With the completion of Jeff's excellent 2013 eyewitness account series, it seems the right time to delve into our annual minor league season in review—another series where we'll take a player-by-player look at the season that was around the Mets farm system. For a more affiliated-based review of the 2013 season—including final records, storylines, etc—take a look at our recently-posted overview.
As always, we'll pretty much exclusively be looking at the prospects and players of interest on each club. Additionally, we'll go from the bottom up, reserving our analysis to U.S.-based action. And that means that after a brief, one-year hiatus, we'll be starting with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Mets:
(NOTE - All photos in this piece provided by Bryan Green)
Wuilmer Becerra, OF
The just-turned 19-year-old was one of the most clamored-about prospects in the system following the trade that brought him over from Toronto in exchange for R.A. Dickey. Unfortunately, he reminded us just how raw a teenager can look, posting a 30% strikeout rate in one of the lowest levels of professional baseball while not often exhibiting the skills to let his extreme athleticism play. That said, Becerra's 6'4", 190 lbs frame still makes scout drool and the potential for a five-tool, impact outfielder at the highest levels is still alive and well. His nearly-10% walk rate is an encouraging sign that the pitch recognition is coming along, and though it didn't appear in games, the raw strength still portends for power down the road—though the lack of game-changing speed defied earlier reports. In short, lottery tickets take time.
Luis Guillorme, SS
The Mets tenth-round draft pick in 2013 is known for one thing, a spectacular glove. Scouts in southern Florida labeled the prep product the human highlight reel—and for good reason. The Venezuelan-native has all of the makings of a plus defender at the very highest levels of professional baseball. Yet, the fact that he still dropped to the tenth round tells you all you need to know about the rest of the package. To call him light-hitting is an understatement—and the 5'10", 170 lbs frame is pretty much tapped out in terms of projection. The ceiling here is a lefty version of Wilfredo Tovar.
Branden Kaupe, 2B
At a mere 5'7", we knew it was going to be an uphill battle for the club's 2012 fourth-rounder. And to this point, he's pretty much succumbed to the downfall of most diminutive players—meaning he can't hit for power. He literally did not collect one extra-base hit in over 40 games in 2013. Pretty incredible. He also hasn't showcased the kind of premium speed he would need to make himself interesting despite the lack of punch, nor does he possess the kind of hit tool to project as a pure average guy. The one thing he can do is walk, having posted crazy-good walk rates of 22% and 18% in his first two seasons. Even so, the lack of performance (see, career .193/.356/.205 line) AND projection at this level of the minors doesn't bode well. It was a strange pick at the time and at this point it seems fair to say it was an outright whiff by the Mets draft brass.
Vicente Lupo, OF
Perhaps the most anticipated promotion to domestic baseball in the system in 2013 belonged to Vicente Lupo—and unfortunately he left Mets fans wanting with a highly disappointing campaign. After a colossal 2012 where he showcased one of the most effective, well-rounded offensive attacks that we've seen on the DSL Mets in quite some time (.343/.500/.608, 10 home runs, 46 walks:45 strikeouts), the 19-year-old foundered in his first exposure to any semblance of advanced pitching, reminding us why DSL stats are always to be taken with more than just a couple grains of salt.
After scuffling to open the campaign by batting .182 in June, he was never really able to right the ship— finishing the year at a .220/.310/.385 with just nine extra-base hits all season. Perhaps the most disappointing turn was the regression of his previously strong plate discipline; while he maintained a good 10% walk rate, his strikeout rate ballooned to a preposterously high 39.7% —something that bears watching as a potential black mark that will short-circuit success at even the lowest levels of pro ball. While it's silly to write off 19-year-olds with good offensive toolsets, but it's certainly prudent to temper expectations quite a bit.
Dominic Smith, 1B
The Mets first-round selection in 2013 quickly justified his standing by posting a very strong professional debut. Touted as perhaps the best pure hitter in last summer's draft class, the 19-year-old Smith lived up to expectations by showcasing a very sweet swing from the left side, complete with good power, strong contact skills, and most of all superb plate discipline. In fact, beyond his impressive .301/.398/.439 line, Smith's 12% walk rate led the Gulf Coast League while he managed a solid .120 ISO with the Mets. Scouts marveled over his offensive ability and openly project a potential middle-of-the-order bat—with a glove to match at first base.
