In late November, the Mets added Andres Gimenez, Jordan Humphreys, Ali Sanchez, and Thomas Szapucki to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. The move protected them from being selected in the Rule 5 Draft, an annual draft that was instituted as a means to prevent teams from signing and stockpiling players in their minor league systems. For a fee ($100,000), a team may select a player that has been left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft.
In order to avoid exposing a player, a team must add to its 40-man roster players signed at age 18 or younger that have five seasons of minor league experience, or players that were signed at age 19 or beyond with four years of minor league experience. For the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, this means players that were signed at age 18 or younger in 2015, or players that were signed at age 19 or older in 2016.
While Gimenez, Humphreys, Sanchez, and Szapucki were some of the more notable and/or talented players in the Mets’ minor league system that may have been targeted other teams, they are not the only players that needed to be protected this winter. A handful of players were left unprotected that could conceivably be selected by another team in the Rule 5 Draft.
2019 Season (Double-A): 17 G (16 GS), 97.1 IP, 83 H, 37 R, 34 ER (3.14 ERA), 23 BB, 89 K
2019 Season (Triple-A): 8 G (7 GS), 40.1 IP, 33 H, 12 R, 12 ER (2.68 ERA), 10 BB, 23 K
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014, Harol Gonzalez has been a case study of a player making steady improvements since making his professional debut. After having a solid professional debut with the DSL Mets that year, Gonzalez put himself on the map in 2015 thanks to a combination of stuff and personality, playing for the Kingsport Mets. The undersized right-hander began realizing some of that potential as the 2016 season progressed, and by the time the year was over, had one of the most statistically dominant seasons in Brooklyn Cyclone history. He ended the year with a 7-3 record, posting a league-leading 2.01 ERA in 85 innings, walking 18 and striking out a league-leading 88. His stuff looked sharper and his fastball faster when he was promoted to the Columbia Fireflies in 2017 but the numbers trended in the wrong direction, as he posted a 3.53 ERA in 137.2 innings, most of them in Columbia but a handful in St. Lucie.
He began the 2018 season with St. Lucie and seemingly righted the ship, posting a 2.82 ERA in 73.1 innings there, allowing 62 hits, walking 19, and striking out 59. After being promoted to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies midseason, things fell apart, and the right-handed posted a 7.79 ERA in 52.0 innings in the Eastern League, allowing 79 hits, walking 17, and striking out 30. Gonzalez began the 2019 season in Binghamton, but unlike his time there in 2018, Gonzalez pitched well, posting a 3.14 ERA in 97.1 innings, allowing 83 hits, walking 23, and striking out 89. While he already had experience pitching in the International League, as he made a spot start earlier in June, he was promoted to the Syracuse Mets at the end of July and remained there until the end of the 2019 season. Gonzalez was very effective for Syracuse as well, posting a 2.68 ERA in 40.1 innings, allowing 33 hits, walking 10, and striking out 23.
The biggest knock on Gonzalez is his size and lack of fastball. The right-hander stands an even six feet tall and weighs just 160-pounds, making it unlikely he adds more muscle to his frame, helping his fastball. The pitch is fringe-average for a right-handed pitcher, sitting around 90 MPH, though it has progressively gotten better as he as aged, holding velocity- as minimal as it may be- deeper into games. Velocity is only one component of a successful fastball, and while Gonzalez may be lacking in that regard, the pitch has a bit of arm side life, and he is able to command it. He pairs his fastball with a curveball, slider, and changeup. Of the three, his changeup is his most effective pitch and his slider the least. Nothing in his pitching arsenal projects to be better than average, leaving Gonzalez with a wide array of weapons but no true out-pitches. Despite his somewhat diminutive size, Gonzalez has been a starting pitcher his entire career and has pitched 130 innings plus in three consecutive years.
