2016 New York Mets

  • Patrick Mazeika – 22 yo
    • 2.93/.700 – PAG/APPA – (LoA Columbia) 
    • 2016 stats:  .305/.414/.402;   .816 OPS;   14 doubles, 3 home runs;  38:39 BB:K ratio

Being a member of a National League-only fantasy league for the past 20 years, you get to know position depth rather well. With the Braves and Marlins, top tier prospect depth in the minors is near non existent. But with Atlanta and Miami now behind us, the Mets offer up a more than welcome change. You want quality depth, you got it here. And in my humble, yet clear UTR opinion, the minor league catching vector begins with 2015 – 8th round draft pick Patrick Mazeika. The 6’3″- 210 lb. lefty debuted in 2015 with Rookie League Kingsport after batting .348 in a three-year career at Stetson University (Deland, FL). In his pro debut with Kingsport, Mazeika finished the season ranking within the top three in 11 of the 13 offensive statistical categories. This made him a clear cut choice as a 2015 Mets Organizational All-Star, yet the prospect love wasn’t as widely present as it should have been heading into 2016. Mazeika was rightfully promoted to the Mets new LoA Columbia affiliate and proceeded to lead the team in batting .305, ranked second in on-base percentage (.414) and third in OPS (816). Simply put, Mazeika is a hitting/on-base machine. He batted .605 as a senior at Salisbury Prep High School (CT); and as a collegiate star and in his two-year pro career, he’s yet to bat below .305 and post a sub .422 on-base percentage. Mazeika is a great athlete and has logged time at first base, but I just don’t see his power playing there. From behind the plate, he brings an advanced bat, supreme plate discipline (62:65 career BB:K) and will bring a career .992 fielding percentage to the field in 2017. I like fellow catching prospect Tomas Nido, as he saw a breakout in 2016, but the UTR in me absolutely loves Mazeika. Place him firmly on your UTR watch list. 

  • 1B – Peter Alonso – 22 yo
    • 3.87/.943 – PAG/APPA – (Short Season Brooklyn) 
    • 2016 stats:  .321/.382/.587;   .969 OPS;   12 doubles, 5 home runs

As I mentioned above regarding my long tenured time in an N.L.-only fantasy league, position scarcity in fantasy can pose a serious problem at times. Especially in auction leagues. First base has (and probably will be) a position that will always garner some of the highest auction prices. Which makes me think I did the right thing by trading for former Mets #1 draft choice Dominic Smith prior to his sophomore season with LoA Savannah back in 2014. In other words, I’ve sat on Smith for going on three years now, patiently waiting for him to fill the long standing roster hole I’ve had at first base for a longer time than I’d like to admit. So, once the smooth swinging lefty Smith makes his major league debut, the first base prospect conversation will immediately shift to “Who’s next in line? And that answer is an emphatic “Peter Alonso.” The Mets selected the 6’3″- 225 pounder out of the University of Florida in the 2nd round this past summer. The organization loved his ability to make hard contact and his potential to hit for power. Both attributes showed in his debut assignment to Short Season Brooklyn. In only 30 of the New York-Penn League’s 75 game schedule, Alonso tied for eighth in doubles and seventh in home runs. Over half of his 35 hits went for extra-bases and Alonso’s .514 extra base percentage led all Mets regular minor leaguers. Just like with OAS catcher Mazeika, I love Alonso. He has the chance to place himself on the overall top first baseman prospect map with another strong showing in 2017, most likely for LoA Columbia.

  • 2B Vinny Siena – 22 yo
    • 2.82/.663 combined – PAG/APPA – (LoA Columbia – 3.24/.734;  HiA St. Lucie – 2.20/.538) 
    • 2016 stats combined:  .268/.391/.349;   .740 OPS;   23 doubles, 4 triples;  10 stolen bases. 

The 5’10”- 200 lb. righty out of the University of Connecticut doesn’t appear on any mainstream Mets top prospect’s lists. But in my opinion, the right handed 23-year-old should. New York’s second base vector is not very plentiful. Especially when you take into account the 2016 season. Heading into this past year, top prospect Luis Guillorme was one of the only players who resembled UTR-worthy credentials, as Luis Carpio sits above him on the organizational depth chart. Guillorme, however, registered more games at shortstop than the keystone, which leaves me with a fact based situation and a widely projected situation. Fact is, Siena is grossly underrated, which fits him squarely into the UTR mold. Yet, projections show that the second base path is rather clear for the Woodbridge, CT native. Sure, veteran Neil Walker currently mans second at Citi Field, but behind him it’s wide open. The issue doesn’t lie with the current second basemen in the organization however. I love what Siena did in 2016, but common sense knows that you can’t play everyone sitting among the enormous glut of shortstops at short. With uber-prospect Ahmed Rosario looked upon as the Mets shortstop of the future, eventually one of the other blue-chippers will ultimately slide over to second base; and this would most likely spell trouble for Siena’s future. He has a smooth stroke, is a smart base runner and a fluid defender with a good arm and good instincts at and around the bag. What has me hopeful, however, is that Siena still has a LOT of room to grow as a baseball player. He needs more plate discipline and needs to work on shortening his stroke, helping create more loft. (He’s yet to hit a professional home run). He could very well begin 2017 back with HiA St. Lucie, but an assignment to AA Binghamton isn’t out of the question. 

