Mets Souring On Dominic Smith Begs For A Review of Sandy Alderson’s First Round DraftPicks
One of the purported reasons why Sandy Alderson was hired to replace Omar Minaya as the Mets General Manager was due to the state of the Mets farm system. Now, there was some truth to that given how Minaya continuously left the team without high draft picks due to his propensity to attack the free agent market.
That went double when you consider he used his top picks to select players like Eddie Kunz, Nathan Vineyard, Reese Havens, and Bradley Holt. Even if those selections were justified at the time, it didn’t help Minaya’s case when they combined to appear in just four Major League games.
With that, Alderson was tasked with rebuilding a deeper than originally believed Mets farm system. In fact, that 2015 pennant winning team was largely built on talent Minaya acquired including Jacob deGrom, Lucas Duda, Jeurys Familia, Wilmer Flores, Matt Harvey, Juan Lagares, Daniel Murphy, and Hansel Robles.
Alderson deftly built upon that core to make the Mets contenders, and now the organization is at the point where it needs Alderson’s farm system to produce Major League ready players to revitalize this team. Considering how the Mets fell apart last season and how the team seems disenchanted with many of their own first round draft picks, it is time to review Alderson’s first round draft history with the Mets:
2011 – OF Brandon Nimmo (13th Overall)
2017 MiLB Stats: .227/.364/.368, 12 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 17 RBI
2017 MLB Stats: .260/.379/.418, 11 2B, 3B, 5 HR, 21 RBI
Realistically speaking, this should have been the time for Nimmo to emerge as the team’s everyday center fielder. There was a p0int where this was expected to happen. However, knee injuries have limited him just enough to where many question his ability to handle center field defensively. It may have also impacted the power hitting ability that never materialized.
Now, Nimmo has shown he belongs on the Major League level in some capacity. However, if he can’t defensively handle center field, he’s likely a fourth outfielder as his bat does not profile for a corner outfield position.
2011 – RHP Michael Fulmer (44th Overall)
2017 Stats: 10-12, 3.83 ERA, 1.154 WHIP, 6.2 K/9
When drafting a pitcher in the first round, you are hoping to have a front line starting pitcher. With Fulmer winning Rookie of the Year in 2016 and being named as an All Star in 2017, he certainly appears to be the part even if he missed the final month of the season due to his having ulnar nerve transposition surgery. Unfortunately, the Mets are not reaping the benefits of his ascension because he was moved to the Tigers as the centerpiece of the Yoenis Cespedes trade.
2012 – SS Gavin Cecchini (12th Overall)
2017 MiLB Stats: .267/.329/.380, 27 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 39 RBI, 5 SB, 4 CS
2017 MLB Stats: .208/.256/.273, 2 2B, HR, 7 RBI, CS
Between Cecchini’s defensive struggles and the ascension of Amed Rosario, Cecchini moved to second base this past season. Whether it was the rigors of learning a new position, bad luck, or an unsustainable .357 BABIP in 2016, Cecchini regressed offensively to the point where the team did not even consider him for the second base vacancy in 2017, and his name isn’t being mentioned as a potential solution in 2018.
2012 – C Kevin Plawecki (35th Overall)
2017 MiLB Stats: .328/.375/.514, 17 2B, 3B, 9 HR, 45 RBI
2017 MLB Stats: .260/.364/.400, 5 2B, 3 HR, 13 RBI, SB
In what was an otherwise dismal year for the Mets, the biggest bright spot was the rejuvenation of Plawecki’s career. After finally spending an extended stint in Triple-A, he began to put things together offensively. Couple that with his historically good pitch framing skills, and Plawecki has earned a spot on the Opening Day roster. Should he continue to progress, and if Travis d’Arnaud repeats his 2016 – 2017 performance, Plawecki could find himself as the Mets everyday catcher next season.
