Meet the prospects Mets have acquired at Deadline

August 2nd, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- In the week leading up to the Trade Deadline, Mets owner Steve Cohen used his financial muscle essentially to buy up prospects from other teams. In that fashion, New York added eight total prospects in deals for Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, David Robertson, Tommy Pham, Mark Canha and Dominic Leone. Seven of those now rank among their MLB Pipeline Top 30.

Here’s a deeper look at the Top 30 prospects the Mets acquired:

Drew Gilbert, OF, Double-A Binghamton 
Acquired from Astros for Justin Verlander

Pipeline scouting report: He might have had the second-best stuff among prep pitchers from the upper Midwest in the 2019 Draft, trailing only Pirates first-rounder Quinn Priester. But Gilbert's 5-foot-9 frame and Tennessee commitment slid him to his home-state Twins in the 35th round. He starred as center fielder for the Volunteers, homering four times in seven playoff games to lead them to the 2021 College World Series and posting the best numbers (.362/.455/.673) on a club that ranked No. 1 in the nation for most of 2022. Gilbert signed for $2,497,500 as Houston's first first-round choice in three years but played just 11 pro games before dislocating his right elbow after running into an outfield wall. He climbed quickly from High-A to Double-A in his first full season before moving from the Astros to the Mets.

Gilbert is extremely aggressive in all phases of the game, yet his superb hand-eye coordination enables him to repeatedly barrel balls and produce high exit velocities. His left-handed stroke can get long because he hunts home runs, and while he rarely strikes out, he does make more ground-ball contact than desired. He's not physical but does have enough bat speed and strength to provide 15-20 homers per season without selling out for power.

Gilbert has solid-to-plus speed and uses it to steal and take extra bases. His quickness and instincts allow him to cover ground in center field, where he shows the plus arm strength that produced fastballs clocked up to 93 mph during infrequent college pitching appearances. A fiery competitor with a lot of emotion, he’s destined to become a fan favorite but needs to play more under control at times.

Organizational fit: By the time Gilbert is ready to become an everyday regular for the Mets, he could be the type of prospect who pushes Brandon Nimmo to a corner outfield spot. Those decisions will come in time. For now, the Mets are simply happy to have Gilbert’s high-upside profile in their organization.

“He’s a relentless player, and I think people are really going to enjoy watching this guy play,” Mets general manager Billy Eppler said. “He plays a little bit with his hair on fire. It’s just a high-end, Top 100, Top 50 talent.”

ETA: 2025

Ryan Clifford, OF, High-A Brooklyn 
Acquired from Astros for Justin Verlander

Pipeline scouting report: Clifford first played for U.S. national teams at age 12 and won gold medals at international events with the 12-and-under squad in 2015 and the 15-and-under club in 2018. Though he was regarded as one of the better all-around hitters in the 2022 prep class, he didn't dominate the showcase circuit and he was committed to Vanderbilt, so he wound up sliding to the 11th round. Signed for $1,131,530, the equivalent of late-second-round money, he hit .247/.426/.390 with two homers in a 25-game pro debut split between Rookie ball and Single-A. He climbed quickly from Single-A to High-A in his first full season and had a .903 OPS at the higher level before being traded to the Mets.

Clifford's approach is more mature than that of most players his age. He works counts and focuses on making hard contact. He has the bat speed and projectable strength to develop 20-25 home run power, and he does a good job of letting his power come naturally. He has a pretty left-handed swing and an efficient bat path, though his 30 percent strikeout rate in his introduction to pro ball showed he'll need to do a better job of recognizing off-speed pitches.

While Clifford possesses just fringy speed and could slow down as he gets stronger, he works hard to improve his quickness and defense. His reads and routes need to improve but he has solid arm strength and should be able to get the job done on an outfield corner. He also spent time at first base with Team USA and in his pro debut.

Organizational fit: Clifford boasts more power than Gilbert but also more risk, as he’s farther from the Majors and doesn’t possess the same prospect pedigree. He’s the same age and at the same level as seventh-ranked Mets prospect Alex Ramírez, who has had a disappointing season at Brooklyn. Those two are likely to jockey for organizational positioning over the coming years.

“He hits the ball incredibly hard,” Eppler said. “He’s outperforming the league, High-A, by a really good margin.”