  • 3B David Thompson – 22 yo
    • 3.87/.943 combined – PAG/APPA – (LoA Columbia – 3.74/.891;  HiA St. Lucie – 3.05/.747) 
    • 2016 stats combined:  .280/.333/.444;   .778 OPS;   34 doubles, 11 home runs

Despite transplanting from central PA to upstate New York 15 years ago, I’ve remained a Pirates fan. However, being a New Yorker now, I can’t get away from the Yankees and Mets. Fans, radio, and the YES and SNY networks are everything baseball. And since I’m involved in the N.L.-only fantasy league, my gravitation to the Mets was natural. And not only the Mets, but “Captain America”, third baseman David Wright. He’s been the face of the franchise since his Mets debut back on July 21, 2004. Fast forwarding though, the 7-time All-Star has played in only 75 games over the last two seasons and Met fans are begrudgingly beginning to reach for the bottle of post-David Wright pills. Some say that Wilmer Flores could be the heir apparent to third base, but after committing six errors in 97 chances this past season, suddenly the organization might be rethinking the hot corner’s future. Well, baseball fans know the Mets lead the pack when it comes to promoting home-grown talent. I believe that in 2016, they should look (absolutely) no further than 2015 – 4th rounder David Thompson. The Mets drafted Thompson as a junior out of the University of Miami. That year, the 6’0″- 200 lb. righty led the nation in RBi’s (90), tied for the most home runs (19) and helped lead the Hurricanes to a birth in the College World Series. Upon drafting Thomson, the Mets assigned him to Short Season Brooklyn. He got off to a very slow start posting a 2.10/.544 P/A, batting .218 with only 3 home runs and 22 RBi in 59 games. The organization wasn’t discouraged by his freshman output and assigned him to LoA Columbia to start 2016. He exploded. Nearly 44 percent of his hits went for extra bases and despite playing only 61 of the Sally League’s 139 games, he still ranked within the league’s top 20 in home runs, RBi’s and slugging percentage. He received a late June (and early July) promotion(s) to HiA St. Lucie where he slowed down a bit, but hit more home runs in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League than he did in the Sally League. If you want a sleeper minor league corner infielder for your minors dynasty league, look no further than Thompson. The certainty of the Mets corner infield is all but certain so keep than in mind as you watch Thompson possibly develop into one of the top CI’s in the entire system. 

  • SS Andres Gimenez – 17 yo
    • 4.21/.949 combined – PAG/APPA – (DSL1 – 4.23/.929;  DSL2 – 4.19/.970) 
    • 2016 stats combined:  .350/.469/.523;   .992 OPS;   20 doubles, 3 home runs;  13 stolen bases. 

When viewing final stats for the minor league regular season inside my spreadsheet, I feel my heart skip a beat when a player not only presented all the tools necessary for his particular position, but gave that little extra. Because it’s that extra that makes him special. Catcher is an easy one to spot. You find me a catcher with an above-average bat, who can hit for power and steal bases, you have yourself a possible all-star. At press time, this example leads me to one of the best P/A performances I’ve spoken of to date. Andres Gimenez was signed out of Venezuela in July of 2015, but logged no time that summer. He made his much anticipated debut this past season and to say he did not disappoint is an extremely vast understatement. As a 17-year-old he ranked fifth with 46 walks (to an astounding 22 strikeouts), ranked first in on-base percentage (.469), and ranked within the Dominican Summer League top 5 in runs scored (52), doubles, batting and OPS. Did I mention he’s only 17? Now, I’m not here to strip any pub from current Mets top overall prospect Ahmed Rosario. There is nothing that kid can’t do, and what he does it’s with plenty of polish. Yet. looking at the serious log jam of shortstops in the system, with another strong showing in 2017, Gimenez has the chance to leapfrog every single one of them and cement himself as the next great middle infield prospect in the system. Visions of Rosario at short and Gimenez at second are mouth watering. Keep in mind, that despite his advanced skills, Gimenez is young and still has room to grow. But, you can’t help but get excited after seeing a debut like that. There is nothing to not like; and any fantasy leaguers with deep minor league housing need to pick up this kid as soon as possible. If 2016 is any indication of his future, you’ll reap the rewards for taking a chance on a kid who has the skills to become a game changing prospect.  

