Sterling Award Winners: Ynoa, Plawecki and Dykstra

The Mets named their Sterling Award winners for the organization as a whole and for each affiliate Friday. But are these guys prospects and potential big leaguers or even good big leaguers?

The Mets handed the organizational hardware to 1B Allan Dykstra, C Kevin Plawecki and RHP Gabriel Ynoa. In this case, Plawecki and Ynoa are prospects who matter.

Plawecki
Plawecki Face Swing Follow ThroughThe Mets started the 22-year-old Plawecki, their supplemental first round pick in the 2012 draft in Savannah, where he hit a loud .314/.390/.494 in a pitcher’s park in 65 games to earn a promotion to advanced-A after the Gnats clinched a first half title. By late May, it was clear, to those inside and outside the system, that he was ready to move. The Mets allowed him for finish the first half in Savannah and attend the SAL All-Star Game in Lakewood before departing for advanced-A and the Florida State League. In the FSL he dealt with various minor injuries including a back and usual catcher maladies like balls that hit him in places that hurt. He hit .294/.391/.392 in advanced-A, with his on-base percentage sustained by 14 HBP in 60 contests.

The good in his offensive game: he rarely strikes out, and he has gap power, regularly stinging balls to left-centerfield.

 

His walk rate has slipped at each minor league level from 9.9 in Brooklyn to 8.2 in Savannah to 7.9 in Advanced-A. He’s an aggressive hitter who will attack early count fastballs. This approach, combined with a keen understanding of the strike zone and good bat control keeps his strikeout rate way down – to 10.2% between the two a-ball levels this year. Both his extra-base hit rate (11% -> 6.7%) and his home run rate (2.1% ->0.85) dropped when he was promoted from Savannah to St. Lucie. There’s enough bat here to play catcher in the big leagues, but the way in which his power numbers dropped off at advanced-A is a little concerning.

Plawecki’s defense is fine. He’s an adequate receiver who worked on his game calling and understanding his pitchers. I thought his arm was the weakest part of his game, and he still threw out 31% of opposing runners in the SAL, although that slipped to 27% in the FSL in 45 attempts. He had a tendency to leave throws high and to the first base side of second. When pitchers struggle in the same way, they talk about being too fast with their front side and leaving their arm behind. Plawecki needs to make sure he stays mechanically sound on every throw; he just does not have the kind of natural arm where he can throw out professional runners when he is out of sync.

In 2013, when Major League catchers averaged .245/.310/.388,¬†Plawecki looks like a big leaguer to me. His ceiling right now looks like a solid everyday catcher because I have not seen the in-game power to declare him a star. Even if he’s a low-power guy, his strike zone awareness and bat control will keep him employed in the big leagues. I am concerned however with the decline in his in-game power in 2013 and his very gentle erosion in walk rates as he has moved up the ladder. Double-A will be a big test for him in 2014.

 

Ynoa
Ranked #43 on last Winter’s Top 41 prospect list (yeah, I miscounted), Ynoa had an excellent 2013 at age 20 in the South Atlantic League and has pulled himself comfortably inside the Mets’ Top 20 prospects approaching the 2014 season.

Including the SAL playoffs, the 20-year-old finished with a 2.57 ERA in 150.34 innings over 24 starts with 115 strikeouts and 18 (!) walks. In rate terms that’s a 3% walk rate and a 19.3% strikeout percentage.

He’s a three-pitch guy with fastball, slider and changeup. His fastball hangs around MLB average sitting going 91-95, sitting 92-93 on a good night and 91-93 later in outings. He can work to both sides of the plate. With solid outfield defense patrolling expansive Grayson Stadium behind him, he did well attacking hitters. He has feel for the changeup. Gnats’ manager Luis Rojas thought that Ynoa’s slider made major strides in 2013. One scout who saw Ynoa in the second half told me he saw “three MLB pitches there.” I don’t know if the movement on any of his offerings is above average, but his fastball command is above average.

Ynoa has good size at 6’2″ and he’s filled out a little from his listed 160 lbs. He’s not huge by the standards of modern baseball players, but he’s big enough that his rotation is fairly easy, and he’s been relatively durable at a young age.

Ynoa’s ceiling right now is as a rotation regular. That’s a nice prospect who will start 2014 in advanced-A.

 

Dykstra
I examined Dykstra when he won the Eastern League’s MVP award. The cliff notes version: the 26-year-old hit .274/.436/.503 with 21 homers, 102 walks and 123 strikeouts in 122 games for the Binghamton Mets. ¬†There’s absolutely no reason from a scouting or statistical perspective to think that he is better than Ike Davis or Lucas Duda, both of whom performed at the same level or better, in AA at much younger ages. It’s nice that he hit, and he was more valuable in AA than Eddie Kunz. He’s not part of a winning Mets future.

 

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