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2023 Mets Draft: Draft Redo

If you could redo the Mets’ first-round draft selections over the last five years, who would you draft and why?

New York Mets General Manager Billy Eppler
Billy Eppler
Photo by Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday RM via Getty Images


Mets Pick: Jarred Kelenic (6th overall)

Optimal Pick: Logan Gilbert (14th overall, Seattle Mariners)

The highest overall pick the Mets had since Phil Humber was selected in 2003 and signed for $3 million, Jarred Kelenic would also be utilized in a high profile trade. On February 2, 2008 Humber was traded by the Mets, along with Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra, and Kevin Mulvey to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Johan Santana. Almost ten years later, on December 3, 2018, Kelenic was traded by the Mets, along with Gerson Bautista, Jay Bruce, Justin Dunn and Anthony Swarzak to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz and cash.

Considered one of the best prospects in all of baseball, the outfielder demolished minor league pitching in 2019. Playing at Low-A West Virginia, High-A Modesto, and Double-A Arkansas, Kelenic hit a cumulative .291/.364/.540 with 23 home runs, 20 stolen bases, and 50 walks to 111 strikeouts. Following the cancelled 2020 season, he forced his promotion to the majors after hitting .320/.392/.624 in 30 games for the Triple-A Tacoma with 9 home runs, 6 stolen bases, and 15 walks to 22 strikeouts. His time with the Rainiers would be the high water mark of his season, as he was absolutely abysmal with the Mariners. Appearing in 93 games, the 21-year-old hit .181/.265/.350 with 14 home runs, 6 steals, and 36 walks to 106 strikeouts.

His 2022 season has unfolded eerily similar. Starting the season with the Mariners, he hit .140/.219/.291 in 30 games before being optioned down to Triple-A in mid-May. He spent the next two months with the Rainers and hit .289/.355/.551 in 53 games, slugging 11 home runs, stealing 3 bases, and walking 20 times to 59 strikeouts. He had brief cameos in late July/early August and in September but struggled both times while having no problems handling Pacific Coast League pitching. Kelenic changed his swing mechanics over the off-season and had very strong spring training where he hit .353/.389/.706 in 19 games, prompting the Mariners to roster him to start the 2023 season. The 23-year-old seems to have finally found himself, and is currently hitting .252/.327/.453 with 11 home runs, 11 stolen bases, and 31 walks to 103 strikeouts in 77 games through the beginning of the week.

Kelenic wound up in the Mariners system, but ironically, their actual first-round draft selection would have been the optimal pick had the Mets selected him. Selected 14th overall out of Stetson University, Jacob deGrom’s alma mater, Gilbert rocketed through the Mariners system much like Kelenic, posting a 2.13 ERA in 135.0 cumulative innings for Low-A West Virginia, High-A Modesto, and Double-A Arkansas. Considered one of the better pitching prospects in baseball in 2021 following the lost 2020 season, the right-hander made just a single start with the Rainiers before making his major league debut in mid-May. He wound up making 24 starts for the 90-72 M’s, posting a 4.68 ERA in 119.1 innings, allowing 112 hits, walking 28, and striking out 128. Penciled into the Mariners starting rotation for the 2022 season, the 25-year-old was the best pitcher on the Mariners and one of the better pitchers in the American League, posting a 3.20 ERA in 185.2 innings, allowing 170 hits, walking 49, and striking out 174. Gilbert has taken a step back this season but is still has been a serviceable pitcher, posting a 4.19 ERA in 92.1 innings through the beginning of the week with 79 hits allowed, 19 walks allowed, and 93 strikeouts.


