And we’ll finish up our prospect rankings by position, appropriately enough, with the guys who are on the mound at the end of the game, relievers.
This is the diciest of my position lists. Many of these pitchers are still working as starters in the minor leagues. The idea is that they are more likely to be productive Major League relievers than starters.
We started the pitching look with left-handed starters here and relievers here. For the position players, we go: center fielders, corner outfielders, third base, shortstops, catcher, first base and second base.
1. Vic Black
2. Jacob deGrom
3. Domingo Tapia
4. Jeff Walters
5. Cory Mazzoni
6. Luis Mateo
7. Logan Verrett
8. Bret Mitchell
9. Erik Goeddel
10. Akeel Morris
11. Ricardo Jacquez
12. Tyler Bashlor
13. Matt Koch
14. John Church
15. Chasen Bradford
16. Beck Wheeler
17. Rainy Lara
1. Black, who was acquired with 2B Dilson Herrera for Marlon Byrd/John Buck tops this list because he’s MLB ready. Oh, and he averages 96 mph with his four-seam fastball. He’s ready based on his heat and his success in AAA to step in and be a productive MLB reliever right now.
2. deGrom (pictured at right) is the toughest guy to move off the starter list onto the reliever list. I’ve been a deGrom fan since I first saw him pitch in 2012. I’ve long believed that his 92-96 mph sinker would get him to the big leagues, but the development of his secondary offerings would dictate whether he was going to be a starter or reliever when he got there. And, through the middle of the summer of 2013, the development on deGrom’s slider had stalled. Thus, under the tutelage of Mets’ pitching coordinator Ron Romanick he shifted towards throwing a curveball. He’s long and lean, and if he can figure out the curveball, still has a chance to start. Basically, deGrom was pretty close to Pacific Coast League average as a starter in 2013 while pitching in a very difficult environment in Las Vegas.
. ERA SO% BB% HR%
JdG 4.52 19.0 7.3 1.8
PCL 4.43 19.5 9.1 2.2
While deGrom has a chance to start, I think the better bet is on him finding a role coming out of a bullpen throwing mid-90s sinkers.
3. It all went backward in 2013 for Tapia, who turned 22 in December. His walk rate spike to 14%, almost twice his 2012 rate of 7.1% and dragged his ERA up to 4.62. He still throws hard, and the ability to fire heavy fastballs at 96-98 separates him from many others on this list. He’s big and the ball comes with natural life and a four-seam grip. The Mets have an interesting choice with Tapia in 2014, but I’d like to see him stay a starter in the AA Binghamton rotation so that he picks up more game innings, and more chances to improve on his slider and changeup.
4. Walters set a Binghamton Mets single-season save record, but the more salient point is that he pitched well, with a 2.09 ERA and a 26.7% strikeout rate against a 7.1% walk rate. The Mets rewarded Walters by adding him to the 40-man roster in the fall. He throws 92-94 and has a functional slider, which will be plenty to be a potentially useful middle reliever. He will start 2014 in Vegas and a mid-season callup, as soon as the Mets need an arm for the bullpen is in the cards.
5. The former second round pick, Mazzoni struggled with injuries in 2013. He had elbow neuritis in April and then arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus at the beginning of August that ended his season. Mazzoni ended 2012 in the Eastern League and began in AA in 2013. While his ERA improved only slightly, from 4.46 to 4.36, he raised his strikeout rate from 16.1% in 2012 to 26.2% in 2013. He will start 2014 in AAA. He’s a three-pitch guy with a fastball, slider and split/change. With a couple of professional seasons to his credit, and at 6’1″, 190, I don’t see the results or durability to hold up to a starter’s workload.
6. Luis Mateo, the darling of last winter’s prospect ranking season, had Tommy John surgery in June, 2013. Mateo has a good arm, going 90-95, and sitting 93-95 early in games. His slider at 87 mph has promise as well. His changeup was firm and inconsistent whenever I’ve seen it. So why is he a reliever: health and innings. Healthy; there some jerky motions in his delivery, and a history of elbow problems including bone chips in 2008. Innings: Mateo threw a combined 11.2 innings in 2013. His 2014 will be truncated severely as he will be at 12 months post-surgery by June. In an absolute best-case scenario, he gets to 60ish innings in double-A. Nope, at age 24 in 2014, the best estimate is that he simply will not have enough innings in the minors to help as a MLB starter. He’s bullpen bound fulltime in 2015.
7. No one named Verrett has ever pitched or played in the big leagues. Logan Verrett is trying to change that. The Mets’ third round pick in 2011, he was solid if not spectacular for the AA Binghamton Mets in 2013. He ran an ERA of 4.25 in 24 starts thanks to a strikeout rate of 22.5%, a 5.3% walk rate and 21 homeruns allowed. The reason he’s not a starter: a fastball that lives 88-90, topping out at 91 as a starter. The reason he might be a solid reliever, he has a good slider and an improving changeup. He had more in the arm as a reliever at Baylor and perhaps his velocity will play up in short bullpen appearances. He’ll start 2014 in Las Vegas.
