My first post of 2013, will be basically my final look back at 2012. Yeah, I’ll finally get around to finishing my review of my 2012 Top 41 prospects. This is 1 through 5 and names you know. Next steps? The 2013 list. Oh yeah. Time to get back to work.
Oh, man, the second to last entry in this series was back in October on guys I had ranked 6-10. Then, apparently I got distracted. As far as the Top Prospect review pieces, part six, on players #11-15 is here, part five, on players 16-20 is here, part four, on players 21-25 is here, part three, on players 26-30 is here, part two on players 31-35 is here, part one, on players #36-41 is here.
The link in the player’s name leads back to last year’s scouting report.
#1 – RHP Matt Harvey
What I Thought: He was the kind of pitcher who could pitch at the top of the rotation of a playoff team. He was armed plus to plus-plus fastball, a slider that had made a ton of progress in his brief professional career, a curveball that could be plus, and a changeup that had become at worst usable. I predicted an MLB debut of August, 2012. Harvey debuted for the Mets on July 26.
Reality: Pretty much all of it. Actually, he got off to a rough start in Buffalo, but settled in, and by July, was pretty clearly the best option for the big league team (sorry, Miguel Batista). Actually, Harvey was a better pitcher in the big leagues than he had been in AAA Buffalo as his strikeout rate rose from 23.7% of opponents all the way up to 28.6% of big leaguers. That’s extremely unusual. Based on his AAA starts that I saw online, it certainly appeared as though he was throwing harder, more consistently in the big leagues than he did for the Bisons. It was not just his fastball either, he was throwing his slider harder in the big leagues. Want another oddity? His strike percentage ticked upward from 62% in AAA to 63% in the big leagues against better, more disciplined hitters. Harvey’s MLB ERA – 2.73, was significantly better than his FIP of 3.30, in large part due to the fact that he did not give up many hits on balls in play – a .262 BABIP. Expect some BABIP regression, which will in turn drive his ERA up. He could counteract that be lowering his walk rate, which at 10..6% was a little high for a true pitching star.
On the Next Top 41? Nope, he pitched enough innings to graduate.
#2 – RHP Jeurys Familia
What I Thought: I loved his fastball, the movement on his breaking ball, his size, his improved delivery in 2011, the fact that he had improved his control and that he had conquered double-A.
Reality: Familia just did not locate well enough. His release point was inconsistent.
Stock: Usually, when a guy gets to the big leagues, it’s up. However, in Familia’s case, it’s down a little. The problems that he had throwing strikes and the fact that his changeup is still crude, suggest to me that he will be destined for the bullpen.
On the Next Top 41? Yeah.
#3 – RHP Zack Wheeler
What I Thought: He had big-time stuff, with a plus fastball and the potential for two above average breaking balls. He just needed time.
Reality: He had a very, very good 2012, blowing through double-A on the way to triple-A at the end of the year. He missed bats, lots of them. The only hiccup statistically was that his walk rate rose, a symptom of the fact that his command wavered. His command (and a few months in lovely Las Vegas) could be the only thing keeping from the top of a big league rotation.
On the Next Top 41? Yeah, like top two.
#4 – CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis
What I Thought: He would spend most of the second half in Queens and his secondary skills and ability to cover center would make him a valuable contributor.
Reality: I had some of that right. Andres Torres hurt himself on Opening Day, so Nieuwenhuis spend one day in April with the Buffalo Bisons before he was called up to the big leagues. The 25-year old played an ok centerfield (-1.2 UZR and -2 DRS, for what that’s worth), but his secondary skills disappeared and the strikeouts ate his batting average. He fanned in 31% of his MLB plate appearances. Moreover, his extra-base hit rate dropped from 11.3 in AAA in 2011 to just 6.3 in 2012 while his walk rate plummeted from 14.5 in AAA in 2011 to 8% in the big leagues in 2012. He did not hit lefties at all (.180/.286/.230 in 73 PA) while doing ok against righties (.271/.324/.416 in 241 PA).
Stock: Man, I almost always say up when a guy makes his MLB debut, but I expected better from Nieuwenhuis. Regardless, he should get another chance to prove he belongs in the big leagues in 2013.
On the Next Top 41? No. Graduated.
#5 – Brandon Nimmo
What I Thought: The 2011 first rounder had plus tool in his speed, and star potential in centerfield if he developed to his maximum potential.
Reality: Nimmo took the first step with a very nice season for short-season Brooklyn in the New York-Penn League. The 19-year old finished fifth in doubles (20), third in extra-base hits (28), third in strikeouts (78) and second in walks (46) in his 69 games played for Brooklyn as part of a .248/.372/.406 line. That adds up to 24% strikeout rate, an 8.7% extra-base hit rate, and a .158 ISO to go along with a 14.3% walk rate. The in-game power and the patience at such a young age are very, very exciting. However, some caution is in order. He’s a plus runner now. If he gets bigger and stronger he might no longer boast such speed. In 2012, he was just 1-for-6 stealing bases. The Mets are pleased with his development in centerfield, but were he to become much slower, he would be forced to a corner, where of course, the offensive requirements for impact bats rise. I do want to point out that while he ripped righties at a .279/.410/.465 rate overall in 112 PA, hie hit .191/.296/.298 against lefties in 109 PA. Whether or not he learns to hit lefties is just one more thing to watch in his development in the coming years.
On the Next Top 41? Yup – top 5.