In the four years since Alex Nelson retired and I took over handling draft duties for Amazin’ Avenue, the drafted has always filled me with a variety of emotions. All in all, I enjoy it and have fun doing it; I usually take a day or two off from work and lock myself away from the rest of the world, leaving no stone unturned in my research and typing away at a furious pace fueled by a lot of coffee. My enjoyment generally has been in the research process and hope in the potential that the Mets are adding into the system.
In reality, the team hasn’t really had much success in the drafting process in the years that I’ve been doing this. In 2016, they selected Justin Dunn and Anthony Kay in the first round and Pete Alonso in the second, but the futures of everyone else selected that year are marginal at best. The 2017 draft is looking poorer, with David Peterson continuing to scuffle, Mark Vientos not exactly impressive in my extended look of him in Columbia, and very few players in that draft class stepping up. It is way too early to analyze the 2018 draft, but class has already lost a lot of its luster as the cream of the crop, Jarred Kelenic, was traded away after only a few months in the organization.
This year, things were very different.
From the get-go, before even a single team picked, there was drama and intrigue. There were vague whispers that the Mets were one of only two teams- presumably the Yankees- that Jack Leiter would be willing to forego his commitment to Vanderbilt if selected. Brett Baty and Joshua Wolf, the Mets’ first and second selections, were your standard “best player available” picks, but on the whole, there is nothing to really complain about. Nobody selected in the next few picks after either can be said with any real certitude is better.
Day two was where things got interesting. For maybe the first time since I’ve been doing this, the Mets had a clear strategy.
For a variety of reasons, Matthew Allan- considered one of the top high school pitchers in the 2019 draft class- remained available when it came for the Mets’ turn at the podium in the third round. Having clearly done their due diligence, the Mets selected Allan with their pick. After his name was announced, I had to actually go back and check my notes to make sure I wasn’t confusing Matthew Allan with some other Matthew Allan. The Mets selected THE Matthew Allan!?
The Mets’ 2019 draft was radically altered at this point. With a slot value of $667,900 and a talent that would clearly need a lot more than that to sign with the team, the Mets would have to go with money-saving picks for the next seven rounds. And so the senior selections began. Because the Mets went to this well so early, they had their choice in college seniors and were able to select the talents they believed were cream of the crop.
In order to afford to sign Matthew Allan, the Mets would have very little wiggle room and things seemingly hit a snag when snag when Joshua Wolf signed an overslot bonus worth $2.15 million. The $800,000 or so extra dollars needed to be allocated to Wolf meant that much less would be available to allocate to Allan. As Mets fans, we are conditioned to assume the worst-case scenario, and the alarm bells immediately began going off. “Tommy Tanous and Mark Tramuta wouldn’t have altered the entire course of the draft if they didn’t already have assurances…right?” “Tommy Tanous and Mark Tramuta obviously did their due diligence and know they’ll be able to reach Allan’s number…right?”
In the end, any irrational concerns were just that.
It will be interesting to see if the Mets use this strategy in next year’s draft, or if they go with a more conventional strategy. While it might seem counterintuitive, going with this more top-heavy strategy didn’t exactly hamstring the organization in terms of talent being added to the system. While there have been exceptions here and there, Mets haven’t had much success scouting and developing the players selected on day two of the draft in past years. The college seniors selected in this draft have every bit as much of a chance to develop and progress in this system as the young men selected in those same rounds in years past.
All in all, it is hard to consider the 2019 MLB Draft anything but an overwhelming success for the Mets.
To me, this is the best Mets draft in years, both in terms of excitement and in terms of the players they added. I was a fan of Baty going into the draft, and Wolf is the sort of interesting prep arm worth gambling on, so I was already pleased after day one. Then the Mets made a more aggressive draft pick than at any point in the past decade and snagged Matthew Allan, arguably the best prep arm in the draft, in the third. This of course spawned an immediately flurry of speculation about how they could possibly make the money work, but after seven senior signs in rounds 4-10, it seemed like they had the money lined up. Moreover, dipping into the senior-sign pool early let them snag some of the more interesting ones, and I don’t think the guys they drafted are less interesting than their usual underwhelming day 2 picks. I really like the approach and the result, and I’m hoping this is a sign of an overarching change in philosophy rather than an outlier born of specific draft circumstances.
Day one of this year’s MLB Draft was very similar to last year’s draft for the Mets. They chose one of the better prep hitters in the draft in Brett Baty with their first round pick, and a prep pitcher with a strong college commitment in Josh Wolf with their second round pick. The similarities to years past ended with day one, when the Mets started the second day of the draft by selecting Matthew Allan, a right-handed prep pitcher from Florida, with a relatively strong commitment to the University of Florida, who many people believed to be the best high school pitcher in the draft class. The Mets then began an aggressive strategy of bonus pool manipulation, taking college seniors with their next nine selections to sign to under-slot deals so that they could meet Allan’s first round bonus demands. While the seniors are all lottery tickets, by the nature of having been passed over in the draft as juniors, the Mets managed to pick several interesting players, including fourth round pick Jake Mangum who they selected and failed to sign last year. In doing so, the Mets managed to bring in three first round talents in this year’s draft, which is a feat for any team with only one first round pick to pull off.
This strategy feels similar to the strategy the Astros famously deployed in the 2012 draft, in which they signed their first selection, Carlos Correa, to an under-slot deal and used the savings to buy Lance McCullers out of a commitment to the University of Florida. While this is less likely to work out quite as well as it did in 2012 for the Astros, this is still a marked improvement over their drafts in years past. The Mets clearly came up with a hard strategy that they believed to be the best path forward, and executed it well, demonstrating a level of strategic thinking that hasn’t necessarily been evident in years past. This year’s draft was easily the biggest swing that the Mets have taken in the draft in recent years, and with a little bit of luck could prove to be a turning point for a badly depleted Mets minor league system in a couple of years.
The Mets had a pretty interesting draft this year, probably more interesting than I recall in recent years as I type this. They went with what was, ostensibly, a three-player draft, as they took three prep players in the first three rounds. Brett Baty, their first-round pick, is interesting because his bat looks good. He has a solid swing from the left side, possessing some good bat speed and some very real raw power. He destroyed his competition to the tune of a .624 batting average this year, as well. There are some concerns however, due to his age (he is already 19, soon to be 20) and where he ends up defensively. Josh Wolf is a hard thrower with a nice curveball, but his rather loud windup gives me some concerns about his starting ability. Perhaps the most interesting thing about their draft is the Mets nabbing a top prep arm in Matthew Allan all the way in the third. He has a nice, repeatable motion, and has shown a very projectable fastball and curveball.
In order to pull off throwing a lot of money at these three prep players- especially since Allan rightfully asked for much more than his slot value- the Mets went with a lot of college seniors with the rest of their draft, in order to save money to help get their three first picks signed. They sprinkled in some prep players late, namely Hunter Barco, in case Allan did not sign. All in all, it was more interesting than what they usually do, and the influx of talent at the top of this draft will be fun to track.