Mets Pick: Brett Baty (12th overall)

Optimal Pick: Corbin Carroll (16th overall, Arizona Diamondbacks)

Brett Baty has had an excellent career as a professional baseball player so far in his young career. Advertised as an advanced bat who would punish the ball, he has more or less done exactly just that. After being drafted, he hit .234/.368/.452 with 7 home runs, 0 steals, and 35 walks to 65 strikeouts in 51 combined games with the GCL Mets, Kingsport Mets, and Brooklyn Cyclones. Following a year layoff due to the cancellation of the minor league season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Baty resstablished himself as a top prospect in baseball by hitting a combined .292/.382/.473 with 12 home runs, 46 walks, and 98 strikeouts in 91 games with the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Binghamton Rumble Ponies in 2021. He was even better in 2022, hitting .312/.406/.544 in 89 games for the Rumble Ponies, earning a brief promotion to the Syracuse Mets in August, and then a promotion to the Mets. The third baseman appeared in 11 games before having his season end prematurely due to injury, hitting .184/.244/.342 with 2 home runs, 2 walks, and 8 strikeouts. The Mets made the somewhat puzzling decision to not have Baty break spring training camp with the big league team, instead sending him to Triple-A Syracuse, but the infielder forced his way back into the conversation by hitting .400/.500/.886 with 5 home runs, 7 walks, and 9 strikeouts in the first few weeks of the season. With the struggles of incumbent third baseman Eduardo Escobar, the Mets promoted Baty once again and have more or less installed him as the permanent third baseman. Baty has had an up-and-down start to his professional career, hitting .244/.312/.360 in 60 games through the beginning of the week, with 5 home runs, 2 stolen bases, and 19 walks to 57 strikeouts.

Despite all that, Corbin Carroll has simply outperformed the Mets’ third baseman. After being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019, he hit a combined .299/.409/.487 in 42 games with the AZL Diamondbacks and the Low-A Hillsboro Hops with 2 home runs, 18 steals, and 29 walks to 41 strikeouts. Following the lost 2020 season, he got off to an extremely hot start with Low-A Hillsboro, hitting .435/.552/.913 through his first 7 games, but injured his shoulder after hitting a home run and was forced to undergo season-ending surgery. The centerfielder returned to the field in 2022 assigned to the Double-A Amarillo Sod Poodles and made up for lost time, hitting .313/.430/.643 in 58 games with 16 home runs, 20 stolen bases, and 41 walks to 68 strikeouts. After a few week layup due to injury, he was promoted to the Triple-A Reno Aces, where he hit .287/.408/.535 in 33 games with 7 home runs, 11 stolen bases, and 24 walks to 36 strikeouts, and in late August, he received a call-up to the Diamondbacks, where he remained for the rest of the season. All in all, he hit a combined .307/.425/.611 with 24 home runs, 31 stolen bases, and 67 walks to 107 strikeouts in 93 minor league games and .260/.330/.500 with 4 home runs, 2 stolen bases, and 8 walks to 31 strikeouts in 32 major league games. The 22-year-old broke camp with the Diamondbacks to begin the 2023 season and got off to a monster start, hitting .289/.365/.557 with 17 home runs, 24 stolen bases, and 29 walks to 64 strikeouts through the beginning of the week.


Mets Pick: Pete Crow-Armstrong (19th overall)

Optimal Pick: Jordan Walker (21st overall, St. Louis Cardinals)

Pete Crow-Armstrong’s time in the organization was short. Drafted in 2020, a season that never actually took place thanks to the coronavirus, he got his first taste of professional baseball in 2021, assigned to the St. Lucie Mets to begin the season. His season lasted barely a week, as he injured his non-throwing shoulder while sliding into third in his sixth game with St. Lucie, ending his season. He ended up tearing his labrum, closing the book on his season. A few months later, his career as a Mets player came to a close as well, as the team traded the centerfield prospect for shortstop Javy Baez, right-handed pitcher Trevor Williams, and cash. The trade was a questionable one at the time, but it looks worse even now. While Baez performed better than anybody could have expected, hitting .299/.371/.515 with 9 homers and 7 steals in 47 games, his addition to the everyday lineup was not able to get the 77-85 2021 Mets to the playoffs, let alone to a record over .500. A free agent that winter, he decided to sign with the Detroit Tigers. Trevor Williams also exceeded expectations. In 122.0 innings in 2021 and 2022, majority of them out of the bullpen with a handful of spot starts sprinkled in, the right-hander posted a cumulative 3.17 ERA with 124 hits allowed, 32 strikeouts, and 113 strikeouts before signing a contract with the Washington Nationals in December 2022.

