OutfieldMichael Conforto Champ Stuart Maikis De La Cruz Victor Cruzado
Conforto, the Mets’ 2014 first-round draft pick, is the big name here. The 22-year-old is a strong prospect; I have him ranked in the team’s top 10, as the fifth-best position player prospect and the second-best outfield prospect, trailing only Brandon Nimmo. He’s also at an age where he belongs, without question, in the FSL since the Mets took it slow with him last year. In 2014, Conforto spent had a strong enough debut with Brooklyn and joined Savannah for the playoffs. A polished college hitter, Conforto did not need to spend time with Savannah during the 2015 regular season. This assignment is not a surprise.
An optimistic evaluation of his skills assigns him above average power with an above average hit tool on his way to becoming an above average left-fielder. Slip those grades down to average, and he becomes an average leftfielder. Either way, he could move quickly and finish the year with double-A Binghamton.
The fleet Stuart is a personal favorite. He eats up ground in center field, and can wreak havoc on the bases, (he was 29-for-33 last year) when he gets aboard. If he hits at all, he'll be a big leaguer. However, even after a year in Savannah, he has a tendency to chase at the plate, and his swing can get long. He hit .256/.341/.340 with 36 walks in 81 games in 2014. His progress, or more specifically, whether he makes it, will be one of the interesting questions around this team.
De La Cruz and Cruzado are each competent organizational players, but unlikely to ever be important big league pieces.
Infield (Likely Starters)1B – Dominic Smith
2B – Jeff McNeil/Philip Evans
SS – Amed Rosario
3B – Jhoan Urena
Backups1B - Matt ObersteUtil – Yeixon Ruiz
The St. Lucie infield provides the major surprises of this roster period. The Mets chose to skip19-year-old Amed Rosario and 20-year-old Jhoan Urena over Savannah directly to St. Lucie.
In the summer of 2014, there were scouts who thought that Rosario was the top position player prospect in the Mets’ system. However, at that, he did almost nothing during the season to suggest that he is ready to jump two levels. In 2014, he hit .289/.337/.380 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with a 16% strikeout rate and a 5.8% walk rate in 68 games with Brooklyn in the New York Penn League. The Mets put him in the SAL for almost two weeks before the Brooklyn season started in May, and he looked overmatched, striking out 11 times against one walk in 31 plate appearances in seven games. He will be roughly four years younger than average in the Florida State League. Most of Rosario’s hits in 2014 went the other way. He showed pull-side power in batting practice, but had trouble getting to it consistently in games. His hitting mechanics are still inconsistent. His actions looked better at shortstop in 2014, smother than they had been, but he only has average speed at best, so will need to be on point in other areas defensively to stay at the position.
Now, there’s an interesting argument that moving Rosario past Savannah is what’s best for the organization even if it puts Rosario in a difficult spot. Gavin Cecchini used his August in advanced-A to prove that he was ready for double-A. The Mets needed someone to play shortstop in St. Lucie. At the same time, there were two players ready to play shortstop in Savannah: Rosario and Luis Guillorme. Of the two, there is little question that Rosario is the more advanced offensively. The rebuttal to this line of thinking is that, in general, teams should always prioritize the development of their best prospects first. However, this configuration allows Rosario and Guillorme to get everyday at-bats and repetitions in the field for 140 games. That perhaps is more valuable that Rosario playing everyday in Savannah, Guillormen getting bored in extended spring training or playing second base in Savannah, while some player of merely organizational value sucks up the early season at-bats at short in advanced-A.
The switch-hitting Urena is the second surprise assignment. However, he has a more refined offensive game than Rosario, his partner on the left side of the Brooklyn infield in 2014 and in St. Lucie if all goes according to plan. He bopped .300/.356/.431 in 75 games with Brooklyn in 2014. He showed more offensive game than Rosario: a better pure hit tool, more plate discipline (an 8.6% walk rate) and more power (20 2B, 5 HR and a .131 isolated slugging percentage to Rosario’s .091). Hitting is the thing Urena does best and even at that, he will still need to prove as he moves up the ladder that he has the ability to hit for power to make himself an impact big leaguer. He has no speed to speak of. Physically, he appeared soft in 2014. At third, he simply needs to continue to improve. His feet were a little slow, which put pressure on his arm to compensate. That’s not unusual for a young third baseman. However, the total package is of a player – a nice enough prospect – who needs development time. As with Rosario, who will be playing to his left, there was a little pressure from behind on Urena’s assignment to St. Lucie in the sense that Eudor Garci might have been ready for Savannah. However, the Mets did not assign Garcia to Savannah.
Over at first base, Dominic Smith needs to prove that he can drive the baseball. Most of the left-handed swinging Smith’s crisp contact in 2014 with Savannah was directed into left-center or right back up the middle; he was going middle-away. That’s a good place to start for a young hitter. However, when he did try to pull the ball, his swing mechanics tended to fall apart: often he would slide his hips forward and roll over the ball and pull it on the ground or drop his back shoulder and fly out harmlessly to right. Historic Grayson Stadium, which is the toughest place to hit a homerun in full-season baseball, is particularly harsh on left-handed power, and is a miserable place to be a young, left-handed hitting prospect who will be judged on his power output. However, Smith’s home/road splits (H: .284/.354/.349; R: .259/.336/.329) do not show a stark enough divide to think that the ballpark was the only factor holding down his homerun output to one in 2014. Smith has more to prove than most most first round picks entering their second full-season. Scouts were concerned about his heavy body and work ethic in pre-game instruction. His conditioning is certainly something to watch. However, the bottom line for first a baseman: if you hit enough, nothing else matters.
CatchersAdrian Abreu Jeff Glenn Colton Plaia
Social promotions are the order of the day for Glenn and Plaia, who split the Sand Gnats’ catching duties in 2014.
PitchersPotential RotationMarcos Molina Robert Gsellman Miller Diaz Ricky Knapp Kevin McGowan Logan Taylor Robert Whalen
This is basically the Savannah Sand Gnats’ staff from 2014 with one major addition: Marcos Molina. Molina, the hardthrowing righthander, drew plenty of attention last summer with outstanding numbers for Brooklyn in the New York Penn League. More important than the numbers of course, was the stuff. He lived low 90s and showed slider, curve and changeup. In the start I saw him, I thought he threw his changeup more than it deserved based on its quality. Put positively, he was trying to work on the pitch. If he was only interested in getting batters out at that level, he could have done so on his fastball and slider. Molina’s delivery is concering, and his low arm slot could, without a very good changeup, lead to nasty platoon split issues at higher levels. Even so, I have him ranked among the Mets’ top 10 prospects overall and the best right-handed pitching prospect below triple-A in the system.
Gsellman was a rock for the Gnats in 2014 and features the build to profile as a big league starter. He sits around 90-91 with nice feel for a changeup, and a curveball, that, when it's right, flashes plus. He just needs to throw the pitch more, (and I've been saying that for over a year now).
Whalen threw lots of breaking balls to keep SAL hitters off balance. Advanced-A will be a better test for a guy who missed a few months with a hand infection in 2014.
Logan Taylor is a Tommy John survivor with an average or slightly better fastball, but rudimentary breaking ball. His home, if he has one in the big leagues, will likely be in the bullpen.
Morris put up video game numbers in Savannah to earn a spot on the Mets’ 40-man roster. He works in the low 90s and can touch 96, but he will need to improve his breaking ball and his command to profile at the back of a big league bullpen.