FanPost

Super-Preliminary Mets Prospect Guide: Catchers and First Basemen

Introduction

I've never liked ranking prospects in one big list, but I do enjoy talking about them and projecting their major league equivalents. For what it's worth, I've only seen about 40% of these players actually play and, being a former pitcher, I have a lot more knowledge about pitching than hitting. But anyway, let's get on to the list, which I'll do position-by-position. Feel free to disagree with me on many of the rankings or my projected tools.

A Note On The Ratings

My tools do not take into account position - neither do most people's. A 50/50 bat/power ranking plays very well at shortstop - it roughly correlates to a .260 batting average and around 13-15 home runs. Similarly, a 50/50 arm/glove plays very well at first base, and 50 speed plays great at catcher. Very few major leaguers have average skills at every tool - as WAR lovers will tell you, there is a lot of value in average. Even fewer have plus, or 60, ratings at every tool. True 5-tool players would include Carlos Beltran (60 / 70 / 70 / 80 / 70) or Willie Mays (70 / 80 / 80 / 80 / 80). Mays is probably the only player in history who grades out as a total 80. Arm/glove/speed are all fairly subjective, but I'd use these as the following benchmarks.

Tool

Bat

Power (in HR)

20

.210

0 to 4

30

.230

5 to 9

40

.250

10 to 12

50

.265

13 to 19

60

.280

20 to 28

70

.300

29 to 41

80

.320

42 or more

 

As you can see, a 20 means basically unplayable and an 80 means contention for batting title/home run title. Tools are obviously future projection, not current level. Like some people, I also consolidate all of the tools into a total rating for a player, which can also be from 20-80. Anyone below a 40 is unlikely to make it to the major leagues. 40-49 is a likely bench player or second-division starter. 50-54 is an average player. 55-60 is an above-average player. 61-65 is a lower-level All-Star. 66-70 is a upper-tier All-Star. Anyone 71 or above has Hall of Fame level tools. Overall rating does take into account position - it also takes into account how injury-prone a player is and how likely they are to reach their ceiling. A player with great tools who is injury-prone and less likely to reach their ceiling is docked a bit in their overall rating. Basically, an overall rating is the average career path I think the player will attain, barring serious, unforeseen injury. That's about it - if you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments.

Catchers

General Overview: Since the graduation of OBP-oriented backstop Josh Thole to the big leagues, the Mets minor league catching depth has been seriously poor, and did not improve significantly in the 2011 Draft (with 14th rounder Xorge Carillo being the highest backstop taken). I'm higher on Josh Thole than a lot of you are, and I think that he could be a basically above-average starter at the position. He better be, because this farm system has a whole bunch of likely backups in it along with a few sleepers. Overall, most of the catchers in the Mets farm system (towards the top end, at least) are in the same mold - potentially good bats with below-average power and decent gloves. This type of player is pretty uncommon for a catcher - most catchers have below-average bats and potentially good power (see Forsythe, Blake). But anyway, on to the list.

1. Albert Cordero (ETA: Late 2013 to 2014)

The bright spot in the Mets organization is Albert Cordero, who displayed several above-average tools in the Sally League this year and largely backed up his solid performance in rookie-ball. Although Cordero started the 2011 campaign brutally, he rebounded a bit and Rob Castellano did a great write-up of him in a Prospect Spotlight, which can be found here. Cordero already possesses a strong arm and a solid bat, and surprising speed from a catcher, which helps a lot behind the plate. Ultimately, I don't think Cordero profiles as any sort of star, but he's the kind of player that can chug right along producing at a league-average or better rate. Right now, the most important thing for Cordero to work on is improving his unsightly 15-69 BB/K ratio (his swing runs long at times and I'm not sure that his approach at the plate is the best, even with the improvements he's made). Once he has that down, we might see him sooner than we think. Overall, I like his swing. Cordero has quick wrists and the ability to make solid contact with the ball. Some scouts see him as a guy with future above-average power, but I can't reconcile that with his need to improve strike-zone judgement. I could be wrong, though.

Major League Projection: Think Carlos Ruiz with less walks and a bit more doubles power at best, think a solid, replacement-level, defensive backup at worst.