Crow-Armstrong, meanwhile, successfully rehabbed his shoulder and made some changes to his swing mechanics that have resulted in massive exit velocity gains. The 20-year-old was assigned to the Single-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans to begin the season and hit .354/.443/.557 in 38 games with them with 7 home runs, 13 stolen bases, and 22 walks to 33 strikeouts. He was promoted to the High-A South Bend Cubs at the beginning of June and finished the season there, hitting .287/.333/.498 in 63 games with 9 home runs, 19 stolen bases, and 14 walks to 69 strikeouts. All in all, the 20-year-old outfielder hit .312/.376/.520 in 101 combined games with 16 home runs, 32 stolen bases, and 36 walks to 102 strikeouts. Promoted to the Double-A Tennessee Smokies for the 2023 season, Crow-Armstrong hasn’t missed a beat and is hitting .280/.360/.480 with 9 home runs, 22 stolen bases, and 21 walks to 61 strikeouts through the beginning of the week and is considered a top prospect in all of baseball by most minor league baseball outlets.

While Pete Crow-Armstrong has had an incredibly successful minor league career, Jordan Walker simply has been better since being drafted out of Decatur High School in Decatur, Georgia by the Cardinals. He made his professional debut with the Low-A Palm Beach Cardinals in 2021 and hit .374/.475/.687 with 6 home runs, 1 stolen base, and 18 walks to 21 strikeouts in 27 games, earning himself a promotion to the High-A Peoria Chiefs. The third baseman didn’t bat an eye to the more advanced competition he was facing and hit .292/.344/.487 with 8 home runs, 13 strikeouts, and 15 walks to 66 strikeouts. All in all, he skyrocketed up the national Top 100 prospect lists thanks to his cumulative performance, hitting .317/.388/.548 in 82 games with 14 home runs, 14 stolen bases, and 33 walks to 87 strikeouts. Promoted to Double-A Springfield for the 2022 season, Walker hit .306/.388/.510 in 119 games with 19 home runs, 22 stolen bases, and 58 walks to 116 strikeouts. Not that he needed it to solidify his prospect bona fides, but Walker was also dominant in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .286/.367/.558 with 5 home runs, 3 stolen bases, and 10 walks to 23 strikeouts and cementing his status as one of the best prospects in all of baseball.

Walker made St. Louis opening day roster out of spring training and got off to a strong start, hitting in his first 12 games and tying Eddie Murphy’s 1912 record for longest hitting streak for a rookie under the age of 21, but was optioned down to Triple-A at the end of April after his production started faltering in the aftermath of his hitting streak. He struggled a bit in 29 games with the Memphis Redbirds, hitting .239/.348/.398 in 29 games with 4 home runs, 4 stolen bases, and 16 walks to 32 strikeouts, but was promoted back to St. Louis at the beginning of June and got back on track. He is currently hitting a cumulative .301/.366/.462 with 6 home runs, 3 stolen bases, and 13 walks to 36 walks through the beginning of the week.


Mets Pick: Kumar Rocker (10th overall)

Optimal Pick: Matt McLain (17th overall, Cincinnati Reds)

What was initially seen as a coup for the Mets turned into the worst-case scenario. After falling to the Mets at 10, the Mets selected Vanderbilt ace Kumar Rocker but failed to sign him, with negotiations hung up on medical records and continuing until the eleventh hour. The right-hander had been pitching with red flags all season, as his velocity fluctuated virtually all season and was overall down as compared to his prior two years at Vandy, but the organization elected to draft him anyway. The next nine picks were structured around selecting valuable players while at the same time being able to sign Rocker to a contract reportedly valued at $6 million, roughly $1.3 million above the slot value for the 10th pick. In the end, the Mets had concerns about Rocker’s right elbow and ended up not even making him an offer. Because the team did not select a high-upside backup pick as a backup, reportedly looking into such players but unable to find any who would agree to forgo their college commitment for a $1.3 million bonus despite other teams finding such players, the money went unspent and wasted. The only silver lining in the affair was that, because Rocker did not participate in an optional pre-draft medical program, the Mets would be eligible to recoup their draft pick, receiving the 14th overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, a pick that the team would use to select Jett Williams.

