah Syndergaard on the cover, but also listed their new top ten prospect rankings for all the teams in the NL East. The Mets had a bunch of names we have all seen on these top prospect lists before–Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud , Wilmer Flores, Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini.

The one choice that took many off guard may have been Kevin Plawecki being listed as the No. 5 prospect in the Mets’ organization. Plawecki has made one of the bigger jumps I have seen a prospect make in a while. Some experts didn’t even have him in the top 20 before the 2013 season; the rest had him somewhere between 15 and 20.

B.A. now ranks Kevin Plawecki higher than Wilmer Flores, who was once considered the best hitter in the Mets’ minor league system.

So where does Plawecki fit? I guess it depends on who you ask.

There is no doubt that Plawecki is a top ten prospect, aside from that, it doesn’t really matter where these guys rank. If you’re in the top 10 it means you should be on your way to Citi Field, if you are top five, it means you should have a starting job someday.

In B.A.’s best tools section, they had Plawecki ranked as their best hitter for average. And while Brandon Nimmo was awarded with best strike-zone discipline, Plawecki definitely exercises the best strike-zone judgment.

Kevin Plawecki struck out a mere 77 times in his professional career while Nimmo struck out 131 times alone in in 2013. While Nimmo had 71 walks (ridiculous), Plawecki had about 30 more hits than Nimmo. Plate discipline is about patience, but it also comes with a higher propensity of striking out, as Nimmo displayed. Plawecki also only struck out 29 times in three seasons at Purdue. That’s serious strike-zone judgment.

Plawecki surprising some people as the No. 5 prospect is more a result of the fact that he received little love for his efforts last year from Baseball America. It was like people would swipe his accomplishments under the rug because he was considered “old” for A-Ball. I don’t think he was named to the B.A. Prospect Hot Sheet at all in 2013, and their excuse during the Q&A session always referred to his age.

The Mets, on the other hand, realize what an outstanding ball player they have on their hand, as Plawecki was named Co-Player of the Year in the Mets organization.

The 2014 season is moving fast upon us. Pitchers & catchers will be reporting before we know it, and most have Plawecki penciled in with Binghamton. Plawecki will probably be a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, and this is the season where Plawecki can afford to skip a level. He’s proven enough with his bat and his advanced strike-zone judgement to warrant the jump to Triple-A. Last season, I lobbied for a promotion to Binghamton after he lit up Savannah–A-Ball simply was not a challenge for him. The hitter’s environment in the PCL would be one that Plawecki could easily adjust to.

The Future Catcher of The New York Mets

If Travis d’Arnaud does turn out to be the catcher of the future for the Mets, there is always the opportunity that the Mets transition Plawecki to first base, or try to move him in a trade. Plawecki is just too good of a hitter to be a backup catcher. For the Mets, having two catchers listed in the top five prospects is not exactly something to be worried about–it’s pretty rare.

Plawecki_Darnaud

Plawecki is currently two years younger than d’Arnaud and their numbers play out similarly in the lower levels of minor league ball–it wasn’t until the jump to Double-A where d’Arnaud started to show the power. In fact, Plawecki hit for higher average, had fewer strikeouts, and just as good of power numbers through A-ball as d’Arnaud had.

I wonder if Travis d’Arnaud is starting to hear footsteps…the footsteps of a Boilermaker.

Top Ten Prospects in the NL East

Coming off the coattails of Baseball America breaking down the top ten prospects from every team in the NL East, we take a look at the top ten prospects from the NL East.

There were a couple of surprises when looking at Baseball America’s list of the top ten Mets’ prospects, most notably Kevin Plawecki jumping to No. 5, and players like Cesar Puello not cracking the top 10. You won’t find any major surprises on this list, as it’s pretty evenly distributed across the five NL East teams.

lucas giolito

1. Lucas Giolito, RHP Washington Nationals

The 6’6″ right-handed Lucas Giolito was touted as one of the top pitching prospects in the 2012 MLB draft. High school pitchers who can fire the ball at 100 mph tend to be highly rated guys. Many scouts had him tabbed as the greatest high school pitching prospect ever. He is also armed with a ridiculous 12-to-6 curveball to go along with the heat.

