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.
With the USA beating a Puerto Rico team with deep Mets ties, a thrilling World Baseball Classic has come to an end. Now, we look forward to Opening Day with the hope that the Mets could make a great run just like the USA and win the World Series this year. IF that were to happen, the Mets will need contributions from the Mets players who played in the World Baseball Classic.
Looking over the players, it is clear some of these players are ready for Opening Day while others may need some more time to get ready for the season.
RHP Nabil Crismatt G, 3.0 IP,
Despite never having pitched above A ball, or having one full season as a starter, Colombia turned to Crismatt to beat a Dominican Republic team with a lineup featuring Manny Machado, Robinson Cano, Jose Bautista, Carlos Santana, Nelson Cruz, and Gregory Polanco. The 22 year old hurler more than held his own relying on locating his fastball and using his terrific change to keep Colombia in the game. He kept the Colombian hopes alive while giving the Mets real hope he could be a major leaguer one day.
RHP Jeurys Familia 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 4 G, 2 SV, 3.1 IP, 5 K, 0.60 WHIP
Familia was primed and ready for the WBC throwing fastballs up to 100 MPH. After the Wild Card Game, he reminded everyone why he is a dominant MLB closer. The only issue for him in the WBC was the Mets complaining about how he was used, which was a surprise to everyone including Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena.
RHP Hansel Robles 0-0, 2.45 ERA, 4 G, 3.2 IP, 4 K, 0.82 WHIP
Like Familia, Robles showed he’s ready to go for Opening Day with the lone run scored against him coming in the opener against Canada. Robles had all of his pitches working, and he showed better command of the strike zone than he has typically shown in his Mets career.
SS Jose Reyes 4 G, 18 AB, 2 R, 5 H, 2 2B, SB, .278/.316/.389
Reyes split time at shortstop with Machado and Jean Segura, but ultimately Reyes was the country’s top choice for both shortstop and a lead off hitter. Reyes was that spark plug at the time of the lineup that helped power the Dominican Republic team to an undefeated record in Pool C play and had the Dominicans ever so close to advancing to the semis. The only issues with Reyes were the same ones he has shown over the past few years. He is no longer suited to being an everyday shortstop, and he doesn’t get on base as much as he did in his prime. With that said, Reyes seems ready for Opening Day.
UTIL Ty Kelly 6 G, 24 AB, 6 R, 5 H, 2B, .208/.321/.250
Kelly served as the number two hitter and third baseman for an Israeli team that was the biggest surprise of the WBC. Kelly said of the team’s upset of the Netherlands, “Definitely the most stressful game I’ve been a part of. But it was worth it.” That was surprising considering Kelly had a pinch hitting appearance in what was then a scoreless Wild Card Game against Madison Bumgarner. Kelly’s statements only go to show how important the WBC was to the players. As for Kelly, he did not have as strong as he would have liked, but he certainly did his heritage proud.
SS Gavin Cecchini 4 G, 15 AB, 2 H, 2B, RBI, .133/.333/.200
The highlight for Cecchini in the World Baseball Classic was a game tying single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth sending the game against Venezuela into extra innings. Aside from that single, the WBC was a mixed bag for Cecchini. He showed discipline at the plate, and he showed his extra base power. He also struggled defensively at short, which will only further justify the Mets decision to transition him to second base.
CF Brandon Nimmo 3 G, 11 AB, 3 R, 2 H, HR, 2 RBI, .182/.308/.455
Nimmo had a good WBC as the leadoff hitter for Italy. He had an RBI single off left-handed reliever Oliver Perez to help Italy’s furious five run ninth inning to shock Mexico. In the surprising effort against Venezuela, Nimmo hit a home run off Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon. Unfortunately, Nimmo also injured his hamstring which could have effected Italy’s chances of advancing in the WBC, and it also might have impacted his chances of making the Opening Day roster.
C Xorge Carrillo 2 G, 8 AB, R, 2 H, .250/.333/.250
While he did not start the opener, which was a shocking loss to Italy, Carrillo got the start in Mexico’s final two games. The minor league defensive specialist was fine behind the plate. In an upset over Venezuela, he had a base hit and a run scored. Unfortunately for him and his countrymen, the win was for naught as they were eliminated from the WBC due to tiebreakers. He should be better from this experience as he looks to continue to improve in the minor league next year.
RHP Fernando Salas 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 2 G, 1.0 IP, K, 3.00 WHIP
Due to visa issues, Salas was not able to report to Mets camp prior to the WBC. In Salas’ two games in the WBC, he showed that rust. As Salas continued to have visa issues after the WBC, it was good he was even able to participate in the tournament because it provided him some opportunity to face living pitching.
