Mets catching prospect Kevin Plawecki, my #11 prospect in the system, turns 23 today.
In his age 22 season, Plawecki hit .314/.390/.494 in 65 games for Savannah in the SAL, and then .294/.391/.392 in 60 games for St. Lucie in the Florida State League. In the move to the higher level, his extra-base hit rate dropped from 11% to 6.7% while his isolated slugging percentage slipped from .180 to .098. His walk and strikeout rates held steady. Plawecki fanned just 53 times in 125 games last year, a rate of 10%.
In the New York Times, Tim Rohan examined the Mets’ young catching depth with Travis d’Arnaud. Plawecki explained that he doesn’t like to strikeout: “Strikeouts are going to happen, but I try to limit them as much as I can…Usually, if I have a good eye at the plate and a good approach, it’s not that difficult.”
Marc Carig in the NYPost also did a Plawecki feature. Here’s General Manager Sandy Alderson on Plawecki: “He’s somebody we feel very highly about….He does have our approach and we like what he does behind the plate.”
This is a fun pair of toolsy outfielders from the 2013 draft. They’re both raw, athletic types. Either might never hit in advanced-A, or either could figure it out and become an above average MLB contributor. Combined with Brandon Nimmo, these three give the Mets the most upside in centerfield that I can recall in the last 10 years.
#22 CF Champ Stuart
Height/Weight: 6’0”/175 lbs
Acquired: 6th rd ’13 (Brevard College)
Born: 10/11/93 (Freeport, Bahamas)
2013 Rank: NA | Stats
Why Ranked Here: He has the tools to really play centerfield. If he can hit at all, he’s a big leaguer. If he hits more, he’s a good big leaguer.
It’s pretty rare these days that when I see a Mets prospect for the first time, I think his tools are better than what I’ve read/been told. Such was the case with Stuart.
He has centerfield tools. He can really, really run. His routes in center can be curious, bordering on circuitious at times, but with time and repetition, he will learn to take a more direct path. His arm is easily plus. However, he is still learning how to use it. For example, he was willing to let the thing fly rather than keep his throws down (to allow for a potential cutoff) or hit his cutoff man. This too will come in time.
Stuart is no twig; there’s strength in his arms and chest.
Will he hit enough? At the plate, his hand path seems fine. However, he gets jumpy. Both in the batting practice and game clips from last summer, he made contact with a pitch way out in front of the plate. In BP, for example in the video below, he’s working a very common drill among Mets prospects, placing a ball or two middle away on the front edge of home plate to give himself a target and remind himself that he wants to make contact in that rough area. The game swing shows him lunging after a fastball. At yet in BP, when it all comes together, as it does in the last swing in the video below, he generates plenty of power with his fast hands to put the ball over the wall.
2013: Food for thought or small sample-size silliness? In 71 PA against younger pitchers in 2013, Stuart hit .328/.451/.466. In 117 PA against older pitchers, he hit .185/.350/.283.
Oh, and he was 11-for-13 stealing bases overall.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Above average Major League Centerfielder
Debbie Downer Says: .220 hitter in advanced-A
Projected 2014 Start: Savannah
MLB Arrival: 2017/2018
#23 OF Ivan Wilson
Height/Weight: 6’3”/220 lbs
Acquired: 3rd rd ’13 (Ruston HS)
Born: 5/26/95 (Simsboro, LA)
2013 Rank: | Stats
Why Ranked Here: He’s big, he’s strong, he runs well, plays centerfield for now, has power potential and he struck out 35% of his Gulf Coast League plate appearances in his professional debut in 2013.
At the time the Mets drafted him, MLB.com said, his “combination of tools and athleticism is among the best of this year’s prep outfielders. … with good strength and plus speed. Wilson, …has good power and can hit home runs to any part of the ballpark.
ESPN’s Keith Law called Wilson, “very crude but has big upside, the kind of high-reward pick the Mets should be making more frequently.”
It looks like from the few swings I saw on this video that he has a deep load, and then a small drop in his hands before he attacks the ball. He clearly likes to hit with his arms extended in an almost arm bar. He will need to drive his hands through the ball more in professional baseball rather than relying on nearly straight arms to create leverage otherwise pitchers will bust him in with fastballs.
If everything clicks here, there’s a very good MLB player.
