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2019 MLB Draft: Back to the Future

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Six of the seventeen prep players selected by the Mets in the 2016 MLB Draft signed with the team. How have those other eleven done?

Tommy Wilson
Steve Sypa

In 2016, the Mets drafted seventeen high school players. Of those seventeen, six signed with the club- Cameron Planck, Matt Cleveland, Christian James, Dariel Rivera, Eric Villanueva, and Garrison Bryant- while eleven elected not to- Carlos Cortes, Rylan Thomas, Joel Urena, William Sierra, Alex Haynes, George Kirby, Duncan Pence, Andrew Harbin, Branden Fryman, Jaylon McLaughlin, and Michael Chambers. All eleven will be juniors in 2019 and eligible for the 2019 MLB Draft, so let’s check in with them and see what they’ve been up to and how they’ve been doing.

Carlos Cortes, INF/OF (20th Round, 610 Overall)

Playing for Lake Howell High School in Winter Park, Florida, Carlos Cortes was a hitting machine. The ball jumped off of his bat thanks to a big load and coil, above-average bat speed, and a compact swing. While his ability with the bat gave him a baseball future, it was a quirk that got him noticed. Lacking a true defensive home for most of his high school baseball career, Cortes played all over the ball field and learned to throw with both hands as a result, using his right hand when in the infield and his natural left hand in the outfield.

After being selected in the draft, Cortes elected to honor his commitment to the University of South Carolina. He appeared in 50 games for the Gamecocks in 2017 and hit .286/.368/.565, walking 22 times, striking out 27 times, slugging 12 home runs and stealing 5 bases in 7 attempts. As a sophomore in 2018, he hit .265/.385/.500 in 62 games, walking 43 times, striking out 32 times, slugging 15 home runs and stealing 8 bases in 9 attempts. A draft-eligible sophomore, Cortes was selected by the Mets a second time, this time in the 3rd round of the 2018 MLB Draft. He signed with them, inking a deal for $1,038,000, $332,700 over slot value. He appeared in 47 games for the Brooklyn Cyclones, all at second base, and hit .264/.338/.382. He walked 17 times, struck out 34 times, hit 4 home runs, and stole 1 base in as many attempts.

Rylan Thomas, 3B (26th Round, 790 Overall)

Rylan Thomas excelled as both a position player and pitcher at Windermere Prep in Windermere, Florida. As a hitter, he showed above-average raw power thanks to a strong, athletic body and a quick swing with extension. Defensively, he showed plus arm strength and displayed adequate reaction and agility at the hot corner. As a pitcher, his fastball sat in the low-90s, topping out at 92 MPH with life. He complemented the pitch with a solid curveball and a solid slider, both of which he had a feel for. Augmenting all of his skills was the fact that Thomas was extremely confident- during the Taylor Emmons Memorial Classic Home Run Derby, he slugged 20 home runs and only had his streak of dingers stopped because he attempted to hit his 21st from the left side.

After being selected in the draft, Thomas elected to honor his commitment to University of Central Florida. He appeared in 59 games for the Knights in 2017, all at third base. He hit .303/.359/.530, walking 15 times, striking out 86 times, slugging 14 home runs, and stealing 9 bases in 10 attempts. As a sophomore in 2018, he hit .343/.447/.587 in 56 games, walking 36 times, striking out 63 times, slugging 13 home runs, and stealing 4 bases in 7 attempts. A draft-eligible sophomore, Thomas was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 26th round of 2018 MLB Draft. He signed for $287,500 and was assigned to Greeneville Reds, the Reds’ Appalachian League rookie affiliate. He appeared in 55 games for them, splitting time at first and third, and hit .257/.400/.492. He walked 41 times, struck out 49 times, slugged 10 home runs, and stole 0 bases in 2 attempts.

Joel Urena, LHP (27th Round, 820 Overall)

Born in the Dominican Republic, Joel Urena came to the United States as a ten-year-old, settling down in the Bronx. He attended Gregorio Luperon High School for Math and Science in Washington Heights and was by far the best player on their baseball team, being named Player of the Year twice over his four years there. Key to his dominance was a fastball that sat in the low-90s, topping out at 94 MPH, and at 6’4”, 200 lbs, it was a pitch that could still get better. Complementing the heater was a low-70s curveball and a low-70s changeup.

