Our 2013 minor league season in review series nears completion now as we take a closer look at the Double-A Binghamton Mets. For a higher level look at the club and more on their up-and-down 2013 campaign, check out our affiliates overview. However, here we'll take a more player-centric look at the various prospects that played in Binghamton last summer -- and there were plenty:
The 24-year-old former 14th-rounder out of Ike's alma mater is interesting in the same vain as a Juan Centeno: He's a very capable defender behind the plate who has shown he can put the barrel on the ball a little bit, though with little to no power to show for it. He also isn't quite as gifted defensively as Centeno. Don't put too much stock in his strong showing down in winter ball; however, following his .296/.350/.352 line in 36 games for the B-Mets it's fair to say Xorge can still hold out hopes for a career as a potential second to third-string backstop if the balls keep bouncing the right way.
The good news is that after a number of injury-marred campaigns the 23-year-old outfielder set a career-high in games played in 2013. The not-so-good news is that in those games he did not look like a future major league regular as he hit just .263/.322/.380 despite a .341 BABIP. His plate discipline also continued to erode and he exhibited further difficulties against southpaws. Additionally, despite the 31 stolen bases he's not a slam dunk to play center field at the major league level. The speedy lefty profile may have some value off a major league bench; however, Matt den Dekker likely has that role covered on the Mets for the foreseeable future.
Allan Dykstra, 1B
We all know the story with the 25-year-old former first-round selection of the Padres: Stalled in San Diego's system, swapped for Eddie Kunz, and now does the three true outcomes thing extremely well in Double-A -- and 2013 was no different. The big lefty knocked a team-leading 21 home runs -- good for third-best in the Eastern League -- while also pacing the circuit in walks (102) and on-base percentage (.436) for the second-consecutive year. He also finished fourth in strikeouts (123) on his way to a hefty 25% strikeout rate.
Look, I'm not going to say that this guy is the future at first base. What I will say is that based on the extreme power/patience profile I don't think it's going out on a limb to say that if given the opportunity Dykstra could maybe replicate Lucas Duda -- perhaps with a lower average but more consistent power. Not the highest bar, but I think everyone would agree that Duda is an asset. That said, Dykstra is clearly in that unfortunate minor league purgatory that's extremely tough to break free of -- where a prospect may have missed his window, he becomes old for his level thus it's hard for him to get back on the map regardless of production. For that reason -- and again, the existence of a guy like Duda -- I don't see it happening with the Mets sans a rash of injuries, but the guy has the ability to help a major league club in some capacity.
The 24-year-old played moderately well for Binghamton in 2013, batting .249/.384/.379. In short, the former eighth-rounder continued to showcase his trademark superb plate discipline along with solid defense up the middle. Muno's high-walk, low-strikeout approach fits nicely into the organization's overarching offensive philosophy. The downside is that there aren't a ton of tools to speak of as the 5'11" infielder doesn't pack a lot of punch nor is he blessed with great speed. He also doesn't feature the strongest hit tool so he'll ride the BABIP waves meaning that the patience will be the lynchpin going forward. In short, while he doesn't profile as an everyday player it's not hard to see Muno hanging around for a few years as a backup middle infielder and switch-hitter off the bench with some useful offensive skillsets -- not unlike a Justin Turner.
The polarizing outfielder was nothing short of dominant in 2013, taking the the Eastern League by storm in his first exposure to Double-A baseball. The 22-year-old posted an outstanding .326/.403/.547 line along with 16 home runs and 24 stolen bases in 91 games. If that wasn't enough, he also posted the best walk rate of his career (7.4%) while bringing his strikeout rate down to more manageable levels (21.8%). Needless to say a .391 BABIP isn't sustainable so don't expect a .330 average going forward -- but it does indicate a guy that was stinging everything he saw. In short, Puello was one of the best performers in minor league baseball regardless of what unnamed sources may or may not have to say. For reference, Pittsburgh's equally toolsy 22-year-old uber-outfield prospect Gregory Polanco batted .263/.354/.407 in his first go-around in the Eastern League in 2013. Puello was a stud for Binghamton -- and still somehow managed to make himself even more polarizing.
That's because he was suspended in August due to his complicity in the Biogenesis scandal. So the question now is how do we reconcile that information alongside what he did on the field in order to formulate a reasonable analysis of the player? Do we write off the performance? Do we turn a blind eye to the PEDs? It's a tough call -- and mitigating factors make judgment even tougher: For one, Puello has never had a season like this one, struggling to actualize his top shelf tools every season prior. Further, his hapless, 41-game performance in winter ball (.200/.252/.261, 5 walks vs. 30 strikeouts) introduces yet another conflicting data point -- despite that team's position that he was just rusty.
