It's a new year, which means it's time to update our annual prospect rankings here at Amazin' Avenue. The members of our prospect team, each with their own ranking methodology, have submitted their lists which we have aggregated and will begin to roll out today. 2015 was an excellent year for the farm system, with nine of last year's top 25 prospects either graduated, traded for major league talent, or selected in the Rule 5 draft—sorry, SAMBA.
As a result, the system is not as strong as it has been in years past but there are still a handful of 2016 major league contributors herein, as well as many potential mid-season trade chips. We'll begin our roll out of the top 25 with the last five prospects to make the list.
25. Thomas Szapucki, LHP
Height: 6'2", Weight: 190 lbs
Acquired: 5th round, 2015 draft
2015: GCL METS: 2.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
The scouting reports for Szapucki haven't changed since Alex Nelson wrote him up after the Mets drafted him in the 5th round of last year's draft because he didn't pitch much after he was drafted. He's a fastball/slider left-handed pitcher who sits in the low 90s and can run it up to as high as 95. The main concerns are a lack of a usable third pitch and a high effort, low three-quarters delivery. The most interesting things about Szapucki are the elite spin rates on his fastball and slider, which were measured by TrackMan at a showcase in 2014. For context, the spin rates recorded on his fastball and slider would rank at or near the top of a major league leaderboard for average spin rates. This is a good feature to have, particular on the fastball, because spin rates and swinging strike rates have been shown to have a high correlation. Szapucki will almost certainly start the season in extended spring training after which I suspect an assignment to Kingsport is most likely.
24. Raphael Ramirez, OF
Height: 5'11", Weight: 175 lbs
Acquired: 18th round, 2014 draft
2015: Kingsport: 120 PA, .216/.261/.333; 34.2% strikeout rate; 5.0% walk rate
Ramirez makes the top 25 based on his toolsy profile and projection as a potentially average major league regular. He is an excellent runner and gets good reads in center field, so there's a solid chance he will stick there long term. He also displays plus bat speed, which when combined with his athleticism leads you to believe he could develop some power down the road as he matures physically. It's going to take some time, as Jeff noted in his write-up of Ramirez late last year, but there aren't too many players in the system for which we can say there's a reasonable chance they'll become an average regular. Look for Ramirez to begin 2016 in extended spring training followed by an assignment to Brooklyn.
23. Harol Gonzalez, RHP
Height: 6'0", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired: IFA, 2013
2015: Kingsport: 65.1 IP, 68 H, 45 R, 36 ER, 9 BB, 56 K
Harol Gonzalez didn't put up the eye-popping numbers you would expect to see from a top prospect in a rookie league but he features three potentially plus pitches and good command, as evidenced by his 3.3% walk rate. We're leaning heavily on Jeff's scouting here again, but Gonzalez is a three-pitch pitcher (fastball, changeup, split) who, if he can hold his low 90s velocity later into starts, could develop into a potential back-end of the rotation starter.
22. Akeel Morris, RHP
Height: 6'1", Weight: 195 lbs
Acquired: 10th round, 2010 draft
2015: High-A St Lucie, 32 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 14 BB, 46 K; Double-A Binghamton 29.1 IP, 17 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 15 BB, 35 K; New York Mets 0.2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 5ER, 3 BB, 0 K
Morris is a fastball/changeup right-handed relief pitcher who sits in the low-to-mid 90s. He's posted some very good strikeout numbers in the minors thus far, although walks continue to be an issue. His ERAs in 2015 of 1.69 and 2.45 in High-A and Double-A, respectively, were quite excellent, so I would expect Morris to begin the year in Triple-A Las Vegas. He could very well be one of the first names called upon should the Mets need a reliever early in the year. I'll admit to not being very high on Morris, as is usually the case for me and pitching prospects who don't make it out of rookie ball as starters. That said, he is a likely contributor to the 2016 major league team and is prospect-eligible, so he makes the list.
21. Jhoan Urena, 3B
Height: 6'1", Weight: 200 lbs
Acquired: IFA, 2011
2015: 222 PA for High-A St. Lucie, 19 PA for GCL Mets, .222/.274/.302; 16.6% strikeout rate; 6.2% walk rate
It was something of a lost year for Urena, who came into the season as our number 14 prospect after hitting .300/.356/.431 as a 19-year-old in the New York Penn League in 2014. After an aggressive assignment to start the year in High-A and struggling to the tune of .229/.265/.289, Urena broke his hamate bone on May 22 and missed the entire month of June. He didn't make it back to the St. Lucie Mets until July 16, and he continued to struggle from there, hitting just .186/.240/.229. I don't want to hand wave the whole year, because he did struggle, but the injury really did interrupt his season and hindered his ability to adjust to the aggressive assignment. How to handle injuries when evaluating prospects is a tricky thing, and I wouldn't be surprised if this ranking looks rather silly come September. Looking ahead, I expect Urena to again spend most of the season in High-A, hopefully with better health and results this time around.