This year’s edition of the Mets Top 15 offers far more long-term intrigue than last year’s list. With the addition of Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud and Wuilmer Becerra from the RA Dickey trade and the emergence of arms like Rafael Montero, Hansel Robles, Domingo Tapia and Luis Mateo, the system has more depth and several prospects that could breakout to become serious prospects.
1. Zack Wheeler – RHP (Last Year’s Rank: 1)
Wheeler has true front of the rotation potential with excellent physicality, dominating raw stuff and he’s starting to demonstrate improved pitchability. He still runs his fastball up to 98 mph at times and he has good angle to the plate. His curveball is still a plus hammer and his change-up has become a potential average pitch. He added a slider in 2012 and the pitch looked filthy at times. His feel is still coming but if it does, he could front the Mets rotation.
2. Noah Syndergaard – RHP (NR)
The easy answer here would have been d’Arnaud and I may regret not going that direction. That said, as much potential as d’Arnaud offers, the scouts I spoke with regularly this summer were blown away by Syndergaard. He showed impressive feel for pitching to go with monster stuff, giving him at least a three projection and the possibility that could be upgraded to a number two. Syndergaard could start moving quickly in 2013 and could join Matt Harvey and Wheeler in the rotation down the line.
3. Travis d’Arnaud – C (NR)
D’Arnaud gives the Mets their catcher of the future and he should make that impact at some point in 2013. He is an improved defender that is at least average behind the plate and he works well with his pitching staff. Offensively, d’Arnaud is an aggressive swing but he makes it work with good bat-to-ball skills and impressive raw power. Everything exists in d’Arnaud’s profile for him to be an All-Star behind the dish.
4. Gavin Cecchini – SS (NR)
Cecchini was the club’s first round pick last June and is the younger brother of Red Sox third base prospect Garin Cecchini. Gavin isn’t a flashy player but he contributes in every category. His shortstop defense is very good, with the fundamentals, instincts and effort to make it work long term. His bat has some questions but he has a natural sense for hitting, uses the whole field and he could pick up plenty of doubles and 10-12 home runs annually.
5. Michael Fulmer – RHP (6)
There’s a lot of intrigue with Fullmer. He has a power fastball with excellent movement and easy 92-93 mph velocity, touching 95 at times. Though his body looks a little soft, he has good strength and can keep pumping that velo late in games. His slider is a second plus pitch and while he struggles with his change-up, he continues to work with it. Scouts that like Fulmer see a future number three starter.
6. Jeurys Familia – RHP (5)
There are still scouts that believe Familia can start in the big leagues but with his near-elite fastball and plus slider, more scouts see a future in the eighth or ninth inning. He can sit in the 94-96 mph range with his heater and touches 99 at times. His slider misses bats and he will throw it in any count and he even flashes a reasonable change-up at times. Familia could handle the big leagues as a reliever right now but the Mets may try to extract more value and let him refine his game as a starter in the minors in 2013.
7. Wilmer Flores – 3B (13)
Flores is a divisive prospect among scouts. He moved to third base in 2012 but he lacks much range at the position and while his hands work well it just wasn’t pretty last year. Even scouts that like him wonder if he can stay there long term. That defensive profile gives him big problems as it requires his power to fully manifest. He can make easy contact and hit for average but his power just isn’t there for all scouts. He still has some development remaining, including getting into consistently good counts to drive the ball, but unless he does that, the profile is a tough one.
8. Domingo Tapia – RHP (14)
Tapia has a different arsenal than Familia but they have similar long term profiles. Tapia’s fastball can get up to 98 mph and sits in the mid-90s with heavy sink and bore. His change-up is a second plus weapon and he can keep both left-handed and right-handed hitters back with the pitch. He struggles searching for consistency with his slider but it will occasionally show fringy potential. If the slider comes, Tapia has mid-rotation potential or he could settle into the late innings as a reliever.
9. Luis Mateo – RHP (NR)
Mateo was impressive pitching for Brooklyn in 2012, showing 92-94 mph heat and the ability to reach 95-96 on occasion. The high-end velocity wasn’t sustainable in 2012 but the 22-year old could develop the ability to show that more frequently. He throws his slider very hard, sitting at 87-88 with the pitch and showing harder at times. It has exceptional break and is a legit plus pitch with projection remaining. He lacks a change-up and struggles to find the strike zone at times, giving him two glaring weaknesses that must be ironed out for him to remain in the rotation.
10. Wuilmer Becerra – OF (NR)
An additional piece to the RA Dickey trade, Becerra flies under the radar right now but could explode as a prospect in 2013. His 2012 season was cut short because of a pitch to the face but when he’s on the field he shows excellent size, plus raw power and some natural hitting ability. He stood out on the field during instructs and has serious potential.
11. Brandon Nimmo – OF (4)
Yes, I know this seems extreme. Honestly, I’m well aware of that. I scouted Nimmo extensively in 2012 and I didn’t see the explosive tools that were supposed to be on display. Nimmo didn’t fit in center field for me and looked like a corner outfielder, possibly in right field with an average arm. He was a below-average runner down the line and won’t be an impact on the bases. At the plate, he showed a willingness to work counts but lacks barrel control and his swing-and-miss tendencies tend to keep his power from playing in games. Without a center field profile, Nimmo has to hit and for power on a corner, something I’m far from convinced he will accomplish.
12. Rafael Montero – RHP (NR)
Montero has a deep arsenal including a solid-average fastball, and quality secondary pitches. He locates his fastball exceedingly well throughout the strike zone and he can throw strikes with both his slider and change-up. He uses all three pitches in any count and shows good overall pitchability. Montero looks like a number four or five starter in the making.
13. Vincente Lupo – OF (NR)
Lupo still flies under the radar a bit but his bat may change that in the next couple of years. He has good bat speed and the ability to barrel all types of pitches and drive them to all fields. Scouts that are sold on his bat believe he can shows plus hit and plus power down the line. He doesn’t project to fit anywhere outside of left field but if the bat matures as hoped, that won’t be a problem.
14. Hansel Robles – RHP (NR)
Another Mets prospect I got plenty of exposure to this year, Robles has a heavy sinking fastball that can sit in the low-90s, touching 95 at times. He throws strikes but doesn’t always locate within the strike zone. His slider and change-up enter in the same velocity range, necessitating full development of the movement on both to make them truly effective. He has the potential for a three-pitch mix that induces ground balls and works in the back of a rotation.
15. Amed Rosario – SS (NR)
Despite new bonus restrictions in 2012 the Mets were aggressive on the international market, giving Rosario a $1.75 million signing bonus at the opening of the J2 signing period. He fits well at shortstop right now but his 6-foot-3 body could fill out enough to move him to third base. He has hitting projection and plenty of raw power, allowing him to profile at either short or third base. Rosario is light years from the big leagues but his potential is highly intriguing.