In organizing this year's draft content, I didn't want to preview players the Mets could pick. When the Mets picked tenth last year, there were about 20 candidates to preview. But picking 53rd, that number jumps up closer to 100. So I gravitated away from my usual draft preview content. But I didn't want to leave you totally in the dark, so here are four players I’d be looking at if I were the Mets.
Keep in mind these things: First, they have very limited funds to play with, and I do not think it reasonable to imagine them going above slot with the pick; furthermore, I think it wise to go under slot, so you can spread the savings around later on. Second, because of that, and due to my limited knowledge of high school players’ signability, I’m skipping those players altogether. And third, this is assuming nobody cheap and interesting falls who I’m not expecting to fall. In other words, I’m playing it pretty safe with these picks.
The other night on the Amazin’ Avenue Audio podcast, Jeff Paternostro asked me who the Matt Reynolds pick at 53 for the Mets would be. My answer was Mikey White, Alabama’s shortstop who I think will probably still be there for the picking. Louisiana-Lafayette’s Blake Trahan might also qualify here, but I might prefer White, who has a simpler swing and will likely provide a similar overall package.
White is a smart player who does a little bit of everything, but a lack of tools probably hurts him in the end. His best work is done at the plate, where he brings a simple, rotational swing with a slight vertical hand load. He generates good bat speed, and he’s strong enough to provide the occasional home run. On top of that, he has an excellent approach, spraying line drives to all fields.
Unfortunately, it’s in the field where he suffers. He has below average foot speed, and that lack of quickness will likely inhibit his range to the extent that he ends up at second or third instead of short. I’m not quite sold that he can’t play short, just that he’d be limited in his effectiveness there, because the arm strength is fine, and he looks nice and fluid in the field.
Furthermore, he draws high marks for his makeup. Actually, I will be interested to see who goes first: Trahan or White. Trahan is a better athlete and has better bat speed, but, he too, will likely be moved off short for different reasons, and his swing is downright busy. If I were a betting man, I’d bet Trahan gets picked first, but like I said, I don’t see much to differentiate the two.
It’s tough finding a pitcher with upside this late in the draft. Most of the college pitchers you’ll see taken at this point are proven college producers who might be too short on stuff to succeed at the professional level, and even if they make it to the big leagues, they can’t be expected to contribute as anything more than a fourth or fifth starter.
Iowa righty Blake Hickman is an affordable college junior, and there’s a chance he’s something more than just filler. Tall and durable-looking at 6-5 and 210 pounds, Hickman is still learning the pitcher’s craft. In 2012, he had been drafted by the Cubs as a catcher, but he didn’t sign, and last year Iowa, impressed by his throwing arm, let Hickman pitch. This year they moved him into the rotation. His arm strength is well above average, showing consistent 90-93 velocity while topping out at 97. His breaking stuff is unrefined, and I’m not sure anyone’s seen a changeup out of him. But I don’t hate how the arm works, and there isn’t much mileage on it.
Hickman’s more of a lottery ticket than you’d typically like, but if you want upside at 53, you need to go with a lottery ticket. And I should point out that just because the Mets found success with a former college infielder-turned-pitcher by the name of Jacob deGrom doesn’t mean all conversions from the field to the mound are successful. And even if Hickman does make it, right now he looks far more likely to succeed out of the bullpen than in the rotation. Either way, he’ll need more time than most college pitchers do.
North Florida outfielder Donnie Dewees is a draft-eligible sophomore, and they typically do have more leverage than most college draftees, so his signability is something of a question. But that said, I do think he’ll sign for roughly slot in the second round.
I’m not in love with his swing. He’s a little too busy, and he has one of those weird toe taps where he points his front foot inward, but Dewees has some incredible bat control, and he actually led the nation in base hits this season. Unfortunately, in part because of his weird swing, he doesn’t really get his lower body involved enough, so his power potential is limited despite some natural strength. Instead he mostly just throws his hands at the ball, but some excellent hand-eye coordination, to go along with quick wrists and a selective approach at the plate, gives him an uncanny ability to put bat to ball. He also brings plus speed to the table.
In the field, he plays center for the Ospreys, and there’s a chance he could stay there as a pro. He certainly has the speed for it. Unfortunately, he has a noodle for an arm, and he might end up in left as a result. Still, the combination of the speed with the hit tool, makes Dewees an intriguing option.
So I lied about only looking at college players. Smith has a commitment to Georgia, and I really don’t know how signable he is, but I suspect a slot bonus at 53 would be more than enough to get him to sign. If he were signable he’d be another player with the potential to bring some upside to the Mets’ draft class.
At 17, Smith is very young, one of the youngest players in the draft. There are wildly differing opinions of Smith’s tools: for instance I’ve seen him listed as both a plus runner and average. So a lot of this is going to come down to what teams love him and what teams don’t. If he does, in fact, have plus speed, then it’s possible to imagine him staying in center, even as he continues to fill out his 6-foot-2-inch frame. If not, he’ll end up in right, where he should have enough arm, but there will be more pressure on his bat to produce.
At the plate, there are questions about how much he’ll hit. He has excellent bat speed, and when he connects the ball can absolutely jump off the barrel. And his swing is pretty compact, with a simple hand load from a slightly vertical position that gives his swing path some nice loft. An occasional bat wrap can make it hard for him to square up on the ball properly, and a high leg kick can cause him to commit to his swing too early. Pitch recognition is going to be extremely important for him, and I'm not sure it's reasonable to expect him to hit .250. But he certainly has time to learn, which makes him a very interesting option at 53. Of course, if the Mets fall on the side of the conservative assessments of his tools, then they might have him placed a lot lower on their board.