This past week, the New York Mets released 39 minor league players. They were far from the only team who took that action. Every MLB undertook the same process with the COVID19 shutdown, the ever increasingly likely cancellation of the minor league season, and the contraction of 42 minor league teams.
Make no mistake, every minor leaguer who was released was a talented baseball player. They had enough talent to get a contract to play professional baseball. The issue at the moment was teams like the Mets thought better to get rid of them so they wouldn’t have to pay them $400/week.
When you look at the players who were released, you really have to question whether the Mets would’ve released Jacob deGrom under similar circumstances. Don’t be so sure they wouldn’t have.
Going back a decade, deGrom was a ninth round draft pick out of Stetson University. While much has been made about his being a collegiate SS, truth be told deGrom had converted to a pitcher Junior year. That year, he pitched and played short. It was his pitching which caught the Mets attention.
Just because he caught the Mets attention, it doesn’t mean he was good right away.
As a 22 year old, deGrom was assigned to a Kingsport franchise which is in line to be contracted. Despite being over a full year older than the competition, he did not pitch well.
In the six starts deGrom made, he was 1-1 with a 5.19 ERA, 1.577 WHIP, and a 7.6 K/9. Batters hit .324/.360/.472 off of him. At the end of the year, he underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL.
At that time, there was nothing which could give you any indication he was about to become a pitcher who would have a dominant 2015 postseason in addition to consecutive Cy Youngs.
No, he looked like an older prospect for his level who couldn’t beat younger batters, and worse yet, he had a busted elbow. If you’re looking to not pay players, and you’re looking to cut down the amount of people in your system to prepare for a loss of affiliates, deGrom was going to be in real danger of getting released.
If that happened, deGrom doesn’t get the chance to get healthy, learn a change-up from Johan Santana, and start on a path towards being a potential Hall of Famer. No, in all likelihood, his career would’ve been over.
Now, it’s very possible none of the 39 players released by the Mets could’ve done what deGrom did. Most and maybe all don’t even make it to the majors. However, that’s not the point.
The point is unless you give prospects real time to learn and develop you’re never going to find the next deGrom. The same can be said for Mike Piazza, Jeff McNeil, of Seth Lugo. For that matter, the Mets miss the 2016 postseason without undrafted free agent T.J. Rivera.
In the end, MLB franchises opted to end the dreams of minor leaguers over $400/week. In the process, they’re going to potentially miss out on the next diamond in the rough, or even that key player who gets them to the postseason thereby making the franchise millions of dollars.
With the full season minor leagues having their Opening Day on Thursday, the Mets have announced the rosters for each of their minor league affiliates. Each team includes an interesting group of prospects. Each team also features a particular strength of each aspect of the Mets farm system. Keeping in mind each particular group is viewed not just in terms of how good the players are now, but also how they project going forward, here are the best of the best:
Best Starting Pitching – St. Lucie Mets
The St. Lucie rotation features a number of pitchers who may very well make their way to a major league mound. The former second round draft pick Church fixed both his hip and his mechanics, and he had a breakout season last year. Dunn is already a top 10 Mets prospect a year after he was drafted. Molina is back from Tommy John surgery, and he has looked good in both the Arizona Fall Leauge and Spring Training. Crismatt more than held his own against the vaunted Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic. This is as exciting a rotation as there is in the minor leauges, and possibly, you will see some version of this rotation with the Mets one day.
Honorable Mention: Columbia Fireflies. A rotation with Jordan Humphreys, Merandy Gonzalez, and Harol Gonzalez is a very interesting minor league rotation. It would have been more interesting with Thomas Szapucki, but he is slated to miss time due to a shoulder impingement.
Best Bullpen – Las Vegas 51s
The 51s bullpen features Sewald and Roseboom who were both extremely effective closers last season. Certainly, both impressed the Mets enough to get long looks during Spring Training. Prior to having bone spurs removed, Goeddle was an effective major league reliever. Rowen gives you a different look with his sidewinding action on the mound. Arguably, this could be a major league bullpen that could hold its own.
Honorable Mention: Binghamton Rumble Ponies. The Rumble Ponies bullpen has Corey Taylor, who has been favorable compared to Jeurys Familia, as its closer. There are some other interesting names like Ben Griset, who is a very promising LOOGY, and Luis Mateo, who was once a very well thought out prospect before he faced some injury issues.
Best Catching Tandem – Las Vegas 51s
If nothing else, Plawecki has established he can handle a major league starting staff. More to the point, Plawecki has shown himself to be a very good pitch framer. While his bat has lagged in the majors, at 26, he still has time to improve. Behind him is Carrillo, who is a good defensive catcher that won the Gold Glove in the Mexican Winter Leagues this past offseason.
Honorable Mention: Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Tomas Nido seemingly put it all together in St. Lucie last year, and he appears poised to take the mantle as the Mets catcher of the future. Binghamton very easily could have been named the top catching tandem off that, but some deference was paid to Plawecki showing he can handle the position defensively at the major league level.
Best Infield – Las Vegas 51s
When the weak point of your infield is a player who is coming off a season where he won the Eastern League batting title, you know you have something special. Rosario and Smith are considered two of the best prospects not only at their positions, but in the entire game. Cecchini played well enough last year to be put on the 40 man roster a year ahead of schedule and earn a September call-up where he hit two doubles in six major league at-bats.
Honorable Mention: St. Lucie Mets. The team features a pair of 2016 draft picks in 1B Peter Alonso and SS Colby Woodmansee who showed real ability during their time in Brooklyn. Due to that success, they both skipped Columbia and joined an interesting second base prospect in Vinny Siena and a promising hitter at third base in Jhoan Urena.
Best Outfield – Columbia Fireflies
No, this isn’t because of Tebow. This is mostly about Lindsay, who has been labeled as an “offensive machine” by the Mets organization. He is a five tool prospect that with a little health will arrive at Citi Field sooner rather than later. Another interesting five tool prospect is former Division II player Zanon. He certainly has all the tools to succeed. It is a question whether those tools can translate against better competition. Cone is a player who has a good baseball IQ, but he still needs to translate that and his talent to on the field success
Honorable Mention: Las Vegas 51s. The outfield got demonstratively better with the recent signing of Desmond Jennings. It will get better with either Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto playing for them again. That depends on Nimmo’s health as well as the health of the major league outfield. It will also be interesting to see how Matt Reynolds handles taking on what was Ty Kelly‘s role last year in being a utility player that mostly plays left field.
Overall, the Mets have a number of good to very good prospects who are either close or project to be major leaguers. Some of those players like Rosario will be stars. Others should have long major league careers. While we are getting excited for another year of Mets baseball, we also have a lot to be excited about for years to come with these prospects.
Like the Mets, the minor league affiliates’ seasons are long over, and over at Mets Minors, organizational leaderboards are being compiled, and awards are being handed out:
Full Season Batting Leaders – statistically speaking Brandon Nimmo might’ve had the best year especially with him missing out on the Pacific League batting title by .001 points and him having the top OBP in the farm system.
Full Season Pitching Leaders – Naturally, the above-referenced pitchers were listed throughout.
Here is how all the 2015 draft picks fared with Alonso and Justin Dunn as standouts. And nowadays, you would be remiss without mentioning the fact that Tim Tebow homered in his first professional at-bat.
However, here are the bigger awards everyone is most curious about:
As you saw this season, there were major contributors from the Mets minor league system this year. If not for Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Josh Smoker, T.J. Rivera, and others, the Mets may not make the postseason this year. It is not only good to know the Mets minor league system has been this beneficial, but also that there is a significant amount of talent behind the players we have already seen contribute.