2013: Wilson made progress over his first professional season in the GCL which began on June 21. He struggled through a .195/.275/.244 July in which he struck out 39 times (!) in 92 plate appearances over 22 games – that’s 43% of the time. In August, he cut that down to 22 strikeouts in 74 plate appearances, a 30% whiff rate as part of a .226/.351/.371 line. He had three extra-base hits in July and a .049 isolated slugging percentage; he had five in August including his first professional homerun and a .141 iso. He drew eight walks in July and upped that to 12 in August in 17 fewer plate appearances.
Wilson played all of his 46 games in 2013 in centerfield. There’s some chance as he ages, he fills out more and loses a step and will be forced to a corner, but that’s some ways away.
In 2013, he was 13-for-15 stealing bases.
Dr. Pangloss Says: A high-strikeout centerfielder with power? That’s an all-star.
Debbie Downer Says: Or he fills out and cannot stay in center. Or his power does not come. Or he strikes out all the time.
Projected 2014 Start: Kingsport, barring a monster Extended Spring Training in which he earns his way to Brooklyn
MLB Arrival: 2018 (or never)
Note: Wilson is one of only two players in my Top 25 who I have never seen play baseball live.
- Steven Matz had knee surgery in October, reports Adam Rubin at ESPNNY.
- Rob and Friends at Amazin’ Avenue finished their Top 25 Mets Prospect list. It comes with lots of good research.
- The Minor Leaguers are working hard in STEP camp, and at least one is tired.
Did I miss anything?
Both of these pitchers have upsides as guys who can pitch at the back of a big league rotation and both showed me that they could get outs in a-ball. They are both above 6’3″ and are solidly built (again, adding to the case that they can be rotation pieces down the road). On the other hand, they have incomplete arsenals at the moment, and their raw statistics could overstate their prospect profile.
#24 RHP Luis Cessa
Born: April 25, 1992 (Cordoba, Veracruz, MX)
2013 Rank: 42 | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Cessa has size, a major league fastball, some feel for his off-speed pitches, and success at a-ball to recommend him as a future big league starter if everything works out. Scouts were willing to say he could be a #4 starter.
The converted infielder stands 6’3”. He’s not lean and he’s not bulky – he’s in the middle with a little bit of meat on his bones. His delivery works, and he repeats well. He rarely walked a batter.
Cessa added a tick of fastball velocity from 2012 to 2013 and by June was sitting 92-93, in outings in which his velocity spanned 91-95 mph. His slider is slurvy at times, but it has a chance to be average. His changeup comes out of his hand well, and it too has a chance to be an average pitch.
Cessa had a tendency to work up in the zone with his fastball. In the expansive Historic Grayson Stadium this was no problem; a-ball hitters were not strong enough to make him pay regularly. However, on the road, this became a bigger issue. This ranking hedges against the idea that he could be a Grayson Stadium pitching mirage.
2013: Cessa pitched the bulk of the 2013 season as a 21-year-old in the SAL where he was durable and effective. In fact, he pitched so much, and so well early in the year, that the Mets had to put him on the phantom disabled list in the second half to keep his work load down to pitch in the SAL playoffs.
I was a little disappointed by his work in the playoffs too. When Gabriel Ynoa and Steven Matz were electric, Cessa’s stuff seemed flatter by comparison. Perhaps he was tired at the end of the long year, but the contrast sticks out to me.
Dr. Pangloss Says: #4 starter
Debbie Downer Says: Tops out at AA with no MLB out pitch
Projected 2014 Start: Advanced-A St. Lucie
MLB Arrival: 2016
#25 – RHP Rob Gsellman
Height/Weight: 6’4”/220 lbs
Acquired: 13th rd ’11 (Westchester HS)
2013 Rank: NR | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Gsellman is a big guy with the potential to have an average MLB fastball, which plays up because he throws strikes, and land at the back of a big league rotation. He’s ahead of the kids behind him because he’s picked up some outs in a-ball.
I saw Gsellman three times in May and early June with the Gnats. He threw lots of strikes with his fastball that lived 89-92. His solid, 6’4” frame supports that kind of velocity easily.
At his best, he threw his fastball for a strike 67% of the time. He had good feel for his changeup, which he threw a lot – up to 25 times in a start and over 70% of the time for strikes. He threw fewer than five curves in each of the starts I saw. So the best I can say is that it exists.
I want to see more fastball velocity from Gsellman or a better hook to move him into the top-20 next year.