2019 Season (Double-A): 116 G, 413 AB, .245/.312/.426, 101 H, 25 2B, 1 3B, 16 HR, 37 BB, 89 K, 1/1 SB
After helping lead the Salisbury School Knights to the Western New England Prep Baseball League Championship in 2012, Patrick Mazeika went on to attend Stetson University. He had a phenomenal freshman season, hitting .382/.488/.495 in 57 games and leading not only the Hatters, but in some cases, the Atlantic Sun Conference in seven offensive categories. While he cooled down a bit in his sophomore and junior seasons, he still posted excellent numbers and hit a cumulative .348/.469/.484 in 174 collegiate games. With their 8th round draft pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, the Mets selected Mazeika, and the two sides agreed to a $125,000 signing bonus, below the assigned slot value of $355,400.
Though an advanced college hitter, the Mets assigned him to Kingsport, where he hit .354/.451/.540 in 62 games. He was promoted to the Columbia Fireflies in their inaugural 2016 season, and though he was limited to just 70 games due to injuries, he hit .305/.414/.402. He was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets in 2017 and had yet another solid season, hitting .287/.389/.406, but after being promoted to Binghamton in 2018 finally ran into a wall for the first time in his career, hitting a paltry .231/.328/.363 in 87 games. Mazeika returned to Binghamton in 2019, his swing revamped and splitting time at first base and catcher almost 50-50, he hit an improved .245/.312/.426 in 116 games, slugging a career high 16 home runs.
Mazeika has increasingly added more loft to his once-level swing. He seemed uncomfortable at first, but has clearly adapted to it, nearly doubling his career highs in home runs between 2018 and 2019, from 9 to 16. This also led to a spike in his strike out rate, which also almost doubled, but Mazeika always had a good eye and continued showing it in 2019, drawing walks at an 8% rate and getting on base at nearly .70 points higher than his batting average. While he has thrown out roughly one in every three runners that have attempted to steal on him over the course of his career, Mazeika has never excelled at other aspects at catching. He is not particularly mobile behind the plate and needs to continue working on his receiving and blocking. He played more first base in 2019 than he did in any other season, spending 53 of his 116 games there. At first, he exhibits similar problems as he does behind the dish, in that he is not particularly rangy there, though he is able to make all of the basic plays reliably.
2019 Season (Low-A): 109 G, 382 AB, .209/.283/.330, 80 H, 15 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 37 BB, 139 K, 1/5 SB
The Mets handed out seven-figure deals to Andres Gimenez and Guerrero-clan member Gregory Guerrero when the 2015-2016 international free agent signing period began, eating into most of the money that had available. The largest bonus they gave after signing that duo was $50,000, given to Shervyen Newton, a 16-year-old shortstop from Tilburg, Netherlands, by way of Curaçao. Newton wasn’t exactly impressive in his first year of organized ball, hitting .169/.347/.229 in 35 games in the DSL in 2016, but he looked better in his second, hitting .311/.433/.444 in 66 games.
He made his stateside debut in 2018, getting promoted to the Kingsport Mets, and more than held his own, hitting .280/.408/.449 in 56 Appalachian League games. Promoted to the Columbia Fireflies for the 2019 season, Newton appeared to be primed for a breakout. Instead, a shoulder injury delayed his season debut about a month, and when he finally got back on the field, he struggled to hit. It may have been the shoulder injury, being overmatched by Low-A pitchers, learning new hitting mechanics, or a combination of all three, but Newton hit a paltry .209/.283/.330 in 109 games.
Thanks to impressive bat speed and a long, violent swing, Newton already flashes above-average raw power, and additional growth in his lean 6’4”, 180-pound frame could turn it into plus. His hit tool lags a bit behind his power potential, as he often gets crossed up by spin and is unable to adjust and stay back. A switch hitter, Newton has had more success swinging from the right side, rather than the left. He is quick-twitch fast, reading the ball well off the bat, possessing above-average range, and has a plus arm, skills that translate well at second base, third base, and shortstop. He may eventually have to shift out of the infield and into the outfield if he loses some of his quick twitch muscle, but he is athletic and mobile enough to survive in the outfield as well.
