In a Mets system flush with exciting talent, it’s easy for skilled prospects to get lost amid conversations about the organization's biggest stars. Whether it’s due to injury, need, position, or focus on another player, experts and fans can look past certain prospects a bit too soon. Let's look at five of the most overlooked prospects in the entire Mets farm system, forgotten-about players that could still bring something valuable to the team.
Prospect mavens will surely recognize the names here, but fans more interested in the big club and top prospects can expect to see some surprises here.
The Mets selected Michael Fulmer in the supplemental first round of the 2011 draft, and the big righty proved his worth right out of the gate. In his first full season of pro ball, Fulmer posted a stellar 2.74 ERA, with 101 strikeouts and only 38 walks for Savannah. But after tearing his meniscus during spring training the following year, he fell off the prospect radar and became an afterthought behind more impressive Mets pitching prospects like Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard.
Even considering his lost 2013 season, Fulmer is still one of the more exciting arms in the Mets' system. In his 2014 return, he sported a solid 3.97 ERA and walked only 31 batters with the St. Lucie Mets, eventually earning a promotion to the B-Mets before a shoulder strain ended his season in August. While the Oklahoma native allowed far too many hits in 2014 (118 in 98.2 innings), there’s nevertheless a lot to like about this former top-100 prospect. His fastball still reaches 95 MPH and his put-away slider has the potential to be an above-average major league pitch.
If Fulmer can stay healthy and continue his success with Double-A Binghamton in 2015, there’s no reason he can’t earn a promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas by season’s end and become a number-three starter or a valuable trade chip for the Mets as soon as 2016.
After posting a mediocre 4.39 ERA and giving up 56 hits in 53 innings for the GCL Mets, it wasn’t surprising that Marcos Molina didn’t make many top prospect lists before the 2014 season. But after dominating the New York-Penn League in 2014, he has vaulted himself into the conversation as one of the best arms in the entire Mets system.
In 76.1 innings pitched with the Brooklyn Cyclones, Molina easily paced the NYPL with a stellar 1.77 ERA and 91 strikeouts against only 18 walks, an outstanding 5.1 K/BB ratio. Furthermore, the Dominican phenom allowed only two ome runs and finished the year with a superb 0.84 WHIP, even more impressive when you realize that Molina is only 19 years old.
Considering Molina’s recent success and a fastball that can reach 96 MPH, the 2012 signee is certainly a Top-10 prospect in the Mets’ system. While it’s not hard to get excited about Molina’s 2014 performance, the righty’s first exposure to full-season ball in 2015 will be a big test of his organizational standing. He has been overshadowed by the Mets' incredible pitching depth, but if his power arm can carry 2014’s success into next season, Molina may challenge Steven Matz for the coveted title of the Mets’ top pitching prospect by the end of 2015.
The seemingly never-ending debate among fans and writers between Lucas Duda and Ike Davis during the 2013 offseason led prospect lovers to pinpoint Jayce Boyd, a sixth-round pick in 2012, as a future option at first base for the Mets. After Lucas Duda enjoyed an excellent 2014 season, though, Boyd disappeared from the prospect map.
Despite the lack of attention, Boyd enjoyed an excellent season with Double-A Binghamton, demonstrating the polish in his game that made him a college star at Florida State. In 477 plate appearances this past season, Boyd hit a solid .293 with eight home runs and 59 runs batted in. Furthermore, the first base prospect had an impressive .382 on-base percentage and .796 OPS despite being almost two years younger than the average Eastern League player.
The issue with Boyd has never been his overall offensive production, but rather how it fits with his defensive profile. You simply can’t play first base in the majors without power. However, it’s far too early to judge his in-game power, a tool that’s often the last to develop in young prospects. For example current Mets first baseman Lucas Duda exhibited similar power issues in his 2009 season with Binghamton. Duda knocked seven more doubles, and Boyd had a slightly better batting average, but otherwise these two stat lines are extremely similar.
While Boyd will likely never reach same power numbers as Duda, Duda’s struggles to hit home runs in the minors show that there is no reason to be overly concerned about Boyd’s power output right now. The Mets should not be depressed by Boyd’s .293/.382./.414 batting line, because it signals a rare combination of excellent contact ability and an excellent eye, two qualities that the Mets would love to have on their big league roster. And as Lucas Duda shows, the power may come for Boyd, which would instantly put this underrated prospect back on the map.
In an era where dominant relief pitching is becoming more and more essential for big league success, it’s surprising that right-handed fireballer Akeel Morris hasn’t garnered more attention as an elite prospect in the Mets system. Morris began his professional career as a starter in 2011, but even after toying with New York-Penn League batters with a pristine 1.00 ERA in 2013, it was clear the young righty’s future would be in the bullpen.
In 2014, for the first time in his pro career, Morris did not start a single game. The results were excellent: a minuscule 0.63 ERA and a spectacular 14.1 K/9 rate. Morris also demonstrated that he has made progress with his past control problems by posting a career-low 3.5 BB/9 in 2014, which should allow the 2010 draftee to capitalize on a hard fastball and devastating curve.
His 2015 transition into the upper minors will be a huge step towards a potential big league future, but the right-hander’s overpowering performance during the 2013 and 2014 seasons show that it’s time to pay attention to a prospect who could become the next elite relief pitcher in Queens.
Drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 MLB Draft, center fielder Champ Stuart has a chance to become an impact bat and defensive star in the Mets lineup. Even though the young outfielder plays stellar defense and has stolen 40 bases in his first 124 professional games, the Bahamas native has generated surprisingly little buzz for such a talented prospect.
From a tools perspective, it’s all there for the Stuart. He has a solid build, plus-plus speed, a strong arm, quick hands, and decent power, astounding for a 21-year-old kid. And while Stuart has batted a pedestrian .251 in his first two pro seasons, his solid .359 on-base percentage and .703 OPS perfectly fit the speed, defense, and patience approach that the Mets emphasize today.
Despite his impressive array of tools, Stuart still needs to refine his swing in order to sustain success in the upper minors and ultimately the big leagues. Quick hands give him a compact stroke, but his long leg kick makes the big righty vulnerable to sharp breaking pitches. Right now, Champ Stuart is more athlete than ballplayer, but few players have the ability to contribute as much as Stuart can to a ball club if he reaches his full potential. Look for continued development as the outfielder faces more advanced pitching in 2015.