Spring training is in full swing, and while it’s great to see familiar faces back on the field, my favorite part of is getting a glimpse at the future. This is the first time many fans get a chance to watch names we’ve only read about.
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo keeps a very close eye on all of the games prospects year round. He recently ranked the top-30 players in the Mets’ pipeline. I had a chance to sit down with him to get some more insight into his take on the system.
Tim Reilly: Shortstop Andres Gimenez ranked as your No. 1 preseason prospect for the Mets. What is it that impresses you about Gimenez’s game at such a young age (19)?
Jonathan Mayo: It all starts with his defense. The guy can really play shortstop with a great arm, hands, and range. He’s going to play short for a long time. He can run and has an advanced approach at the plate, especially given his age. But what really stands out is his maturity. That’s why the Mets thought he could handle the aggressive move to the South Atlantic League, and why he handled it so well.
TR: The front office sent a message that they aren’t sold on Dominic Smith just yet by signing veteran Adrian Gonzalez to a one-year deal. Beyond this season, should Smith worry about 23-year-old Peter Alonso (No. 4) surpassing him as the future first baseman?
JM: Worry? No. Could he provide good competition? Sure, and that’s never a bad thing. It might make for a good competition in a year, when Alonso is ready, but we also haven’t seen Alonso play at the upper levels for too long. These things, as they say, have a way of sorting themselves out.
I’m still a believer in Smith’s bat. Remember, he’s still only 22, and his time in the big leagues last year was a very small sample size. He’s going to figure it out, even if he spends more time in Vegas.
TR: It’s not something we want to think about, but the current group of top-tier pitchers will not stay intact forever. With that being said, what arms in the pipeline have the potential to develop into front-end starters down the line?
JM: Frontline? Not so much. But I do think that David Peterson and Justin Dunn (pictured below) have the chance to be mid-rotation guys (though part of me thinks Dunn ends up as a very good reliever).
I like Marcos Molina, too, but again, he’s a No. 3 or 4. The one guy who could have that kind of ceiling is Thomas Szapucki, but it’s tough to dream on a guy who hasn’t stayed healthy and is now rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
TR: The rotation is healthy for now. But, we know all too well that injuries are bound to happen. Who is waiting in the wings that could step in and see action on the mound this season?
JM: I think Molina has the chance to help this year. And Chris Flexen, who was rushed up last year out of need, should be able to learn from that experience and contribute again. Corey Oswalt is another one who should be ready if called on. There’s a limited ceiling, but a high floor there.
TR: With short-term solutions in place at second and third base, is there anyone in the system that you envision will be ready in a year or two to occupy one of those openings?
JM: I do love Luis Guillorme, probably more than I should. I’m not sure how much he’ll hit, though he has a really good approach at the plate. He walks a lot, and knows what his limitations are. Defensively, he’s just ridiculous. I’m not sure he’s an every day shortstop, but I could see him as an every day second baseman, while reaching base at a high rate and playing plus defense.
TR: Three catchers made your Top-30 prospect list: Tomas Nido (No. 11), Patrick Mazeika (No. 25), and Ali Sanchez (No. 27). Who do you envision one day becoming the man behind the plate should Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki falter?
JM: The main problem is that all of them don’t really profile as every day guys. Sanchez is all defense right now, though there’s time for the hit tool to come around – it just hasn’t. Mazeika is all bat. He works hard at his defense, but it’s behind where it should be at this point. Nido is more defensive-minded as well. He’s ready to help a big league club out, I think, as a backup. If his bat bounces back, I think Nido the one closest to be an all-around guy back there.
TR: The Mets made some moves the last few years to acquire young relievers with power arms. Can we expect to see any of them make an impact sooner rather than later out of the pen?
JM: You saw some late last year, and those guys can help now. Jamie Callahan and his fastball-cutter combo can be downright filthy. He showed last year that, if his strike-throwing advances, those pitches are for real. He’s a setup guy for me.
Jacob Rhame is kind of a one-pitch pitcher. Granted, it’s a 70-grade fastball, but if he can be a little bit more consistent with his slider, then he’ll pitch in the big leagues for a long time, starting in 2018. Stephen Nogosek, the other relief arm they got in trades who is in the Top 30, should be ready to help in 2019.
Photo credits: Tom DiPace
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