With Major League Baseball’s amateur draft coming up on June 4, we thought it would be fun to go back in time and look at how things might have turned out in the Sandy Alderson era if the Mets had taken different players.
I am basing the “I Wanted” pick on who was what players were still available to be selected when the Mets were making their pick in each individual draft. There were numerous players in each draft that I might have preferred to my “I Wanted” pick, but were selected previously.
I am basing my “Optimal Pick” on a multiple of factors, including where the player was drafted vis-à-vis where the Mets were making their selection, if the player has produced major league value, and where the player is on recent top prospect lists.
Mets Pick: Brandon Nimmo (13th overall)
I Wanted: Brandon Nimmo (13th overall)
Optimal Pick: Jose Fernandez (14th overall, Florida Marlins)
Selected one pick after Nimmo, Jose Fernandez looked to be on his way to being a perennial star before his untimely and tragic death in September 2016. The Cuban refugee was drafted one selection after the Mets’ pick out of Braulio Alonso High School down in Tampa, Florida. The Marlins were impressed by his fastball/curveball combo, two plus pitches that were already good enough to strike out hitters in the major leagues. He was dominant in 2012 and came into the 2013 season as one of the top prospects in baseball.
Following a Marlins fire sale, the 20-year-old unexpectedly made Florida’s Opening Day roster that year, and not only did he survive, he flourished. He posted a 2.19 ERA (176 ERA+) in 172.2 innings, allowing 111 hits, walking 58, and striking out 187. He made the National League All-Star Team, placing third in the voting for the National League Cy Young Award, and winning the National League Rookie of the Year vote. Tommy John surgery cost him most of the 2014 and 2015 seasons, but when he returned to the mound full time in 2016, Fernandez did not miss a beat. In 182.1 innings, the right-hander posted a 2.86 ERA (139 ERA+), allowing 149 hits, walking 55, and striking out 253. He made the National League All-Star Team and placed seventh on the National League Cy Young Award ballot.
Mets Pick: Gavin Cecchini (12th overall)
I Wanted: Courtney Hawkins (13th overall, Chicago White Sox)
Optimal Pick: Corey Seager (18th overall, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Despite being selected with 18th draft pick in the 2012 draft, Corey Seager is currently second only to first overall pick Carlos Correa in terms of value generated for his team. At the time, the younger Seager brother was a tall, lean line drive machine, expected to grow into additional in-game power as his frame filled in. Despite his size, he was a plus runner, was rangy, had an excellent arm, and had the tools to be a defensive standout at third base. Because he was an excellent student in high school, many feared he would stay true to his commitment to South Carolina, but the Dodgers were able to convince him to forego college thanks to a $2.35 million signing bonus.
Seager did nothing but impress from the moment he stepped on the field as a professional. His tools translated into elite performance on the field, and he was unanimously considered the number one prospect in baseball by the major publications going into the 2016 season. After a cup of coffee in 2015, Seager began the 2016 season as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ full-time shortstop, and the 22-year-old excelled, hitting .308/.365/.512 in 157 games. He was elected to the National League All-Star Team, was named the National League Rookie of the Year, received NL MVP votes, and won a Silver Slugger Award. He was just as good in 2017, hitting .295/.375/.479 in 145 games. He was elected to his second All-Star Game, won his second consecutive Silver Slugger Award, and once again received NL MVP votes. He began the 2018 season a bit slowly, hitting .267/.348/.396 in 27 games, and on April 30th was diagnosed with a right UCL strain that would require Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss the remained of the season.
Mets Pick: Dominic Smith (11th overall)
I Wanted: Rob Kaminsky (28th overall, St. Louis Cardinals)
Optimal Pick: J.P. Crawford (16th overall, Philadelphia Phillies)
With their first pick, the Philadelphia Phillies drafted the top prep shortstop in the 2013 MLB Draft, J.P. Crawford. At the time, the infielder from Lakewood, California showed no standout tools, but instead was average or slightly above average all around the board. He showed good defensive instincts and it looked like he would be able to handle the defensive rigors of the position as he aged. His speed graded out at average, as did his hit tool and the potential ability to hit for power, making him solid both defensively and offensively.
