Monday, August 11, 2014

Mets 2014 Prospect Rankings

by John Vittas

Pre-Season Rankings

2013 Midseason Rankings

2013 Preseason Rankings

1. Noah Syndergaard, RHP
The final member of the Mets’ Big Three of frontline starters struggled in the PCL in 2014. He did show some flashes, turning in some dominant efforts and picked up the save in the Futures Game. He still projects as an ace, but will need to get more consistent, especially with his fastball command. Expect him to crack the Mets’ competitive rotation at some point in 2015.

2. Brandon Nimmo, OF
Nimmo began to put it all together in 2014, turning in career highs with a .286 average and nine home runs. He walks at an ungodly rate which makes up for his high strikeout totals. If nothing else, Brandon will be a high character left fielder who gets on base and shows some power in the Bigs. If he can continue to shorten his swing and raise his average, Nimmo could be a perennial All Star and Citi Field favorite.

3. Kevin Plawecki, C
Plawecki has been a quick riser and could debut soon. Many wrote him off for trade bait, with Travis d’Arnaud entrenched as the catcher of the future. But Plawecki’s remarkable bat control, strong skills behind the plate and knack for hitting can make him a long-time Big Leaguer. There’s no reason he can’t team up with d’Arnaud as one of the best catching combos in the game.

4. Dominic Smith, 1B
Smith was pushed by the Mets and placed to a full season assignment at 18 years old and answered the call nicely. The California native batted .285, stayed healthy and is now well ahead of schedule. He was called the best pure hitter of the 2013 draft class and his smooth swing could make him a dynamic bat at the Major League level. He’s not the most athletic, but his hands and instincts make up for it.

5. Michael Conforto, OF
Conforto was probably the most advanced bat in the 2014 draft class and could be in New York within two years. He provides major offensive firepower but some question his ability to hit for average and play defense in the Majors.

6. Dilson Herrera, 2B
Herrera was the most productive bat in the Mets’ system this year, batting .319 with 43 extra-base hits at the higher levels of the Minors. At just 21 years old, Herrera should now be viewed as a serious prospect.

7. Amed Rosario, SS
Supremely talented, Rosario turned his plus tools into success in 2014, batting .288 in Brooklyn at just 18 years old. He’s at least three years away, but Rosario could be the superstar shortstop the Mets have lacked since Jose Reyes.

8. Rafael Montero, RHP
Montero cracked the Bigs in 2014, and will get a chance to audition for the 2015 rotation in August and September. The stuff is Big League adequate, and his command can make him stick long-term.

9. Steven Matz, LHP
Matz had a fantastic 2014 campaign, reaching Double-A and posting a 2.33 ERA over 21 starts. But most importantly, he stayed healthy after missing two years with arm injuries. The New Yorker has the makings of a legit Big League starter, with good movement on his 90-plus fastball, and a reliable curveball and changeup.

10. Matt Reynolds, INF
Reynolds was the surprise of 2014. A career .235 professional hitter, the former second round pick and captain at Arkansas batted an eye-popping .347 between Binghamton and Las Vegas in 2014. He’ll have to compete with Eric Campbell, Danny Muno, Ruben Tejada and Josh Satin to be the Mets’ utility infielder of the future, but Reynolds’ youth should give him an edge.

11. Marcos Molina, RHP
Still a few years away, Molina was downright dominant in Brooklyn in 2014. He’s athletic, throws 95 and already has a plus changeup.

12. Cesar Puello, OF
Puello was the disappointment of the system in 2014, but still has five plus tools. Biogenesis doubts are swirling to say the least. He might not ever be the same without the drugs.

13. Miller Diaz, RHP
Diaz has been the system since he was 17 years old, but it appears he has finally put it together at 22. His fastball has never been in question (mid-90s), but the development of his off-speed stuff will determine where he winds up.

14. Domingo Tapia, RHP
It’s puzzling that Tapia has been unable to graduate A-ball, because his mid-90s heater and changeup/slider combo should be dominant. A conversion to the bullpen may be in order.

15. Gabriel Ynoa, RHP
The master of control, Ynoa walks almost no one. His low-90s heater and plus changeup keeps hitters off balanced. Ynoa appears to be on the Rafael Montero fast track thanks to his exquisite command.

16. Matt Bowman, RHP
The Princeton alum has held up despite his diminutive frame and Tim Lincecum-like delivery. His stuff is good enough, but Triple-A will be a big hurdle.

