I have been following prospects since 2003, and have been producing or contributing to Top Prospect lists at varying places since 2007. I typically wait until around spring training to put out my list, and here we are under two weeks (!!) from pitchers and catchers reporting to Port St. Lucie! Now seems like as good a time as ever to post my first top 10 list for The 7 Line. The system did take a bit of a dip this year because of the multitude of trades that new General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen executed, notably losing Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn who would have ranked highly on this list. With that said, there is still talent in the system that fans should be excited about. Here is my 2019 version of the top 10 prospects in the Mets system:
Szapucki was the Mets 5th round pick in the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft out of William T. Dwyer High School in West Palm Beach, Florida. He really started to gain notoriety on the national circuits where he was displaying an above average fastball and one of the highest spin rates on a breaking ball in the entire 2015 high school ranks. Szapucki would probably be quite a bit higher on this list if he had not missed 2018 due to Tommy John surgery. All seems to be well and he’s expected to be healthy this spring. When healthy he has a low-mid 90’s fastball that has hit as high as 97 miles-per-hour to go with a an above average power curveball and a developing changeup. He has been dominant when on the mound, holding a career 2.27 ERA in his short pro career thus far. The issue? He has been injured and spent all but the first 6 starts of the 2017 season in short season ball, thus he’s only accrued 83.1 professional innings. If he has a healthy 2019, I’d expect him to shoot up these rankings in a big way next year.
Woods-Richardson was the Mets 2nd round pick in the 2018 MLB Amateur Draft out of Kempner High School in Sugar Land, Texas. He is a tremendous athlete with a mature build at 6’3” and 210 pounds who was considering playing third base as well as pitching at the University of Texas before the Mets drafted him and paid him above slot to turn professional as just a pitcher.
In the spring he had some inconsistencies at least in reports of his velocity, with some saying he’s hit as high as 97 miles per hour to him sitting in the upper 80’s-low 90’s. He put a damper on all of those concerns in his short stint with the Gulf Coast Mets and Kingsport Mets where he reportedly was sitting in the 93-95 miles-per-hour range and touched 99 MPH. He also sports a curveball that flashes above average but needs more consistency and a changeup which wasn’t used much in high school but scouts think has a chance to be above average. He impressed in his first 17.1 professional innings posting a 1.56 ERA and 13.5 strikeout per 9 innings rate. The Mets are banking on the athleticism and upside given he can now focus on solely pitching. Don’t be surprised if you see his name possibly cracking top 100 prospect lists next year.
Kay is one of the rare players to get drafted twice by the same team. The Mets drafted Kay in the 29th round of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft out of Ward Melville High School on Long Island. Yes, the same Ward Melville High School that Steven Matz attended. Kay turned the Mets down and decided to attend the University of Connecticut in an attempt to improve his draft stock and he did just that. The Mets drafted him again in the 1st Round of the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft. The issue was that Kay almost immediately required Tommy John surgery and he did not make his professional debut until the 2018 season. He posted a 4.26 ERA combined between Columbia and St. Lucie but he made some strides in the 2nd half with St Lucie having an ERA of 3.88. The most important thing was really for him to get through a full season off Tommy John and that was a success as he put together 122.2 innings. He is a not a big stuff guy like Woods-Richardson or Szapucki earlier in this list as he sits more in the 89-93 MPH range on his fastball and can push it to 95 on occasion. He has an above average changeup that is his primary strikeout pitch with some nice fade to it. He has a slider that isn’t used much as an out pitch at this time but projects as an average third offering. Kay has the makings of a potential #4 starter possibly as soon as 2020.
Kilome was acquired at the deadline from the Phillies in exchange for Asdrubal Cabrera and came to the Mets as a consensus top 10 prospect in the Phillies system. He’s a tall and lanky pitcher at 6’6” 175 pounds with good stuff that he has not put together consistently yet. He has a chance for two plus pitches with his fastball which will hit the mid-upper 90’s and his curveball. He also throws a changeup that lags clearly behind his fastball and curveball but he has a feel for it. His control has been iffy throughout his career as he is still a bit of a work in progress with consistently repeating his delivery at his frame. He made strides in the 7 games he pitched for the Double A Binghamton Rumble Ponies in the Mets system, posting a solid 4.03 ERA while striking out 9.9 batters per 9 innings and only walking 2.4 per 9 innings. Unfortunately as has been the case for Kay and Szapucki previously, Kilome underwent Tommy John surgery this past fall and he will miss the entire 2019 season. Unfortunately this could potentially push back Kilome’s big league debut until 2021. His health off of Tommy John and the development of his control and 3rdpitch will determine whether he ends up a #3 or #4 type starter or if he becomes a power two pitch pitcher out of the bullpen. Kilome may be out for the year, but he is an arm that Mets fans should not forget about.
