NEW YORK -- Last year’s Draft was among the highlights of Brodie Van Wagenen’s first summer as Mets general manager. By pooling together bonus pool money that the Mets could have used on later picks, they managed to sign pitcher Matthew Allan, a first-round talent, in the third round. Adding Allan to a Draft group that included first-rounder Brett Baty and second-rounder Josh Wolf allowed the Mets to infuse their system with three premium prospects in less than 24 hours.
Rules are different this year, with the 2020 MLB Draft shortened from 40 rounds to five due to the coronavirus pandemic. Bonus pools are likewise smaller, meaning the Mets must again become creative -- though this time, in a different way.
“Change forces ingenuity,” Van Wagenen said in a text message. “Since we don’t have the benefit of getting fresh talent evaluations this spring, we have to develop new models to properly weigh the track record of past performance with the incredibly small sample sizes produced in 2020.”
For Van Wagenen, that has meant becoming more personally involved as Draft heads Tommy Tanous and Marc Tramuta prepared for this year’s event. Those three and others scoured the limited video archive of this year’s high school and college players, knowing they could not gain the sorts of personalized scouting edges teams typically do by seeing players live. The Mets’ Draft prep also began earlier than usual and involved more members of the front office.
Simply put, the Mets understand the importance of this year’s event no matter how abnormal it might be. Recent trades for Robinson Canó, Edwin Díaz and Marcus Stroman gutted the upper levels of their farm system; while plenty of talent still exists, most of it resides lower down the pipeline. The 2020 Draft gives the Mets a prime opportunity to fill in those gaps, particularly given their extra pick (No. 69 overall) as compensation for Zack Wheeler signing with the Phillies.
Day 1 of the 2020 Draft airs tonight on MLB Network and ESPN at 7 p.m. ET, and includes the first 37 picks. Day 2 begins at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday on MLB Network and ESPN2, and spans the remainder of the 160 picks.
Comprehensive coverage will be available on MLB.com and MLB Pipeline, which will simulcast MLB Network’s broadcast. Go to MLB.com/Draft to see when teams pick, the Top 200 Prospects list, mock drafts from analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, scouting video and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter to see what Draft hopefuls, clubs and experts are saying and to get each pick as it’s made.
Here’s how the Draft is shaping up for the Mets, whose first selection is the No. 19 overall pick:
State of the system
As the Mets continue to wait on one of MLB's youngest talent cores to mature, they hope to keep building around potential future stars like Ronny Mauricio, Francisco Alvarez, Baty and Allan. Due in large part to trades, the franchise features little of note at the upper levels of the Minors. The Mets must continue upgrading their pipeline so that they can build a more complete system from top to bottom.
What they’re saying
“With a five-round Draft, our compensation pick is even more valuable. We look forward to our six selections and believe that this Draft has talent that can impact our organization in a very positive way.” -- Van Wagenen
Who might they take?
MLB.com’s Jim Callis has the Mets targeting pitching in the first round. In his most recent mock draft, Callis suggested the team could take Georgia’s Cole Wilcox, though he's also previously listed South Carolina's Carmen Mlodzinski, Miami’s Slade Cecconi, Auburn’s Tanner Burns and several others as reasonable options.
Each team gets an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of its selections in the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. This year, with a five-round Draft, all signing bonuses of drafted players will apply toward the bonus pool total.
For 2020, there is a $20,000 limit on bonuses for non-drafted free agents. There is no limit to the number of undrafted players teams may sign, but they cannot go over $20,000 per player. These bonuses do not count toward the pool total.
The Mets have a pool of $7,174,700 to spend, including $3,359,000 to spend on their first selection.
Years of focusing on infielders in both the Draft and international markets have left the Mets well-stocked in that area, while last year’s Draft filled in significant gaps on the pitching side of things. Behind the plate, Alvarez is one of the best catching prospects in baseball. Put it all together, and it becomes obvious that the Mets’ most glaring weakness is in the outfield, where they have yet to recover from the trade that sent first-rounder Jarred Kelenic to the Mariners in 2018.
Only three outfielders -- Alexander Ramirez, Endy Rodriguez and Freddy Valdez -- rank among the Mets’ Top 30 Prospects list, and none of those three have reached Class A ball. An older college outfielder would fit into the Mets’ system well, particularly given the chance that Michael Conforto leaves via free agency after the 2021 season.
Last year saw the Mets employ an unorthodox strategy, sacrificing in other areas so that they could combine their bonus pool resources to sign Allan. The limits of a five-round Draft should make it difficult to pursue a similar strategy this year, meaning the Mets may be more inclined to select the best player possible in each round. It’s otherwise tough to predict what Van Wagenen might do, given his propensity toward creativity and his limited track record as GM.
The recent top picks
2019: Brett Baty, 3B (No. 12)
2018: Jarred Kelenic, OF (No. 6)
2017: David Peterson, LHP (No. 20)
2016: Justin Dunn, RHP (No. 19)
2015: Desmond Lindsay, OF (No. 53)