It’s that time again! Amazin’ Avenue will formally be unveiling our Top 25 Mets Prospects list for 2017. Each member of our prospect team has submitted their own list, based on his own ranking methodologies, which we aggregated into the official Amazin’ Avenue Top 25 Mets Prospect list. Without further ado:
25. Cameron Planck, RHP
Height: 6'3", Weight: 210 lbs.
DOB: 3/15/99 (18)
Acquired: 11th round, 2016 Draft (Rowan County High School, Kentucky)
Though he had a verbal commitment to attend the University of Louisville, the Mets were able to sign Cameron Planck in mid-July, giving him a $1,000,000 signing bonus, against a recommended slot of $100,000. The team spent months attempting to woo the Kentucky native, and despite being rebuffed after trying to work out a pre-draft deal with him, their dogged pursuit eventually paid off. The highly-regarded right-hander doesn’t have much physical projection left in his body, but at 6’3”, 210 lbs., he already has the physicality of a starter. His fastball sits in the low 90s, and has been clocked as high as 96 miles per hour. He complements the pitch with a soft mid-80s curveball and a changeup, both of which are still in development. Planck's delivery has a lot of moving parts, with flailing arms and legs. The added deception makes it more difficult for batters to pick up on the ball, but it has also made it difficult for him to consistently repeat his mechanics, leading to an inconsistent release point that diminishes the effectiveness of his pitches.
Greg Karam says:
Planck’s placement on the top 25 is scouting the radar gun plus a blank canvas. You could do worse at this part of the list, though. Planck is a big kid who has touched 96 and has an idea of how to spin a breaking ball. It’s a cliché, but time will tell if our ranking will be as prescient as our placement of Thomas Szapucki in this spot a year ago.
Lukas Vlahos says:
The fastball is nice, but the mechanics are beyond inconsistent and the secondary pitches aren’t really there. That’s pretty much the standard high-risk, potentially-high-reward high school pitching prospect. Planck has prototypical starter size and is close to fully physically developed, something I hope will make refining his mechanics easier. Szapucki was down in this range last year, but so were guys like Max Wotell and Blake Taylor at one point.
Cameron Planck was one of my favorite selections in the 2016 draft, and that the Mets felt justified giving the 10th-rounder a $1 million signing bonus gives me hope that what I—a formally untrained amateur—thought I saw in the right-hander might be real. Planck has a very solid base to work with, and the organization has had a lot of luck developing pitchers in the same mold as him, giving me hopes that in a few years, he will be a meaningful major league contributor.
24. Ricardo Cespedes, CF
Height: 6'1", Weight: 200 lbs.
DOB: 8/24/97 (19)
Acquired: IFA, 2013 (Dominican Republic)
2016: Kingsport (Rookie): 56 G, 241 PA, .322/.356/.379, 1 HR, 7/14 SB, 17.9 strikeout rate, 3.7 walk rate
One of the youngest players to sign a professional contract during the 2013-2014 international signing period, Ricardo Cespedes excelled at all aspects of the game in 2016. With a clean, line-drive swing and solid speed, the young Dominican was a base-hit machine all season, ending the season with a .322 batting average. He was one of three players eighteen or younger—along with Christian Pache and Alex Kiriloff—to hit .300 or better. Optimally, the youngster shows slightly more in-game power—he ended the 2016 season with 65 singles, 4 doubles, 3 triples, and 1 home run—and plate discipline, but at 19 years old, he has plenty of time to develop those aspects of his game. Defensively, Cespedes shone as well, and his presence in center field was a boon to his teammates and a bane to opposing hitters all season. His speed, arm strength, and instincts are more than ample for him to remain in center field for years to come.
The Mets signed Cespedes for $725,000 out of the Dominican in 2013. He is allegedly an athletic center-fielder with a good swing, and his results in Kingsport were decent this past season. He remains just 19 years old, which means there’s some upside to dream on.
