It's that time of year again. The minor league seasons have wrapped up, the Arizona Fall League is in full swing, and prospect writers everywhere begin to turn their attention towards making lists. Last year I did a more comprehensive report on each prospect I saw in 2013 at the end of the season. This year since I was writing up most of these guys as I went along, I will include just some additional notes and that all-important ordinal ranking. If I wrote a fuller report on a player, the link is in their name.
We will keep the usual disclaimer:
This is a ranking of the best Mets prospects I saw in person this year. This is not a comprehensive Mets prospect list. I did not see Las Vegas, St. Lucie or the GCL team this year. If a player is not on the list, it is most likely because I did not see him. Otherwise, all rankings are roughly consistent with how I would order the players within the Mets system right now, although that may change between now and when I actually lock down my 2015 list. Oh yeah, I am not a scout.
20. Chris Flexen
Flexen went under the knife this summer for Tommy John surgery and will miss most of 2015. This is a serious setback, but he started the 2014 season at 19, so it's hardly a death knell for his pro career. I saw him in April for Savannah, and it was a bit of a mess. The culprit is a complicated, crossfire delivery. Flexen has a high, long leg kick that he really extends out as he heads toward home plate, much like Gabriel Ynoa. He then lands towards the third base side of the mound and throws across his body. Unsurprisingly, he showed all the strengths and weaknesses associated with those kind of mechanics. It lends him a bit of deception, but he struggles to repeat it and consistently finish, leaving his low 90s fastball flat and up. Flexen did show a potential plus curve, and one that featured a more consistent release point than the fastball. He's probably a reliever long term, but there's still a bit to dream on here.
19. Jared King
I pegged King as a sleeper coming into the 2014 season, but the results on the field didn't quite vindicate me. It wasn't a bad season all in all, and he probably did enough in St. Lucie after missing time with a broken foot to earn a 2015 assignment to Binghamton, but he looks more like a tweener type than he did in Brooklyn last year. King put on about twenty pounds over the offseason and while it's not all bad weight, the added thickness has affected his range to the point where he projects as more of a fringy leftfielder than a potential once-a-week guy in center. There is still a polished college bat here with a strong approach, but there isn't enough power here to carry an everyday corner profile.
18. Luis Guillorme
Guillorme is the best defensive shortstop I have personally scouted. There is of course a caveat here: The vast majority of games I see involve Mets affiliates, so I don't get to see a wide pool of talent. For example, I didn't get to see Francisco Lindor this year (which frankly is a bad job by me). I didn't see Andrelton Simmons in Danville or Hak Ju-Lee anywhere. But let's work with what we have. Guillorme projects as a plus, borderline plus-plus shortstop at the major league level (65 grade glove). More impressively, he does this without a howitzer for an arm (though it's enough for the position) or much in the way of speed (he's slower than Wilfredo Tovar, for example). But he makes up for these deficiencies with the best instincts and actions I have seen at any minor league level. As much as we prospect writers will rush to wax poetic about an impressive BP session, Guillorme taking infield is quite the show in its own way as well. In game action, he's impressive even on the plays he doesn't make. Several times in my look I saw him just come up short on no-doubt up-the-middle singles, or keep balls on the infield he had no business getting to. In the most impressive "non-play," Guillorme ranged from his position shifted over to the first base side of second to about 300 feet up the left field line on a pop-up. How he beat the leftfielder there is a separate issue, but Guillorme just missed making a sliding backhand grab on, again, a play he had no business getting near.
The plays he did make in my look were fairly routine, but even on those Guillorme demonstrated some of the quickest, smoothest actions I have seen, showing soft hands and a lightning-quick transfer. He was very comfortable around the bag, and despite his lack of straight line speed, he gets excellent breaks on balls off the bat. Guillorme's baseball instincts appear preternatural at times. He back-picked a guy at third during a rundown between first and second. It's a play that takes both the physical skill to make that throw across the diamond against his body, plus the balls to even consider attempting that with one out. I especially like that second part in my shortstop. In short, Guillorme does the shit you can't teach. He can try to do a bit too much at times, and will have to adjust to the faster game speeds at higher levels, but I have little doubt of his ability to handle that.