That said, there is no right or wrong answer with Puello. If someone legitimately feels he's a non-prospect -- presumably based on the fact that PEDs drove his only standout season -- that's defensible. Conversely, one can point to the longstanding major league toolbox and the subtle growth in years past to label his 2013 the genuine article. I tend to fall closer to the latter, as we've heard time and time again that PEDs are no substitute for the kind of tools that Puello possesses. I still do harbor serious concerns about his ability to play everyday at the major league level; but those relate more to his suspect plate discipline and the potential that it could very easily short circuit his burgeoning power bat against more advanced pitching. It's clear that Puello will help a major league team; but to what extent is entirely in the eye of the beholder at this point.
Travis Taijeron, OF
The 24-year-old slugger remains in the prospect discussion thanks to one thing: power. His ability to drive the ball stacks up with just about anyone in the system. He posted his second-consecutive .250+ ISO in 2013, knocking 14 home runs in 65 games for the B-Mets. In terms of the rest of his game, he features a surprisingly patient approach, regularly posting walk rates in the 10% range, and he's a strong corner outfield defender. Unfortunately, the tradeoff for all that power is in the strikeouts; he posted a career-high 29.5% strikeout rate in 2013. For this reason the ceiling is likely a righty 'power off the bench' option, but his strong patience may sustain hopes for a Scott Hairston-type career.
Mets fans got a taste of the Wilfredo Tovar experience last summer when he was called up for a brief, seven-game cup of coffee to end the season. And what exactly is that experience? The same thing it has been for years: nifty defense and a contact-oriented singles approach at the plate. In fact, there's very little new evidence to report from Tovar's 2013 as he batted .263/.323/.340 in 133 games for Binghamton -- which is pretty much what we'd expect from the diminutive 22-year-old. What it does tell us is that the kid is a legitimate major league player. The upside is lacking thanks to a Ruben Tejada-like toolbox; but the glove will play at one of the two most important defensive positions on the field -- and that's enough for a career as a cheap, back-up middle infielder. And who knows; perhaps if his plate discipline continues moving in the right direction, in seasons where the BABIP fairy favors him he may look like a decent second-division starter.
Cory Vaughn, OF
The high profile former fourth-rounder has seen his star fade over the past couple years as the flaws in his game have begun to outweigh the strengths. The draw of a versatile corner outfielder featuring a much-coveted power/speed game is still intact; the 24-year-old managed double-digits in both home runs and stolen bases for the fourth-consecutive season. However, his power took a step back in 2013 while his strikeout rate went from bad to alarming at 26.4%. His patience at the plate remains strong and his well-rounded profile means that he'll remain an intriguing option; but with the mechanical holes in his swing beginning to bear out in the numbers it's becoming clearer that he'll likely fit in as a fourth outfielder at the major league level.
The 25-year-old former 29th-rounder out of South Carolina is one of a number of moderately compelling long-term LOOGY options bubbling up through the system right now. Like any good pitcher whose ceiling is a LOOGY, Bennett is short in the way of stuff. His heater mostly lives in the mid-80s while his sweepy slider won't get mistaken for a plus offering anytime soon. The good news is that for a lefty that slings it from a three-quarters arm slot that's enough to have success against other southpaws. He bested lefties to the tune of a .489 OPS with one home run in 2012; he topped those marks in 2013 allowing a stellar .375 OPS with zero home runs against lefties in 2013. The fact that he only just reached Double-A at age 25 tells you about the stuff; it's going to be an uphill battle to continue retiring upper level hitters without one average major league caliber offering. That said, Pedro Feliciano just completed a very serviceable campaign doing just that.
Chasen Bradford, RHP
After three solid stops in the low minors the 2011 35th-rounder out of Central Florida had something of a breakout campaign in 2013, posting an eye-popping 0.71 ERA in 20 games out of the Binghamton bullpen. The good news is that a season like that in Double-A firmly plants him on the prospect radar as a legitimate middle relief candidate. The not-as-good news is that the 24-year-old righty wasn't appreciably different than he's been in past seasons in this his 'breakout' season (see, 3.24 FIP). In fact, he actually saw his strikeout rate come down a decent amount while his walks ticked up a bit.
The explanation is that he probably benefited from a decent amount of good luck vis a vis the .240 BABIP. For a guy that generates a lot of groundballs, that means they were finding a disproportionate amount of leather. That said, he went out a posted a 0.00 ERA in the Arizona Fall League so who the hell knows. In terms of stuff he doesn't light up the radar gun, working the heater around 90-92 MPH, but he makes his bones on a very strong slider which he works in the mid-80s. While we probably shouldn't expect another sub-one ERA, even the more standard, less lucky version of Bradford is still a very solid pitcher who can still be considered viable homegrown bullpen depth by late 2014, early 2015.