Queue up a second offseason of jokes about the Mets still having a Cespedes in the outfield. The 19-year-old repeated rookie ball last season and improved, increasing his BABIP and launching his first professional home run. Judging this sort of prospect based on stats is usually pointless, however.
Ricardo Cespedes does not do any one thing great, but he does multiple things well, and I’m a fan of players whose baseball profiles are broad—especially with players as young as Cespedes. Maybe he adds a little weight and increases his power totals. Maybe he gets better at reading routes and becomes a better center fielder. Maybe he develops his situational awareness on the basepaths and becomes a moderate stolen base threat. Because there is so much projection in a player like Cespedes, there are so many different ways to dream on his development.
23. Harol Gonzalez, RHP
Height: 6'0", Weight: 170 lbs.
DOB: 3/2/95 (21)
Acquired: IFA, 2014 (Dominican Republic)
2016: Brooklyn (Short-A): 14 G (13 GS), 85.0 IP, 69 H, 20 R, 19 ER (2.01 ERA), 17 BB, 88 K
Harol Gonzalez made some major refinements to his pitching repertoire during the 2015-2016 offseason, Those changes paid major dividends, as the diminutive Dominican nearly won the New York-Penn League pitching triple crown, ending the season first in ERA and strikeouts, but third in wins with seven. Thanks to a slender frame that does not project to fill in much, Gonzalez has a fringy fastball, sitting in the upper-80s and touching 90 MPH only a handful of times per game. The pitch has good life, and he shows excellent command of it, hitting all four quadrants of the strike zone at will.
Gonzalez complements it with a variety of breaking offspeed offerings. His slider has good tilt and has the potential to be an average offering with more consistency. His curveball has 11-to-5 drop but tends to flatten in higher-leverage situations, as Gonzalez has less time to concentrate on throwing it perfectly. The right-hander throws two different changeups, a normal one at 79-81 MPH and a “split changeup” at 83-85 MPH that features more fade and drop. His command of both variations of the pitch is poor, and limited speed differential between them and his fastball limit their effectiveness. Gonzalez is a cerebral pitcher and highly regarded in the clubhouse, and he is better than the sum of his individual parts.
It’s fun watching Harol Gonzalez pitch. He has a full arsenal of pitches, and sharpening those offerings will be the goal between now and the end of next season. The other issue to watch will be where he is sitting in terms of velocity. Reports were mixed this year, but if he settles in the low 90s, he’ll be one of the more exciting prospects in the system heading into 2018.
Still channeling his Pedro Martinez Jr. look, Gonzalez moved up to Brooklyn and pitched well in 2016. The size questions will remain indefinitely, and that coupled with a mediocre fastball makes this a very reliever-ish profile. That being said, there are several recent major league starters that have survived with a bad fastball, so there’s some hope.
He has a big hill in front of him to climb before he can even sniff MLB success, but if there’s anyone in this organization worth rooting for, it’s Harol Gonzalez. From his swagger on the mound, to his delivery, to his kitchen sink arsenal, it was just fun sitting in on games where he was starting. His upside is limited due to his physical attributes, but as the season went on and he began chasing Brooklyn Cyclone records, I found myself getting more exited about his starts than practically anyone else in the minor league system—including players ranked much higher on this very list. He doesn’t have much room to fill out, and his mechanics are sound enough, but if the right-hander could find himself a few extra MPH somewhere, he’d be viewed in a very different light.
22. Jeff McNeil, INF
Height: 6'1", Weight: 165 lbs.