ETA: 2026

Jeremiah Jackson, INF/OF, Double-A Brooklyn 
Acquired from Angels for Dominic Leone

Pipeline scouting report: The Angels’ second-round pick in the 2018 Draft, Jackson is a product of the Alabama high school ranks who has teased with his offensive potential, particularly his power, since signing. He set the bar high when his 23 homers established a Pioneer League record in 2019, with injuries and inconsistencies slowing him since. He missed a good chunk of time in 2021, his full-season debut, with a quad injury and then an oblique strain forced him out for a month and a half in 2022. The Angels didn’t protect him on the 40-man roster and he wasn’t selected in the Rule 5 Draft. He was back to being healthy and was a league-average bat for Double-A Rocket City in 2023 before he was traded to the Mets.

Jackson still has the loud, albeit raw, tools that made him a second-round pick. He’s capable of leaving the yard in any plate appearance. The ball jumps off his bat, and even with the time missed and some issues with his overall approach, he still hit 24 homers in 136 combined games in 2021 and 2022. He has wiry strength with bat speed and loft, with the power especially to his pull side. He did cut down his strikeouts in 2022, but his ability to make consistent hard contact still has not shown up.

A good athlete who runs well and has a good arm, Jackson was a shortstop when he first signed, but has had more positions added to his repertoire. He has played a lot of second base but also learned third and even played some left field in 2022. He continued to move around this season with time at third, second, short, center and left field. That’s all done to get his bat in the lineup, but now in his age-23 season, it's time to turn that power potential into an everyday reality.

Organizational fit: The Mets have a glut of shortstops in their system, including big league starter Francisco Lindor. But the organization values defensive versatility. As such, Jackson figures to follow the path of Ronny Mauricio, a natural shortstop who has recently added second base and left field to his Minor League duties. Ultimately, it’s Jackson’s bat that will determine his future; if he hits, the Mets will find a place for him to play.

ETA: 2024

Justin Jarvis, RHP, Triple-A Syracuse
Acquired from Brewers for Mark Canha

Pipeline scouting report: Ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 199 Draft prospect in 2018, Jarvis went to the Brewers in the fifth round out of the North Carolina prep ranks and signed for slot at $327,100. He was with Wisconsin, both as a Single-A and High-A affiliate, for the 2019, 2021 and 2022 seasons before joining Double-A Biloxi for four games last season. Back with the Shuckers for ’23, the 23-year-old right-hander was enjoying a breakout campaign when the Brewers traded him to the Mets for Canha. He was Milwaukee’s Minor League Pitcher of the Month in April after striking out 29 batters over four starts (23 innings).

Throwing from a high arm slot, Jarvis has picked up some velocity in the spring and sits around 93-95 mph with his four-seamer, but what makes the pitch play up is its “invisiball” nature with incredible ride up in the zone. (It’s worth noting that the Southern League’s pre-tacked ball could have affected Jarvis’ fastball traits.) In the last two years, he’s added a low-80s splitter that fades nicely, giving him a south option off the northern fastball. His low-80s slider flashes above average with good vertical and horizontal break, while a mid-70s, looping curveball offers another offspeed look.

Listed at 6-foot-2, 183 pounds, Jarvis needs to work the edges of the zone, because if his command falters, hitters have a history of punishing him when he catches too much of the plate. (His 19 homers allowed were tied for most in the Midwest League in 2022.) There’s a deep enough arsenal and starter-quality control to feature in the back end of a Major League rotation, if he can hold these pitch characteristics with a more standard ball at the higher levels.

Organizational fit:

Although Jarvis does not have the highest ceiling, the Mets are cognizant that they need more pitchers like him: young, controllable, upper-level arms who can serve as Major League depth in the short-term future. Before acquiring Jarvis, the Mets had only one such pitcher at Triple-A who had yet to debut: 10th-ranked prospect Mike Vasil. They’d like to collect as many as they can.

ETA: 2024

Luisangel Acuña, INF, Double-A Binghamton
Acquired from Rangers for Max Scherzer
Pipeline scouting report: Acuña signed out of Venezuela in 2018 for $425,000 -- more than quadrupling the $100,000 bonus the Braves gave his older brother Ronald four years earlier. Luisangel may not have his older brother’s superstar ceiling, but he does have the potential for solid tools across the board. He stood out as one of the best all-around players in the 2022 Arizona Fall League and was in the midst of his best season yet as a 21-year-old in Double-A when the Rangers dealt him to the Mets.