Newton was signed by the Mets out of the Netherlands in 2015 and has really taken 3 years to get on the radar as a prospect. I am more bullish on him than a lot of national sources as the reports I got on him from Kingsport this year were glowing. He is a switch hitting athletic 6’4” 180 pound shortstop who shows plenty of actions and arm to at least have a chance to stick at shortstop long term. If he outgrows the position, he has the athleticism and arm to fit at either 3rd base or maybe even in the outfield. Scouts were very impressed with his approach for his age (19) and ability to consistently barrel balls which led to 23 extra base hits in 56 games this summer. He hit .280 with a .408 on-base percentage while holding a 17.3% walk rate which is great to see from a player at his age and experience level. There is definitely some swing and miss to his game as he struck out 84 times in those 56 games, but it still didn’t hurt his ability to put together a very strong slash line. If Newton fills out some and turns his above average raw power into game power you can be looking at a potential big time prospect as he progresses through the low minors. He should start the season in Low-A Columbia and that will be a great test for him.
Peterson was drafted by the Mets in the 1st round of the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Oregon and he is my top pitching prospect in the system.
He has the build that you are looking for in a potential workhorse starter at 6’6” 240 pounds. He throws four pitches headlined by an above average fastball in the low 90’s that’ll hit 95 MPH and a slider which is used as a primary out pitch for him. He also has a changeup that is average but flashes above average that he likes to utilize against righties with the down and away dip that it has. He throws a curveball but at this point it is below average and used mostly as a get me over pitch. He is known for the ability to repeat his delivery and shows excellent control with a pro career walks per 9 innings rate of only 2.1. He was surprisingly sent to Low-A Columbia to begin his first full pro season and he predictably dominated that level of competition with a 1.82 ERA and 8.6 strike outs per 9 innings. He got the call up to High-A St Lucie where he struggled mightily in his first month in St Lucie posting an ERA of 8.05 in July. He rebounded in a big way in August with a 2.93 ERA and he threw 5 shutout innings in his only start in September. His strikeout rate jumped from 6.6 per 9 innings in July to 9.1 in August which is more where you’d want him to reside. I like Peterson to be a workhorse #3 type starter with a high floor who should make his big league debut in 2020. I have had a scout tell me he sees a bit of Mark Buehrle, formerly of the White Sox in Peterson.
Mauricio was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2017 for an at the time Mets record $2.1 million signing bonus, which has since been passed by catcher Francisco Alvarez who for me just missed this top 10 list. Mauricio is listed at 6’3” 166 pounds but word is he’s already grown to 6’4” and 180 pounds and he won’t turn 18 years old until April. He’s a switch hitter with great bat speed and right now average raw power. The expectation is that he will grow into that average power becoming above average. He is a plus fielder with outstanding instincts, a strong arm and actions that even at his size the Mets believe he can stick as a big shortstop. If he has to transition to 3rd base or a corner outfield they believe he has plenty of athleticism and overall defensive ability to translate if necessary. Despite being a good athlete, he did not show much as far as stealing bases in his debut in the U.S. It will be interesting to see if that becomes more a part of his game as he develops in full season ball. Mauricio split his 57 games in short season ball between the Gulf Coast League Mets and Kingsport, batting .273 with a .304 on-base percentage and 22 extra base hits including 3 home runs. Mauricio is very toolsy all around, and many would argue that he has the highest upside of any prospect in the Mets system.
Vientos was the Mets 2nd Round Pick in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft out of the very prominent American Heritage High School in Plantation, Florida. American Heritage has produced big leaguers such as Magglio Ordonez and Eric Hosmer. Vientos was considered a more talented prospect in the 2017 draft class than where the Mets got him, but he had his inconsistencies as a high school senior which dropped him to the 2nd round where the Mets were happy to grab him.
His bat has developed quickly where he makes very hard and consistent contact with incredibly high exit velocities. He currently has above average power that could potentially end up plus. He was originally drafted as a shortstop, but he played almost exclusively 3rd base in 2018, and I’d expect him to play exclusively 3rd base in 2019 and going forward. He is not a great athlete, but he has good defensive actions, great hands and a strong arm which helped him be passable at shortstop. At 3rd base he has the opportunity to be above average, and purely his body type is very reminiscent of Manny Machado when Machado was his age. No, I am not comparing Vientos to Machado as a player so relax! Vientos dominated Kingsport to the tune of a .287 average, .389 on-base percentage and 11 home runs in 60 games. What I really liked was he was able to improve his walk percentage from last year (7.3% to 14.1%) and lower his strike out percentage (21.8% to 16.4%). Keith Law at ESPN ranked him as the Mets top prospect, and I do not fault him at all for that ranking. I am not quite there yet, but there is a very real chance when we see my 2020 list that Vientos is at the top. He has the potential to be an above average every day 3rd baseman or quite possibly more.