After an impressive showing that saw him hit a combined .285/.375/.406 between Low-A and Advanced-A as a 19-year-old in 2014, Crawford shot up to the top of most industry top prospect lists. After an equally impressive 2015 split between Advanced-A and Double-A, the infielder found himself in the top ten on most industry top prospect lists. His stock took a hit when his bat struggled in 2016 and 2017 against Double-A and Triple-A pitching, but thanks to a high-ceiling defensive foundation and an advanced hit tool, the shortstop remains one of the top prospects in baseball.
Mets Pick: Michael Conforto (10th overall)
I Wanted: Touki Toussaint (16th overall, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Optimal Pick: Trea Turner (13th overall, San Diego Padres)
Conforto and Turner have been neck-in-neck and jockeying each other since becoming full-time players in terms of providing value for their clubs. Both players made their major league debuts in 2015; Conforto hit .270/.335/.506 in 56 games and was worth 1.9 fWAR/2.1 bWAR, while turner hit .225/.295/.325 in 27 games and was worth 0.0 fWAR/0.3 bWAR. In 2016, Conforto hit .220/.310/.414 in 109 games and was worth 0.9 fWAR/0.5 bWAR, while Turner hit .342/.370/.567 in 73 games and was worth 3.3 fWAR/3.4 bWAR. In 2017, Conforto hit .279/.384/.555 in 109 games and was worth 4.3 fWAR/3.7 bWAR, while Turner hit .284/.338/.451 in 98 games and accrued 2.9 fWAR/2.6 bWAR. For their careers, Conforto had accrued 7.1 fWAR/6.3 bWAR in 274 games, while Turner had accrued 6.2 fWAR/6.3 bWAR in 198 games.
While the 2018 season is far from over, Turner currently seems to have the lead over Conforto, as the Mets’ slugger began the season on the disabled list recovering from shoulder surgery and has been struggling at the plate since returning.
Mets Pick: N/A
I Wanted: ???
Optimal Pick: Walker Buehler
In November 2014, Michael Cuddyer signed a two-year with the Mets worth $21 million. In doing so, the Mets surrendered their first-round draft pick, shifting it to the Colorado Rockies in compensation for losing their former outfielder. In 117 games, the veteran hit .259/.309/.391, and during the postseason, he notched one hit in 11 at-bats, walking once and striking out seven times. Following the Mets’ World Series appearance, Cuddyer retired from baseball. If the Mets had no signed Cuddyer, the team would have selected the 15th pick. To date, the middle of the 1st round of the 2015 Draft has shown itself to be lackluster, at best.
With the 15th pick, the Milwaukee Brewers selected outfielder Trent Grisham. With the 16th pick, the New York Yankees selected right-handed pitcher James Kaprielian. With the 17th pick, the Cleveland Indians selected left-handed pitcher Brady Aiken. With the 18 pick, the San Francisco Giants selected right-handed pitcher Phil Bickford. With the 19th pick, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected shortstop Kevin Newman. With the 20th pick, the Oakland Athletics selected shortstop Richie Martin. With the 21st pick, the Kansas City Royals selected right-handed pitcher Ashe Russell. With the 22nd pick, the Detroit Tigers selected right-handed pitcher Beau Burrows. With the 23rd pick, the St. Louis Cardinals selected outfielder Nick Plummer.
With the 24th pick, the Los Angeles Dodgers selected right-handed pitcher Walker Buehler. In addition to being the highest ranked prospect of this group coming into the 2018, he is the only player listed to make it to the major leagues to date. At the time, Buehler was one of two potential first-round pick pitchers from Vanderbilt, but thanks to concerns about his durability and long-term role, he was drafted well-behind fellow right-hander Carson Fulmer. Thanks to a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s, and a deep repertoire that included a curveball, slider, and changeup- all of which were projected to be average or better pitches- Buehler has remained a starting pitcher despite those concerns. He only has 143.0 total professional innings under his belt, in the minor leagues and major league combined, and is still far from a finished product as his secondary pitches are sometimes ineffective, but the upside is certainly there when his pitches are working.
