We continue our examination of the Mets' last decade worth of drafts to determine who would have made for the optimal first round picks, as well as who would have made for the most disastrous picks, had things played out a little differently.
In an effort to narrow it down to players who should have been on the Mets' radar at the time of their selection, only players taken within fifteen picks of the Mets' first round pick will be eligible for being considered the "optimal pick."
This is not a critique of the Mets' front office, but rather a fun exercise in hindsight and in examining what could have been.
2009 - No pick
With a pick awarded as compensation due to the Mets' signing of Francisco Rodriguez, the Angels selected Randal Grichuk 24th overall...but they then selected Mike Trout (!) with the 25th overall pick (compliments of the Yankees for signing Mark Teixeira), leading to an entirely different "what could have been" scenario.
2010 - Matt Harvey (7th)
Optimal pick: Matt Harvey (7th)
If you really want, you could argue that Chris Sale should have been the pick. But, seriously? Move along, nothing to see here.
It could have been worse: The Arizona Diamondbacks chose to draft Barret Loux, another right handed college pitcher, one pick ahead of where the Mets selected Harvey. The Diamondbacks failed to sign Loux, who is still toiling away in the minors, now in the Cubs' organization. The choice of Loux over Harvey may have been a franchise-changing decision for two organizations.
2011 - Brandon Nimmo (13th)
Optimal pick: Jose Fernandez (14th)
While Nimmo slowly climbs the prospect rankings and Fernandez works his way back from Tommy John surgery, this comparison doesn't seem quite as lopsided as it was a year ago. If Nimmo continues to develop into an on-base machine with solid defense at the major league level, he could close the gap between these two players. But even if he does reach his upside, it's extremely unlikely that he'll even approach the value of a healthy Jose Fernandez, who was one of the best pitchers in the game before going under the knife.
It could have been worse: Pitcher Taylor Jungmann, who was taken by the Brewers one pick before the Mets selected Nimmo, has yet to reach the majors and is still struggling in Triple-A at the age of 25. It's still too early to determine that any of the players chosen before Nimmo were decidedly inferior picks, but Nimmo over Jungmann seems like an easy call at this point.
2012 - Gavin Cecchini (12th)
Optimal pick: Corey Seager (18th)
2015 has been a revelation for the 21-year-old shortstop, who has hit Double-A pitching as well as - possibly better than - anyone could have hoped. The current consensus is that the Mets would have been better off drafting Lucas Giolito (16th), Corey Seager (18th), Michael Wacha (19th) or Marcus Stroman (22nd), but if Cecchini can maintain some of these offensive gains, he could reward the Mets' faith.
It could have been worse: Outfielder Courtney Hawkins, for whom many Mets fans had clamored, continues to strike out at alarming rates in the minor leagues. Cecchini is outhitting Hawkins, who the White Sox selected one pick later, while playing a position that has been a black hole for the Mets since Jose Reyes departed.
2012 - Kevin Plawecki (35th)
Optimal pick: Joey Gallo (39th)
You could make the argument that Plawecki is the safer pick, but he has really struggled this season in both Triple-A and in the major leagues. Given that the Mets seem set at catcher long-term yet lack high-upside offensive talents, most Mets fans would trade Plawecki for Gallo in a heartbeat.
It could have been worse: Corner outfielder Victor Roache, whom the Brewers selected seven spots ahead of Plawecki, has seen his strikeout rate climb to over 36% while repeating advanced A-ball at age 23. There is obviously still time for Roache to make improvements, but at the same age, Plawecki was taming Double-A and Triple-A at a much more valuable position.
The past decade has seen the Mets hit on some selections and miss on others, while most picks fell somewhere in the middle. The important takeaway from this exercise is that, while things could often be better, they can almost always be worse.