Can Prospects Save the Mets?

Ok, in less than ten days we can finally begin to change the conversation in this terrible, boring, frustrating, no-good Mets offseason. The official date for pitchers and catchers is February 19th, although many Mets players have already matriculated down to Port St. Lucie.

I think much of the angst evident among the faithful during the past three winters has turned into apathy as they’ve done it to us again: a brief burst of activity followed by…nothing. That is unless you count the drivel oozing from the  mouth of GM Sandy Alderson. As was posted here, I think Alderson is the fulcrum on which the Mets pantheon of awfulness (The Wilpons, Terry Collins, Citi Field, a Triple-A team in Las Vegas, losing WFAN, etc.) balances on.

This offseason, it has been all about the prospects. The Mets just can’t/won’t/don’t make any moves because they have this bumper crop of prospects that are soon to deliver the good times again. Or is this yet another set-up? Maybe there is a way to find out before you spend any of your hard-earned money on them.

Take a look at Baseball America’s top-10 Mets prospects coming into the new season:

  1. Noah Syndergaard
  2. Steven Matz
  3. Brandon Nimmo
  4. Dilson Herrera
  5. Kevin Plawecki
  6. Ahmed Rosario
  7. Michael Conforto
  8. Rafael Montero
  9. Marcus Molina
  10. Gavin Cecchini

That certainly is a great list and at several of those names  have Mets fans dreaming of the day a pennant (or two) flies over Citi Field. Along with those supposedly robust ticket sales,  these farm system rankings are being touted by the Mets as third party verification that better days are just ahead.

Like barnacles on a ship, negativity is attached to everything “Mets” these days, so there is no shortage of folks to remind us of Generation K and The Teenaged Hitting Machine. I have not been shy about my distain for most of the non-playing members (and a few that do play) in the Met organization, but I really do want the team to win. It is always difficult to project future performance of prospects, but some empirical evidence exists to at least help us take an educated guess.

Let’s start with BA’s top ten Met farmhands list from 2012 and 2013:


  1. Zack Wheeler
  2. Matt Harvey
  3. Nimmo
  4. Jeurys Familia
  5. Cesar Puello
  6. Jennry Mejia
  7. Kirk Nieuwenhuis
  8. Michael Fulmer
  9. Reese Havens
  10. Wilmer Flores

And 2013:

  1. Wheeler
  2. Cecchini
  3. Nimmo
  4. Luis Mateo
  5. Montero
  6. Flores
  7. Fulmer
  8. Familia
  9. Domingo Tapia
  10. Cory Mazzoni


15 names dot those two lists. Of them, Havens has retired, while Fulmer, Mateo and Mazzoni have been slowed by injuries.  Tapia may have flamed out in the face of improved competition. Puello’s stock soared until his PED revelation.  While I wouldn’t give up on these guys totally, their big league futures seem cloudy.  Nimmo and Cecchini’s high rankings are mainly due to BA’s institutional high regard for first round draft picks. Sans those two, six of 13 (46%) have made it to the majors. Mejia already having made his debut in 2010 with the rest called up by the end of 2013. For argument’s sake let’s give both Nimmo and Cecchini (or one  of them and Mazzoni) at least a cup of big league coffee. That’s eight out of 15 or a 53% yield. Not great.

Stick with me however and let’s take a look at BA’s two top farm systems from 2012 and 2013, which would be the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals, respectively  (BTW, the Mets system ranked 25th and then 16th in those two years). Seven of the top ten from each organization became major leaguers–although one of them was Yu Darvish. Because conventional wisdom indicates the Mets system is at or near the top of the organizational rankings (there is no 2015 info for BA yet) and that better systems produce more major leaguers, let’s risk the small sample size and assume that seven of the names on the 2015 Mets list will be in the majors by 2016.

Remember that Herrera and Montero have already debuted, so who are the other five?  It might be easiest to project the four most advanced names: Syndergaard, Plawecki, Matz and Nimmo. That’s going to leave a lot of Mets fans, not to mention the Front Office disappointed with a wasted top pick (either Conforto or Cecchini).  And it might mean that we shouldn’t buy into the Rosario hype. Or does Conforto join Nimmo in Queens while one (or both) of the AAA arms comes up lame? There’s a scary thought.