Now that kind of defensive profile doesn't last until the tenth round of the draft without questions about the bat. Guillorme's swing has improved from the pre-draft reports and videos. He is physically stronger now, which has allowed him to cut out his exaggerated pre-swing movements, and he's shorter to the ball once he starts his swing. He generally tried to slap the ball through the 5.5 hole, but he does still have to cheat a bit against better velocity, which can leave him exposed against soft/spin even at this level. Guillorme did drop a perfect drag bunt during my look, and is a smart, hard-nosed baserunner despite his below-average speed. I'd feel a bit better about the offensive profile if I thought he could beat out a few more of those grounders to the right of the shortstop, but he can probably still get stronger without sacrificing speed/range, and he's made solid offensive gains in his pro career so far. Guillorme is also a true baseball rat and gets outstanding makeup grades from myself and others. It's very difficult to project a guy as a major leaguer this far away just on the strength of his glove, but if I were to bet on any player on the Kingsport team to at least get to Double-A, he is my pick.
17. John M. Gant
It's not a surprise to me that Robert Gsellman wished he had Gant's change in his recent Amazin' Avenue AMA. Gsellman had a front row seat for it all season, and it was one of the most effective pitches in the system in 2014. Also warrants mentioning that he already has a pretty decent change himself. Ranking Gant ahead of Bowman will probably be a bit controversial even outside of the Society for the Advancement of Matt Bowman Appreciation (SAMBA) that is the AA minor league comment threads. Certainly Gant features a more advanced change-up than Bowman (I also think his curve, while presently an inconsistent offering, projects to be better as well), but both are right-handed starters with below-average fastball velocity and some quirks in their delivery. Meanwhile, Bowman has passed the Double-A test, a big one for this profile, and is much closer to providing major league value. I suppose I could just say that there isn't much of a difference between 17 and 23 on this list, which is true, but also a copout. I just like Gant's chances of being a backend major league starter better, and I think they can still wring more velocity out of his frame and mechanics.
16. Ivan Wilson
There is a case for Ivan Wilson to be much higher on this list. There is a case for Ivan Wilson to be nowhere near this list. The major league track record for players who struck out 47% of the time is rookie ball is...uh...non-existent. But man, if I thought he would hit even .240 at the major league level, he's a slam dunk top-five prospect in the system. Every other tool projects as plus. Wilson is a premium athlete who can run, throw, and already shows some instincts for centerfield. I'd go as far to say that I like him in cente more than Nimmo. The raw power is the party piece here. It's easy plus-plus and only lags behind Aderlin Rodriguez's in the Mets system. Wilson's a strong kid for sure, but he also gets absurd loft and carry out of his swing. In batting practice even his easy swings carried, and every ball he made contact with in game action went at least 350 feet. He hit three bombs, including one to the opposite field, and belted two more to the warning track.
Unfortunately, in my look those were the only times he made contact. In the three games I sat on Kingsport, Wilson went 3 for 9, with three bombs, a walk, and four strikeouts. His swing features a deep hand load coupled with a wide stance, so everything can get a bit long and he'll struggle with his balance, but those are hardly dealbreakers in the Appy. The bigger issue is pitch recognition. Wilson looked helpless against any kind of spin, even the well-below-average stuff you typically see in short-season ball. It looks to me like he's just guessing at the plate. If he guesses right, he absolutely obliterates baseballs, but you can never guess right enough. And troublingly, pitch recognition is not a tool or even something you can really project. With that in mind, Wilson very well might not even get out of A-ball, but that 1-in-100 chance he figures it out forces me to slot him in here, because there may not be a player with more upside in the system.
Up next: Another toolsy centerfielder with some swing-and-miss and the most difficult arm in the system to evaluate