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Getting to know Mets prospect Drew Gilbert

The main piece in the Justin Verlander deal, Gilbert is immediately the best prospect in the system.

COLLEGE BASEBALL: JUN 12 NCAA Super Regionals Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With Justin Verlander headed back to Houston, the Mets received two of the Astros’ top three prospects in return. The first piece, Drew Gilbert, is an exciting center field prospect with high-end offensive potential who has already reached Double-A.

Despite a strong performance at a marquee baseball program (.362/.455/.673 his junior year at Tennessee), Gilbert was not widely regarded as an elite prospect. MLB Pipeline’s rankings had him at 32, while Baseball Prospectus was a bit higher at 17. Perhaps deterred by his short stature—Gilbert stands 5’7” on his best day—MLB teams felt the same way, and Gilbert stayed on the board until 28th. The Astros made him their first first-round pick since the infamous trash can scandal.

Since then, Gilbert has done little else but hit. He demolished the complex in a brief 4-game stint post-draft and continued to hit the ball extremely hard after a promotion to Single-A until a dislocated elbow ended his season. After narrowly missing top-100 lists in the offseason, Gilbert headed off to High-A to start 2023 and went nuclear again, punishing pitchers to the tune of a 192 wRC+ for 21 games before finally being promoted to Double-A. He’s been less impressive there—.241/.342/.371, good for a 92 wRC+, with 6 HR in 264 PA—and has at times been slowed by lingering elbow issues that left him DH’ing.

Despite the middling performance, Gilbert’s stock is considerably up, at least according to some outlets. Baseball Prospectus ranked him 36th overall, noting his impressive pop relative to his size and strong defensive projection. Prospects Live is similarly high on Gilbert, slotting him at 62nd on their board. Baseball America, by contrast, left Gilbert off their most recent in-season top 100.

There’s clearly still some doubt about Gilbert across the industry, but it’s difficult to see why. That he’s holding his own in Double-A in his first professional season is a major success, and he’s actually been an above league average hitter in the month of July. Despite being an overaggressive (or perhaps just over eager) swinger at times, Gilbert has walked nearly as much as he’s struck out in Double-A. His batted ball data, which was elite in college, has remained strong as a pro. A defensive home in center still seems likely, with high-end defense in a corner as a fall back. This seems like a profile that’s likely to make adjustments in the back-half of the season at Double-A and see a significant increase in stock

For now, Gilbert will join another recently acquired prospect in Luisangel Acuña at Double-A Binghamton. You can likely expect those two to appear both in top-50 prospect lists in the coming months and at #1 and #2 in our offseason rankings of the Mets’ farm system.