Before the News Breaks: Prospects - Good, Should, or To Go?

Before the trade deadline news breaks, and the Mets have dealt away prospects, players, whoever the other teams will buy, let's examine the prospects that could find themselves involved in the trades.

There's a lot of prospects that have a lot of future potential. There's an argument to be made that trading away future potential assets is a detriment for only a chance to win now. However, there's a counter argument to be made that there is no guarantee that these prospects can hang out at the major league level and become All Stars, high quality players, or even decent bench role options.

While it's not out of the realm of possibility that the current draft picks for 2022 will be part of any package to land someone like a certain catcher from the Cubs, for this article, we'll leave them out and focus on the more established Mets prospects currently in the system.

Let's start off with the Good:

Francisco Alvarez, C, Syracuse (AAA) - ETA: 2023

After tearing up AA with a .277 batting average, 18 home runs, the #1 prospect in MLB was sent off to Syracuse to test his skills against better competition in AAA. However, it seems as though AAA hasn't come nearly as easy as it seemed to for Alvarez as he has started off 5 for 38 (.132 average), with only 1 home run in 12 games. It's a small sample size, but those fans calling for Alvarez to be rushed up to the majors should take a little bit of a slower approach to it all. Alvarez has some serious pop and has some serious potential, but at only 20 years old, he still needs time to adjust to higher levels. His ETA is 2023, based on MLB's website, but that could always change if he manages to find consistency. It's also not out of the ball park to rule out a September call up for Alvarez just to see what he can do.

Why is he in the good? Alvarez is a tall ask in a trade. Any team's top prospect is the biggest ask and must be part of a huge return. Alvarez has the distinction of being the Mets top prospect, only 20 years old, and being the top prospect in all of baseball. The front office has said that Alvarez and #2 prospect Brett Baty are basically non-starters for trade packages. They'll be staying put unless the return warrants moving two of the better prospects that the Mets system has had in quite awhile.

Brett Baty, 3B/OF, Binghamton (AA) - ETA: 2022

Baty being 22 years old pushes his ETA ahead a little bit, but it does help that he's been performing well in AA and plays a position that has seen it's share of questionable play. In 299 at bats this year, Baty has a .301 batting average to go with 90 hits, 40 walks, and 13 home runs. Baty's bat offers enough that some people want him to get the call this year. Whether the Mets decide to fast track Baty, or simply give him a call in September to see what he can offer, the kid can play and if he can reign in his defense a little bit better, he should be able to stick.

The one knock on Baty could be his defense. He has 10 errors at third base, for reference Eduardo Escobar has 8 playing third in the majors, so it's not a huge detriment considering the other prospects that we will go over later in the article.

Why is he in the good? Much like Alavarez, Baty was mentioned as a non-starter for trade packages because the Mets want to hold onto them. With his current stretch playing AA, Baty looks like he could be moving along quickly this year. Baty rolled into the 19th spot in the latest configuration of the MLB top 100 prospects, which should have been at least one higher with the Pirates graduating their gargantuan prospect to the majors.

These two prospects seem to be the only two that are categorically safe from just about any deal, so in not so many ways, they're all set. They're good where they are. When it's trade season, it seems as though the list of untouchable trade pieces for contenders is smaller than it should be. Having only two, a very good two, doesn't necessarily mean that it's a knock on the rest of the farm system. But what about those that don't fall into that category?

Let's take a look at the Should:

Alex Ramirez, OF, Brooklyn (High-A) - ETA: 2024

Probably one of the quickest rising prospects that the Mets have in their system, Ramirez has started to become a name that Mets fans know. Ramirez is only 19 years old, but hit .284, with 6 triples, and 6 home runs in St. Lucie before moving up to Brooklyn this year. In Brooklyn, he's continued to hit, posting a .281 average in the small sample size of 16 games. The main knock on Ramirez is his plate vision as he struck out 68 times in 67 games in St. Lucie, and 15 times in 16 games in Brooklyn. The potential for Ramirez is very high, as he has a lot of Darryl Strawberry in his swing and his look, and his defense should help him stick in centerfield. Ramirez has an ETA of 2024, and there's no real reason to try to rush him through the minor leagues unless he outperforms the levels faster than anticipated.