17. Jayce Boyd, 1B
Boyd got off to a slow start in 2014, delaying his inevitable Big League debut. He should start 2015 in Las Vegas, but the emergence of Lucas Duda make his future in the system unclear.

18. Champ Stuart, OF
Stuart has blinding speed and the potential to steal 50 bases each and every year. The good news is that he hit much more than anyone expected in 2014, raising his status greatly.

19. Jeff McNeil, INF
McNeil is a hitting machine with a quick bat and thin but athletic build. If he continues to hit, he could be a good utility infielder in the Majors.

20. Gavin Cecchini, SS
Cecchini has proven to be a slow developer, and the concerns about him are warranted. His more upright stance should help him delve into whatever power potential he has, and his defense has never been in question. It’s just a matter of whether he hits.

21. Jack Leathersich, LHP
22. John Gant, RHP
23. Robert Whalen, RHP
24. LJ Mazzilli, 2B
25. Akeel Morris, RHP
26. Cam Maron, C
27. Robert Gsellman, RHP
28. Matt Koch, RHP
29. Cory Mazzoni, RHP
30. Kevin McGowan, RHP
31. Aderlin Rodriguez, INF
32. Cory Vaughn, OF
33. Travis Taijeron, OF
34. Michael Fulmer, RHP
35. Michael Katz, OF
36. Matt Oberste, 1B
37. Greg Peavey, RHP
38. Chris Flexen, RHP
39. Brad Wieck, LHP
40. Jared King, OF
41. Milton Ramos, SS
42. Josh Prevost, RHP
43. Paul Sewald, RHP
44. Corey Oswalt, RHP
45. Casey Meisner, RHP
46. Logan Taylor, RHP
47. Eudor Garcia, 3B
48. Kyle Johnson, OF
49. Tyler Moore, C
50. Dustin Lawley, OF
51. Luis Guillorme, SS
52. Kevin Secrest, LHP
53. Wuilmer Becerra, OF
54. Logan Verrett, RHP
55. Phillip Evans, INF
56. Maikis De La Cruz, OF
57. Rainy Lara, RHP
58. Gaither Bumgardner, RHP
59. Ricky Knapp, RHP
60. Xorge Carillo, C
61. Vicente Lupo, OF
62. Dash Winningham, 1B
63. Victor Cruzado, OF
64. Jhoan Urena, INF
65. Juan Centeno, C
66. Luis Cessa, RHP
67. Tyler Pill, RHP
68. Octavio Acosta, RHP

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

ACC Baseball Draft Preview 2014: Six Names to Know and Full Projections

by John Vittas

With the Major League Draft less than two months away, several players have separated themselves from the competition in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Many of those players in the ACC come from the traditional powerhouse programs. Some were well-known before the season, while others have made a name for themselves through the first half of the 2014 college season. 


Jake Stinnett, RHP, Maryland

Jake Stinnett has skyrocketed up many draft boards with his performances this spring. This only being his second season in the Maryland rotation and the first as a weekend starter, Stinnett has shined since moving exclusively to the mound.

Originally recruited as an infielder, Stinnett’s weight training program has upped his average fastball velocity from 89 to 94 mph. in just one year. He’s also improved his command on both his heater and breaking ball, throwing both for strikes consistently in 2014.

His stuff is Major League-good, as evidenced by 10.4 K/9 ratio and .156 opponents batting average. His 14-strikeout game against NC State put him on the map as an early-round pick, and his eye-popping fastball, which has touched 97, is keeping him there.

“The biggest thing for him is that he is going from being what I would call a moderate strike-thrower to a consistent strike-thrower,” Maryland head coach John Szefc told Baseball America’s Clint Longnecker. “His walks have decreased dramatically and he makes you beat him.”

Stinnett also has a firm changeup that is a work-in-progress, but manipulates the breaking ball well enough to be effective against different types of hitters.

“He has a tendency to throw it a little bit different to lefthanded hitters and righthanded hitters,” Maryland pitching coach Jim Belanger said to Longenecker. “When he throws it to lefthanded hitters it almost has a little hump in it and it is not as tight of a pitch. Whereas when he throws it to righthanded hitters it has more of that sharp, late, power break to it.

While Stinnett’s improved control has made a difference, his fastball command within the strike zone still has room to improve. If he can also improve his changeup’s consistency, there’s no reason Stinnett can’t be a front-line Major League starter.