8. In June, when Mitchell was promoted to advanced-A from Savannah, I wrote: “Mitchell is a sleeper of a relief prospect. He missed all of last year with a labrum tear in his hip and came back throwing 92-94 out of the bullpen this year with a curveball at 81-83 that has a chance to be a plus pitch in the big leagues. The Gnats’ catchers told me his changeup was pretty darn good too, but he didn’t need it out of the bullpen, and I saw it so little, it is more myth than reality as far as I’m concerned. Mitchell fanned 33.9% of opposing batters (41 of 121) and ran a K/BB ratio of 5.9. Barring injury, he’ll pitch at AA certainly and has the stuff to be a capable MLB reliever.” Moving from the SAL to the FSL brought his strikeout rate down from 34% to 23% while his walk rate more than doubled from 6% to 15%. I still like the arm, but he must come a long way with his command to become a big league reliever.
9. I was surprised that the Mets added Erik Goeddel to the 40-man roster in November. He’s similar to Verrett, but he’s been both more injured and more inconsistent in the minors. On the other hand, he offers a tick higher upside. As a starter in AA, he gave up a hit an inning (135) walked 9.9% of opposing batters and struck out 21%. National League pitchers had a 19.9% and a 7.7% strikeout rate in 2013. Eastern League pitchers were similar, fanning 20.1% of opposing batters and walking 9.1%…. As a starter, Goeddel’s velocity has been 89-92 for the most part, although he can reach back for more and touch 95. He’s a four-pitch guy with a curve, slider and changeup. Some nights in Savannah, the curve looked like a big league pitch and some nights the slider looked like a big league offering, but it seemed rare that he had both working at once. Some nights his fastball command was solid, others it was very erratic. According to Jeff Paternostro at Amazin’ Avenue, Goeddel remained fairly inconsistent appearance to appearance this year.
10. Drafted as a raw teenager out of the US Virgin Islands in 2010, it’s taken Morris four seasons to land on his likely full-season debut in 2014. He can touch 96 with his heat, and that’s enough to slot in here. The good from his year in Brooklyn: a 1.00 ERA and 30% strikeout rate. On the other hand, his 13% walk rate against some of the minors’ least disciplined hitters suggests how far he has to go.
11. At 5’9″ and slender, I saw Jacquez strike out the side in my only look at him while throwing 92-94 and sitting at 94. He showed a slider at 87 that was flat, but an effective complement to his heat. He was untouchable in Kingsport last year. I expect he will start in Savannah, be very good, and earn a mid-season promotion to St. Lucie. The Mets drafted Jacquez in the 25th round this year out of Central Arizona JC. He began his college career at Texas, but was kicked off the team for a second rules violation when he warmed up, but was too “dehydrated” to pitch (read: hungover).
12. The Mets gave Tyler Bashlor a $550,000 bonus in the 11th round out of South Georgia College. He can fire his fastball in the mid-upper 90s. BA had him 92-94 last year, touching 97. In 15.2 innings in the Appalachian League in 2013, he walked 12 guys.
13. When he was on in 2013, the 6’3″ Koch sat 90-93 with his fastball and could touch 95. That’s a big league fastball. All of his secondary stuff was inconsistent, although by the end of the year, he was focused on improving his curveball. Koch’s season ended early after he was hit in the head by a line drive in a scary, scary moment.
14. Church, who turned 27 in November, just keeps plugging along and moving up the Mets’ system all the way up to an NRI to Spring Training in 2014. He split 2013 between Binghamton and Las Vegas, fanning 71 in 64.2 innings of work. He’s a low 90s fastball guy with a slider.
15. Chasen Bradford could be another slider specialist. He threw the pitch over 42% of the time in games when he was tracked by pitchfx in the Arizona Fall League. He too was an NRI to Spring Training in 2014. At 83.76 mph, it could be a really nice weapon. His fastball runs sits 89-91, although he will touch 92. He was very good in 20 outings at the end of last year for the B-Mets and has a chance to break spring training in Las Vegas this year and might, with success, and some fortuitous timing, make his MLB debut in 2014.
16. Beck Wheeler throws a forkball, and it is a fun weapon. A-ball hitters had no idea what to do with it as evidenced by the 24-year-olds 36% strikeout rate in 2013 with Savannah. Wheeler is a great story; he nearly lost his legs in a boating accident, but now he’s a professional athlete.
17. Scouts told me they saw Lara as a middle reliever in Savannah when the right-hander was 90-91 most of the time. He could touch 92 most nights or 93 on a really good one. He complements that with a slider and a changeup. The slider is below average now, but he has feel for it, and throws it a lot.