OK, you may be thinking, there will still be some disappointments, but overall the guys that do break through will make the Mets a lot better.  Don’t count on it. How good have the 2012/2013 list graduates been? Harvey made the All-Star team and then had TJS; while Mejia, Familia and Wheeler appear poised to stick as better than serviceable performers. Kirk will likely peak in his 4th-outfielder/pinch hitter role. I am rooting for Flores, but I think that for a variety of reasons, he is being set up to fail.  That’s one franchise-type player, three contending team-caliber players, a utility guy and a Mystery Box (Flores).

Prospect-wise, the Mets are close to where the Cardinals were two seasons ago. From that Cardinal list, the Oscar Taveras tragedy is unimaginable, but their #2 prospect went to Atlanta and the #6 prospect had TJS. The best of the remainder are in the same band as Mejia/Familia/Wheeler.

For arguments’s sake, call Syndergaard  the next Harvey, while Matz, Nimmo and Herrera become regulars and Plawecki sticks as a backup. Added to the mix currently here, how much better does it make the Mets?  I think it still leaves them as a flawed team, with a major Achilles Heel.

A deeper comparison between the Mets and the Cardinals shows that a strong prospect base is about where the similarities between the two franchises end. The Cardinals have made trades, signed free agents, aggressively promoted players, play better defense, have more speed and are well-run, from the owner’s box to the manager’s office.  About the same thing could be said of the other perennial NL playoff teams, Washington and San Francisco.

While those teams have maintained a high standard year over year and the Cubs, Padres and Marlins have improved, the Mets have been characteristically moribund,  appearing sclerotic while their more nimble competitors gleefully restock their rosters and their fan’s expectations for the coming season.

It’s all spilled milk now, but I were Alderson and the Diamondbacks asked for Syndergaard in return for Didi Gregorious, I would have pivoted off of Didi and onto Chris Owings. Largely overlooked in this plethora of pitching prospects is that the Mets also have three centerfielders: Kirk, Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker. I would be hounding San Diego’s AJ Preller almost daily about pieces of my centerfield and pitching surplus for Wil Myers. Yes,  I would trade Lagares. I think den Dekker can be almost as good defensively and he is a better leadoff candidate. How much different might we feel with Owings and Myers on board and Michael Cuddyer in the supersub utility role?

Maybe this changes when Alderson finally packages a bunch of prospects for that major offensive piece, or the Wilpons loosen the purse strings to allow a free agent signing.  Or if Snydergaard is so good in Spring Training that they start him in the rotation with Harvey, Wheeler and Jacob deGrom, while trading Bartolo Colon. But what in recent history leads one to believe that any of this is really going to ever happen? Because Alderson says they might?  Because the commissioner believes they would? And yes, I understand that there are non-prospect list sleepers like deGrom, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Counting on surprises isn’t a sustainable plan, plus baseball has a way of winnowing the flash-in-the-pan types from the  here-to-stay ones. I like having a good farm system, but treating my top prospects as if each of them is a 2036 HOF inductee is preposterous and is ultimately far more risky than moving a few of them for some proven and controllable help.

Yes, the 2015/16 Mets should have plenty of pitching. They probably won’t have much else. On and off the field, the Mets are just so flimsy, a product of broke owners and an out-of-touch GM. While it is nice to think that we are on the verge of another 1984-1990 run, with the wild card meaning more post season play, what I see is a repeat of the 197576 Mets, teams that bubbled up over 500, but never seriously contended. If you’ll recall, by 1977 the players had had enough of a parsimonious ownership and front office (sound familiar?) and rebelled, leading to a major talent purge and a long period of sub.500 baseball.

Let’s talk each other off the ledge.





A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Manager in the Bulk Materials Handling industry. He lives in Bethlehem PA with his wife and son, neither of whom fully get his obsession with the Mets.
  1. James Preller February 11, 2015 at 5:46 pm
    Great piece, I sadly agree. And I was at Game 5 in 1969 WS.
  2. argonbunnies February 11, 2015 at 8:05 pm
    The Mets have 6 or so top-100 prospects, and only one or two top-60 prospects. The 20-80 scouting scale breaks it down like this:

    65 – #2-3 starter, 2nd tier closer, premier setup man or strong offensive performer. Consistent All-Star contender, among the best players on their team.

