Prior to the 2010 draft the Mets had been staunch followers of the commisioners recommended slots for draft picks and that decision had hampered their ability to rebuild a depleted farm system. With a number of over-slot picks in both 2010 and 2011 the Mets have infused some talent into their system though precious little of that talent is close to the big leagues. Guys like top prospect Zack Wheeler and number two prospect Matt Harvey figure to front the rotation for the next seriously competitive Mets team, but their true arrival in that form could be three years away. Meanwhile much of the rest of the talent on this list remains in the lower levels of the system.
1. Zack Wheeler (RHP)
Acquired for outfielder Carlos Beltran, Wheeler immediately jumped to the top of the Mets prospect list. He is a physical right-hander with a big fastball and knee buckling curveball. His fastball will routinely sit at 93-94 mph and touch 97 on a regular basis. His curveball is best when throw harder in the upper-70s and it can be a devastating out pitch. His change-up and cutter both need work but he shows feel for both pitches at times. With two outstanding pitches and improving command some scouts project Wheeler as high as a number two starter in the big leagues.
2. Matt Harvey (RHP)
The Mets were aggressive going after Harvey in the 2010 draft, finally inking him to a $2.5 million deal after picking him in the top ten. While he can rival Wheeler’s peak velocity at 97 mph on occasion, he sits regularly at 92-94 mph with some boring action. He has a very good slider that earns 60-grades in the low-80s. While he throws a curveball and change-up as well, both are below-average pitches that need work. If he continues to improve the change-up he only began throwing in 2011, Harvey could also profile as a number two starter with a better chance to reach his ceiling in the middle of a big league rotation.
3. Cesar Puello (OF)
Despite continued middling numbers, numerous scouts I spoke with this year are still very high on Puello because of his raw tools package. He offers above-average raw power that could enable him to hit 20+ home runs annually if he can swing at better pitches. He is extremely aggressive at the plate and lacks the pitch recognition to make that work for him. While he has played center field he is unlikely to stick there and he could profile as an athletic right field defender with a plus arm. The biggest obstacle for Puello is pitch recognition and plate discipline and if he can make strides in that department he could be a very good everyday player.
4. Brandon Nimmo (OF)
Nimmo was a major departure from the norm for the Mets in terms of their drafting philosophy. With the 13th pick the Mets spent $2.1 million to ink the Wyoming prep product. Nimmo is a classic toolsy athlete that simply hasn’t played a ton of baseball and he could be a huge developmental project that takes a lot of time. He has the speed and baseball savvy to handle center field and his arm is an average tool. Nimmo will require the most work at the plate where he must develop his hitting ability against more advanced competition. There are still questions about just how much power he will develop.
5. Jeurys Familia (RHP)
Familia made big strides in 2011, throwing more strikes and missing more bats for the first time in his career. A change in his delivery led to added angle on his fastball that sits in the 93-95 mph range and will touch 98 on occasion. His breaking ball and change-up both remain inconsistent with the curveball harboring more potential long term. Throwing strikes – let alone quality strikes – has always been a battle for Familia, and while he did make improvements in that area last year he still has a ways to go. With a big fastball some scouts still see Familia in the back of a bullpen while others more bullish on him believe he can be a mid-rotation starter.
6. Michael Fullmer (RHP)
An already imposing 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Fullmer is pretty close to maxed out physically but that shouldn’t matter given his present raw stuff. Fullmer’s fastball sat in the 91-94 mph range during his brief rookie league debut and he touched 97 with significant effort in his delivery. His slider is a true plus pitch with 82-85 mph velocity and outstanding depth. He lacks a change-up and his command is very much a work in progress. Fullmer is light years from reaching his potential but he has a slim chance to become a number two starter while some scouts believe he will ultimately wind up in the back of a bullpen.
7. Reese Havens (2B)
Though it’s not a tool, health is by far the biggest detractor for Havens. One scout went so far as to say “He can’t play three days in a row. If he could he’d be an everyday second baseman.” He is a quality defender at second base and could handle shortstop in a pinch despite being a 40-grade runner. He wears out the middle of the field with line drives and could be a doubles machine with average home run power. With the second base position in flux in Queens, Havens has an opportunity to seize the job if he can stay healthy for even half a season in Triple-A in 2012.