In short, Smith was a breath of fresh air for a system that has weathered uninspiring debuts from each of their last two top picks—likewise a pair of high school hitters. Though it's obviously very early, Smith has indisputably shot to the top of the list of solutions for the Mets long-term dearth of impact positional talent.
Jhoan Urena, 3B
Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $425,000 in 2011, Urena stepped out of the shadows of some of the bigger name IFAs and began generating buzz as one of the more advanced hitters on this team in 2013. Though the stats are merely the tip of the iceberg in rookie-ball, the 19-year-old switch-hitter posted a very solid .299/.351/.376 line—belying a good line-drive approach from either side of the plate. While his bigger build begs questions about his lack of home runs and defensive home, Urena made enough of an impact on scouts last summer to nab a spot on BA's GCL sleeper list.
Ivan Wilson, OF
In the mold of teammates Vicente Lupo and Wuilmer Becerra, the 18-year-old Wilson boasts some of the most impressive tools in the low level of the Mets farm system—but also some of the rawest. The 35% strikeout rate can attest to the lack of polish that the Louisiana prep product currently possesses. However, the athleticism is real and it's spectacular, justifying the third round draft pick that the Mets spent on him. In fact, there was draft buzz that the Mets may have obtained in Wilson the most impressive physical specimen in the entire draft. The outstanding raw strength alone has many projecting big power long-term to go along with a very strong outfield arm and speed enough to begin his career in center. Re-read the earlier note about the ETA of a lottery ticket.
Octavio Acosta, RHP
At 6', 165 lbs, the Mexican-native is undersized—especially for a righthander. Additionally, as a 22-year-old he was old for the level. That said, he made himself at least slightly intriguing by striking out 40 batters in 43 innings versus just eight walks. The 2.28 ERA and .201 opponent average didn't hurt either. His final two starts of the summer came across the PSL complex for the St. Lucie Mets—and though such moves are more often based on convenience than merit, it does indicate something of a pat on the back for a strong campaign in 2013. Plus, I sort of think he looks like Ruben Tejada.
Andrew Church, RHP
The club's second overall selection in 2013 didn't necessarily light up the stat sheet in his professional debut. In fact, the Nevada prep product was downright atrocious, posting a 5.91 ERA with just 19 strikeouts and a ridiculous 49 hits allowed in 35 innings pitched (.336 opp. avg.). However, once again it's important to remember that, especially for someone as raw as Church, the stats are essentially inconsequential at this point.
That maxim holds true for most 17-year-old pitchers, but is especially meaningful for a kid like Church who didn't really have a ton of high-level innings under his belt coming into the season. Seemingly ill-advised high school transfers led to issues of eligibility that limited his on-field exposure. That said, the Mets wouldn't have given him $850,000 if he didn't have the makings of an impact pitcher; scouts loved his potentially plus hammer-curve and his fastball ran as high as 95 MPH. The raw stuff is there for the club to sculpt one of the rawest players you'll ever see into a high-level pitching prospect—even if it takes the better part of the decade to do it.
Caser Meisner, RHP
The Mets took another raw, highly projectable high school pitcher in Meisner with their third overall selection in 2013. His 6'7", 190 lbs frame oozes projectability. He flashes similar top-tier stuff as fellow high draft pick Andrew Church and possesses a similar impact ceiling. The 17-year-old from Texas has regularly featured a fastball in the low-90s, though like most long-limbed pitchers he's had issues repeating his delivery—which cuts into velocity. His change-up and curve also both show good promise, but require a lot more polish before they can become reliable secondary offerings. Despite a solid 3.06 ERA in ten starts in the GCL, Meisner has a long way to go in his development. Another lottery ticket here.
Keep your eyes open over the next couple of weeks as we journey further into the 2013 season that was in the Mets minor league system!