Why is he in the should? Ramirez should be safe from being included in trades. He should be kept out of trade talks. His potential has risen fast, he's still only 19, and outfield is always a necessity to have good quality depth in. Nimmo, Marte, Canha, even McNeil, they're all getting older. With Ramirez, he can hold down at least one part of the outfield if he reaches his potential.

Calvin Zeigler, SP, St. Lucie (Low-A) - ETA: 2025

Another 19 year old with a load of potential, Zeigler has racked up a lot of strikeouts in his first action (57 K's in 35 innings pitched). Zeigler's ERA sits at 3.57, but that's in part due to the restricted work load of working 3 innings for his first month, then stretching it out a little bit more as they went. He's got a heater that can touch the high 90s but generally lives in the mid 90s, to go along with a "hybrid slider, curve" breaking pitch.

Why is he in the should? Calvin Zeigler isn't the most polished arm at age 19, but the potential in his sample size says that he could really become something. Considering the lack of young arms, even after this draft, keeping someone like Zeigler would be a good start to building considerable pitching depth in the system.

Dominic Hamel, SP, Brooklyn (High-A) - ETA: 2024

Hamel is 23 years old out of Dallas Baptist, and has advanced past low-A this year to reach Brooklyn. Although it wasn't anything that would blow critics away, Hamel performed well in his time at St. Lucie posting a 5-2 record, 3.84 ERA, with 71 strikeouts in 63 innings, mixing his mid 90's fastball with a solid slider and breaking pitches. So far in Brooklyn, Hamel has a 3.21 ERA in his 3 starts to go with his 22 strikeouts in 14 innings. With his ETA of 2024, Hamel has time to really nail down his pitches, and with more college arms in the system, Hamel would be ahead of them in terms of how fast they can progress.

Why is he in the should? Hamel should be considered a keeper, at least until the Mets know that he's not going to hit the potential or if the other college arms pass him. We can forgive him if someone like 2022 draft pick Blade Tidwell passes him, but for right now, if Hamel is dealt, it'd probably be for a bigger return to push the current team over the top. If it's not for someone like Contreras, throwing him into a deal for someone like Mancini seems like an overpay unless he's the only prospect.

Matt Allan, SP, Brooklyn (High-A) - ETA: 2025

Allan is an odd case. He hasn't really pitched outside of a brief stint in 2019, where he looked good, but now would be looking at nearly three years in between appearances. He has a solid fastball and curveball combo, and the potential to be a front of the line starter...when he's healthy. And that's the biggest caveat on Allan thus far. The need for Tommy John surgery isn't nearly as detrimental to a pitchers career as it once was, but throw in the pandemic and it's been a wild ride for Allan. He could pitch sometime in 2022, which would give a better estimate on where he stands after surgery.

Why is he in the should? Allan is another name that should stay put. The potential is there, and if he's able to return to that trajectory, it'll be worth the wait. With that being said, the window for Allan is closing. Allan is still highly rated among the Mets prospects despite not pitching since 2019, and if he's able to return to form, he should be able to hold his position if not gain ground, in part due to MLB graduations.

Those are a few players that should be staying put, not necessarily that they will. They could be included into deals, Zeigler and Hamel offer lower risks on potential return than that of Ramirez and Allan, but the potential they've been able to show should at least for now put them in the "safe" category. If they're not in the good category, should category, there's only one place left for the prospects to be placed: To Go.

Which prospects will fall into the To Go category? Prospects that have value, but may not have any value to the major league team, or would be a good trade piece and nothing more.

Ronny Mauricio, SS, Binghamton (AA) - ETA: 2023

Probably the more controversial of selections, Mauricio faces multiple problems that caused him to land in this category. He's got a lot of potential, he's still only 21, he plays a premium position, however, he's got 84 strikeouts in 79 games, while also attributing 18 errors in the field. Not to mention, shortstop is a position that is logjammed and blocked for the next decade. Mauricio has started to show his power a little bit more, cranking 16 home runs while hitting .244 in AA, but that can only mask his fielding woes so much. Even Jeter struggled with errors in the minors, but unless Ronny can reign it in significantly, supplanting him into the line up seems a little bit wasted on his potential.

