The Mets have been a (fun) challenge in trying to predict UTR’s. Going back to 2009 when the Mets pitching on the farm was a complete mess, I touched on Robert Carson and Collin McHugh. McHugh ended up with the Houston Astros and who finished 8th in the 2015 Cy Young voting. He lost to teammate and another UTR regular (2010) Dallas Keuchel. A few years later, the waters were thinner, but I zeroed in on Rafael Montero, who Im convinced was mishandled by the Mets, fouling his development. He’s now considered as organizational filler and languishing in Triple-A. The Mets began to re-build their system and UTR’s starting percolating through “my” system. John Gant (2014 “One to Watch”) highlighted the 2014 UTR-OAS roster and was on the cusp to New York, but was traded to Atlanta in July 2015 with fellow UTR-OAS Robert Whalen. Gant was traded again last month to St.Louis, while Whalen was involved in the Max Povse deal, sending him to Seattle. Domingo Tapia also made the list and was granted free agency in November and quickly signed by the Reds. The Reds system is currently thin, like the Mets of old, and Tapia could be a quick mover into their bullpen. MLB grads from the 2014 roster were Robert Gsellman and Gabriel Ynoa, both 23 year-olds in Triple-A and just a callup away. Another UTR-OAS still climbing the ladder is Kevin Canelon, who had a decent season in his first full go with LoA Columbia and just turned 23 last week. Marcos Molina wraps up the notable starters from 2014 and missed the 2016 season after having TJ surgery in October 2015. As a 20 year-old in 2015, he went from the GCL to HiA and posted respectable numbers. I began to tout relief pitcher Akeel Morris in 2014 and he repeated as a UTR-OAS in 2015 and was an “Instant Roster Add”. Morris is currently with the Atlanta Braves (Kelly Johnson trade – June 2016) and should be added to their bullpen early-on in 2017.
It was my assumption that the UTR table was set going into the 2015 season. My choice for “One to Watch” was a big high school right-hander taken in the 7th round in 2012. Corey Oswalt find himself assigned to LoA Savannah after only 18 Rookie League starts. He did experience a breakout going 11-5 with a 3.36 ERA, 4.71 K/BB ratio, enough to rank as a post-season UTR-OAS. Those rankings were a total about-face from the previous season. Akeel Morris was the only pitcher to repeat, but had a youngster coming on his heels in Alex Palsha. Pasha had another strong season in 2016 finishing at HiA St Lucie. The new group of UTR-OAS starters from 2015 included, Logan Taylor, Chris Flexen, Nabil Crismatt, Merandy Gonzalez, and Joel Huertas. Huertas looked impressive during his second stint in the GCL, but this time as a starter. As the #1 ranked TPS, I named him as the “One to Watch” for 2016. His periphials held steady this past season, but had troubles stranding runners (.364 RISP). Logan Taylor has made steady progress in taking a step each season and just finished at Double-A Binghamton. Merandy Gonzalez is a good-looking 21 year-old that should see his first full season at Columbia in 2017
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
1. LHP P.J. Conlon – 22 / .104 *Take a Flyer”
22 years old – (LoA Columbia / HiA St Lucie )
13th round – 2015
Conlon stormed into the spotlight in 2016, in his only second season after being drafted in 2015. His debut season was working from the bullpen with NYPL Brooklyn. making 17 appearances (17 IP) with 25 strikeouts and only 2 walks. He jumped into the rotation this past season at LoA Columbia and later a promotion to St Lucie in logging 142 innings with a 1.65 ERA and still displaying that control. The Club has extended a invite to 2017 Spring Training, after naming the Mets Pitching Prospect of the Year. Keep tabs on Conlon this Spring, as he may have the opportunity to join fellow UTR-OAS Robert Gsvllman in a perplexed Mets bullpen.
Baseball America named Gonzalez as the 2016 Pitcher of the Year in the New York-Penn League. The young righty had one the best seasons ever had by a Cyclones pitcher. he finished with a 7-3 record, tabbing a 2.01 ERA in 85 innings with 88 strikeouts and 18 walks. He could be in the lead for the Mets “One to Watch” heading into 2017.
24 years old – (HiA St. Lucie / Double-A Binghamton / Triple-A Las Vegas)
8th round – 2013
Around since 2013, Knapp wasn’t drafted for any blistering tools other than pitching within his blood-line, for his father was a pitching coach for the Tigers and Dodgers. That knowledge gained being around pitching has Knapp as one of the Mets top 25 prospects. He could very well work his way into New York this season as spot starter or in long relief.
20 years old – (Appy League Kingsport / Short-Season Brooklyn)
5th round – 2015
Ive already mentioned a fast moving left-hander for the Mets in P.J. Condon. Conlon shined last season, so it could be Szapucki’s turn in 2017. The 20 year-old has spent his last two seasons in the Mets rookie leagues and is poised for a breakout. He proved to be unhittable (26 hits in 52 IP) and missing bats (86 K) which attributed to a ridiculous TPS rating. Szapucki has worked over the Fall Instructionals to increase his velocity and work on his other offerings. He most certainly could follow the same path taken by Conlon in 2016.
21 years old – (LoA Columbia / HiA St. Lucie / Triple-A Las Vegas)
2nd round – 2013
Another kid around since 2013 that was taken out of high school in the 2nd round. Its shocking to note that Church hasn’t been on the UTR-OAS radar over those previous seasons, but his stats proved that he was over-matched. 2016 was a coming-out party for the right-hander, in seeing appearances over three levels, including a late season long relief stint at Triple-A Las Vegas. Watch for Church’s name to crop-up a lot in 2017.
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
1. RHP Alex Palsha – 11 / .076