  • LF Kevin Kaczmarski – 24 yo
    • 3.87/.943 combined – PAG/APPA – (Short Season Brooklyn) 
    • 2016 stats:  .321/.382/.587;   .969 OPS;   12 doubles, 5 home runs

Back down to earth we go. From catcher Patrick Mazeika down to shortstop Andres Gimenez, the Mets house not only a very deep farm system, but one of the most UTR-rich organizations in all of the National League. However, no organization is perfect. Aside from top prospect, 2011 – 1st rounder Brandon Nimmo, who made his major league debut in 2016, there really is no one in the Mets current left field vector challenging the former East HS (Cheyenne, WY) draftee. As far as UTRs go, 2016 offered a mediocrity at best led by 2015 – 9th rounder Kevin Kaczmarski. The University of Evansville draftee came to New York with good bat speed, above average hand-eye coordination and substantial raw power. He was assigned to the Kingsport Mets to start his career, posted an even 4.00/.901 P/A and led the Appalachian League in hits (91), batting (.355) and total bases (131). However, enthusiasm should be tempered, as Kaczmarski also ranked as the second oldest player in the league. This year he began with LoA Columbia and finished the season with 42 games in HiA St. Lucie. The 6’0″- 195 lb. lefty was a bit more productive upon his promotion to HiA. However, as I said before, enthusiasm needs to be eased here. Factoring in Kaczmaski’s path with Nimmo almost a near lock as the left fielder of the future, then throw in his Kaczmarski’s age (he turned 25 on New Years Eve), unless he explodes, producing gargantuan numbers, he may not be anything more than organizational filler despite being an outstanding defender. He’s now off the UTR radar because of age criteria, but you know how we role here. We always root for the kids who make our lists to succeed at the highest level; and despite the situation at hand, Kaczmarski is no exception. 

  • CF Desmond Lindsay – 19 yo
    • 3.27/.807 combined – PAG/APPA – (GCL – 2.60/.813;  Short Season Brooklyn – 3.38/.806) 
    • 2016 stats combined:  .303/.433/.451;   .884 OPS;   6 doubles, 4 home runs;  25:31 BB:K ratio

The Mets centerfield prospect lineup is pretty simple. No matter how you cut it, the 2015 – 2nd rounder out of Out-of-Door Academy (Sarasota, FL) sits at the top. Lindsay was listed as the #6 overall prospect on MiLB Pipeline’s New York Mets 2016 top 30 and entering the 2016 season, the 6’0″- 200 lb. righty ranked #8 inside Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook. Not that I needed mainstream validation, but after listing all Mets organizational centerfielders within my UTR spreadsheet, Lindsay cleared the pack in both PAG and APPA. A super athlete, Lindsey possesses incredible speed, plus-plus plate discipline, advanced hit tool and budding power. Every tool Lindsey has should appeal to any and every Met fan and he’ll be well worth the possible two-plus year wait until he graces centerfield at Citi Field.  

  • RF – Anthony Dirocie – 19 yo
    • 3.39/.768 – PAG/APPA – (GCL) 
    • 2016 stats:  .253/.363/.414;   .776 OPS;   10 doubles, 5 triples, 2 home runs;  7 stolen bases

I can definitely see why the Mets and several prominent prospect publications view the former Toronto Blue Jay and current Met Wuilmer Becerra the possible future right fielder. He has an advanced bat, knows how to draw walks, and shows glimpses of budding power. In fact, UTRMinors has been on the Becerra train since our inaugural Organizational All-Star Series back in 2014. (You can see Becerra’s write up here.) Becerra was a “throw-in” prospect in the trade that sent R.A Dickey (and a few others) to Toronto for SP Noah Syndergaard, C Travis d’Arnaud and Becerra. Unreal. So, it’s befitting that in UTR fashion, I highlight the next in line. Not always do I do this. It’s purely situational. In this instance, 2013 international free-agent signee Anthony Dirocie produced, pound-for-pound, the top season in regards to P/A scores. The teenaged Dominican debuted in the DSL in 2014 and in 33 games posted a mediocre P/A of 2.27/.658, but he showed promising plate discipline with a 15:22 BB:K ratio. Dirocie began 2015 with DSL1 logging 63 games and led the squad in nearly every core statistical category. Dirocie concluded the season with a late August promotion state side to the Gulf Coast League registering a putrid 1.33/.333 P/A in six games.  This year, the 6’0″- 170 lb. righty spent all of 2016 with the GCL and again, ranked within the team’s top five in most core offensive categories. I don’t get the warm fuzzy feeling about Dirocie. However, he’s getting it done. It might be in not so flashy fashion, but that’s ok with me.  

Pitchers

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.
 2. RHP Harol Gonzalez – 20 / .083
  •  21 years old – (Short-Season Brooklyn)
  • International Free Agent – 2014
  • 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.
3. RHP Ricky Knapp – 19 / .122
  •  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.
 4. LHP Thomas Szapucki – 18 / .045
  •  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.
5. RHP Andrew Church – 16 / .1
  •  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  
  • 24 years old –  (LoA Columbia / HiA St. Lucie)
  • 27th round – 2014
2. LHP Seth Davis – 8 / .092  
  • 23 years old –  (LoA Columbia / HiA St. Lucie)
  • 29th round – 2015
3. RHP Tyler Bashlor – 7 / .065  
  • 23 years old –  (LoA Columbia / HiA St. Lucie)
  • 11th round – 2013
  • Solid season after missing all of 2015.
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