2013 – 1B Dominic Smith (11th Overall)
2017 MiLB Stats: .330/.386/.519, 34 2B, 2 3B, 16 HR, 76 RBI, SB, CS
2017 MLB Stats: .198/.267/.395, 6 2B, 9 HR, 26 RBI
After years of people questioning if he would ever hit for power, Smith had begun to display the power many believed he always had in Triple-A. However, despite the gains he made in that department in Triple-A, the Mets have been quite outspoken on how they’ve soured on one of their top prospects.
Whether it is the weight issues or how much he struggled during his call-up, the Mets are not only talking about him not being on the Opening Day roster, but potentially also signing a player like Carlos Santana to a multi-year deal. If that does happen, this means the Mets will have fully moved on from a top prospect without giving him so much as half a season in the majors.
2014 – OF Michael Conforto (10th Overall)
2017 Stats: .279/.384/.555, 20 2B, 3B, 27 HR, 68 RBI, 2 SB
After Terry Collins made him a strict platoon player for two seasons, injuries allowed Conforto to play everyday, and he showed us all just how great he could be. He made his first All Star team, and he is quite possibly the best player on the roster. Unfortunately, instead of looking forward to him taking the next step towards superstardom, we are awaiting with baited breath to see how his shoulder heals after he separated it on a swing and miss.
2015 – No Pick
It needs to be mentioned here the Mets sacrificed their 2015 first round draft pick in order to sign Michael Cuddyer. This was partially the result of the Rockies making him a qualifying offer after how vocal the Mets were about pursuing him in the offseason. In exchange for that first round pick, the Mets got one season of Cuddyer where he hit .259/.309/.391. Cuddyer’s injuries and poor production were also a precursor to the Mets having to trade Fulmer away to obtain Cespedes.
2016 – RHP Justin Dunn (19th Overall)
2017 MiLB Stats: 5-6, 5.00 ERA, 1.563 WHIP, 7.1 K/9
When Dunn was drafted by the Mets, there were questions about his ability to stick in the rotation. Dunn did little to quiet those concerns by struggling in his first ever full season as a starting pitcher. In 16 starts he had a 5.74 ERA as opposed to a 1.59 ERA in his four relief outings.
Ultimately, the talent is there. The question is whether he can put it together before the Mets get impatient waiting for him to get there.
2016 – LHP Anthony Kay (31st Overall)
The Mets selected Kay with the pick obtained from Murphy signing a deal with the Nationals. After Kay was used heavily in college, he needed Tommy John surgery, and he signed an underslot deal. He will look to throw his first pitch as a professional in 2018.
2017 – LHP David Peterson (20th Overall)
2017 Stats: 0-0. 2.45 ERA, 1.364 WHIP, 14.7 K/9
To some, the Mets were lucky Peterson was there for the taking at 20. Certainly, you can make that argument with the outstanding Junior season he had with Oregon. Due to his throwing over 100 innings in college, the Mets limited him to just 3.2 innings for Brooklyn before shutting him down. Next year will be a big year as the Mets look to see if he’s the mid rotation starter some believe, or the top of the rotation type pitcher the Mets were hoping to get.
Time and again it needs to be stressed the draft is an inexact science and that luck plays a role in determining how well a prospect develops.
If you want to have a glass half-full perspective, everyone drafted prior to 2015 will make the majors. Of those six players, two are All Stars. Depending on what happens this offseason for the Mets, there can be anywhere from one to four everyday players out of the five position players he drafted.
On the glass half-empty front, it does not seem any of his draft picks will reach their full potential. For players like Dunn, Kay, and Peterson, it is way too early to make that determination. However, for the rest, that becomes increasingly more of a possibility. In the cases of Nimmo and Conforto, the fact injuries played a role certainly are a black mark on an Alderson regime that has had issues keeping players healthy.
Worse than the injuries is how the Mets seem to be willing to move on from high draft picks like Cecchini and Smith without so much as a half of season of play to prove themselves.
Overall, there is still time for all of these prospects to develop into the players the Mets hoped they would be when they were drafted. For those that are pessimistic about that happening, look no further than Plawecki. If nothing else, he showed you shouldn’t give up on a talented player without giving them a real chance to develop.