Tools (bat/power/arm/glove/speed): 50 / 40 / 65 / 50 / 40

Overall Rating: 53

2. Juan Centeno (ETA: 2014)

The tiny (5' 9'') Centeno backed up Francisco Pena (who you will see later down on this list), and outperformed him in every aspect of the game. As you might project based on his frame, his speed is above-average for a catcher and he knows how to handle the bat and even bunted for a single. As a hitter, his major strength is his bat, and his power potential is likely limited by his small size and swing. At the plate, Centeno puts all of his weight on his back foot immediately and takes almost no uppercut. His swing reminds me a lot of Luis Castillo's from the left side. This could potentially lead to a lot of ground balls as opposed to line drives, but I'm not particularly worried about that for two reasons - #1, Centeno is fast enough (at least right now) to run out a lot of those ground balls, and #2, Centeno doesn't have the same mind-set that Castillo has. Castillo was actually trying to hit ground balls through the holes, whereas Centeno wants to hit the ball hard, right on the nose, and maybe hit a fly ball once in a while (instead of them being anathema as they were to Luis). In the AFL, Centeno is hitting .250 on the nose in 44 at-bats, which is pretty decent given the level of competition, and he's impressed with his defensive abilities as well (apparently, Centeno has both above-average tools behind the dish and a good arm). He'll get the chance to show his stuff at Double-A Binghamton next year, and if he develops a consistent .300 bat in the minors, he might have a chance to start in the majors.

Major League Projection: This is a hard one, as Centeno's skillset is quite unusual for a catcher. The closest comp I can think of off of the top of my head is Ronny Paulino circa 2006, with better fielding and baserunning abilities.

Tools (bat/power/arm/glove/speed): 55 / 30 / 55 / 55 / 50

Overall Rating: 50

3. Cam Maron (ETA: 2015)

Cam Maron? Who's that? Well, he's a Long Island-born Mets fan who won a Sterling Award as the best Met on the Kingsport affiliate. I've never seen him hitting and only had the vaguest sense of who he was coming into 2011, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the 20-year-old put up a 136 wRC+ in 248 at-bats for Kingsport (he had earlier put up similar lines in much more limited playing time). Much of his offensive production is OBP-driven (yes, yet another catcher that fits this mold), and reports indicate that while his defense isn't exactly great, it's not terrible either, as he threw out 24% of basestealers. One concern is that Maron's ISO was a mere .095 and his BABIP was an inflated .372, but young catchers with this kind of plate discipline haven't come around since... well, Josh Thole. Like Thole, Maron bats left-handed, and he shares a low-power, high-average and walks mindset. Maron will probably play in Savannah next year, and I'm interested in seeing how he adapts to high-A ball. At essentially the same age, Thole hit .267/.372/.311 at that level and had started to establish himself in the minds of the Mets brass. If Maron can match or exceed that performance, we might be looking at a guy who could contribute either in a backup or possible starting role. Don't get too excited though - if Maron's BABIP was a more reasonable .310, his batting average would be a barely-palatable .253.

Major League Projection: Josh Thole

Tools: too early to judge (and no video!), but Maron's best asset will likely be his bat, followed by his glove. The rest of his tools will probably be below average at best.

Overall Rating: 48

4. Blake Forsythe (ETA: Late 2014 to 2015, if at all)

Forsythe strikes out a ton and his power hasn't developed as expected since he was drafted in 2010. However, his defensive skills aren't bad and his plate discipline (12.9%) has been just good enough to mark him as a solid contributor in the pitcher-friendly Grayson Stadium. A 28.3% K-rate in A-ball simply isn't going to play in the majors, though. Right now, Forsythe looks basically like organizational depth, with maybe a couple of cups of coffee in the majors. I wouldn't go so far as to call 2012 Forsythe's make-or-break campaign, but it's his best chance to move up significantly in the eyes of the Mets. Right now, he looks like a bust.

Major League Equivalent: If everything comes together for Forsythe, he could be a Ramon Castro type

Tools: 35 / 50 / 50 / 40 / 40

Overall Rating: 41

5. Francisco Pena (ETA: N/A)

I never liked Pena's projection-only skillset, and Tony Pena's son has basically become a forgotten man in the Mets organization. Although the catcher wisely uses the terrific 'Chacarron Macarron' song as his warm-up music, his swing is long and he is fooled easily by anything resembling an off-speed pitch and also he is late on every fastball. He's old for the league, has warning-track power, and his bat is just putrid. I remember reading in 2009 that John Sickels said that Pena flat-out 'sucked'. At the time, I was willing to give Pena a free pass (due to him being a 19-year old catcher in high-A ball). The problem is that not only can Pena not take a free pass, he can't do anything (well, his arm isn't bad). He's got literally one more chance to turn it around before he fades into obscurity.

Tools: 30 / 35 / 50 / 45 / 30

Overall Rating: 36

ETA: He might make Double-A by 2013. I mean, he's been at St. Lucie (A+) for 3 years now and he's destined to go there a fourth time. At this point, he's organizational fodder. The only reason I'm including him on my top five is because I know absolutely nothing about the other three men who caught a significant amount in the Mets farm system, and because at one point I thought Pena might be decent. I was wrong.

Also maybe of interest: Jeff Glenn, who hit .255/.326/.408 in the Appalachian League. A ninth-rounder from Florida, Glenn might be poised to take a big step forward in 2012. I know almost nothing about him, but his ceiling is probably higher than most of the guys on this list. Neifi Zapata, who OBP'd just 2 points above his batting average in 2011, but has a fair bit of power for a young catcher. He obviously has some work to do with that swing, though. I don't like the leg kick and he's going to have a hard time catching up to hard or moving fastballs. Xorge Carillo, who's got an x as the first letter of his first name and thus stands to inherit the X-Man nickname last possessed by Xavier Nady. In all seriousness, Carillo's a guy to watch more closely in 2012, but I feel uncomfortable ranking him based on a bad-luck (.225 BABIP) short stint (104 PA) appearance in low-A. His peripherals would indicate that he's not completely worthless. Kai Gronauer, who is best known for being German, played solid defense and hit well enough as a 23-year old in A+ ball in 2010, but struggled in AA and is likely done as a prospect, doomed to struggle to become Mike Nickeas, who is clearly the fourth-string catcher of the future.

First Basemen

General Overview: It's a good thing that Ike Davis is going to be healthy in 2011, because first base in the farm system is manned by men too old to play in the league and still struggling or performing just adequately in it. Nick Evans, who can play first, mashed at Buffalo, while 32-year-old non-prospect Valentino Pascucci hit pretty well at the same level. Elsewhere, guys like Allan Dykstra or Joe Bonfe played well enough to hold down a job but not nearly well enough to earn a second look. Rather than give a full write-up to most of the first basemen, I'm just going to write a couple sentences for each, since none of them are really interesting enough to dedicate an entire paragraph to. (Sorry if you're reading this, Mets farmhands! You could certainly kick my sorry ass all around the ballfield.)

1. Cole Frenzel (ETA: 2014)

Cole Frenzel, a 7th round pick out of the University of Arizona, largely sucked it up with Brooklyn in 2011, hitting just .238/.321/.294. That's not what I'd like to see out of a college first baseman, but I like Frenzel's swing, which looks to me pretty fluid and sweet, without any real major holes in it. He's a big guy, but his swing is more line-drive oriented, with the ability to drive the ball to the gaps. I wish I had more video (I only got to see Frenzel once in 2011, where he impressed me) but I'm interested to see what Frenzel does at Savannah in 2012. Of the three men on this list, he's the only one that could eventually bloom into a starter. He's basically a bat-only prospect (with terrific plate discipline), though, so the bat's gonna have to be really good to carry the rest of his tools, which are average (arm and glove, although they should play well at first) to well-below-average (speed). If a major league comparison could be made, it would be Daniel Murphy with less positional versatility due to a lack of speed.

Major League Equivalent: Anyone old enough to remember Mike Hargrove as a hitter?

Tools: 65 / 45 / 45 / 45 / 40

Overall Rating: 49

2. Stefan Welch (ETA: 2013, if he outperforms Dysktra)

Welch, repeating A+ for the third straight year, had a pretty good year at St. Lucie as the everyday first baseman and has solidified himself as some pretty good organizational fodder. His walk rate spiked to 11.1% this year, he works deep counts, and hit .294/.403/.505 against righties, making him a potentially decent bat off the bench against northpaws. The Australian Welch will probably get a couple of cups of coffee to replace an injured player, but he's too old (he turns 24 next August) to really be an impact player in the bigs. He's going to get the chance to prove himself against tougher competition in Binghamton next year, and if he passes that test he could be a pretty good bench player for years.

Tools: 45 / 50 / 45 / 45 / 40

Overall Rating: 42

3. Allan Dykstra (ETA: 2013, if he outperforms Welch)

Allan Dykstra put up a very solid .387 wOBA at Binghamton last year. He also struck out 28% of the time there. Because Dykstra will probably never get the chance to play in the majors (at least not as long as left-handed bench bats capable of handling first base who won't strike out 40% of the time in the majors exist), his future likely lies as a AAA slugger. He's probably headed that way next year. I'd honestly rather see Welch in the majors as a last-resort injury replacement for Ike Davis, but neither would provide the same production as Nick Evans or probably even a Mike Baxter-type.

Tools: 40 / 55 / 35 / 35 / 40

Overall Rating: 38

Also maybe of interest: Luke Stewart and Ryan Hutson, professional baseball players in name only. Both 23 year olds failed to hit at all in the rookie leagues and are likely done as prospects. Sam Honeck, a 24-year-old who was OPSing .652 in Savannah when he was sidelined with a concussion, and was summarily replaced by Joe Bonfe, a 24-year-old who OPSed .645. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011 New York Mets first base prospects! To be fair, only the best hitters come into the system as first basemen. Most first basemen are good bats who are converted from other positions after the organization finds out that they can't cut it at shortstop or center field. Only players considered organizational fodder or those who are true plus bats are drafted as first basemen.

Coming soon: Middle Infielders, on Thursday

Coming later: Third basemen and center fielders, probably on Sunday

Coming much later: Left and right fielders, next Tuesday

Coming after that: Pitchers, probably on Friday. maybe Saturday

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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