The 25-year-old was solid for the B-Mets in 2013, posting a 4.37 ERA in 25 starts while striking out nearly a batter an inning. His walks crept up a bit this year (9.9%) which paired with 14 longballs explains for the slightly inflated ERA -- though he still managed to hold opposing batters to a .265 average. At 6'3", 185 lbs the long, lanky righty features major league stuff that even flashes plus at times including a fastball that has been known to tick into the mid-90s, though works much more regularly in the low 90s. In addition, he has a very well-developed secondary repertoire -- including one of the better curveballs in the system. For that reason he's never exhibited consistent platoon splits and he's always been able to generate plenty of swing-and-miss, however he's a decidedly flyball pitcher.
In short, Goeddel has the kind of stuff to retire major league hitters, but likely lacks the kind of physicality to start every five days. For that reason, expect to see one of the newest members of the 40-man get a shot out of the Mets bullpen at some point in 2014, a role that will allow him to maximize his stuff and likely flourish. One of the better gambles in the Mets recent draft history, this former 24th-rounder could easily join the rising crop of young relief arms that will stabilize the bullpen for years to come.
It was a very strange 2013 for the 25-year-old former ninth-rounder, who followed his so-so 2012 in Binghamton by getting shelled in his brief exposure to Triple-A only to dominate in a repeat appearance at Double-A. In fact, after posting a 6.69 ERA in four appearances in Las Vegas the 6'4" lefty posted an outstanding 1.71 ERA in 13 starts back in Bingo -- allowing an incredible .165 opponent average and just a single home run in 73.2 innings. Additionally, he continues to feature virtually no platoon split thanks to perhaps the best change-up in the entire system.
Still, questions remain about the viability of his stuff against upper-level hitters. After opening eyes with a couple extra ticks on his heater over the past two seasons, the fastball seems to have settled back into the high-80s range -- obviously enough for Double-A but not enough against better hitters. The lack of a true swing-and-miss offering paired with flyball tendencies compounds the problem. The level of his efficacy in 2013 kept him on the radar; but his advanced age and mediocre stuff put him in danger of following the path that Mark Cohoon has blazed in recent years and the lack of a platoon advantage means that a fallback option as a reliever isn't great bet.
Chase Huchingson, LHP
After a very strong year in Binghamton the 24-year-old has already justified the club's initial investment considering his humble beginnings. In fact, it's not often that you see a former undrafted free agent dominate any aspect of the game so thoroughly in his first exposure to high level baseball -- as Huchingson did in 2013. The converted college outfielder took to his first bout of full-time relief work exceptionally well posting a stellar 1.60 ERA in 45 games out of the B-Mets bullpen, holding lefties to a .125 average with zero longballs.
The long, 6'5" lefty doesn't generate the kind of velocity you'd hope for with his size -- likely a product of his unconventional beginnings on the mound. But he makes the most of a high-80s fastball and slurve combo thanks to a true sidearm delivery as well as some added deception thanks to lots of arms and legs. The red flag for Huchingson going forward will continue to be sometimes shaky command -- an issue that likely won't affect the results until he reaches the show (see, Josh Edgin). Additionally, his 2013 ended prematurely when he tested positive for a drug of abuse for the second time -- warranting a 50-game suspension that will leak into 2014.
Adam Kolarek, LHP
The Mets 11th-round draft pick in 2010 out of the University of Maryland continued his promising climb through the system with perhaps his very best season in 2013. The big-bodied lefty posted a 1.71 ERA in 44 games out of the Binghamton bullpen, allowing a .204 opponent average and just three longballs all season. Kolarek likely features the best stuff of the Mets current LOOGY crop, boasting a fastball that he can push up to 93 MPH. That said, he utilizes rather up-and-down mechanics and a somewhat over-the-top delivery which can lessen his impact against fellow southpaws. The good news is that, like fellow hard-throwing lefty Jack Leathersich, Kolarek has had plenty of success against righties which helps his chances to star as a crossover reliever -- though like Leathersich he needs to watch his command. The 24-year-old also scuffled in a brief trial at Triple-A, though he's shown a clear pattern of slight adjustment before experiencing extended success at pretty much every level thus far.
