One amazing thing to keep in mind about Jacob deGrom winning his second Cy Young award is that at no time during his four-year minor-league career did MLB.com rank him higher than 12 on the Mets' annual top prospect list. Similarly, at no time did he ever appear among the league's Top 100 prospects.
Crazier, he was drafted in 2010 by then-GM Omar Minaya and the Mets with the 272nd overall pick. He missed all of 2011 recovering from Tommy John surgery and made his big league debut in 2014 as a spot starter, after which then-manager Terry Collins said the organization still viewed him as a future reliever.
"Any time you draft a player, you think he's going to become a big-leaguer," Minaya once told me. "At first they all have upside, otherwise you wouldn't draft him. That being said, it doesn't always go the way you want it to go each time."
As an example, during the spring training before deGrom's debut, Mets executives roamed Tradition Field hyping prospects Rafael Montero and Marcos Molina as being in line to walk in the footsteps of Matt Harvey, who took baseball by a storm the previous summer. Meanwhile, as reporters and fans studied Montero and Molina, deGrom was throwing in the distance with no one watching.
Yet, five years later, deGrom is holding a Rookie of the Year trophy and two Cy Young Awards, while Montero is a memory and Molina is still recovering from multiple surgeries.
In other words, "Prospects are cool, parades are cooler," as MLB Network Radio's Casey Stern says over and over again during every trade deadline and hot stove season.
He's right not just because celebrating a World Championship is more fun than watching the rise of a single homegrown player. He's right because most prospects never develop into useful major league players -- let alone All-Star players that help win a ring.
For instance, to date, among the 271 players selected in 2010 before deGrom, Chris Sale is the only pitcher with more career WAR. After deGrom, it's James Paxton, followed by no one you'd recognize.
"He's proved himself to be a solid starter," MLB.com wrote of deGrom during his last scouting report before being promoted. "He has a fastball that should be a plus pitch and combines it with a potentially above-average slider. He also throws a solid changeup."
In the last year, Van Wagenen has dealt Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn and Anthony Kay, all of whom were considered to be among the organization's elite prospects.
Kelenic is now No. 13 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list and is looking more and more like a future star. Dunn and Kay are both 24 years old and expected to be mid or back-end of the rotation starters within the next year.
However, even with their talent, rankings and respective trajectories, a lot still needs to happen for Van Wagenen to fully regret each trade.
In 2015, Sandy Alderson acquired Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers by trading Michael Fulmer, who at the time was Alderson's ninth-best prospect. Insiders, scouts, fans and media all questioned parting with Fulmer, who projected to be at least a mid-rotation starting pitcher.
In less than one year, Fulmer was realizing his potential by having a 3.45 ERA during the first two years of his career. However, following the 24th win of his career, Fulmer popped a ligament and missed all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery. In the span of three years, this one trade by Alderson was seen as questionable, then amazing, then stupid, and then a deal that seemingly no longer has any relevance to the current state of the Mets.
By the way, while Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith led the organization's top prospect list when Fulmer was traded, also ahead of Fulmer were Gavin Cecchini, Matt Reynolds, Gabriel Ynoa and Milton Ramos.
The point is, things change. Just ask Josh Donaldson, Paul Goldschmidt, Justin Turner, Whit Merrifield, Matthew Boyd and Daniel Murphy, none of whom ranked better than 10 on their team's respective top prospect lists in the year before their big-league debuts.
Similarly, go find Reese Havens, Ike Davis, Eddie Kunz, Fernando Martinez, Brad Holt, Jefry Marte, Cesar Puello, Kevin Plawecki and the countless others that fans said the Mets should never trade for fear they'd go on to greatness.
This is not to say Van Wagenen should throw caution to the wind and trade every top prospect he has because Ike and Reese never played in an All-Star Game. However, it does mean Van Wagenen should continue doing what he's been doing, which is be willing to deal anyone in his farm system.
In a world where no-rank, ninth-round pick Jacob deGrom can win back-to-back Cy Young Awards, Kelenic, Dunn and Kay can dazzle scouts and fizzle before greatness.
Again, "Prospects are cool, parades are cooler." And, if Van Wagenen truly believes he can hoist a trophy within the next few years, he should trade any prospect we want for whatever player he needs.
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!