Trea Turner, SS, NC State

Turner has the makings of a legitimate Major League shortstop. He can flat out hit. Amassing 611 career at bats, his numbers can be digested like a player who just completed a full MLB season. The Florida native has posted a career average of .342, to go with 52 extra-base-hits (16 HRs), 108 RBIs and 97 stolen bases.

However, Turner has pressed in 2014 as his Wolfpack team has crumbled against ACC competition. He’s sacrificed average for power, trying to lift a lineup that hasn’t lived up to expectations. Subsequently, Turner hasn’t made up for the struggles, but added to them.

Backing the Pack beat writer David Sanders expresses his concerns about Turner’s 2014 trend: “The Turner of the past two seasons used the whole field, but in the games I have seen this season he has been trying to jerk just about everything. He has a tendency to cast his hands a bit, get out on his front foot, and come around the ball rather than wait back and drop the barrel on it. His swing is a bit long, and I wonder how he will adjust as he climbs the ladder in the minors and sees more quality fastballs.”

Regardless, his tools should keep in the first round.

“With a wiry frame and superior athleticism, Turner sprays line drives to all fields. As he fills out, he will be able to take balls out of the ballpark with more consistency,” said ACC broadcaster and former college baseball player John Lewis.

His arm strength, speed and range should allow him to play shortstop at the next level, despite 37 career errors.

Other Future Millionaires: Carlos Rodon (LHP - NC State), Luke Weaver (RHP - Florida State), Nick Howard (RHP - Virginia), Derek Fisher (OF - Virginia), Daniel Gossett (RHP - Clemson)

Under-the-Radar Sleepers

Michael Russell, SS, North Carolina

In a lineup that has kept him out of the spotlight, Russell has shown steady improvement in each of his three seasons in Chapel Hill. He’s started every game but one in his three-year career, and has watched his average rise from .269 in 2012 to .298 last year, and is the Tar Heel’s leading hitter at .336 this year.

He leads the team with 15 extra-base hits and has posted an OPS of .933. Factor in 38 career stolen bases, and Russell’s numbers indicate that he’s one of the most feared offensive players in the ACC.

“Russell is a good runner with excellent baserunning instincts,” Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt said.

But the question is, how does his game translate to the next level?

“I think a lot of people question whether the bat will play in professional ball,” an ACC team manager Phil DePase said. “Defense and footwork could be better, he makes plays on the run really well. I like him as a college shortstop but I don’t know how big of a draft prospect he actually is.”

Those concerns are warranted, especially after his .216 season in the wood-bat Cape Cod League in 2013. However, there’s no doubting Russell’s spring production and athletic 200-pound frame. For the first time in his UNC career, his size has translated into power.

Fitt called Russell “wiry-strong,” a fair analysis for anyone who has seen him play. While Russell may be bulky for a shortstop, the tutelage of former Tar Heel shortstop Josh Horton has improved his defense, and Russell is not lacking anything in the arm-strength department.

After two solid seasons in a stacked lineup, Russell has emerged as the leader in Chapel Hill, and his bat appears to have taken a large step forward. Couple that with his physical gifts, and Russell could end up going higher in the draft than many presume.

Matthew Crownover, LHP, Clemson

Since undergoing Tommy John Surgery, Crownover has bounced back with a flourish so far in 2014. His six wins ranks third in the ACC and his 2.28 ERA is tenth.

The Clemson website describes Crownover as a “lefthander who is not overpowering, but uses his control to be effective.” While his control does make him effective, the velocity has been there for Crownover too.

With his fastball in the upper-80s and touching 90, Crownover has still been able to surprise hitters who are worried about his plus changeup and slider. His recovery from the surgery has been remarkable.

“Not getting to pitch for a year was a terrible feeling and it really drove me to get back as soon as I could,” Crownover told Lindsey Young of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Many experts are still not sold on the post-surgery Crownover.
“He is a good college pitcher,” Baseball America’s John Manuel said. “I don’t believe he is seen as a premium draft prospect. He does have pitchability and a good changeup.”

DePase also used the word pitchability, praising the movement on Crownover’s fastball. Many scouts are concerned with his velocity, but if he continues to execute as he has in 2014, there’s no reason he can’t get outs at the next level.