    Noah Syndergaard

    55 – #4 starter, bottom tier closer, strong reliever or slightly above average offensive performer. Virtually guaranteed a starting role but rarely if ever contends for All-Star appearances.

    Steven Matz
    Kevin Plawecki
    maybe Amed Rosario in several years

    50 – #4-5 starter, 3rd-5th bullpen arm, average offensive performer. A big league average player who is guaranteed a roster spot but not a starting role. A role/platoon player.

    Brandon Nimmo
    Michael Conforto
    Dilson Herrera
    Rafael Montero

    So, what kind of team are the Mets growing? One that can fill several spots with average players on the cheap. Historically, this has been a great foundation for teams to dip into free agency or prospects-for-stars trades, to supplement their cheap nucleus with an MVP candidate or two and become contenders. If we had any sense that the Mets were actually going to do that, then the farm would be reason for optimism indeed.

    Unfortunately, the Wilpons are unwilling or unable to pay big money to lots of players, and Alderson has committed most of their more-than-tiny-contract bucks to declining 30-somethings. Competition for stars is tougher than ever, and I can’t figure out how the Mets would realistically import some.

    So, although our farm system’s depth is admirable, I think the Mets would be in better shape with 3 or 4 star prospects, like the Dodgers, than the 8 or 10 merely solid prospects they actually do have.

    • Aaron February 12, 2015 at 3:18 pm
      This isn’t remotely accurate. The prospects you are referring to have higher upside than you are preaching
  3. Dan B February 11, 2015 at 9:55 pm
    Remember, statistically in a 30 team league, the average team has one prospect in the top 30, two in the top 60, and 3.3 in the top 100. Having six in the top 100 is great. But like AB, I’d be happier with more top 30’s (or even better top 10’s). Free agency is filled with back end starters and seventh placed hitters. Allstars, though, are hard to acquire. Especially for a low budget team like the Mets. Also, Alderson has not proved he can acquire major league ready stars though he has done a good job in getting rid of them.
  4. DaveSchneck February 12, 2015 at 12:14 am
    Very good article that looks like I could have written myself, if I wasn’t so lazy, and my use of English so poor. Anyhow, it is not the list that worries me as much as the GM. Top 100s are great, but they are what the are, like a weather forecast. DeGrom and Lagares were never on one and are both legit big leaguers with strong value.

    To talk you off the ledge, let me offer this – Keith Law, who is anything but pro-Mets, pegged their system as #4. What he said that strikes me most is that he sees their system possessing 17-18 guys that can have some role in the big leagues. If that is anywhere near accurate, that is a huge asset inventory. So, it comes back to the GM, which worries me. We can write 1,000 words on Alderson, but his incredible inactivity seems to be not just his choice. If there are a lot of GMs in th league that just don’t like dealing with him or the Wilpons for that matter, the value of the system and all those potential cost-controlled ssets is greatly diminshed, and will negatively impact the Mets’ ability to close the gap with the Nationals.

  5. TxMet February 12, 2015 at 1:23 am
    If any organization’s fan base should know the folly of trading very good prospects and young talent for the Didi Gregoriuses of the world, it’s the organization that traded Nolan Ryan, Amos Otis, Scott Kazmir, Jason Bay (as a minor leaguer), Lenny Dykstra etc. The trades that have worked — Hernandez, Carter, Piazza and arguably Santana — were ones where elite stars in their prime became available. Save your prospects for those rare opportunities, which is what Alderson to his credit appears to be doing.

    If there were ever an offseason to be patient, it’s this one. The pitching staff looks like a 1984 spring training redux. Several of the position players aren’t established stars but are showing real promise of reaching that level (Lagares, Duda, d’Arnaud). It’s very possible that the weakest hitting player in the starting 8 will be Granderson. The shortstop trade market this year was one of the most lopsided sellers’ markets in years. And as the Cards and Giants have shown, a team can go far with strong pitching and okay hitting. In other words, this hardly seems like the time to panic and go all Joe Foy/Jim Fregosi on us.