The 2011 second-rounder out of NC State had an up-and-down 2013 -- much like he has for most of his professional career. Mazzoni posted a deceivingly high 4.36 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) for the B-Mets, which was supported by some very strong peripherals -- not to mention a 2.70 FIP. While he continued to hit his spots, walking just 6.7% of batters, he posted a stellar 26.2% strikeout rate -- which was over a 10% improvement from the mark he posted in his Double-A debut in 2012. Specifically, he seemed to gain a lot of traction down the stretch as he struck out eight or more batters in four of his final seven starts, twice reaching double-digits.
The problem is that the 24-year-old continued to battle minor injuries throughout 2013, missing time due to elbow as well as knee ailments. The slim, 6'1" righty has yet to prove that he can hold up to a starter's workload as a pro -- which may not be a big problem looking ahead to 2014. Going forward it sounds like the Mets will finally begin transitioning Mazzoni into the bullpen, a role where his low-to-mid-90s fastball and developing slider will likely play up and hopefully injuries become less of a concern. Mazzoni will likely audition for a role in the Mets bullpen this spring and could very easily join the club when they break camp.
The 2011 fourth-rounder made just four starts in 2013 before a shoulder injury shut him down for the rest of the summer. Specifically, it was a Bennett lesion, which required surgery and has a rehab period of four to six months. What is that you ask? According to Radiopaedia a Bennett lesion is a "mineralization of the posterior band of the inferior glenohumeral ligament as a result of extra-articular posterior capsular avulsion injury." So yeah, we'll look forward to seeing the soft-tossing righty again in 2014.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP
There's not a ton left to say about the Mets latest blue chip pitching prospect and the sudden jewel of their farm system. In 11 starts for Binghamton the 21-year-old posted a 3.00 ERA along with 69 strikeouts in just 54 innings -- though it's worth noting that his ERA doubled in his final start of the season where he looked gas, allowing nine runs in three innings. The home run ball bit him a little more in Double-A than in the past (again, he allowed three in his final start), but it's hard to fret too much over a guy that held opponents to a .226 average and struck out nearly five batters for every walk in his first look at the level. In short, Syndergaard's statistical track record is outstanding, surpassing even the baselines set by the club's two other young studs before him.
The big, strong, 6'6", 240 lbs righty dazzled scouts all season with a blend of stuff and command that doesn't come around often. With a heavy fastball that regularly works in the high-90s -- often flirting with triple-digits -- as well as a premier power curve, there were some nights that opposing lineups just didn't stand a chance. The club as well as Syndergaard himself have highlighted his change-up as an area for improvement; however, he already shows enough feel with the pitch to project plus potential. It's relatively easy -- and at this point, downright reasonable -- to imagine Syndergaard alongside Harvey and Wheeler to form a three-headed monster of right-handed size and stuff the likes of which could instantly transform the Mets into a very tough out in just about any short series they find themselves in for years to come. They'll start the top prospect in Triple-A this spring, though with a player like Syndergaard it's only a matter of time before he forces their hand with one extended run of dominance.
The 2011 third-round selection out of Baylor had a solid year for Binghamton in 2013, posting a 4.25 ERA in 24 starts in his first exposure to Double-A hitters. Not surprisingly, his middle of the road repertoire didn't allow for the flashier ERAs that he posted in A-ball; however, the skills continued to look good, including a strikeout rate that actually ticked up above 22% while the walk rate remained at a very impressive 5,3%.
In short, while the the 23-year-old Texan makes a serviceable starter in the high minors, he sports a profile that will look a lot more viable coming out of the bullpen. In fact, one would hope that the so-so fastball that generally works around 90-91 MPH may tick up a bit in shorter bursts while the slider is already a potential swing-and-miss offering at the major league level. In fact, I would expect Verrett the reliever to resemble Chasen Bradford quite a bit in terms of profile, hitting his spots with a moderate fastball and relying heavily on the slider to put hitters away. While the club likely leaves him in the rotation as long as possible, don't be surprised if Verrett's long-term trajectory aligns with the upcoming wave of homegrown major league bullpen depth.
Jeff Walters, RHP
The 25-year-old Walters doubled down on the gains he had made in recent seasons and staged a breakout campaign in his first look at Double-A in 2013. In 53 relief appearances the hard-throwing righty posted a 2.09 ERA while setting the Binghamton club record for saves in a season with 38. What's more, the former seventh-rounder out of the University of Georgia continued to hone his excellent command while striking out nearly 27% of the batters he faced. In short, Walters is the perfect example of the often sought after but rarely found projectable college arm that developed a little more in the way of velocity and stuff after being drafted. At this point he features a mid-to-high 90s fastball paired with a strong slider that gives him a chance to be a mainstay of the Mets bullpen for years to come -- and now that he's on the 40-man don't be surprised if that tenure begins right out of spring training.