Acuña attacks pitches with an explosive right-handed stroke and an aggressive approach. He’ll draw his share of walks and doesn't strike out excessively, but he chases and swings and misses too frequently against non-fastballs and doesn't always make quality contact. If he can settle down a bit and drive the ball in the air on a more regular basis, he could be a .270 hitter with 20 or more homers per season.

Combining solid speed with savvy on the bases, Acuña swiped 126 bags in 151 attempts during his two-plus years in full-season ball before the trade. Earlier in his career, he faced some questions about his ability to remain at shortstop, but he has shown that he has the solid range and arm to do so. He has the tools and athleticism to play all over the diamond.

Organizational fit: Acuña obviously won’t play shortstop in New York with Francisco Lindor signed through 2031, but the Mets are going to keep him there for now -- much as they did as they developed another versatile top prospect, Ronny Mauricio. Already as a professional, Acuña has played some second base and center field, and the Mets intend to keep exposing him to those positions. Either could be a potential long-term fit for him, with second base perhaps the most likely option.

“We’re just really excited to get a prospect of this caliber into our system,” Mets general manager Billy Eppler said.

ETA: 2024

Marco Vargas, INF, Rookie-level FCL Mets
Acquired from Marlins in David Robertson trade

Pipeline scouting report: Vargas looked like the bargain of Miami’s 2022 international class after signing for $17,500 out of Mexico the day before he turned 17 in May. Three weeks later, he reported to the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, where he recorded three multihit games in his first six pro contests. He batted .319/.421/.456 and won team MVP honors. His trade to the Mets came after another impressive start in the Florida Complex League this season, including an .899 OPS in 33 games.

Vargas is an extremely advanced hitter for his age, showing the ability to recognize pitches, control the strike zone and employ the opposite field. With a quick left-handed stroke and good feel for the barrel, he makes a lot of hard line-drive contact. He already has a strong lower half and will focus on adding muscle to his upper body, which could help him produce 15-20 homers per season once he turns on and pulls more pitches.

Though he possesses just fringy speed, Vargas is an instinctive baserunner who looks to steal when given the opportunity. He shows good actions, average range and arm strength at second base, his best position. He spent much of his debut at third, where he made seven errors in 22 games compared to just one miscue in 23 starts up the middle at second and shortstop.

Organizational fit:
Infielders with strong offensive potential are always valuable, and the Mets -- like all organizations -- covet those with high ceilings. Vargas -- ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Mets' No. 7 prospect -- qualifies as a player who has played multiple infield positions while hitting with some thump, as evidenced by his above-average Minor League exit velocities.

“He’s young,” Eppler said. “And he’s really performing well at the level.”

ETA: 2027

Ronald Hernandez, C, Rookie-level FCL Mets
Acquired from Marlins in David Robertson trade

Pipeline scouting report: The Marlins signed their two best catching prospects six months apart in 2021, landing Hernandez with an $850,000 bonus out of Venezuela in January before drafting Joe Mack 31st overall that July. Hernandez has less offensive upside but is a more advanced defender. He slashed .236/.329/.321 in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League while making his U.S. debut at age 18 last season. Hernandez was in the middle of a nice FCL rebound when Miami dealt him to the Mets.

A steady receiver, Hernandez is agile behind the plate and does a nice job of blocking balls in the dirt. He has solid-to-plus arm strength and showed improved throwing accuracy in 2022, when he erased 33 percent of base-stealers. He works hard on his craft, diligently preparing for games, displaying leadership skills and communicating with pitchers in either English or Spanish.

While he hadn’t posted big offensive numbers until this year, Hernandez has a sound swing from both sides of the plate and makes consistent contact to all fields. He has the patience to work counts and should continue to improve offensively as he adds more strength and experience. He could provide 12-15 homers per season once he learns to turn on and lift pitches more often.

Organizational fit:
Once again, it’s the overall caliber of prospect that the Mets coveted here; the fact that Hernandez (No. 18 in the Mets' organization) plays the same position as Francisco Alvarez and Kevin Parada doesn’t much matter. If Hernandez turns into a solid switch-hitting catcher, that will be a very good problem for the Mets to have.

ETA: 2026