1) INF Jeff McNeilBats/Throws: L/R
Height/Weight: 6'1", 165 lbs
Acquired: 12th round 2013 draft (Long Beach State)
Born: April 8, 1992 (Santa Barbara, CA)
2014 Overall Rank: NR | Stats
I really like McNeil's athleticism, but I'm not sure if it's enough, at his age to make him a successful big leaguer.
A few weeks before the start of the 2015 season, the Mets asked McNeil to play third base for the first time in years. The first few weeks at game speed were rough for him. However, he improved quickly and became first a competent third baseman and then a good one in short order. He moves his feet well, and has enough arm to play on the left side. He could play shortstop in the minors in a pinch, adding to his organization value. In college, and his first year as a professional, he had played up the middle positions, both on the infield and in centerfield. In truth, he played very little high school baseball, as he was a very fine amateur golfer. However, after playing on a summer ball team with his brother, he drew the attention of college baseball coaches who could offer a better partial scholarship than golf coaches.
In Savannah, where McNeil was a little old for the league, he drove the ball better than he did in Kingsport in 2013. He used his speed to contribute 15 stolen bases in the first half. That's the good. On the negative side, at times at the plate, McNeil still looks like a golfer. He can slide his hips and keep his arms too long and locked. Good breaking stuff has a tendency fools him, and sometimes even buckles his legs. After a good first half with Savannah, McNeil's numbers in the advanced-A Florida State League, against more age-appropriate competition decline. In particular, lefties give him problems. In 89 AB against southpaws in St. Lucie, he hit just .208/.283/.250.
I saw McNeil in 2013 with Kingsport in the Appalachian League and saw an older player taking advantage of his younger league mates.
Best-case Scenario: MLB utility guy
Worst-case Scenario: More likely a minor league utility guy
Projected 2015 Start: Advanced-A St. Lucie
MLB Arrival: 2017
2) 2B LJ MazzilliBats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight: 6'1", 190 lbs
Acquired: 4th round 2013 draft (UConn)
Born: September 6, 1990 (Greenwich, CT)
Mazzilli, by dint of his father's role on the 1986 World Series Championship team is understandably something of a Mets' fan favorite. This is after all, a young player who grew up around the game, playing catch with Derek Jeter and asking Yogi Berra for advice. He is also a player who looks the part and has clearly done his work in the weight room. Second, in his age 23 season, he hit at both a-ball levels, in Savannah and St. Lucie. He showed a little more extra-base pop in advanced-A, but his strikeout rate rose and his walk rate declined toward the dangerous territory of 5.8%. It's possible to be a productive MLB hitter walking that little, but very difficult.
Defensively, scouts described his work as "mechanical." Mazola played a significant amount of shortstop as an amateur, before moving to second base full time as a professional. He was still learning and internalizing the necessary footwork that came with a move to the right side of the bag. His hands, arm and range work fine for second, but are stretched at second. This creates something of a difficult profile as a second baseman who really should be limited to the right side of the bag. In this era of short relievers and 12-man pitching staffs, teams generally cannot carry a backup middle infielder who cannot play shortstop. (Lets leave aside for a moment that the Mets' plan for 2015 might be to play a guy at short who cannot really play there either.) For the second base only player, then, the choice is hit enough to start, or face no big league role.
That's two paragraphs in without addressing the elephant in Mazzilli's room: his 50-game suspension handed down in December for a "drug of abuse." Unlike performance enhancing drugs, which prompt a 50-game penalty for the first violation, drugs of abuse do not lead to a suspension for a player's first positive test. Rather, this was Mazzilli's second positive test. And yet, his statement, released through the Mets, at the time he tested positive, speaks about his test in the singular as though he had only tested positive once. For example, "Unfortunately, in life, you cannot go back on a bad decision that was made, and in my case, one that I very much regret," or "I am fully ready to own up to my mistake" emphasis added on the singular. PR statements exist to tell a version of events but this one is deliberately mendacious. The truth of the matter is that Mazzilli was guilty of multiple bad decisions and multiple mistakes to trigger multiple positive tests.
Mazola could ill-afford to lose the development time to the 50-game suspension. He turned 24 in September and has never played a game above a-ball. This is usually the age at which players who are going to become big league regulars are busy establishing themselves as big leaguers. Instead, Mazzilli will be hanging out in Port St. Lucie for the first third of the 2015 season, waiting his turn to show what he can do in double-A Binghamton.