The 16-year-old Urena did not sign with the Mets due to an alleged miscommunication between the team and his agent. As a result, he enrolled at Monroe Community College. He appeared in 12 games for the Mustangs, starting 9 of them. He posted a 3.43 ERA in 42.0 innings, allowing 28 hits, walking 28 and striking out 56. Multiple teams were scouting he big left hander, and addition to MLB clubs, D1 colleges such as Pittsburgh, St. John’s, and Stony Brook were interested in recruiting him. He was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 7th round of the 2017 MLB Draft and signed for $150,000. He made his professional debut with the Arizona Rangers, the Rangers’ Arizona League rookie affiliate. He appeared in 12 games and posted a 1.53 ERA in 17.2 innings, allowing 28 hits, walking 8, and striking out 24. Urena was suspended indefinitely by the team in early July 2018, shortly after the police began an investigation into a sexual assault claim made against him. According to the claims, Urena, along with fellow minor leaguers Argenis Rodriguez and Luis Mendez, assaulted a Tinder hook-up in a Surprise, Arizona area hotel during spring training.

William Sierra, RHP (28th Round, 850 Overall)

The youngest player to be drafted by the Mets in the 2016 MLB Draft, William Sierra attended Edouard Montpetit High School in Montreal, Quebec. In addition to pitching for his high school team, Sierra also pitched for the 18-U Canadian National Team. The 6’1”, 170-pound right-hander sat in the high-80s with his fastball, topping out at 91 MPH. Complementing the fastball was a high-70s curveball and a high-70s changeup.

The lanky 16-year-old did not sign with the Mets, believing himself not ready to become a professional. He was approached by Chipola College in Marianna, Florida and accepted a scholarship to attend. He was on Indians’ roster for the 2017 season, but did not appear in a game. In 2018, he was dropped from the roster and has not played since.

Alex Haynes, RHP (29th Round, 880 Overall)

Considered one of the top prep pitching prospects in the state of Tennessee, Alex Haynes posted a 3.74 ERA in 44.1 innings for Knoxville Central High School in his senior year, walking 38 and striking out 59. The projectable right-hander dominated his competition with a fastball that sat in the low-90s with plenty of life, topping out at 94 MPH. His arsenal for a high school pitcher was fairly deep, possessing a changeup that projected to be an average-or-better pitch, a slider projected to be an average-or-better pitch, and a curveball. While in possession of strikeout stuff, his high-energy delivery and mechanics were difficult to repeat, leading to control problems.

Haynes did not sign with the Mets, unhappy with the amount of money they had to offer him, and honored his commitment to Walters State Community College in Morristown, Tennessee. Confident in his skills, he was looking for sixth round money, $236,000 to $312,700 in the 2016 MLB Draft. He appeared in 19 games for the Senators in his freshman year in 2017 and posted a 2.67 ERA in 33.2 innings, allowing 23 hits, walking 12, and striking out 54. In his sophomore year in 2018, he appeared in 5 games and posted a 2.10 ERA in 25.2 innings, allowing 19 hits, walking 13, and striking out 25.

George Kirby, RHP (32th Round, 970 Overall)

The second player ever to be drafted directly out of Rye High School- the other being B.J. Surhoff- was a scout’s dream. The 6’4”, 210-pound right-hander was extremely projectible and already was in possession of good enough stuff to post a 0.32 ERA in 43.1 innings, striking out 73. His fastball sat in the high-80s, topping out around 92 MPH. In addition, he threw a 12-6 curveball and a changeup, the former thrown in the mid-70s and the latter thrown in the low-70s.

Kirby did not sign with the Mets, unhappy with the amount of money they had to offer him, and instead honored his commitment to Elon University. Confident in his skills, he was looking for third round money, $563,100 to $813,500 in the 2016 MLB Draft. He appeared in 16 games for the Phoenix in his freshman year in 2017 and posted a 4.84 ERA in 61.0 innings, allowing 67 hits, walking 17, and striking out 55. In his sophomore year in 2018, he appeared in 15 games and posted a 2.89 ERA in 90.0 innings, allowing 88 hits, walking 27, and striking out 96. For this current season, Kirby is excelling, and is widely considered a candidate to be selected in the back half of the first round of the 2019 MLB Draft.

Duncan Pence, SS (33rd Round, 1000 Overall)

Slugging shortstop Duncan Pence impressed in his senior year at Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tennessee and parlayed his performance into what could have been a major payday. After hitting .430/.571/.833 in 2016, the Mets selected the Knoxville native. Confident in his skills, he was looking for third round money, $563,100 to $813,500 in the 2016 MLB Draft. Pence did not receive that money, and did not sign with the Mets, and instead honoring his commitment to the University of Tennessee.