Gimenez was originally signed by the Mets in 2015 from Venezuela for $1.2 million. Gimenez is only 20 years old and has already had some run in Double-A for the last 37 games of the season this year. He is a small, wiry player listed at 5’11” 161 pounds, and if you see him he looks every bit of 160 pounds.
He has a very advanced approach at the plate which is a pretty big reason why he’s held his own despite almost routinely being the youngest or close to the youngest player at every level he’s played at. His first assignment in the U.S. was with full season low-A Columbia in 2017 at 18 years old which is rare in the Mets developmental system. It’s not frequent they let a player bypass Gulf Coast, Kingsport and Brooklyn completely at that age. I don’t know how much physical maturation is left in his body, so given his size you should not expect power to be much of a part of his game going forward. He is a line drive gap to gap hitter who is an above average fielder who no doubt could handle shortstop at the big league level, though with Amed Rosario likely being a big part of this team’s future at short, his fit there might be in question with the Mets. Gimenez shouldn’t have a problem translating to 2nd base, but they have Robinson Cano at that spot for now so it will be interesting to see how they continue his development defensively. On the base paths Gimenez has above average, but not big time speed despite his 38 stolen bases this year. His instincts and jumps that he gets make his above average speed play well in-game. Gimenez is a very hard worker who truly plays the game like a professional. I am unsure if he will ever be a big time regular, but I think he has a perfectly reasonable shot to be an average to a little above average everyday player who, if not with the Mets, could be a valuable trade chip. A comparison I have heard with Gimenez is Cesar Hernandez of the Phillies.
My top prospect in the Mets system for 2019 is Peter Alonso. It was basically a coin flip for me as to whether Alonso or Gimenez should be #1. The tiebreaker for me was that I look at Alonso as having a greater chance to be an All Star caliber everyday player. Alonso was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Florida. Coming out of college Alonso was not the massive power prospect you see today. He had a bit of a hitch in his swing that when I watched his college tape I thought he might have some issues when he reached Double-A and beyond. However, he made a change to his swing and the rest is history.
Alonso’s offensive skillset is highlighted by his plus power that I think should lead to him potentially being a 30-35 home run guy on a near yearly basis. He is an exit velocity machine similar to guys like Aaron Judge which will be really fun to watch and check out Statcast after the fact. He has a career .290 average in the minor leagues but I’d wager in the big leagues he will be more in the .260-.270 range on a normal basis with a good amount of strikeouts but also a solid on-base percentage as he had a 13.4% walk rate in 2018 between Double-A and Triple-A. The bat will be fun and Mets fans are going to love the long home runs that he’ll hit at Citi Field.
In the last at-bat at Cashman Field, Peter Alonso just hit an absolutely mammoth walk-off two-run shot as the 51s beat Sacramento 4-3 to cap the season. pic.twitter.com/qE2NFNznsY— Betsy Helfand (@betsyhelfand) September 3, 2018
The most common criticism of Alonso is his defense which if we are being honest is not great. He definitely struggles at times, but he works tirelessly at it and has the work ethic that is required to be a big time player in the major leagues so whatever you get defensively you know will be the absolute best that he has in him. If he could somehow develop to be average at 1st base that would be excellent. In an ideal world he’d be a Designated Hitter, but the National League hasn’t adopted that yet so he has to play 1st base where I think the positive in his bat will be able to outweigh the negative in field. The only question now is when will Alonso actually be on the Major League team? Brodie Van Wagenen insists he will be competing for the 1st base job in spring training, but I’d think it is more likely that he is kept down for the first 2-3 weeks of the season for a couple of reasons. The #1 reason is probably because of the service time issue that is widespread in the Major Leagues. The Mets can send Alonso to Triple-A Syracuse for 2-3 weeks and then they’d gain an extra year of team control on him. Another reason I think this will happen is because Van Wagenen did a good job of acquiring depth this off-season. They are able to play the likes of Todd Frazier, J.D. Davis, Jed Lowrie and maybe even Jeff McNeil at 1st base until they deem it’s time for Alonso. Either way, Alonso is coming soon and I think he has to be considered one of the favorites to win the 2019 National League Rookie of the Year.