2013: In his age 19/20 summer, Gsellman actually moved down the system from advanced-A through A-ball and then to the New York Penn League. He made two spot starts in St. Lucie for Hansel Robles, then moved down to Savannah, when the Gnats’ roster thinned out. He then dominated the New York-Penn League.
Gsellman was also responsible for one of the more poignant moments of the 2013 season. He threw for Savannah on Breast Cancer Awareness night in May. His own mother Trisha passed away from the disease in 2009.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Backend big league starter.
Debbie Downer Says: A righty without a breaking ball is an iffy profile, but he’s young and all.
Projected 2014 Start: Savannah, maybe on Opening Night.
MLB Arrival: 2017
Lets look at a cohesive group of young arms in my Top 41, young pitchers with better than average fastballs who have not played full-season ball yet. I tend to be pretty conservative with young pitchers especially those below full-season ball since there are just so many misses.
This trio begins the fun part of the rankings.
#26 – RHP Chris Flexen
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215 lbs
Acquired: 14th rd (Memorial HS)
2013 Rank: 32 | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Big league pitcher’s body, big league fastball. There’s a mid-rotation MLB starter in here if everything works out (or even #2), and the downside as a bullpen flamethrower if they don’t. Flexen is a loose-limbed 6’3”. He’s lean and moves easily. His fastball was sitting 93-94 at the end of 2013 and touching 96. The Mets had him scrap a lousy cutter to trim his arsenal to focus on his fastball, curve and changeup. The Mets went overslot to sign Flexen to a $374,400 contract in the 14th round in 2012 when his raw talent dictated a much higher selection.
Flexen moves ahead of the 2013 draftees behind him because he’s a year ahead developmentally and has, for the moment, the best fastball of the group.
2013: Flexen repeated the Appalachian League in 2013 through no fault of his own; the Mets did not field a Gulf Coast League team in 2012 so the Appy was the lowest level for high school draftees like Flexen. In his second time around the League, Flexen improved dramatically: cutting his walk rate from 9.3% to 4.4, while bumping up his strikeout rate from 17% to 23%.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Good MLB starter
Debbie Downer Says: Young pitchers and…
Projected 2014 Start: Savannah
MLB Arrival: 2017
#27 – RHP Casey Meisner
Height/Weight: 6’7”/190 lbs
Acquired: 3rd rd ’13 (Cypress Woods HS; Cypress, TX)
Born: 5/22/95 (Cypress, TX)
2013 Rank: NA | Stats
Why Ranked Here: He’s 6’7”! He was throwing 93-94 mph in the Gulf Coast League in 2013 in a borderline dominant August. The Mets seemed pleased with the progress his curve and changeup made. According to Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus, he repeats his delivery reasonably well for a huge guy.
2013: In four starts in August, Meisner went five or six innings in each on his way to a 2.86 ERA and a K/BB of 3.4 (17K/5 BB) in 22 innings.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Frontline starter
Debbie Downer Says: Or nothing. Injuries, etc.
Projected 2014 Start: Brooklyn Cyclones
MLB Arrival: September 2017
#28 – RHP Andrew Church
Height/Weight: 6’2”/190 lbs
Acquired: 2nd Rd ’13 (Basic HS; Henderson NV)
Born: 10/7/94 (Henderson, NV)
2013 Rank: NA | Stats
Why Ranked Here: The Mets’ 2013 second-rounder has a chance to be a mid-rotation starter. At the time he was drafted, Mets VP of Amateur Scouting and Player Development said of Church: “We feel like he has a chance to be a solid middle of the rotation starter. It’s three pitches, all for strikes. We think he has a chance for a plus breaking ball. Could also log a lot of innings. Athletic. Works fast. Fits into our overall organizational pitching philosophy.”
Baseball America had him throwing 90-93, touching 95 at the time of the draft with a curveball that “flashed” plus.
Church had a messy high school career that spanned three high schools and prevented him from pitching a full high school season until 2013, but the Mets saw him multiple times in the summer of 2012 and early in 2013.
2013: Church made three relief appearances from July 3rd through the 13th before making his first of six starts on July 20. Statistically, there’s little significant in his work in the GCL.
Dr. Pangloss Says: As the Mets’ brass said, maybe there’s a #3 starter in here.
Debbie Downer Says: He’s a long way away.
