The Mets made Major League moves prior to the season -- the trade for Francisco Lindor and his subsequent 10-year contract extension the most notable among them -- that were designed to bring playoff baseball back to Queens for the first time since 2016.
The organization also boasts a young system with four Top 100 prospects in Francisco Alvarez, Ronny Mauricio, Matthew Allan and Brett Baty, all of whom are 21 years old or younger and have yet to play above the Low-A level. Though the pipeline isn't as deep as some others, it does boast the young core that some rebuilding clubs desire for their Minor League foundations. It's the group of four -- and you could extend that out to six with 19-year-old Pete Crow-Armstrong and 21-year-old J.T. Ginn -- that anyone could see the Mets forming their long-term plans around.
That may be true of other clubs or even the old Mets, but not these ones. As talented as Alvarez and company are, their jobs as prospects and future rookies will be to supplement the likes of Lindor, Jacob deGrom and others who will be in New York for the long haul.
"We have a shortstop that's going to be here for a long period of time," said Mets director of player development Kevin Howard. "We have some other guys that have long-term deals. The focus is winning in the big leagues and then developing each player so they can contribute to that success."
Howard was responding to the concept that the Mets' young core could start together when the Minor League season begins on May 4. After all, all four Top 100 prospects participated in last year's alternate site in Brooklyn and received decent looks at Major League camp this spring. Baty and Allan -- both 2019 Draft picks -- finished their first Minor League seasons by helping Class A Short Season Brooklyn capture a New York-Penn League title. Alvarez was a step lower at Rookie Advanced Kingsport, and Mauricio was one rung above at Class A Columbia.
Since the canceled 2020 Minor League season is the great equalizer in terms of in-game experience, it's worth wondering if the Mets would consider placing the group on the same 2021 Opening Day roster and getting them going collectively. That isn't likely.
"As far as us keeping them together as a group so they can win, that's not something that we're really focused on," Howard said. "We're focused on having an individual plan for each guy and then designing a daily process where those guys can contribute to getting better. Then hopefully, that plan turns into success for that individual."
By way of having already seen full-season ball, Mauricio figures to open higher than the other three, perhaps as high as Double-A Binghamton where he could focus on getting more out of his plus power potential as a switch-hitter. Baty will have his own 60-grade pop to tap into as he makes his full-season debut. Allan, like many young pitchers, will narrow on taking his already improving changeup to the next level, thus complementing his other plus offerings in his heater and curve. Alvarez will get to grow defensively behind the plate with more reps and continue to round into one of the game's best young all-around catching prospects.
Because of what's happening at the top level, the pressure isn't there for this group to be the future of Mets baseball, but the potential certainly is.
"I think we handle them by trying to help these guys value what's going to turn into long-term success," Howard said. "That's concentrating on their process, focusing on what they can control. I think all these guys that we're talking about, they went to Major League camp because they had the mental capacity to focus on those things. They've all been great. I don't have any concerns about any of them."
No. 23 prospect Tylor Megill -- an eighth-round pick as an Arizona senior in 2018 -- showed signs of tiring at the end of his first full season in 2019. Though he struck out 92 batters in 71 2/3 innings as a starter and reliever, his velocity dropped to the lower-90s by the time he made a late-season cameo with Double-A Binghamton. That has not been a concern this spring down in Port St. Lucie. According to Howard, the 6-foot-7 right-hander is back up to 95-96 in April workouts, right in line with where he was during last year's instructional league. Add in an above-average breaking ball, and Megill could be a popup pitcher in the upper levels to open 2021.
"He can do what he wants with the ball," Howard said. "He can be a power pitcher, or he can pitch with finesse. I've been impressed with how well-rounded of a pitcher he is."
On the position player side, Mark Vientos has picked right up where he left off during a strong Major League camp. The Mets' No. 8 prospect went 3-for-6 with two doubles in limited looks, but perhaps most impressively, he also walked four times, showing off a patience not typically seen from prospects that can get overeager in their attempts to impress the top brass. Vientos has the plus power potential to make an impact at Citi Field some day and will continue to get looks at his natural position of third base and across the diamond at first to give him multiple routes to Flushing.
"I think his mindset is advanced," Howard said. "I think he deals with things that come up that other players might react negatively to. I think he deals with those things more maturely than most hitters his age. I've really been impressed by how he makes adjustments, not only at-bat to at-bat, but pitch to pitch. He knows why he chases. He knows his swing and why he's doing what he's doing. All of that is like an older player."
Alternate training site update
Going the other way, No. 7 prospect Khalil Lee didn't quite make the first impression he would have wanted in Grapefruit League action. The Mets acquired the 22-year-old outfielder from the Royals in a February three-team deal that primarily sent Andrew Benintendi from Boston to Kansas City and had hopes that Lee's plus run tool, plus arm and solid outfield defense could help the Major League cause before long. However, Lee, who is on the 40-man roster, struck out in nine of his 18 plate appearances in Major League Spring Training and went 0-for-16 overall in Florida.
Now at the Mets' alternate site in Brooklyn, Lee has focused on using the skills that he already possesses and translating those into his work at the plate. If he can make more contact and put balls into gaps, Lee has the chance to turn singles into doubles and could carve out a spot for himself alongside other New York outfielders.
"He's working on staying athletic," Howard said, "using that athleticism to get himself into better positions, getting himself behind the ball, keeping his bat in the zone for a longer time so he can be a little bit off but still get extra-base hits. I think at times his effort and his [desire] to be great can turn into the swing getting in and out of the zone. So he's trying to put himself in better positions where he's able to not be perfect but still adjust to pitches and drive the ball."
Prospect we'll be talking about in 2022
At No. 9, Alexander Ramirez is the highest-ranked Mets prospect no one has seen on an official Minor League field as of yet.
The 6-foot-3 outfielder signed for $2.05 million in July 2019 because he shows at least average skills with all five tools. (His run tool, in particular, comes in at a 55 on the 20-80 scale heading into 2021.) His Minor League debut, likely in the Dominican Summer League, was wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, that time will come in 2021 in what will be his age-18 season, and the Mets couldn't be more enthused about finally seeing him in competition.
"He's just an unbelievable, exciting kid to watch," Howard said. "Very natural and athletic in the outfield. Very explosive with his swing. He's a natural center fielder. He doesn't need much coaching out there offensively. There are going to be some things that he's going to have to improve but, for now with a guy like him, you just let him be natural and explosive and let him figure things out on his own."
Where Ramirez will see first is yet to be determined. Since he's in Florida already, the two options at present would appear to be Low-A St. Lucie or the only stateside short-season option in the Gulf Coast League. Ramirez's present skill set should let the Mets be as aggressive as they want to be with a player still awaiting his first Minor League at-bat.
"He'd be fine in either place," Howard said.