In his first professional outing back in 2012, he was removed after experiencing some discomfort in his throwing elbow. Giolito later had Tommy John Surgery to replace a damaged UCL. He came back in 2013 pumping in triple digit fastballs–in other words, he hasn’t skipped a beat.

Giolito has the potential to be an ace and has the potential to move quickly due to his advanced stuff. 2014 will be a test for the young fireballer as his first full season back from Tommy John surgery.

ETA 2015 

2. Maikel Franco, 3B Philadelphia Phillies

Maikel Franco has pretty much shot himself out of the cannon in the Phillies organization. He was signed as an international free-agent back in 2010 out of the Dominican Republic, and should be making his Triple-A debut and possibly be a mid-season call-up.

Franco’s swing generates a ton of power, featuring a big load and very quick hands through the zone, but he can be aggressive at times. He crushed 31 home runs between the FSL and EAS leagues in 2013. For being aggressive, he doesn’t strike out as much as you would think–only 12 percent of the time in 2013. He also hits for average.

His speed will limit him to a corner infield position, and he could be primed as the heir apparent at first base behind Ryan Howard.

ETA 2014

3. Noah Syndergaard, RHP New York Mets

Syndergaard, who will turn out to be the key acquisition from the R.A. Dickey trade, is a tall and imposing figure on the mound. Standing 6’6″, he looks as if he can dunk a basketball just as easily as he can whip a fastball by a batter.

His mechanics are effortless, and the ball explodes out of his hand with his high-90s fastball. His curveball is excellent, and while there have been some knocks on his changeup in the past, it looks like it is developing nicely. He keeps hitters off-balance, and when he needs to, can blow a 96 mph fastball by the hitter.

Syndergaard will start the season with Las Vegas (AAA) and be primed for an early July call-up.

ETA 2014

travis d'arnaud single

4. Travis d’Arnaud, Catcher New York Mets

Travis d’Arnaud will be inheriting the starting catcher job for the New York Mets in 2014. Is the ability to be an All-Star caliber catcher there? Yes. Are there still question marks with regards to d’Arnaud? Also, a yes.

The biggest question mark hanging over d’Arnaud’s head at this point is whether he can remain healthy enough to withstand the daily rigors of being an everyday catcher in the big leagues. The catching and hitting skills are there, but he has to be on the field or those skills don’t translate to anything.

Regardless, Mets fans should be excited to have a guy on the roster that can to potentially hit .300 and pop 20-30 home runs from behind the plate in the future.

ETA 2014

5. Jake Marisnick, OF Miami Marlins

I like Jake Marisnick a little bit more than Baseball America, who had him ranked No. 3 on their recent top ten prospect list for the Miami Marlins (behind Andrew Heaney and Colin Moran). Marisnick made his major league debut last season with the Marlins, and was completely over matched by the big league pitching–there is no nicer way to put it.

He strikes out quite a bit, but he can find success by staying off the front foot and trying to drive the ball to right-center. The Marlins rushed him a bit, and I would have liked to see him spend some more time in the minor leagues polishing up his hitting. The tools are all there, and he could have benefited from more minor league at bats.

The former third round draft pick is also an excellent defender who gets excellent reads and can cover a ton of green in the outfield. If he can polish up the hitting, he profiles as the best outfield prospect in the NL East (Brian Goodwin being a close second).

ETA 2014

Here is the rest of the top ten in less detail…

6. Andrew Heaney, LHP Miami Marlins

Heaney has a silky smooth delivery. His fastball can get into the mid-90s and his slider is filthy. He also features and above average changeup.

7. Lucas Sims, RHP Atlanta Braves

A converted shortstop, he works off his fastball which sits in the low-mid 90s and is working on a changeup to go along with his mid-70s slurve.

8. Christian Bethancourt, Catcher Atlanta Braves

Mets fans will get this reference–Christian Bethancourt is basically Juan Centeno with power (maybe not as good defensively as Centeno, but you get the point). Bethancourt is an excellent defensive catcher who may be the starter in Atlanta with Brian McCann headed for free agency.