John's Projections of Players He Saw (not including Miami, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Boston College, Duke, Wake Forest)

Top 3 Rounds: Carlos Rodon (LHP-NC ST), Trea Turner (SS-NC ST), Jake Stinnett (RHP-Maryland, Luke Weaver (RHP-FSU), Nick Howard (RHP-UVA), Daniel Gossett (RHP-CLEM) Michael Russell (SS-UNC), Mike Papi (1B-UVA)

Rounds 4-10: Brett Austin (C-NC ST), Jose Brizuela (3B-FSU), Matt Grimes (RHP-GT)

Rounds 11-20: John Nogowski (1B-FSU), Artie Lewicki (RHP-UVA), Matthew Crownover (LHP-CLEM), Branden Cogswell (2B-UVA), Brandon Downes (OF-UVA), Ben Brewster (LHP-Maryland), Garrett Boulware (C-CLEM), Tyler Slaton (OF-CLEM)

Rounds 21-40: Justin Gonzalez (SS-FSU), Blake Schmit (SS-UMD), Benton Moss (RHP-UNC), Brandon Leibrandt (LHP-FSU), Daniel Spingola (OF-GT), Whit Mayberry (RHP-UVA), Dusty Isaacs (RHP-GT), AJ Murray (DH-GT), Jake Fincher (OF-NC ST), Parks Jordan (OF-UNC), Logan Jernigan (RHP-NC ST), Steve Wilkerson (2B-CLEM), Mott Hyde (2B-GT)

Names to Remember for Future Drafts


Trent Thornton, RHP, North Carolina

Despite an unconventional delivery, Thornton might be one of the first pitchers taken in next year’s draft. He was dominant as UNC’s closer last year, and has been just as overwhelming to hitters as the team’s ace in 2014. Thornton has increased his use of his off-speed stuff since becoming a starter.

“I’ve been tinkering around with my chaneup, and I’m going to throw a curveball this year that I didn’t really throw last year,” Thornton told Carlos Collazo of the Daily Tarheel. “Obviously, you’ve got to pitch off your fastball, but it definitely helped tinkering around with some other pitchers that as a starter you’re going to need.”

Clearly, it has worked. How does a 1.71 ERA over his first eight starts sound?

“His curveball is good and he throws it with conviction,” DePase said. “He’s kind of a smaller kid so that might shy away teams a little bit but with Thornton’s stuff and command, he should go very high.”

Thornton’s motion includes a high leg-kick and twisting motion, which adds to his deception but makes it difficult to keep runners in check. All things considered, keep an eye on Thornton in the first couple rounds next year.


Andrew Knizner, 3B, NC State

Knizner (pronounced KIZ-ner) is the ACC’s second-leading hitter as a true freshman with an average of .363 and slugging percentage of .531, out-hitting veteran teammates Trea Turner, Brett Austin and Jake Fincher.

Not only is Knizner putting up numbers, he’s drawn the eyes of scouts.

“If anyone has a slump-proof swing, it’s Andrew Knizner. He has very quiet hands and takes the barrel directly to the ball, squaring it up with remarkable consistency for a freshman,” said Backing the Pack contributor David Sanders.

Other experts agree, calling Knizner’s swing compact and on a useful line-drive swing plane. Sanders also says Knizner’s is as quick to the ball as any, allowing him to catch up to any fastball. That is aptly illustrated by Knizner’s total of nine strikeouts in 29 games. That bodes well for his pro future.

The one huge knock on the NC State infielder is that he’s walked just once through the first half of the season.  This would be more alarming if he wasn’t hitting .363 and if he was chasing pitches out of the zone, but he’s clearly not. 

It’ll be interesting to see whether Knizner’s college and pro coaches try and change his approach to allow for more walks, or if they accept his quick trigger for what it’s worth.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mets Prospect Stock Market & Minor League Update - April

by John Vittas

Another Minor League season is underway, and the four Mets full season teams are all sporting winning records. Here’s how the team’s prospects and farmhands faired in the month of April:

Prospect Status - Rising

Preseason No. 6 Brandon Nimmo (OF)
.389 / .517 / .576 (High-A St. Lucie)
The best story in the system so far, Nimmo is finally putting it all together. The 2011 first round pick is beginning to turn his plus tools into baseball dominance. He’s already picked up eight extra-base-hits and five stolen bases. It’s possible Nimmo will be in Double-A Binghamton by the end of the year, making a late 2015 arrival in Flushing somewhat feasible.

No. 5 Steven Matz (LHP)
4 starts, 2-1, 1.52 ERA, 0.93 WHIP (High-A St. Lucie)
The top pick in the 2009 draft, Matz’ long road of rehab has become so worth it. After showing promise in limited innings the past two years, Matz has finally reached the top half of the system and continued to succeed.