Projected 2014 Start: Brooklyn Cyclones
MLB Arrival: 2018
- STEP Camp, for the Mets top prospect began over the weekend. The full roster is here. In the last two years, every starter on a full-season team on Opening Day attended either MLB camp or STEP Camp.
- At ESPNNY, Adam Rubin reports that Erik Goeddel will be transitioning to a bullpen role. This is not a surprise. In fact, when I ranked him as the Mets’ 33rd-best prospect, I had already factored in a move to the bullpen into his valuation.
- At Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan did a great piece about Juan Lagares and how much outfield defense shifts in value year-over-year. He found range rankings are more stable than arm ratings, where Juan Lagares excelled last season.
Articles about Pitching Prospects
The Mets beat writers have figured out that Frank Viola 1. knows all of the minor league pitchers and 2. gives a great quote.
Viola on Rafael Montero
“I don’t know if you’ll ever have a perfect delivery but that’s as close as you’re going to see…”
Mike Vorkunov in The Star-Ledger
On Jeff Walters
“He went from 89 to 91 [mph], all the way up to 97 sometimes,’’ Viola said. “Sometimes it’s just a mental thing. In the bullpen you just react and go. He thrives on the moment and he’s learning how to win.
Kevin Kiernan in the NY Post. There’s other good stuff on Walters, a three-sport athlete in high school who called Bronson Arroyo his “hair idol” in there too.
On Jack Leathersich
“In Triple-A he finally couldn’t get hitters out just by throwing up in the strike zone, and now he has to adjust. He has to get a little mentally tougher and attack the strike zone.
John Harper in the NY Daily News, who compared Leathersich to Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams.
The best quote in Harper’s article comes from Leathersich’s buddy, Zack Wheeler, “Hitters tell me he throws an invisi-ball. For some reason, they just don’t see it very well.”
John Delcos submits his bid for “Worst Spring Training Article of the Year.”
STEP Camp, which is a slightly extended Spring Training for the Mets top prospects not in Major League camp, began Saturday.
Here’s the full STEP Camp roster.
|Throws||Name||Final 2013 Level|
All of the full-season starters for Mets affiliates in the last two years either attended MLB camp or STEP Camp. This list allows us to construct, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, the bulk of the full-season rotations. The AAA Las Vegas rotation will mostly be filled with players in big league camp (like Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, John Lannan, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jacob deGrom, and Cory Mazzoni).
AA – EL
1. Bowman, 2. Lara, 3. Panteliodis, 4. Pill, 5. Robles, 6. Tapia, 7. Gorski (AAA depending on injuries)
A+ – FSL
1. Fulmer, 2. Ynoa, 3. Cessa, 4. Koch, 5. Kuebler, 6. Lugo
BP: Peterson, Sewald
A – SAL
1. Alvarez, 2. Bashlor, 3. Diaz, 4. Flexen, 5. Gant, 6. Gsellman 7. Knapp, 8. McGowan, 9. Whalen
That looks like a pretty good scramble for the Savannah rotation spots, but it’s not. The Mets have used a six-man rotation in Savannah in the Alderson/DePodesta years and I expect them to in 2014. They’ve also piggybacked at least a few of the rotation spots early in the year to 1. manage workloads, 2. give more guys a chance to throw more. Barring injury, all nine guys listed above will throw plenty of innings for Savannah in 2014. Add Ricky Jacquez, Akeel Morris and Johnny Magliozzi and that’s probably pretty close to the Opening Day staff.
It’s also worth pointing out that none of the 2013 high school draftees were invited to STEP camp. Thus, it seems like a very safe bet that 2nd round pick Andrew Church and 3rd round selection Casey Meisner will begin the year in short-season, most likely Brooklyn.
Xorge Carillo, Albert Cordero, Blake Forsythe, Jeff Glenn, Kai Gronauer, Cam Maron, Colton Plaia
Jayce Boyd, Dominic Smith, Aderlin Rodriguez,
Dilson Herrera, L.J. Mazzilli, Gavin Cecchini, Philip Evans, Matt Reynolds, Amed Rosario
The fact that Smith and Rosario are in STEP camp does not mean they will head to Savannah to start 2014. Last year, the Mets brought Gavin Cecchini to STEP camp only to start him in Brooklyn.
Maikis De La Cruz, Kyle Johnson, Jared King, Eudy Pina, Champ Stuart and Travis Taijeron
I suspect that this means Stuart, who impressed me in a brief look in Kingsport in 2013, will break camp in Savannah.