8. Jenrry Mejia (RHP)
Mejia missed all but five starts in 2011 because of Tommy John surgery in May. He continues his rehab and could be back in the upper minor leagues by mid-season 2012. Prior to surgery Mejia offered a mid-90s fastball with heavy sink and some cutting action. He throws a reliable change-up that can generate swings and misses from right-handed hitters and weak contact from lefties. His curveball is well below-average right now but shows fringe-average potential at times. When he returns to the mound – assuming his stuff joins him – Mejia’s biggest need will be improved strike-throwing ability. If that comes he could be a mid-rotation starter or solid setup man.
9. Kirk Nieuwenhuis (OF)
Nieuwenhuis is the type of player who has few glaring flaws but almost no standout skills. His effort level in all phases of the game is probably his best attribute. He makes solid contact on a variety of pitch types and while his home run power projects below-average he can find the gaps with ease and should accumulate doubles. He is solid in center field with speed that’s a tick below average but he profiles better defensively on a corner. His arm strength was only average before season ending shoulder surgery and if he loses some strength that could limit him to left field long term; putting more pressure on his bat to play up. As a grinder with at least fringe-average tools across the board Nieuwenhuis’ best bet is to slide into a fourth outfield role.
10. Aderlin Rodriguez (3B)
The raw power in Rodriguez’s game is the best the Mets system has to offer, earning 70-grades from scouts on a regular basis. He puts on jaw dropping displays in batting practice but his approach holds him back during games. He has natural contact ability with his swing and just needs to lay off breaking pitches he can’t drive to capitalize on his natural strength and home run ability. He has the physical tools to play third base long term but has yet to put the work in to help him stick there. Rodriguez is a long shot to actualize his raw talent but if he does he’s a massive force in the middle of a lineup.
11. Erik Goeddel (RHP)
Already a Tommy John surgery survivor Goeddel’s raw stuff has come back nicely and he has made a positive transition back to the rotation since signing for $350,000 in 2010. While his fastball sat in the mid-90s as a reliever in college he sits more in the 92-93 mph range as a starter and the pitch still offers some explosive life. He slider can be a swing-and-miss pitch that gives him two legitimate plus pitches. His change-up is coming along slowly after never really throwing one as an amateur.
12. Cory Mazzoni (RHP)
A bit unheralded as an amateur Mazzoni has a plus fastball that can reach 96 mph when he reaches back for more, and he also offers a hard breaking ball and a splitter that both flash as above-average pitches. He is not physically imposing but possesses tons of natural strength in his frame and holds his velocity well. He fills up the strike zone and he competes extremely well needing only to tighten his breaking ball and improve his command to move quickly through the system. Mazzoni has a chance to be a solid number four starter.
13. Wilmer Flores (SS)
Flores earns highly divergent opinions from scouts with more and more evaluators questioning his ultimate ceiling. He has natural power in his swing but he maintains a swing-at-everything approach that really works against him. In sort of a comedic way he must realize that he is not required to swing at every pitch thrown to him. Though the Mets continued to run him out at shortstop in 2011 he has zero chance of staying there long term. He is a 30-grade runner with poor range at the position. Provided his bat comes alive and his athleticism doesn’t continue to decline as he matures physically, Flores could profile at third base.
14. Domingo Tapia (RHP)
Tapia has one carrying tool that slots him into the Top 15 list and that is his elite level fastball velocity. Sitting consistently at 96-97 mph and reportedly touching 100 mph in the GCL last summer Tapia can dial it up with the best of him. He also puts good angle on his fastball thanks to his height and he can be difficult to lift. He lacks a reliable secondary pitch with his breaking ball showing only modest potential to date and he has fooled around with a variety of change-ups. As he gets to full-season ball, Tapia will have to find something beyond the fastball that works for him.
15. Phillip Evans (SS)
The Mets gave Evans a $650,000 signing bonus in the 15th round to keep him away from a San Diego State commitment. Though the Mets will give him some time to prove he can play shortstop, scouts are almost universal in their belief that he will ultimately end up as a solid second base defender. He has a compact swing that gets to the zone consistently and the strength in his wrists and forearms allows him to generate at least average bat speed. He could be a solid hitter with below-average home run power and exceptional effort if it all comes together.