No. 20 Matthew Bowman (RHP)
3-0, 1.04 ERA, 0.98 WHIP (Double-A Binghamton)
The Princeton alum is building off a strong 2013 in the Florida State League by absolutely blowing away Double-A through three starts. With a Tim Lincecum-like delivery, the diminutive Marylander has emerged from the 2012 draft class as a legitimate prospect.

Prospect Status - Holding

No. 11 Dilson Herrera (2B)
.294 / .350 / .376 (High-A St. Lucie)
Added last year in the Buck-Byrd trade, the former Pirates farmhand has acquitted himself nicely in his first dose of High-A ball.

No. 3 Rafael Montero (RHP)
3-1, 4.31 ERA, 1.25 WHIP (AAA-Las Vegas)
While the ERA might not be pretty, the other numbers for Montero are solid, as he continues to pitch well in a hitting-friendly league. Allowing just 7.8 hits per nine so far, Montero is likely the next man up to the Mets’ rotation.

No. 19 Robert Gsellman (RHP)
4 starts, 1.48 ERA, 23 Ks, 6 BBs (A Savannah)
After posting a 2.38 ERA at three levels of A-ball as a 19-year-old, Gsellman settled down in Savannah and is doing what he does best: throw strikes. He's extremely young but has the makings of a Big League starter.

Prospect Status - Falling

No. 2 Cesar Puello (OF)
.244 / .271 / .293
The Biogenesis argument against Puello is winning out. After getting busted in the midst of a career year in 2013, Puello has shown no power at all in 2014. While the tools are there, Puello can no longer be considered a top-level prospect.

No. 14 Michael Fulmer (RHP)
30 hits allowed in 18 IP, 8.00 ERA through 4 starts (High-A St. Lucie)
After meniscus surgery cost Fulmer much of 2013, the Oklahoma native has gotten rocked early this year.

No. 9 Jayce Boyd (1B)
.182 / .270 / .258 (Double-A Binghamton)
After putting together a monster 2013, Boyd has floundered thus far in Double-A. With Allan Dykstra, Eric Campbell and Matt Clark all hitting well in front of him, Boyd will likely be stuck in Binghamton for a while.

Resurrecting their Prospect Status

INF Matt Reynolds .373 / .455 / .440 (AA Binghamton)
After two years of Minor League struggles, the former Arkansas Razorback captain is hitting for the first time at the Double-A level. Reynolds is athletic and can play several positions, profiling as a utility infielder at the Major League level.

OF Stefan Sabol .254 / .376 / .493 (A Savannah)
After hitting .203 last year, Sabol’s second year in Savannah has been far more productive. He’s driven in 21 runs in 21 games, and his raw power is beginning to show.

SS Phillip Evans
.310 / .356 / .405 (A Savannah)
Like Sabol, Evans had a dreadful year during his first dose of full-season ball in 2013, but the California shortstop is off to a hot start. He’s showing some pop as he becomes a possible safety blanket if Gavin Cecchini doesn’t pan out. 

Top Ten Offensive Performers
1.  Allan Dykstra, 1B, Triple-A Las Vegas
2. Brandon Nimmo, OF, High-A St. Lucie
3. TJ Rivera, INF, High-A St. Lucie
4. Eric  Campbell, UTL, Triple-A Las Vegas
5. Jeff McNeil, INF, Single-A Savannah
6. Matt Clark, 1B, Double-A Binghamton
7. Zach Lutz, 3B, Triple-A Las Vegas
8. Matt Reynolds, SS, Double-A Binghamton
9. Jared King, OF, Single-A Savannah
10. Taylor Teagarden, C, Triple-A Las Vegas

Top Five Starting Pitchers
1. Matthew Bowman, RHP, Double-A Binghamton
2. Steven Matz, LHP, High-A St. Lucie
3. Jacob DeGrom, RHP, Triple-A Las Vegas
4. Hansel Robles, RHP, Double-A Binghamton
5. Darin Gorski, LHP, Double-A Binghamton

Top Five Relievers
1. Akeel Morris, RHP, Single-A Savannah
2. Joel Carreno, RHP, Triple-A Las Vegas
3. Robert Coles, RHP, Single-A Savannah
4. Dario Alvarez, LHP, Single-A Savannah
5. Paul Sewald, RHP, High-A St. Lucie