9. Rafael Montero, RHP New York Mets

If David Wright is Captain America, and Noah Syndergaard is Thor, then Rafael Montero is Hawkeye. Montero’s poise and pinpoint control make him a virtual lock for the Mets’ rotation in 2014 (barring any off-season moves).

10. Brian Goodwin, OF Washington Nationals

Brian Goodwin is a legit five tool talent. His instincts may hold him back from cashing in on those five tools and being an All-Star someday, but he should pan out to be a solid major leaguer. He has excellent speed, but there are still questions on whether he can stick in centerfield and what type of hitter he will become.

Mets Prospect T.J. Rivera Deserves Some Love

t.j. rivera

T.J. Rivera just finished his third season in professional baseball for the New York Mets. Over those three years, Rivera has compiled a .304/.359/.396 offensive stat line. He has also hit 12 homeruns and has 136 RBI—not too shabby for a top-of-the-order guy who plays the middle infield.

Most people will look at this year’s numbers at St. Lucie as a regression, but it’s not the case. Rivera was called upon to hit leadoff in 2013, and it came with a fundamental offensive philosophy change. He found himself taking the first-pitch fastballs that he would normally jump all over. He found himself trying to take more pitches in order for the other hitters in the lineup to see what the pitcher had.

In his first full season of high A-ball, he was named a Florida State League mid-season All-Star. For his efforts, you won’t find him on any top prospect lists, and most Mets fans probably never heard of him. As if oblivious to those things, he just shows up to the ballpark and plays hard every day. This is what Jack Leathersich, who played with Rivera in Savannah in 2012, had to say about him in a recent exchange on Metsmerized Online:

Joe D. – You spent some time in Savannah to start last season before finishing up in St. Lucie. Tell our readers what teammate you were you most impressed with last season and why? Who really stood out to you last year and who should Met fans be really excited about?

Jack – Oh yeah, definitely T.J. Rivera – he’s the one. He’s the real deal. I’ve never been around a kid who prepares as well as he does. He just really loves the game and it seems like every time I see him he’s out on the field working on something. Rivera plays hard and is completely balls to the wall—he’ll do anything to make sure we win. He’s a great teammate and obviously a great player and everybody should be real excited about him. If he continues the great things he did last season, and I’m pretty sure that he will, he’ll be a lot of fun to watch.

More rave reviews regarding Rivera’s work ethic and style of play could be found in the 2011 Troy University Media Guide:

T.J. is a fantastic player and a guy we really like in our program. He is a guy who is committed to doing his work on a daily basis. You don’t see T.J. going through a lot of highs and lows because he is very consistent with his approach…He stays focused on getting better every day.

You won’t find Rivera on any top prospect lists because he’s not a five tool player, and he wasn’t drafted. He was signed as a free-agent out of college after spending his high school days playing at Lehman High School in the Bronx. The top prospect lists are generally reserved for the five tool players and guys drafted in the top 10 or so rounds.

However, there are things that are generally over looked when trying to determine where prospects land on these top prospect lists.

One thing is work ethic—Rivera is a hard working, blue-collar type of player. This may be a result of not being drafted and feeling that he has to outwork everyone else, and he’s probably right.

Another thing is baseball IQ—listening to Rivera speak in the video at the end of this post, and you can see that he gets it.

Finally, the eye test—can the kid play ball? There are guys who have tools that are off the charts, but they can’t put it together on the field. On the other hand, you have guys whose tools don’t jump off the page, but they squeeze every ounce of goodness out of those tools—this is the category that Rivera falls under.

Rivera is a maximizer. I think I just made up a word, but it’s true. Give me a player who can play baseball, and squeezes everything out of their talent any day of the week. Rivera would be welcome on my team with open arms.

Rivera, in my eyes, is a top 20 prospect for the New York Mets. If not for draft status, I argue he may even be top 15.