Selected a few picks after the Mets took Rocker, Matt McLain was drafted out of the University of California, Los Angeles. A product of Arnold O. Beckman High School in Irvine, California, McLain lettered all four years he attended, hitting .369/.467/.604 with 3 home runs and 5 stolen bases in his senior year. He was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks with their first round pick, the twenty-fifth overall selection, but he elected not to sign with them, citing his strong desire to attend UCLA.

As a freshman at UCLA in 2019, he appeared in 61 games, starting sixty of them, and hit .203/.276/.355 with 4 home runs, 6 stolen bases in 8 attempts, and 17 walks to 64 strikeouts. Primarily a shortstop and second baseman while playing in high school, McLain was the Bruins’ opening day center fielder and made 49 starts in center, deferring the middle infield to current Detroit Tigers farmhand Ryan Kreidler and current Cyclones infielder Kevin Kendall. He played for the Wareham Gateman of the Cape Cod Baseball League that summer and hit .274/.394/.425, returning to UCLA for his sophomore season on a high note. With Kevin Kendall injuring his wrist prior to the beginning of the 2020 season, McLain returned to shortstop and got off to a blistering start to the season, hitting .397/.422/.621 in his first 13 games, but the season unfortunately was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March. The infielder played for the Santa Barbara Foresters of the California Collegiate League and continued punishing the baseball, making it appear as if his brief breakout earlier in the year with the Bruins was legit.

McLain came into the 2021 season considered one of the top college baseball players eligible for the 2021 MLB Draft, and he did not disappoint. He missed 10 games in May due to a fractured thumb, but other than that, he did everything he possibly could have done to make himself as attractive to a major league team as possible, hitting .333/.434/.579 in 47 games with 9 home runs, 9 stolen bases in 10 attempts, and 34 walks to 34 strikeouts, all while playing excellent defense at shortstop. He was selected by the Cincinnati Reds with the 17th overall pick and signed with them a few weeks later for $4,625,000, almost $1 million over the MLB recommended slot value of $3,609,700. He was initially assigned to their ACL affiliate but was quickly promoted to the Dayton Dragons, their High-A affiliate, where he spent the rest of the summer. In 2 games for the AZL Reds and 29 with the Dragons, McLain hit a cumulative .273/.387/.424 with 3 home runs, 10 stolen bases in 12 attempts, and 17 walks to 24 strikeouts. He spent the entire 2022 season with the Chatanooga Lookout, Cincinatti’s Double-A affiliate, and appeared in 103 games total, hitting .232/.363/.453 with 17 home runs, 27 stolen bases in 30 attempts, and 70 walks to 127 strikeouts. The 23-year-old was promoted to the Louisville Bats for the 2023 season and hit an impressive .348/.474/.710 in 38 games, hitting 12 home runs, stealing 10 bases in 15 tries, and walking 29 times to 34 strikeouts. In mid-May, the Cincinnati Reds called the infielder up to the big league club and McLain has not disappointed. Proving that his numbers were no mere International League mirage, he is currently hitting .313/.375/.549 with 7 home runs, 4 stolen bases, and 14 walks to 54 strikeouts in 43 games coming into the beginning of the week.


Mets Pick: Kevin Parada (11th overall)

Optimal Pick: Zach Neto (13th overall, Los Angeles Angels)

Much like in 2021, the Mets were unexpectedly handed a gift when Kevin Parada, a player who, at times prior to the draft, was considered a top 5 or even top 3 selection by reputable baseball outlets, was available when the team made its first first-round pick. A California native, Kevin Parada lettered four years at Loyola High School in Los Angeles, hitting a cumulative .380/.466/.661 with 9 home runs, 15 stolen bases in 16 attempts, and 34 walks to 51 strikeouts and turned down potential major league suitors to attend Georgia Tech, hoping to be the next big catcher from a school that had a history of developing excellent backstops.

Parada appeared in 52 games for the Yellow Jackets in his freshman year and hit .318/.379/.550 with 9 home runs, 1 stolen base in 2 attempts, and 17 walks to 41 strikeouts. He put on roughly 15 pounds when he returned to Georgia Tech for his sophomore year, but the weight gain was all muscle, helping his durability and power output. He appeared in 60 games in 2022 and hit .361/.453/.709 with 26 home runs- a Georgia Tech single-season record-, 11 stolen bases in 12 attempts, and 30 walks to 32 strikeouts. All-in-all, Parada hit .341/.420/.636 in 112 games at Georgia Tech, slugging 35 home runs, walking 47 times, and striking out 73 times.