Why is he in the To Go? His potential is still high, but odds are that it won't be for the Mets if it's for a big name in a trade. There's no guarantee that his power stays, or that his fielding issues ever get fixed, and having Lindor at the position while drafting Jett Williams, makes him the right question mark to headline a trade.

Mark Vientos, 3B/OF/1B, Syracuse (AAA) - ETA: 2022

If we're not bringing him up, why keep him? He's not going to change his approach, 94 strikeouts in 71 games, and his fielding issues are also a big question mark with 12 errors over two positions. His power is a huge plus, but do the Mets want to keep him in AAA while the DH position is in need of help? Is this only temporary and he'll be up after the deadline passes? Or is he one of the prospects that keeps creeping into the trade conversations. Vientos has rocked 18 home runs, that would be a big upgrade if he could translate it to the major league level, but the errors and strikeouts should be enough to give the Mets some reason to put him in a trade if it's necessary to push it over the top.

Why is he in the To Go? As stated above, if there's no plan for him to make it to the majors while he's in the middle of one of his best seasons, why hang onto him? If the Mets make a trade for a full scale DH, like Trey Mancini, then the addition of Vogelbach should complete the writing on the wall for Vientos. If they hold onto him past the deadline, then the crowd who wants to see him reach the majors this year will only grow louder. He's hitting .326 against lefties this season, a sore spot for the Mets this season. His probability is probably the closest to 50/50 on whether he's involved in a trade package or not.

Khalil Lee, OF, Syracuse (AAA) - ETA: 2022

At this point, it's basically boom or bust. He can hit when he's in AAA, but in short stints hasn't been able to find any type of consistency in the majors. His speed is a big attribute, but his strikeout rate is horrendous. Lee has stacked up 86 strikeouts in only 60 games, after a brief stint in the majors and even St. Lucie. Lee seems to be closer to expendable or destined for a Jankowski-type role where hitting is the least of his concerns. He has 6 errors between center and rightfield so his defense isn't quite Jankowski level of confidence. Hitting only .200 with 8 home runs, Lee would drastically need to change his plate approach in order to stick at the major league level.

Why is he in the To Go? There comes a point where the rubber has to meet the road. For Lee, it seems that rubber misses a lot. Is Lee the biggest prospect throw in? No. But would he add value to a rebuilding team that wanted to add speed or give him a bigger sample size in the majors? Absolutely. He's got enough power to warrant a look if you're a team that can afford to let him stay. His defense is serviceable so he more than likely wouldn't cost a team any games, not that it matters to rebuilding teams. If Lee truly has no future in the big leagues for a contending team, it makes sense to use him to improve said contender.

Nick Plummer, OF, Syracuse (AAA) - ETA: 2022

When Plummer hit Flushing, he made a mark by hitting a key home run late in a ball game to help the Mets win. However, the rest of the way he totaled a .138 batting average with 12 strikeouts in 14 games. So far in AAA this year, Plummer hasn't faired a whole lot better. He's managed a .217 average, 7 home runs, with 55 strikeouts in 44 games in Syracuse. His defense has only yielded 3 errors so that's encouraging, but the inconsistency in hitting should be enough to give the Mets some pause about the future he has with the team. Does Plummer have a role beyond the occasional depth call up? Or does Plummer only have a ceiling of AAA?

Why is he in the To Go? Just how high is the ceiling for Plummer? For baseball it's a little harder to gauge, but the sample size that is available says that Plummer isn't the next Mike Trout. If the Mets can throw in Plummer under the guise that he's a prospect that hasn't had the chance yet, the Mets could use him to spice up a package. If Plummer were to remain with the Mets, it remains to be seen just how far his potential could ever go.

The prospects potential is just a shot in the dark, and it remains to be seen whether they can ever live up to it.

Are they expendable?

The Mets have a lot of decisions to make in order to improve the team. And while a willingness to deal prospects is usually necessary, just how far are they willing to go? Trading away too many prospects only hinders the future. Refusal to trade any is taking a huge gamble on what you currently have in the farm system. With the deadline rapidly approaching, just how far are the Mets willing to go?

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