Mets Pick: Justin Dunn (19th overall)
I Wanted: T.J. Zeuch (21st overall, Toronto Blue Jays)
Optimal Pick: Carter Kieboom (28th overall, Washington Nationals)
Carter Kieboom was barely selected in the 1st round, selected 29th overall, but he has shown the highest returns of all of the players selected in the back half of the 1st round so far. He finished off his high school career at Walton High School in Marietta, Georgia with a flourish, doubling off of first-round draftee Joshua Lowe and coming around to score to give his school the Georgia 6-A state championship and has not missed a beat as a professional. After being drafted by the Nationals, he finished the 2016 by playing 36 games with the GCL Nationals and hit .244/.323/.452. In 2017, between the GCL Nationals, Auburn Doubledays, and Hagerstown Suns, he hit .296/.400/.497, though he was limited to just 61 games because of a hamstring injury. This season, he was assigned to Potomac Nationals and has gotten off to yet another strong start despite being one of the youngest players in the Carolina League.
The youngest of three- brother Spencer is a catcher in the Nationals minor league system and brother Trevor played baseball for University of Georgia and is now an agent at Vanguard Sports Group- Carter has the highest upside. Thanks to plus bat speed and excellent hand-eye coordination, Kieboom barrels the ball repeatedly and hits with authority. These natural gifts allowed him to take more time to refine his eye and approach at the plate, allowing him to take more quality at-bats compared to others of his age and level. He has natural loft in his swing, and projects to have average or better in-game power when his 6’2”, 190 lb. frame starts filling in. While he was drafted as a shortstop and is still playing the position, Kieboom is unlikely to stay a shortstop. Thanks to solid range and an above-average arm, he will have a chance to stick at the position, but it is more likely that he will wind up at third base, where those same qualities will still play up.
Mets Pick: David Peterson (20th overall)
I Wanted: Tanner Houck (24th overall, Boston Red Sox)
Optimal Pick: Seth Romero
It is arguable that Seth Romero would be the optimal pick. Based on stuff alone, Romero has top 10 stuff. His fastball is elite for a left-hander, sitting in the low-to-mid 90s and topping out at 97 MPH. His slider, which sits in the low-80s, is already a plus pitch, showing sharp bite and his changeup flashes plus and certainly can become a plus pitch with more use. Both pitches were, at times, unhittable while he was at the University of Houston, giving Romero three possibly plus pitches. While he is already physically mature and doesn’t have much projection left in his body, there is little effort in his delivery and his mechanics are sound, hinting at an ability to eat innings.
There is more to a player than just his physical baseball ability, and Romero’s character raises numerous red flags. His indifferent attitude towards keeping himself in shape led to him to going undrafted out of high school. While at the University of Houston, he was suspended from the team multiple times over his three years there, for curfew violations, failing a drug test for marijuana, getting photographed while in uniform with a bong, and failing to keep himself in good physical condition, and was ultimately kicked off of the team for good in May 2017 for getting into a physical altercation with a teammate. After getting drafted by the Nationals, he finished out the 2017 season posting a 4.91 ERA in 22.0 innings with the GCL Nationals and Auburn Doubledays, walking 8 and striking out 35. He has yet to make his 2018 debut, as GM Mike Rizzo sent the southpaw home from spring training after repeated curfew violations. While these violations are not against MLB or MiLB policy, Rizzo and other Nationals executives warned Romero repeatedly that he was on a short leash and that it was integral for him to be a model citizen. The Nationals informed Romero of what he needed to do to earn his way back, and by all reports, the left-hander is doing his best to comply and is expected to pitch in 2018.