Before the season would even begin, he was dismissed from the team for multiple violations of policy. He instead enrolled at Walters State Community College in Morristown, Tennessee. He appeared in 46 games for the Senators in 2017, all at shortstop. He hit .271/.394/.614, walking 10 times, striking out 25 times, slugging 12 home runs, and stealing 7 bases in as many attempts. He hit .377/.446/.674 in his sophomore year in 2018, walking 14 times, striking out 39 times, slugging 14 home runs, and stealing 8 bases in 9 attempts. He was accepted back to the University of Tennessee for his junior year in 2019, but was not rostered on the varsity baseball team.

Grayson Harbin, RHP (35th Round, 1060 Overall)

Grayson Harbin played baseball for the Allatoona High School Bucaneers, a school in Acworth, Georgia, for all four years he attended the school. While his .226/.366/.258 batting line in his senior year wasn’t exactly impressive, the right-hander was a pitcher and a very good one at that, posting a 1.50 ERA in 42.0 innings, allowing 20 hits, walking 23, and striking out 62. His 6’3”, 195-pound frame was extremely projectable, and his fastball and curveball were already considered standout pitches among prep pitchers and his changeup was effective and still developing.

Harbin did not sign with the Mets, but did not honor his original commitment to Auburn University. Instead, he committed post-draft to Kennesaw State University. He attended Kennesaw State for his freshman year, but transferred to the University of Georgia, where he did not continue playing baseball.

Branden Fryman, SS (37th Round, 1120 Overall)

Branden Fryman is the son of five-time All-Star Travis Fryman. Born and raised in Molino, Florida, Branden was a star at J.M. Tate High School in Cantonment, Florida, hitting .361/.436/.426 in his four-year career there. Primarily a shortstop, he had an advanced hit tool for someone his age, possessing quick hands and above-average bat speed. In addition, at 5’11”, 135-pounds, the undersized righty was guaranteed to grow, giving him a projectable frame that would add some power. His defensive skill at shortstop at the time was fringy, but evaluators believed that with some work and continued physical maturation, he would be able to stay on the left side of the infield.

Fryman did not sign with the Mets, and instead honored his commitment to Samford University. He appeared in 59 games for the Bulldogs in 2017. He hit .289/.337/.325, walking 19 times, striking out 46 times, slugging 0 home runs, and stealing 10 bases in 15 attempts. He appeared in 62 games in his sophomore year and hit .262/.333/.342, walking 26 times, striking out 46 times, slugging 2 home runs, and stealing 25 bases in 31 attempts. For this current season, his junior year, Fryman is excelling, putting up career highs in virtually every offensive statistic.

Jaylon McLaughlin, SS (38th Round, 1150 Overall)

Jaylon McLaughlin lettered three years in baseball at Santa Monica High School in Santa Monica, California and put an exclamation point on his high school career by hitting.387 in his senior year. Modeling his game J.P. Crawford and Francisco Lindor, McLaughlin more closely resembled the former rather than the latter as his defensive ability outpaced his hit tool. A quick-twitch athlete, the wirily 5’11”, 165-pound athlete had the instincts, range, and speed to play shortstop and even center field, but his bat was still a work in progress.

McLaughlin did not sign with the Mets, and instead honored his commitment to the University of Nevada. He appeared in 28 games for the Wolf Pack in 2017. He hit .212/.325/.258, walking 9 times, striking out 24 times, slugging 1 home run and stealing 0 bases in 1 attempt. He appeared in 35 games in his sophomore year and hit .252/.301/.330, walking 6 times, striking out 31 times, slugging 0 home runs, and stealing 7 bases in as many attempts. For this current season, his junior year, McLaughlin is excelling, putting up career highs in virtually every offensive statistic.

Michael Chambers, C (40th Round, 1210 Overall)

Playing for John Paul II High School in Plano, Texas, catcher Michael Chambers looked to have everything you would want in a prep player. At 6’1”, 180 pounds, the right-hander had a lean, projectable frame and already was displaying burgeoning power as he grew into his body, especially to his pull side. Behind the dish, coaches described him as having a strong arm and possessing excellent catcher instincts.

After being selected in the draft, Chambers elected to honor his commitment to Grayson County College, the alma mater of big leaguers Andy LaRoche, John Lackey, and Steven Okert. He appeared in 4 games for the Grayson Vikings as a freshman in 2017 and went 2-10. He did not play in 2018 or 2019.