SP Seth Lugo 2-1, 4.20 ERA, 3 G, 3 GS, 15.0 IP, 12 K, 1.07 WHIP
Lugo was the ace of the Puerto Rican staff, and he pitched like it. His three games were against the vaunted Venezuelan and United States lineups. Lugo not only held his own, but in his first two starts he was dominant pitching to a 2.45 ERA and a 0.64 WHIP. In the championship game, he was getting his fastball up to 95 MPH, and he recorded five strikeouts. Unfortunately, the walks caught up to him, and he left the game down 3-0. Overall, Lugo made a good case for him making the Opening Day roster whether as the fifth starter or as a member of the bullpen.
IF T.J. Rivera, 7 G, 24 AB, 3 R, 4 H, 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .167/.192/.458
In six of the seven games in the WBC, Rivera played first base, and he played a good defensive first base. For a player that is trying to market himself as a versatile infielder for the Mets, Rivera certainly proved he can handle a position he rarely played in the minor leauges. At the plate, he didn’t hit much, but when he did get a hit it counted. His home run in the semi-final gave Puerto Rico a brief 3-2 lead in a tightly fought game that went into extra innings.
C Rene Rivera 2 G, 8 AB, R, 3 H, 2 2B, RBI, .375/.375/.625
Surprisingly, Rivera got into two games in the WBC, and he did not catch in either of them. In Pool D, he entered the game as a DH against Italy. In a meaningless game against Venezuela, Rivera got the start at first base. At the plate, he was as good as can be expected. However, with respect to the 2017 season, it would have been better if he got in some play behind the plate to get ready for the season.
And because everyone is obviously interested, Yoenis Cespedes‘ younger brother Yoelqui had a strong WBC. In five games, the 19 year old Cespedes hit .250/.250/.313 with two runs, a double, and an RBI. He also showed good range and a strong throwing arm in right field. Perhaps, there may come a time in the future when the younger Cespedes gets the opportunity to play in the major leagues like his older brother.
After last season, Mets fans became aware of who Gavin Cecchini, Ty Kelly, Seth Lugo, Brandon Nimmo, and T.J. Rivera were. While we may have been aware of who they were, Mets fans got to see Rene Rivera and Fernando Salas up close and personal for the first time. Naturally, you are well aware of who Jeurys Familia and Jose Reyes are. Still, there are some other Mets participating in this edition of the World Baseball Classic that most Mets fans are going to see for the first time. Here’s a a look at those players and what we may expect to see
2016 Level: Binghamton & Las Vegas
2016 Stats: 85 G, 327 PA, 290 AB, 28 R, 79 H, 14 2B, 4 HR, 25 RBI, CS, .272/.347/.362
The 27 year old Carrillo is a catcher’s catcher. He is a good receiver behind the plate, and he has a good, not great, throwing arm that allows him to control the running game. For his defensive skills, he was recently given a Gold Glove in the Mexican Pacific Winter Leagues.
At the plate, Carrillo shows a good eye at the plate, but not much pop. While you can argue his glove is major league ready, his bat probably isn’t. Still, Carrillo is a hard worker that has shown the willingness to do whatever is necessary to improve his game. Considering Mets fans once saw the likes of Mike Nickeas serve as a back-up catcher at the major league level, it is not impossible that Carrillo could one day get a chance in the major leagues.
RHP Nabil Crismatt
2016 Level: Brooklyn, Columbia, Binghamton
2016 Stats: 1-4, 2.47 ERA, 13 G, 7 GS, SV, 65.2 IP, 74 K, 0.883 WHIP, 10.1 K/9
The 22 year old Crismatt has been an interesting pitching prospect since the Mets signed him as a non-drafted free agent out of Columbia in 2011. Crismatt has never had dominating stuff with his fastball typically sitting between the high 80s to the low 90s. With that said, he’s able to get batters out because he knows how to pitch. He has clean, easily repeatable mechanics. While he does not have a blazing fastball, he is able to locate the pitch well. He gets the most out of his fastball because he has a terrific change-up. He gets the most out of both pitches because he knows how to attack hitters to not only get a high number of strike outs, but also get a good number of ground balls.
The Mets did not protect Crismatt from the Rule 5 Draft last year, and he wasn’t selected. The Mets may not be so lucky the next time around. Crismatt has shown he can thrive as a starter and as a reliever. At the moment, he projects as a major league reliever. With that said if he can develop a third pitch to be on the level of his fastball and change-up, he may very well be able to thrive in a major league rotation.
Certainly, aside from these prospects, I’m sure the player most Mets fans have the most interest in seeing play during the World Baseball Classic is Yoenis Cespedes‘ 19 year old brother Yoelkis. Unsurprisingly, Yoelkis has been dubbed a five tool player.