    There is a team taking exactly the approach of trading boatloads of talent for pretty good but not Piazza/Carter-level talent — the Marlins. Lots of blogs and baseball writers are raving about the Marlins’ offseason because of the bias toward toward praising action over patience. In the coming months, we will see who had the better offseason between the Marlins and the Mets. My money is on the Mets.

    • argonbunnies February 12, 2015 at 3:41 am
      I completely agree that if you’re going to move prospects for immediate help, target a star.

      The problem with patience is that the Mets’ media folks (especially Alderson) keep muddying it with short-term promises. They’re not talking about winning in 2017, when more of their home-grown assets are in their prime and they’ve traded some young chips to get Paul Goldschmidt from the rebuilding D’backs; they’re talking about winning in 2015. By THAT standard, Alderson’s inactivity is completely unacceptable.

      Speaking of unacceptable, Sandy appears to know that a 7-year rebuild qualifies. Accordingly, he’s never fully gotten on board with it, prioritizing the short- over long-term when deciding how to handle Reyes, Pagan, Hairston, Parnell, Niese, Ike and arguably Wright. If you’re aiming for 2017, you try to sell high on those guys and maximize your return. Sandy did a good job with Byrd, but just imagine if we had 7 Dilson Herreras now instead of 1. But we don’t, and based on the last 4+ years, fans have to wonder if the team has any plan at all beyond going into every year hoping for every last thing to break right.

      Tell me the Mets couldn’t get Goldschmidt last month, but will get him next year, and I’ll applaud the waiting. But I currently see no reason to believe that will happen.

    • Dan Capwell February 12, 2015 at 5:52 am
      In the coming months, we will see who had the better offseason between the Marlins and the Mets. My money is on the Mets.”

      Mine is on Miami.

  6. friend February 12, 2015 at 10:14 am
    At the risk of being too irreverent, the prospects that the Mets (Wilpons) are relying on are not the ballplayers, but financial management prospects. They are seeking that rare 80-rated future financial manager that is capable of someday stepping into Bernie Madoff’s shoes.
    • Joe Janish February 13, 2015 at 12:40 pm
      Bingo! I was trying to figure out why they kept acquiring Ivy League guys.
  7. Bat February 15, 2015 at 11:37 pm
    I’m not exactly sure I understand this article.

    If the thesis is: “Many of the Mets vaunted prospects will bust” my only response is that many of each and every team’s prospects will bust. So since the Mets prospect list is relatively good vis-a-vis their competitors, in theory hopefully less of the Mets’ guys bust, or looked at in another way, hopefully either (a) more of the 10-12 guys succeed than those on other teams or (b) more of the guys that “make it” are impact players (i.e., may not matter if more guys fail than another team if the ones that don’t fail are stars rather than role players).

    One good point that Cappy raised that I haven’t heard another person propose is Niewenhuis or MDD plus a very significant pitching prospect for Wil Myers, with Myers replacing the acquisition of Cuddyer (although the Pads didn’t get Myers until after the Mets acquired Cuddyer) or even in addition to Cuddyer.

    A trade like that makes sense to me, and if by chance both Nimmo and Conforto make the show and are impact players, well that’s a good problem to have if you already have Myers in the outfield.

    It will be interesting to see what Alderson obtains for Gee. For all of the talk otherwise, I think there is close to 0% chance that Gee begins the team as the sixth starter (a role that also is long man out of the bullpen) unless Harvey or someone else in the Mets rotation goes down with a major long-term injury like TJS. I think Montero and Torrez will fill that role, and Gee is far, far too expensive for the Mets as a sixth starter.

    If one or more teams (other than the Mets) lose a starter, then perhaps those teams vie for Gee, and Alderson cashes in. But unless that happens, I see the Mets doing a salary dump with Gee traded near the end of spring training or first week of the season (at the latest) for something like a Class A arm or bat. Think Blake Taylor, the 17 year old LHP the Mets acquired for Ike Davis.