- In addition to working out, RHP Paul Sewald taught Spanish at his old high school, Bishop Gorman, in Las Vegas to get ready for the season. He writes,
It gave me a new outlook on the life of a teacher, and not to mention how much I misbehaved when I was a freshman and sophomore while I was in school. I certainly have a new respect for those dealing with hormonal-crazed teenagers. While it was a lot of work, it was nice to have a steady paycheck (much larger than my MiLB one), and couldn’t hurt on a résumé someday.
- LHP TJ Chism posted two vines of Steven Matz (right) spinning lots of household items on both his left and right pointer fingers: a ball, a platter, a board, a cardboard box, a big pillow, and a pot. Now, I want to see him spin a curveball.
- At Metsblog, Matt Cerrone has wonderful pictures of Bartolo Colon taking batting practice. Remember, Mets fans, this man might well have 75+ plate appearances this year, which will be awesome. In case you were wondering, Colon is a .104/.112/.104 hitter (10-for-96) with six sac bunts in his 104 MLB PA over his 16-year career.
- Thursday Savannah City Council agreed to to put out requests for proposals for a feasibility for a new ballpark. The study is expected to cost $75,000-$100,000. This is merely the first of what would have to be many, many steps toward building a new stadium in Savannah.
We ease into the top 30 of my Top 41 Mets prospects with a pair of skilled up the middle defenders who made their MLB debuts in 2013, but do not project to hit enough to be everyday guys. Still, there’s big league value here.
#29 – C Juan Centeno
Height/Weight: 5’10”/170 lbs
Acquired: 32nd rd ’07 (Antonio Luchetti, PR)
Born: 11/16/89 (Arecibo, PR)
2013 Rank: NR | Stats
Why Ranked Here: He makes contact, plays strong defense at catcher and looks like he could be a backup catcher in the big leagues. A late round pick six and a half years ago, Centeno was a backup in the minors from ’07 through 2011. In 2012, at AA Binghamton, for the first time, he played in over half his team’s games.
At the plate, Centeno will use the whole field- spraying weak contact and ground balls all over the diamond. He does not drive the ball as evidenced by his two homeruns in 1138 minor league plate appearances.
Centeno is a fine receiver with a strong (plus) arm that will help keep him employed.
2013: Centeno threw out 56% (34/61) of opposing basestealers in AA and AAA in 2013. He hit a little in AAA and made his MLB debut in September.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Contact/defense oriented big league catcher who plays regularly.
Debbie Downer Says: More AAA time than big league time in the coming years.
Projected 2014 Start: Las Vegas.
MLB Arrival: He’ll be back in 2014.
#30 – SS Wilfredo Tovar
Height/Weight: 5’10”/160 lbs
Acquired: NDFA (10/12/07)
Born: 8/11/91 (Miranda, VE)
2013 Rank: #25 (2012: #29| Stats
Why Ranked Here: This is the third year in a row that I have ranked Tovar between 25 and 30. He’s a gifted defender at shortstop, blessed with quick feet, sure hands, a strong arm and a flair for the spectacular. He will make any pitching staff better through his work at shortstop.
The thing that has kept Tovar from ascending the rankings into the top 20 is that he is unlikely to ever hit enough to hold down a starting job. At the plate, he makes lots of relatively soft contact. He upped his walk rate in 2013 to 6.8%, which was still below the Eastern League average. Pitchers do not fear Tovar, who has as little power as any position player in double-A, so he really has to earn his walks. He has quick hands, but does not drive the ball.
2013: After a nice season with the playoff-bound Binghamton Mets, Tovar played a week in the big leagues when Ruben Tejada broke his right fibula. He drove home the go-ahead runs in his big league debut on September 22.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Low-level starting shortstop who will be a below average bat who stays in the lineup through strong defense.
Debbie Downer Says: Bench guy/AAA starter
Projected 2014 Start: AAA Las Vegas
MLB Arrival: September 2013/First middle infield injury of 2014
Jeff Walters has an outside shot to make the Mets’ bullpen this Spring Training. His fastball is 92-94, and he can touch 96.
At MLB.com, Anthony DiComo catches up with Frank Viola, Walters’ pitching coach in Savannah to learn more.
At ESPNNY, Adam Rubin talked to Walters when he arrived in camp.
Rob Brender talked to Walters on this week’s Mostly Mets Podcast.