The MLB will hold it's first-year player draft on June 3, and as a result of winning just 77 games in 2018, the Mets have the overall No. 12 pick. The only NL East team with a better draft position is the Marlins at No. 4.
And even more importantly, it will GM Brodie Van Wagenen's first draft since taking over as GM for Sandy Alderson last fall.
Tommy Tanous (Director of Scouting) and Mark Tramuta (Director of Amateur Scouting) will be Van Wagenen's point persons on draft day. Tanous took hold of the draft in 2016, replacing Paul DePodesta. His most notable pick to date is Pete Alonso, who the Mets selected with their third pick (64 overall) in 2016.
"The first day of the draft is much more relaxing than day two and three," Tanous told me this week when I asked him about the stress and frenzy experienced before the draft begins. "There are only two rounds (the first day) and you've had a lot of time to plan for it. We are making our phone calls to advisors and players to double and triple check on anything and everything. The feeling is pure adrenaline. Despite the lack of sleep over the course of the last week or so, you are wide awake and excited for it to start."
According to MLB insiders, by bringing back Omar Minaya and rebuilding the organization's international presence and strategy signing international free agents, the Mets appear more willing to draft players that can help the big league roster sooner than later.
In my 15 years writing about the Mets, I'm not sure I've ever seen a Mets mock draft selection end up coming to fruition. Similarly, their reported (and speculated on) draft strategy often turns out to be inaccurate as well. In other words, take everything written before the draft with a grain of salt, including what I'm about to write here...
The tide looks to be shifting toward the Mets selecting with their top pick a strong, stable pitcher most likely out of college.
To date, multiple mock drafts run by ESPN's Keith Law, Baseball America, and other small publications have connected the Mets to a variety of arms, including Jackson Rutledge, Zack Thompson, Nick Lodolo and George Kirby.
Interestingly, the Mets, Alderson, and Tanous thought highly enough of Kirby three years ago when they drafted him out of high school in the 32nd round. As expected, Kirby passed on beginning his professional career and instead attended Elon University.
In a total reversal, he's been able to elevate himself in three years from a 32nd-round pick to a projected first-round selection. Baseball America and MLB.com both currently rank him among the 20 best players in this year's draft.
The Phillies, Red Sox and Yankees have also been scouting Kirby.
"He's very sound, smart, but I don't put him at elite-pitcher upside," a scout that has watched Kirby told me this week.
His contention is that Kirby will need to work better on concealing the ball, as well as elevating his arm slot a bit, otherwise advanced hitters will have no trouble recognizing the difference between his curveball, slider, and mid-to-upper 90 mph fastball.
Instead, this one scout predicted Rutledge, who is 6-foot-8, 250 pounds, to be the pitcher most teams will end up wishing they had selected.
"He's the best in this class, in my opinion. He looks like Syndergaard, physically, and I'm not talking the young Syndergaard, but the guy we see today," he said. "Also, he's 20, so there's room to grow, which will be appealing to teams at the top of the draft."
Also similar to Syndergaard, Rutledge is a middle-America kid, described as a "work horse," and a "gym rat" that has a snide, witty personality when talking at his locker.
Thompson, 21, is cut from a similar cloth as Kirby, but experts I know all feel he is destined to be a left-handed reliever -- not a starting pitcher.
Selected in the second round by the Pirates in 2016, Lodolo turned down a reported $1.75 million bonus, and instead attended TCU. Back again, this time the left-handed starter is expected to be someone's top pick, which will likely earn him twice what he was offered three years ago.
I list the above pitchers not so much as a prediction for the Mets, but more as examples of the type of arms the Mets are rumored to be looking to add Monday with their top selection.
The Mets clearly have plenty of infielders, relievers, and left-handed pitchers in their system, at least according to top prospect lists published by Baseball America, MLB.com, and Baseball Prospectus. However, beyond their top prospect -- Double-A SS Andres Gimenez -- the organization is lacking in players close to the big leagues who are universally viewed as future impact talent.
"Gimenez is in Double-A where it's easy to see he has the tools - especially his bat - to be one of the better shortstops in the game," a current talent evaluator recently told me. "He's got excellent instincts in the field, he gets on base and makes contact. He can be an everyday guy, no question. If he can get the ball on a line more, turn some singles into doubles, he'll be great for them."
No. 2 prospect Anthony Kay has gotten a lot of local attention, but most any professional I know that has watched him believes - at best - he will become a middle-of-the-rotation innings eater, and less than an elite starting pitcher that can carry a staff.
Along the same lines, while SS Ronny Mauricio, LHP David Peterson, 3B Mark Vientos, and RHP Simeon Woods Richardson all are rated well with high ceilings, they're still too far away to peg down their true potential. This is why the Mets need to draft projectable players that can plow through their farm system, and ideally make an impact sooner than later.
"Drafting on organizational need, instead of the best player available, can be tricky since it takes a few years to draft a player and develop him," Tanous explained to me. "By the time that player gets to the big leagues, the team itself can look quite different."
According to Tanous, Alonso is a perfect example of how the best laid plans can change.
"At the time we had Dom Smith, so drafting another first basemen was certainly not a need," he continued. "Pete was the best player on the board, though. Also, each year the draft is different. Some years there is an abundance of a certain position and very little in other areas, so you have to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each draft."
In other words, based on the above quote, and looking at how he has operated the past few seasons, my hunch is when on the clock Monday, Tanous will select the most talented, advanced player available, regardless of whether he is a pitcher or position player.
The goal is impact. And, the minute the draft ends, the search for impact picks right up.
"The draft is truly a year long process," Tanous concluded. "Four days after the finish of this year's draft we will be at the first tournament for next year and carry on all through the summer and fall."
Based on their spot in the draft, MLB will allow Van Wagenen a total pool of $8.2 million to spend on signing bonuses for all drafted players. Most notable, the Mets can spend up to $4.36 million on their top pick, $1.3 million on their second pick, $667,900 on their third pick, and so on...