We’re into the late rounds of the draft for our review, and at this point I switch over from full reports to shorter capsule-sized analyses. Why? The odds of any of these players providing any kind of value is slim. Not impossible but slim. I should note that while pitchers will occasionally make an impact, for the position players, it is nearly impossible to do much more than dent a big league roster.
Since 2000, the Mets have had two players drafted this late sign with the team and make the big leagues. To date those players have played a total of 25 games: Joe Hietpas (one game) and Juan Centeno (24 games), both catchers and very, very marginal ones at that. If you go back ten years further, other marginal talents emerge: failed catcher Mike Jacobs (-2.4 career bWAR), first baseman Earl Snyder (19 career games), catcher Jason Phillips (-1.7 bWAR), outfielder Benny Agbayani (1.3 bWAR), catcher Vance Wilson (3.8 bWAR), and outfielder Ricky Otero (-0.9 bWAR).
In 25 years, the Mets have found a grand total of eight position players (four of them catchers), and only two players made a positive impact as bench players. In still other words, teams are pretty good at identifying position players early and do so. Expand the criteria to round ten, and things barely improve (and improve only because of Daniel Murphy and Josh Thole, the latter of whom has been worth a whopping 0.2 WAR over his career).
Keep in mind: if a player is signable and fell this far, there’s a reason.
Round 21: Taylor Henry
Henry is a left-handed pitcher from Centenary College of Louisiana, a Division III school. The Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference’s pitcher of the year despite only making two starts, Henry had a mammoth season, posting a 1.59 ERA while striking out 85 hitters over 62.1 innings of work. Henry isn’t the first Centenary pitcher the Mets have drafted: they also found Seth Lugo there in 2011.
Athletically built at 6-foot-2 and 185, Henry appears to rely upon deception to get hitters out, throwing from a low three-quarters arm angle. I don’t have a scouting report or even a velocity report, so we’ll have to see how he looks once he arrives at Kingsport.
Round 22: Nick Blackburn
Blackburn’s another college reliever who is 6 feet, 2 inches, and 185 pounds. However, unlike Henry, he’s a righty and he faced Division I competition, attending the University of Illinois, where he was an effective pitcher in 2015. He threw just 85 innings over his three-year career for the Illini but transitioned to the closer’s role after top pick Tyler Jay moved to the starting rotation.
Blackburn’s stuff is solid: he throws a 90-92 fastball with some sink to it thanks to his three-quarters arm slot, but his best pitch is a mid-to-upper-80s cutter that he’ll bury on the hands of left-handed hitters. He’ll also mix in a slurvy curveball and a potentially average changeup. It’s not really a swing-and-miss arsenal, but one geared toward generating weak contact.
With a long-ish arm action, it seems unlikely that Blackburn has a chance to be anything more than a reliever, and he may be better off trying to improve his draft stock by returning to Illinois for a senior year. A good season could make him a signability draft pick in the top five rounds of next season, which will still provide him with more money than the Mets will be dangling here.
Round 23: Kenneth Bautista
Bautista is a big (6-foot-3, 210 pounds), power-hitting product out of a Puerto Rican baseball academy. He has a very good arm and would make a good right fielder, but he’s a poor athlete who might not have the foot speed to handle an outfield position at all. That would confine him to an infield corner position, and if the team could make him work at third, they should consider it. That said, he won’t be good there, and it’s more likely he ends up at first base.
If he ends up at first base, he better hit. He certainly has the chance to, showing above-average bat speed and raw power, but a very simple, yet still disjointed, swing often robs him of in-game power. There’s very little hand load and an often flat swing path, and although the swing is very rotational, it’s often poorly timed. Sometimes he does a good job of keeping his weight back before contact, but other times it’s already forward and he swings off his front foot. He has similar problems with his hips, which will occasionally open far too soon.
Even if he can get his timing down, he’ll still need the plate discipline and pitch recognition to make everything work and provide enough contact to generate the offense needed to overcome his defensive deficiencies. If all of that happens, you can see a 20-plus home run hitter, but those are a lot of ifs when discussing a 23rd-round pick. Bautista has already signed for $80,000.
Round 24: Jordan Verdon
Verdon is a prep third baseman from a San Diego high school, and he’s interesting, but unfortunately there isn’t much chance of him signing.
Verdon’s a long-limbed, 6-foot-2-inch, left-handed bat with plenty of power projection. Right now, he’s chiefly a gap-to-gap hitter, but there’s hope that as his frame fills out and he learns to leverage his body to a greater degree that he could develop power to all fields. His swing is a little too long, and not fully rotational yet, but if he learns the ceiling could be pretty high. Scouts do like his patient approach at the plate and willingness to hit the ball to all fields.
As for his defense, I think he has a fair chance at sticking at third. His arm strength is above average, and he’s pretty nimble out there. Even if he gains weight, I think there’s enough range that he’ll still be a third baseman.
Like I said, I expect him to pass on the Mets and fulfill his San Diego State commitment. He’s a classic position player who should go to college, hone his skills, and hope that he improves enough that at one point he could go in the top five rounds. The raw potential is there, but the skills are far enough away that he’s probably not a big enough priority to be awarded a big bonus at this time.
Round 25: Dylan King
King’s stock shot up this spring when his velocity jumped from the low 80s to 92 following a six-inch growth spurt. The Murfreesboro righty is just 180 pounds, so he might have quite a bit of projection left, and his continued development will be something to watch no matter where he ends up. As I said, the fastball regularly creeps above 90 these days, and although he doesn’t have very much in the way of secondary stuff right now, he should take to a curve and changeup.
With a commitment to Belmont, King might be signable for a reasonable amount of money, but whether the Mets will have enough money left in the coffers is a different matter.