There's a youth movement afoot in Queens. The mass exodus of pending free agent veterans has left holes all over the field, and young players are jumping at the chance -- for some perhaps their last -- to prove their worth to a team in transition. While none have the pedigree of Amed Rosario or Dominic Smith, some former early-round draft picks are going to become familiar faces over the next 5 weeks.
Selected in the first round of the 2011 Draft as a raw center fielder with a good eye at the plate, Brandon Nimmo had the misfortune of being yet another lefty outfielder on a team overflowing with them. The departures of Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson have left the door wide open, though, and he should get a long look as a potential fourth outfielder for 2018.
While Nimmo has shown little power in his professional career, his 13.6 percent walk rate in the minors shows he has the potential to get on base at an elite rate. Early indicators suggest this approach is translating at the major league level, though the hit tool needs to continue to develop in order to justify the lack of power and vulnerability to strikeouts.
Perhaps the larger question surrounding Nimmo is whether he can handle center field on a regular basis. A .275/.375/.350 bat can stick around if he can reliably play all three outfield spots, but scouts are mixed as to whether or not he can hold his own in center and, tellingly, the Mets were reluctant to play him there last season. He had been seeing more time there recently, but the injury to Michael Conforto will have a major impact on the outfield alignment.
The good news is that Nimmo is likely to be playing every day with few exceptions, but the bad news is that most of his time will be in right field. Even with less opportunity in center, though, if he can continue his excellent on-base percentage while showing a little Kevin Long-induced power bump (Long has shown a knack for getting the most out of bats like Nimmo's), he could end up getting a lot of work next season as a fourth outfielder and lefty bench bat.
Looking to the infield, Gavin Cecchini is just beginning to see some playing time with Neil Walker's exit and Jose Reyes on the DL. Cecchini mirrors Nimmo in many ways -- a first round pick out of high school in 2012, he lacks power and much of his success will be dependent on his ability to stick defensively.
The general consensus is that Cecchini is not a viable shortstop, which means his strengths as a hitter really need to continue to develop at the major league level. Unlike Nimmo, Cecchini is a true contact hitter with just a 13.4% strikeout rate in the minors. His walk rate is about average, so his production will need to come as a high average hitter.
Still just 23 years old, it's not impossible for Cecchini to add a little more power, which would make a big difference in his value to the team. Right now he's a long shot to start 2018 with the Mets, but if he shows a steady glove at second base and a solid approach at the plate, he could compete for a backup infielder role.
Cecchini's primary competition for playing time over the next several weeks is Matt Reynolds, a second round college pick from 2012 who has seen more playing time than his two teammates since his 2016 debut and has struggled to impress.
At 26 years old, Reynolds is at a stage where it's difficult to project any more development to the skills he has shown thus far. A better defender than Cecchini, he is still likely not good enough to carry what appears to be a very poor all-around bat. His .212/.261/.358 line over 163 career plate appearances is flanked by terrible walk and strikeout rates. He also lacks an established pattern of success at the plate in the minor leagues. While he has picked up the pace this season, he has an OPS of just .767 over four seasons in hitter-happy Las Vegas and has shown no particularly strong tool.
Reynolds is likely to get a lot of opportunities over the remainder of the season in part because this may be his last shot. The Mets will face some tough choices in the offseason as they deal with a 40-man roster crunch, and a poor showing from Reynolds could find him DFA-ed to make room. As a warm body who can play shortstop, he will always have some value, but unless he can hit at least a little, it's not enough value to justify cutting someone else.
With the departure of many familiar faces, these young men are all looking to become familiar themselves. Never dominating headlines or topping prospect lists, they all hope to earn the trust of an organization that is looking ahead to a future they want to be a part of.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring