2012 Amazin Avenue Mets Top 50 Prospect List: #15-11

Back to the grindstone today as we round out our final names before we reach the coveted top ten, with nos. 15-11. Definitely some intriguing players today and I'd love to hear everyone's take on some of these guys. As always feel free to challenge me as it's always interesting to hear as many perspectives as possible.

For those that have missed them, you can catch part I ((nos. 50-41) here, part II (nos. 40-31) here and part III (nos. 30-21) here and part IV (nos. 20-16) here. We're going to finish this thing one of these days!

But enough of the pleasantries, let get into the rankings:

15) OF Matt den Dekker

Team League AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
STL FSL .296 67 267 54 79 19 8 6 36 132 24 65 12 5 .362 .494 .857
BIN EAS .235 72 272 49 64 13 3 11 32 116 27 91 12 5 .312 .426 .738
Minors
.265 139 539 103 143 32 11 17 68 248 51 156 24 10 .337 .460 .797

Going back to that same old point, the highly athletic 24-yr old 2010 fifth rounder is one of only a handful in the system with a nearly fully developed plus-plus major league skill right now. According to scouts his center field defense is gold glove caliber today; having watched quite a bit of him with Binghamton in 2011 that jibes completely with what I witnessed. The surprise however was his bat, namely his power. After profiling as a light-hitting, glove-first prospect at the time he was drafted, den Dekker posted a nearly .200 ISO at both St. Lucie and Binghamton in 2011. Beyond that he is the rare player who contributes in all statistical categories, posting double-digits in doubles, triples, homers and stolen bases last season.

The issue is that the same long swing from the left side that produced all those extra-base hits is also leading to a lot of strikeouts. More than a lot; in fact, den Dekker whiffed in a brutal 29% of his Double-A at bats last season, which even with a sustainable .305 BABIP pulled his batting average way down. Despite a very solid 8+ career walk rate, he will not have success at the highest levels with that amount of K's. Perhaps a change in approach is in order, less selling out for the long ball and more contact which is perfectly fine from a center fielder. Either way, while K's will always be an issue, if he can just bring them down to a more manageable level -- perhaps in the low 20's -- his solid on-base skills, athletic power/speed mix and sterling defense at a premium position give him the chance to be a major league starter in the mold of a Drew Stubbs. If not, he'll still make a quite valuable 4th-5th outfielder.

Dendekker_medium

14) C Albert Cordero

Team League AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
SAV SAL .286 104 385 38 110 15 2 6 44 147 15 69 1 1 .324 .382 .705

Obviously I’m a big fan of Cordero after his impressive 2011 season. Although, to be more specific I should say his wildly impressive second half. In fact, at the all star break the 21-yr old backstop was batting an anemic .219 with a .585 OPS and a K% nearing a brutal 23%. That’s when the Venezuelan native made some adjustments to his approach, utilizing a more conservative plan of attack at the dish. Suddenly he began making modest gains in walks while making much more significant cuts in strikeouts. This allowed his excellent natural power to begin coming through as his SLG rose each month as his K% fell. And while his all-around performance at the plate blossomed, his excellent defensive potential continued to shine through behind it. He would gun down 40% (24 of 60) base stealers while displaying excellent footwork/quickness.

Catchers have notoriously long lead times developing, yet Cordero is seemingly ahead of the curve. In just his first full season as a pro Cordero has already shown many of the skills to project as a big league regular. Now plate discipline will clearly always be something he must work at. In addition, at just 5'11", 175 lbs it is yet to be seen whether his surprising pop will become more gap-to-gap power at the highest levels. Yet, if he continues to develop at this rate his defensive proficiency and potent bat certainly fit nicely into the mold of a Carlos Ruiz/Yadier Molina-style big league catcher.

Why He's Here: I explained my style of ranking by saying that I’m placing values, not bets. Yet in the last ten I’ve admittedly taken two bets on guys that I like but who by all rights belong at least a little lower. The first was Lutz and in this case Cordero represents someone who I feel will really earn this ranking in the coming season. Perhaps the Mets complete dearth of catchers has colored my opinion a bit but I do feel that in many ways, his superb growth in 2011 and his enviable overall package of valuable skills and ability justify the aggressive bump, at least in my own mind. This sort of development is exciting at any level, even more so when you consider that it was from a catcher in his first go at A-ball who was actually young for the Sally League and playing in a poor hitting environment. Obviously I place a lot of value on a potential homegrown major league average catcher, as they come around so very rarely. And hey, what’s a prospect list without at a bet or two?

Cordero_medium

13) RHP Cory Mazzoni

Team League W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO GO/AO AVG
BRK NYP 1 0 0.00 6 1 0 0 0 6.0 5 0 0 0 2 10 1.00 .238
STL FSL 1 1 2.57 6 0 0 0 0 7.0 7 4 2 1 1 8 0.63 .250
Minors
2 1 1.38 12 1 0 0 0 13.0 12 4 2 1 3 18 0.73 .245

The Mets' 2011 second round selection out of NC State signed just early enough to get his feet wet in pro ball, pitching in six games for the Cyclones as well as St. Lucie. In that short time he showed why many are excited about his future and why many -- like BP's Kevin Goldstein -- consider him a breakout candidate going forward. That's because the 22-yr old Mazzoni is the rare college pitcher that blends refinement, results and top shelf stuff yet was still on the board beyond the first round. First and foremost, Mazzoni's fastball reaches into the mid-90's -- touching 97 mph. Then pair the fact that he features pinpoint command and you're already talking about a very interesting talent. He also features a decent curve/splitter mix that is inconsistent but developing.

However, to be able to nab such a talent so late he of course must have flaws. Despite very good velocity he is known for a rather straight fastball. As our own Alex Nelson pointed out, his 3/4 delivery and lack of great height (6'1") precludes much downward movement, allowing hitters to get under his ball well. That's the whole reason behind the eight homers and the subsequent 3.32 collegiate ERA in 2011 despite dominant H/9 (.213 opp avg), K/9 (10.8) and BB/9 (2.26) marks. The 12 wild pitches look odd too. This is why some project Mazzoni as a late-inning reliever long-term, which would allow his fastball to play up in short stints. Either way, Mazzoni has the right mix of athleticism, arm strength and refinement to move quickly through this system regardless of his role. And with better coaching and more reps I'm optimistic that he'll be able to move up the ranks projecting nicely as a mid-rotation starter, though I'd like to see that growth before placing him in the top ten.

12) RHP Michael Fulmer

Team League W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO GO/AO AVG
MTS GCL 0 1 10.13 4 3 0 0 0 5.1 9 7 6 0 4 10 2.50 .346

Much like I group Pill and Verrett together due to similar ceilings/stuff, I group Fulmer along with the aforementioned Mazzoni in terms of overall ability and ceiling. Fulmer was the Mets 2011 supplemental selection (44th overall) in exchange for losing Pedro Feliciano to the Yankees. Drafted out of an Oklahoma high school, it cost the Mets just short of $1M -- well over MLB slot -- to sway Fulmer's strong commitment to the Univ. of Arkansas. Like Mazzoni, Fulmer signed just in time to get a little seasoning, though he was less successful in his four appearances with the GCL Mets. However, he too features a low-to-mid 90's heater and an advanced slurve for a prep product. Though like most prep pitchers his change-up lags far behind.

But unlike Verrett and Pill, Fulmer and Mazzoni have some bigger differences. Namely, the two are four years apart; and at 18 Fulmer certainly has some more time for growth. Additionally, at 6'3", 200 lbs the room for some projection is certainly there. Don't be surprised to see the OK City product add a couple ticks to his fastball before all is said and done. He also doesn't feature quite as much command, though again most high school pitchers don't. Basically, Fulmer features a similar -- if somewhat rawer -- overall package to Mazzoni though with more room for growth long-term, meaning a slightly higher ceiling -- a major league no. two if all works out. But just as youth/inexperience works as a positive, it also works against Fulmer in the sense that any teenage pitcher represents a tremendous amount of risk based on distance from the majors alone. That fact keeps him out of the top ten for now, but with a little bit of success the strong-armed righty could easily change that by the end of 2012.

11) SS Wilmer Flores

2011 Season
Team League AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
STL FSL .269 133 516 52 139 26 2 9 81 196 27 68 2 2 .309 .380 .689

2011 Offseason Leagues
Team League AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
MAR VWL .301 41 133 16 40 6 0 2 10 52 17 26 2 0 .382 .391 .773

The 20-yr old Flores drops nine spots on this list -- and right out of the top ten -- for the simple reason that he didn't hit enough in 2011. Though I suppose that warrants a bit more discussion. Specifically, it has become clear by now that his defensive home will not be shortstop. This puts additional pressure on his bat to improve a lot in order to play to a position where more offense is expected, be that third base, left field, etc.* However, not only did he not improve a lot, he didn't really improve at all, which isn't really good even if he wasn't moving to left field.

Year (Level) BB% K% ISO XBH%
2010 (A/A+) 5.4 12.9 .135 8.4
2011 (A+) 4.8 12.2 .110 6.6

As you can see, he didn't regress -- at least not when you figure he played a full season at Hi-A instead of a half season in 2010. Instead he just looked like the same guy as 2010, which isn't ideal from any young player that hasn't yet reached his peak, let alone someone that needs to improve quite a bit. Now he's shown some things this winter -- namely much better plate discipline -- with his club in the VWL. But I've found that the more stock you place in winter league stats, the more you're going to find yourself disappointed. At this point there's too much good talent at the top of this system to continue to put such high hopes in the 'age vs level' prospects. That may have flown with guys like FMart and Gomez back when the system was weaker but not now. Especially lacking any plus-plus tool, now Flores needs to hit to earn his place. And to this point he's shown that he's an unathletic, rather slow player who can indeed make good contact but shows average at best power, a stagnating hit tool and may be able to handle third, if we're lucky (according to some scouts). In other words, a trumped up Danny Valencia.

The good news is that there is a road map in place for Flores to be better than that. I mean the list of 19/20-yr olds that have posted such respectable numbers in the pitching-friendly FSL -- or SAL for that matter -- isn't exactly long; I know I hated on the 'age v. league' stuff but it does carry at least some weight. And as I mentioned, his central strength at this point is the ability to make contact, which with additional strength can easily translate to harder contact, more power and with some luck better plate discipline. It's all feasible, though how plausible? That's a complete judgment call based on how much you buy into Flores. I'm going to be honest and say that having watched him enough I do see him taking a step forward with the bat in 2012, at least in the power department; enough to make up for the upcoming defensive move though? All I know is that when placed in the context of a new position the future definitely starts to feel murky, but it'd look a whole lot clearer if he'd just hit some more in 2012.

*People -- most recently the SNY Why Guys -- have supposed a move to second base for Flores based on his appearance there in the VWL. Yet, second demands nearly as much lateral quickness as short and so if he's not close to sticking there then he's probably not a good fit for the keystone either...at least not if you want some semblance of good infield defense. Once again, don't put too much stock into what happens in winter league baseball; it is a unique scenario where players from all levels are mashed together to form the best unit for that given 2-3 month period, with little or no regard to growth or development of the individual.

________________________________________________________________

Compiled Top 50 Mets prospect rankings:

11. SS Wilmer Flores

12. RHP Michael Fulmer

13. RHP Cory Mazzoni

14. C Albert Cordero

15. CF Matt den Dekker

16. 3B Zach Lutz

17. 3B Aderlin Rodriguez

18. RHP Akeel Morris

19. LHP Darin Gorski

20. OF Cory Vaughn

21. 3B Jefry Marte

22. RHP Domingo Tapia

23. SS Phillip Evans

24. SS Wilfredo Tovar

25. RHP Collin McHugh

26. OF Darrell Ceciliani

27. SS Danny Muno

28. LHP Josh Edgin

29. LHP Jack Leathersich

30. LHP Juan Urbina

31. RHP Erik Goeddel

32. RHP Chris Schwinden

33. RHP Josh Stinson

34. IF Robbie Shields

35. LHP Mark Cohoon

36. RHP Brett Pill

37. RHP Armando Rodriguez

38. RHP Logan Verrett

39. SS Juan Carlos Gamboa

40. SS Bradley Marquez

41. RHP Taylor Whitenton

42. RHP Greg Peavey

43. RHP Luis Mateo

44. RHP Rafael Montero

45. C Cam Maron

46. RHP Nick Carr

47. LHP Robert Carson

48. OF Travis Taijeron

49. OF Gilbert Gomez

50. RHP Ryan Fraser

51*. OF Javier Rodriguez

52*. RHP Brad Holt

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