A draft-eligible sophomore, Parada was selected by the Mets in the 2022 MLB Draft and signed for $5,019,735, a few hundred thousand dollars over the MLB-assigned slot value of $4,778,200. He was assigned to the FCL Mets roughly two weeks later to begin his professional career, appearing in three games for them in mid-August and then was then promoted to the St. Lucie Mets, where he appeared in 10 games from late-August until the end of the season. All in all, Parada hit a cumulative .275/.455/.425 in 13 games with 1 home run, 0 stolen bases in 1 attempt, and 12 walks to 13 strikeouts. He was assigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones to begin the 2023 season and is currently hitting .260/.343/.440 in 65 games coming into the beginning of the week with 8 home runs, 1 stolen base, and 25 walks to 69 strikeouts.

While Parada is still considered one of the better prospects in baseball, Zach Neto has progressed faster and further than Parada in the same amount of time. A Miami native, Neto attended Miami Coral Park Senior High School, a school whose notable alumni includes numerous former major leaguers, a handful of actors and actresses, and Pitbull. Neto did not receive much attention from major league scouts or colleges despite an eventual .407 cumulative batting average because of his size and hitting mechanics, going undrafted in the 2019 MLB Draft and not receiving a single athletic scholarship from a major baseball school. After graduating, he ended up honoring his commitment to Campbell University, a private Christian Liberal Arts school in North Carolina.

The 5’10”, 160-pound Neto began bulking up that fall, and head coach Justin Haire’s plan was to use him as both an infielder and a pitcher, but the COVID-19 pandemic put the kibosh on that. Neto did play organized baseball later that summer, participating in the South Florida Collegiate Baseball League, hitting .439/.537/.765 with the Delray Beach Lightning. He returned to Campbell for the 2021 season and finally got to shine. The 20-year-old appeared in 44 games, making starts at first, second, third, and short, and made 11 additional appearances on the mound. All in all, Neto hit .405/.488/.746 with 12 home runs, 12 stolen bases in 16 attempts, and walked 17 times to 30 strikeouts while posting a 3.43 ERA in 21.0 innings, allowing 15 hits, walking 15, and striking out 16.

Neto played for the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod Baseball League that summer, hitting a cumulative .304/.439/.587 in 16 games, leaving the team midway through the season due to an ankle injury and then rejoining it, a rare occurrence in the cape. He returned to Campbell for his junior season fully healthy and had an incredible year. Appearing in 53 games as the Fighting Camels’ primary shortstop, Neto hit .407/.514/.769 with 15 home runs, 19 stolen bases in 20 attempts, and 39 walks to 19 strikeouts. Additionally, he appeared in 4 games as a pitcher and posted a 3.86 ERA in 4.2 innings, allowing 6 hits, walking 3, and striking out 8. With their first round selection, the 13th overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, the Los Angeles Angels selected Neto, the two sides eventually agreeing to a $3,500,000 signing bonus, almost $1 million dollars below the MLB-assigned slot value of $4,412,500. The Angels aggressively assigned the 21-year-old to the Tri-City Dust Devils, their High-A affiliate, to begin the year, and then promoted him to their Double-A affiliate, the Rocket City Trash Pandas after roughly a week. Neto hit a cumulative .299/.377/.476 with 5 home runs, 5 stolen bases in 7 attempts, and 12 walks to 33 strikeouts, immediately finding himself atop the Angels’ top prospect list.

He began the 2023 season with the Trash Pandas, but in a move that surprised baseball fans, pundits, executives, and Neto himself, general manager Perry Minasian called Neto up to the major league roster in early April, making him the first member of the 2022 MLB Draft class to reach the MLB. The 22-year-old did not miss a beat, hitting .259/.338/.431 through his first 55 games, with 6 home runs, 5 stolen bases, and 11 walks to 37 strikeouts. In mid-June, he felt side tightness and cramping during warmups and was placed on the injured list with an oblique strain, where he remains.