Rivera’s game is very similar to another baseball prospect that I have followed since his high school days in Joe Panik. Panik went to John Jay High School in upstate New York, and then played his college days at St. John’s University. He was touted as one of the top college shortstop prospects in the country just before the 2011 MLB Draft. The San Francisco Giants selected him in the first round that year, and many experts had him being taken much later.

Panik has a smooth left-handed swing that produces a little more pop than Rivera, and is a little more of a polished hitter, but that’s where the differences stop between the two. Panik went on to win MVP honors in the Northwest League (short season) after being drafted, but aside from that, his numbers are very similar to Rivera’s over three seasons. Panik spent 2013 in the Eastern League, where he was touted for his defense at second base, but after a dismal offensive year, many are questioning whether he is the second baseman of the future for San Francisco.

Panik is considered a top five prospect for the Giants, yet Rivera continually gets over looked on Mets lists. Even if you take out Panik’s poor offensive performance at double-A this past season, the numbers are pretty close—so why does a player like Panik get touted as a top prospect while Rivera goes virtually ignored?

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe Rivera enjoys being over looked and it keeps him hungry. Maybe it drives him to outwork the other prospects. Maybe it’s what eventually gets him to where he dreamed of going as a kid—the major leagues.

There is a bit of a log-jam at second base with Daniel Murphy supplanted at the major league level, Wilmer Flores behind him, and a crop of potential studs in Dilson Herrera and L.J. Mazzilli in the lower levels. But there seems to be a gaping hole at shortstop in the organization, so why not give Rivera a shot there? Can it hurt at this point?

He’s played 93 games there in three professional seasons, so it’s not like it would be learning a new position. Waiting for Gavin Cecchini to develop and be the savior is cool and all, but why put all the eggs in one basket when the basket is still at A-ball? Switch Rivera to shortstop now and let the kid continue to impress us.

Which Mets Prospects Will We See At Citi Field In 2014?

Looking For A Job With Major League Baseball? It May Cost You

PBEO JOB FAIR

I was recently speaking to a good friend who told me that if I want a real shot at a career in baseball, the job fair held at the Winter Meetings is something that I would have to attend. It made sense, because applying for jobs via team and league websites seemed no different from walking into your local convenient store and buying a “Win for Life” scratch off.

I decided to do some research to see if this trip would make sense.

One of the first things that jumped off the page was the fact that the majority of the 500 jobs that are posted are internships or entry-level. This is great for someone breaking out of college at 21 or 22 years old–but for someone who is in his mid-30s, has a family, a MBA, and has been managing in Fortune 25 Company for over 10 years, it was disappointing to read.

Coming from New York, the entire process would have cost approximately $1500 between registering for the job fair, air fare, and hotel accommodations. It shouldn’t be about money when you are chasing down a dream, but if there was some sort of guarantee that was attached to the $1500 price tag, it would be a lot easier to pull the trigger. After you factor in the idea that most of the jobs are internships, it makes it an even tougher decision.

However, one should look at it as an investment in their future. It’s like a business paying a marketing firm to market a product–except in this case you are paying for the opportunity to market yourself. Can you really put a price tag on that?

I guess it depends on how bad you want it.

The game has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My love for the game started while I was still in diapers as I would smack a ball with a shoe, prompting my mother to purchase me a wiffle ball set before I could speak in complete sentences. It wasn’t long before I was breaking lamps with line drives, and my game had to be moved outside.

I played the game hard and fast–I left it all on the field. As I grew older, and the time came to hang up the spikes, my life took me on an alternate path, but the love for the game and the desire to do something in the game always remained.

I developed business acumen with the idea that I could combine it with my knowledge of the game and make a difference someday. Because of that, I have the odd ability to tell you where a ball is going to land simply from the angle of the hitter’s bat and then tell how to drive Key Performance Indicators, in the same conversation.

These 2013 Winter Meetings felt like they were going to be my last chance to chase down a dream–a dream that now feels like it will go unfulfilled. I’m not one to condone anyone giving up their dreams, and I’m not giving up on mine. This is more like moving on to another.

If you are interested in attending the PBEO job fair, you can download the 2013 Winter Meetings brochure here.