2019 Season (Double-A): 25 G (2 GS), 44.1 IP, 33 H, 17 R, 15 ER (3.05 ERA), 23 BB, 40 K
The son of Sean Ryan, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 38th round of the 1990 MLB Draft and progressed as high as Triple-A, Ryder benefitted from his father’s genetics and tutelage in high school, Ryder hitting .597 and posting a 0.28 ERA as a junior at North Mecklenburg High School and hitting .536 and posting a 0.57 ERA as a senior. Although possessing enough talent to be selected earlier, Ryan was not selected until the 40th round of the 2014 MLB Draft due to his commitment to the University of North Carolina. He did not sign with the Cleveland Indians and instead enrolled at UNC. He did not play much, and when he was on the field, spent the majority of his time at third base. He received just 14 at-bats in 2014 and 26 in 2015, pitching just a single inning over both years. The Cleveland Indians drafted him once again, selecting him in the 30th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, and this time, he chose to sign with them rather than return to the Tar Heels.
The 21-year-old made his professional debut that summer, pitching for the AZL Indians, and had a solid debut, posting a 3.86 ERA in 18.2 innings, allowing 21 hits, walking 9, and striking out 24. He began the 2017 season with the Lake County Captains and spent the majority of the season there, posting a 4.79 ERA in 41.1 innings, allowing 44 hits, walking 17, and striking out 49. On August 9, he was traded to the Mets in exchange for outfielder Jay Bruce. He was assigned to the Columbia Fireflies and posted a 2.08 ERA in 13.0 innings, allowing 6 hits, walking 5, and striking out 13. He began the 2018 season with the St. Lucie Mets and posted a 1.77 ERA in 20.1 innings, allowing 14 hits, walking 5, and striking out 23. He was promoted to the Binghamton Mets at the end of May and spent the rest of the 2018 season there, posting a 4.13 ERA in 32.2 innings, allowing 27 hits, walking 10, and striking out 36. He returned to Binghamton in 2019 and spent the entire season there, posting a 3.05 ERA in 44.1 innings, allowing 33 hits, walking 23, and striking out 40.
Ryan throws from a three-quarters arm slot. His mechanics in high school, despite his father’s tutelage, were very crude, leading to a release point that bounced around and terrible control. The Indians smoothed his mechanics a bit, and the Mets streamlined things a bit more, leading to better control. It can still be problematic at times, but it has improved vastly over the years. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, topping out at 97 MPH. The pitch does not have much movement, but he is able to command it well enough to consistently elevate the pitch and change hitters’ eye levels. He complements his fastball with a mid-80s slider that flashes average-to-above-average and occasionally throws a changeup. The change is thrown sparingly, making Ryan primarily a fastball/slider pitcher.
Others of Note
2019 Season (Double-A): 28 G (0 GS), 39.2 IP, 21 H, 16 R, 12 ER (2.72 ERA), 21 BB, 59 K
Why he might get selected: Above-average fastball velocity
Why he might go unselected: Command problems
2019 Season (High-A): 2 G (2 GS), 10.0 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 1 ER (0.90 ERA), 1 BB, 13 K
2019 Season (Double-A): 14 G (3 GS), 33.0 IP, 36 H, 24 R, 13 ER (3.55 ERA), 14 BB, 27 K
Why he might get selected: Strike thrower; Above-average slider
Why he might go unselected: Below-average fastball
2019 Season (Low-A): 37 G (0 GS), 43.1 IP, 36 H, 22 R, 11 ER (2.28 ERA), 25 BB, 52 K
Why he might get selected: Plus fastball velocity
Why he might go unselected: Lost velocity in 2019; Command problems
2019 Season (High-A): 10 G (0 GS), 17.0 IP, 15 H, 6 R, 4 ER (2.12 ERA), 7 BB, 20 K
2019 Season (Double-A): 20 G (3 GS), 40.0 IP, 39 H, 21 R, 17 ER (3.83 ERA), 17 BB, 45 K
2019 Season (Triple-A): 1 G (0 GS), 2.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER (4.50 ERA), 2 BB, 0 K
Why he might get selected: Above-average fastball velocity
Why he might go unselected: Underwhelming secondary pitches; Inconsistent mechanics
2019 Season (Double-A): 31 G (2 GS), 57.2 IP, 43 H, 19 R, 15 ER (2.34 ERA), 27 BB, 50 K
2019 Season (Triple-A): 5 G (0 GS), 5.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER (6.35 ERA), 5 BB, 6 K
Why he might get selected: Above-average fastball velocity
Why he might go unselected: Underwhelming stuff