DOB: 4/8/92 (24)
Acquired: 12th round, 2013 Draft (California State University- Long Beach)
2016: Binghamton (Double-A): 3 G, 14 PA, .250/.357/.583, 1 HR, 1/1 SB, 7.1 strikeout rate, 14.3 walk rate
Coming into the 2016 season, Jeff McNeil was making some buzz as he showed up to camp noticeably heavier, having added muscle mass to his frame over the offseason. The infielder got very little time to demonstrate whether or not the additional muscle would improve his game, as he developed a hernia three games into the season and never got back on the field in 2016. As a result, not much has changed about McNeil’s profile, other than the tantalizing potential for additional power, always his biggest offensive weakness. His swing is smooth and direct to the ball, leading to line drives with a bit of pull-side power. He doesn’t walk at a particularly high rate, but he has a keen awareness of the strike zone and is able to lay off of pitches outside of the zone and foul off tough pitches until he can get something to drive. Second base is where he profiles best at, but thanks to a solid-average arm and athleticism, he can also play third base and shortstop in short stints.
Love me some Jeff McNeil. He bulked up last offseason and went on to crush the ball in 2016, finishing the season with a .583 slugging percentage. Of course, that came in just 14 at-bats, and in reality, his 2016 was a completely lost year. But if we zoom out a bit, he can play second and third base adequately, and could spot you a day or two a week at short. He also has a smooth swing and a good approach at the plate. If he can come back in 2017 healthy, a breakout season similar to Phil Evans’s 2016 season is not out of the question.
McNeil got off to a fast start, making his newly added body weight to good use over a tiny three-game sample at Binghamton. Hopefully he’s able to maintain that weight going into 2017 after missing the season with a sports hernia, a slow-healing injury. He still has potential as a solid utility bat—or one that’s better than Eric Campbell and T.J. Rivera, anyway.
I’ve been a fan of McNeil for a few years now, but missing the season combined with the lower levels of the Mets’ system getting stronger caused the infielder to get lost in the shuffle. He hit a home run in 14 at-bats after needing 545 and 241 at-bats in 2015 and 2014, respectively, to hit the same amount. Hopefully the additional muscle mass he put on will make the difference between him being considered minor league filler and a useful major league utility piece. Given his age and what transpired in 2016, the 2017 season will be a very important one for McNeil.
21. Chris Flexen, RHP
Height: 6'3", Weight: 235 lbs.
DOB: 7/1/94 (22)
Acquired: 14th round, 2012 Draft (Memorial High School, California)
2016: St. Lucie (High-A): 25 G (25 GS), 134.0 IP, 125 H, 62 R, 53 ER (3.56 ERA), 51 BB, 95 K
Flexen had an excellent year in 2015, one year removed from Tommy John surgery, but the right-hander took a step back in 2016. While he eclipsed the 100-inning plateau for the first time in his professional career, his strikeout rate shrunk while his walk rate jumped, as compared to the rates he was posting in his first year back from the surgery. His fastball sits in the mid-90s with late life and gets good arm-side tailing action. His curveball is his primary breaking ball, and it has the makings of an average-to-plus major league offering. He rounds out his pitching arsenal with an effective changeup and a slider that he occasionally dabbles with.
Flexen had a weird year in 2016. He had mediocre strikeout and walk rates, a mediocre ERA, but also stayed healthy and threw a career high 134 innings. I expected more from him given his mid-90s fastball and solid curveball, but I may have set the bar too high for a guy coming into his first full season following Tommy John surgery. He’s done enough to earn the right to start the season in Double-A Binghamton, where we’ll have more access to see him and where he’ll be just a stone’s throw from the majors.
Flexen was one of my favorite Met prospects at the end of 2015, as he returned from injury and posted some great strikeout numbers. That didn’t translate into 2016 unfortunately, as Flexen struck out fewer than seven batters per nine innings and his walks ticked up. He doesn’t have much experience for a 22-year-old arm, so there’s still time for the stuff to translate into a legitimate pitching prospect.
I was never the biggest Flexen fan, but the organization protecting him from the Rule 5 draft by adding him to the 40-man roster put things into perspective a bit. With a mid-90s fastball and an average-to-plus curveball, he has two reliable, major league quality pitches. As Mets fans, we might have been spoiled over the last couple of years, but pitchers like that don’t exactly grow on trees. If nothing else, that is a solid base for a relief pitcher, and since he is only 22, Flexen still has time to improve.