Best-case Scenario:Spring Training Hero and MLB bench piece
Worst-case Scenario: Right. Organizational type depth
Projected 2015 Start: Suspended, then Binghamton.
MLB Arrival: 2017
3) SS Luis GuillormeBats/Throws: L/R
Height/Weight: 5'10", 170 lbs
Acquired: 10th round, 2013 draft (Coral Springs Charter HS)
Born: September 27, 1994 (Davie, FL)
2014 Overall Rank: #41 | Stats
Guillorme rises ten spots on this list from 2014 by doing exactly what he was supposed to do: play great defense and hit a little. A little like Tovar in say, 2010, Guillorme is an absolute joy to watch flash the leather in low minors games. He has wonderfully fast, soft hands and balletic feet and body control. He enjoys playing defense. In infield drills before and during BP, he tests himself by making creative flips to the bag and dancing his way through otherwise routine plays. His showmanship can even extend to games, although he is capable, for the most part, of pulling it off and making it look good. Now the negative: his arm is merely averagish. That’s already a problem, in the sense that he he can track down more balls in the hole than he can make a play on at first. Anyway, he’s a sublime defender who really seems to enjoy playing defense.
Offensively, playing almost everyday for Kingsport, Guillorme hit .282, posted a .337 OBP and a .324 SLG in 57 games, with 17 walks against 28 strikeouts and 10 doubles as his only extra-base hits. He’s a little, slight dude who has to put everything he has into his swing to send a line drive to the outfield. As such, he will always have trouble generating any power. For example, his isolated slugging percentage was under .050 in the Appy League. That's really, really low. He was just six-for-10 stealing bases and is, at best, an average runner. It’s hard to see him hitting enough to play everyday in the big leagues, but his defensive ability will keep him employed through Double-A, for sure, and buy him a chance to prove that he can hit.
Guillorme is in a tricky spot in the system with more heralded shortstops, Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario, both ahead and behind him. His own development would probably be best served by playing shortstop everyday in Savannah, a team he joined at the end of the 2014 season for a brief postseason run after the Kingsport season ended. However, the Mets will surely send Amed Rosario to Savannah to play short everyday. Thus, if they want Guillorme to play in Savannah, he will play second and then fill in for Rosario at short a few times a week. On the other hand, if the Mets decide that Guillorme's glove is too good to waste on the right side of the diamond, even in a-bal, they could push him to advanced-A, which would severely test his offensive game.
Best-case Scenario:The defense plays in the big leagues.
Worst-case Scenario: The bat does not.
Projected 2015 Start: Savannah, as Rosario's double-play partner and backup.
MLB Arrival: 2018
4) SS Wilfredo TovarBats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight: 5'10", 180 lbs
Acquired: NDFA (10/12/07)
Born: August 11, 1991 (Miranda, VE)
Tovar and Guillorme are almost the same player in terms of profile: worth the price of admission for their defense, but little guys who just do not generate enough force in their swings to do enough damage on contact.
To be clear, there are two areas where Tovar enjoys an advantage over Guillorme: arm and strike zone control. Tovar has a plus arm at short. It's better than Guillorme's. At the plate, at his best, Tovar has shown the ability to run a strikeout to walk ratio around one. Guillorme's was near 1.7 in the Appalachian League. So why is Guillorme ranked ahead of Tovar? Pretty much because Tovar has stalled at double-A. Sure, he's seen a tiny bit of big league action, but he is just not part of the Mets' plans. In three years in double-A, he has hit .267/.326/.340 in 988 plate appearances. We know at this point what Tovar is. There is still some chance that Guillorme figures out a way to create enough hard contact (Hint: weight lifting) to carve out a viable big league career.
In 2014, a torn ligament in his left thumb, sustained sliding into a base, took Tovar out of the Binghamton Mets lineiup from May 30 through July 27, but in his truncated season in double-A, he did his thing.
Best-case Scenario:Yup, his defense took him to the big leagues.
Worst-case Scenario: But he cannot stay there.
Projected 2015 Start: Triple-A, finally
MLB Arrival: 2013-2014