The Mets need more prospects and are not in position to be trading the ones they do have for players like J.T. Realmuto or Corey Kluber.
I recently talked with multiple MLB talent evaluators and people in competing player development departments and all of them agreed that, while Peter Alonso and Andres Gimenez are 'nice players,' as a whole, the Mets' farm system needs more above average minor-league talent.
By comparison, the Braves have 12 prospects considered to be above average, while the Mets, Nationals, Phillies, and Marlins all have roughly four or five above-average prospects.
The point is, if the Mets traded Alonso and Gimenez in a deal to get, say, Realmuto, while it would certainly give them a major upgrade at catcher today, it would simultaneously decimate the short- and possibly long-term value of the upper end of their farm system.
This matters for two reasons...
1) It means a shallow pipeline of quality kids to lean on when the big-league roster is in crisis, and
2) In the event the Mets are in contention and want to make a big acquisition in trade, they have fewer pieces to use in a deal and will likely get outbid by their competition.
So, what does Brodie Van Wagenen do about this?
The trick during the next year or so will be for Van Wagenen to add or develop two or three more elite prospects, while either signing free agents to plug holes in the big leagues and simultaneously trading away kids with limited upside for expendable players from other teams, or trading a big fish big leaguer for big fish prospects.
This is probably why we're seeing rumors about the Mets investigating the high-end free-agent market for starting pitchers, while SNY's Andy Martino reports that they're talking to teams about trading Noah Syndergaard. Because if they did both, i.e. deal Syndergaard for multiple elite prospects and sign, say, Patrick Corbin, they will have moved the rotation sideways, while also adding a ton of value and highly-rated prospects to the top of their farm system.
They way it stands now, according to FanGraphs.com's projected value system, Alonso is currently worth $25 million in 2018 free agent dollars, whereas, say, Padres top C prospect Francisco Mejia is worth $43 million and their top infield prospect Luis Urias is worth $44 million.
Recently I suggested that to get Syndergaard, the Mets would be just in asking San Diego for both Mejia and Urias. If this happened, in one move, Van Wagenen would rocket his farm system from middle to the pack to the third-most valued farm system in the National League.
To get Corbin, the winning bidder will likely need to give him a five-year deal worth around $90 million. Put another way, is spending $90 million in free agent dollars to replace Syndergaard worth adding close to $90 million in minor-league talent? It's a gamble, but it's the potential gamble currently facing Van Wagenen...
How did the above talent evaluators rate Van Wagenen's current top prospects?
Alonso, Gimenez, Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn are the only players in Van Wagenen's system that rank as above average on the 80-20 scale, which you can read more about here.
The Mets have other prospects to be excited about, such as David Peterson, Anthony Kay, Thomas Szapucki, Ronny Mauricio and Mark Vientos. And, it's always worth noting that Jacob deGrom never appeared on a Top 10 list nor ever cracked the top 100, yet he stands today as the best pitcher in baseball.
That said, the upper portion of the team's farm system is currently being judged on the previously mentioned above-average players, all of whom drew positive reviews from talent evaluators...
Peter Alonso, 1B, 23 years old (ETA: 2019)
Alonso's most talked about skill is obviously his power, which is universally considered to be elite. The same evaluators see him as an average overall hitter, slow on the bases, and a slightly below-average fielder with an average arm.
In other words, he's all about his power, as he has demonstrated over the past 12 months while hitting mammoth, head-turning bombs in the recently concluded AFL.
"His power plays," one scout told me, echoing what most others had to say. "He should have an immediate impact for the Mets. He'll have to continue fighting off bad pitches and use the entire field when making contact, both of which he's been doing well the past year."
Andres Gimenez, SS/2B, 20 years old (ETA: 2020)
Gimenez is praised most for his glove, arm and ability to make contact. And what he lacks in power, which is a lot, he makes up for with a quick swing, working counts, drawing walks and hitting the ball hard into the gap.
"He's just not built to be a home run guy, but I can see him racking up 20 extra base hits, driving in runs and stealing 10 or so bases to make up for it," a scout that has often watched Gimenez said.
I can see a scenario in 2019 where Gimenez is promoted to the Mets if a long-term injury strikes Amed Rosario or Jeff McNeil. Evaluators agree he needs a bit more work in Triple-A, but his glove, arm and ability to make contact will be enough to get him by this season if he's needed sooner than later.
"He's a gifted shortstop in the field, but he's such a smart, instinctual fielder knowing where to be and when that he'll have no issue moving to second base if that's what the Mets ask him to do," the same scout concluded.
In the end, based on the collective projections, experts believe Gimenez has the basic tools to net roughly 6.0 WAR at shortstop during his first three years in the big leagues.
Jarred Kelenic, OF, 19 years old (ETA: 2021)
Kelenic is 19 years old and limited in experience, yet he's described by anyone that has watched him as someone with a natural instinct for hitting.
"He already has a veteran's sense of the strike zone. He's selective, will draw a walk and yet consistently gets his barrel on the ball," a source from an AL team that had been high on Kelenic told me. "He also has a cannon for an arm."
Kelenic was quickly added to MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list, Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list, and Keith Law of ESPN's Top 50 Prospects list after being drafted.
The only real criticism waged at him from the evaluators I talked with were concerns about his attitude and overt confidence in himself.
"He has a little Bryce Harper in him, I've heard," a friend in player development with an AL team told me. "That doesn't necessarily need to be a bad thing, obviously, but it's something to keep an eye on."
To me, this is a compliment. I think a young, bold, unabashed personality, who is pure hitter with a rocket arm, would fit nicely with Michael Conforto's professionalism, Jacob deGrom's steeliness, Amed Rosario's speed, and Alonso's poignancy and size. Plus, a little cockiness never heart anyone, just ask the 1986 Mets...
"His bat is the real deal," a local scout told me. "His swing is mechanically sound and consistent and, with his speed, he'll knock his fair share of doubles and triples as he fills out and develops a bit more lift and power."
Justin Dunn, RHP, 23 years old (ETA: late-2019)
Dunn is effortless in his delivery, so much so he can lull opposing batters into a controllable rhythm, according to people that have watched him. He's then able to keep them off balance by mixing a low-90s fastball with a similarly quick slider.
The scouts I talk with that have watched him all felt that he can easily be a mid-rotation starting pitcher as soon as this summer.
Based on his usage, the Mets clearly see Dunn as a starting pitcher, as do most people that watch him. However, I've heard from friends in St. Lucie that say he has the consistent mechanics, mental toughness and stuff to be a terrific a closer, which is where he thrived in college while throwing close to 100 mph.
"He doesn't have the power and strength to be an elite guy, at least not as a starting pitcher," a coach inside the Mets told me this past spring. "He can, however, be a consistent, middle-rotation, 30 starts after 30 starts kind of rotation guy, which is just as important when trying to fill a season's worth of innings."
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!