Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the upcoming season. Some compete for jobs in big league camp, while others vie for spots on Minor League affiliates. MLB Pipeline will visit all 30 camps this spring, and today we check in on the Mets.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The New York Mets' farm system has a different look this year after graduating shortstop Amed Rosario and first baseman Dominic Smith, the club's two best prospects at this time last year, to the Major Leagues during the 2017 season.
• Mets' Top 30 Prospects list | Q&A with Anthony Kay
But while the arrival of the highly touted duo has given the Mets franchise a young tandem to build around in the coming years, it's also highlighted the organization's lack of impactful Major League-ready prospects down on the farm. Though, that's not to say that this is a system devoid of impact prospects.
:: MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports ::
Top prospect Andres Gimenez quickly has emerged as the gem of the Mets' system since signing out of Venezuela for $1.2 million in July 2015 at age 16. The left-handed-hitting shortstop excelled during his pro debut the following year in the Dominican Summer League, ranking second in the circuit in average (.350) and third in OPS (.992) while exhibiting plate discipline and an approach that belied his age in the form of 46 walks and 22 strikeouts.
The performance convinced the Mets that Gimenez was equipped to be challenged during his United States debut in 2018. They assigned him straight to full-season Class A Columbia in the South Atlantic League, where, at age 18, he spent the season as one of the circuit's youngest everyday players, posting a .265/.346/.349 slash line with 17 extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases in 92 games.
"He responded great, and I think it was a big learning season for him," Mets director of player development Ian Levin said. "Initially when he got [to Columbia], he tried to do a bit too much and got away from the player he's capable of being. But as the year went on he got more comfortable within himself. And by the end, he was doing well there. I think it was a really positive year for him -- one that will really help him going forward."
The Mets also have high expectations for No. 2 prospect David Peterson, the club's first-round selection in the 2017 Draft. The 6-foot-6 left-hander showed he could pile up whiffs last spring as an Oregon junior, turning in a 20-strikeout performance and averaging 12.6 strikeouts-per-nine en route to becoming the No. 20 overall pick in June. He made his pro debut in the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League after signing for slot value, though complications from an ingrown toenail limited him to just three starts.
"David probably wouldn't have thrown much anyway because he was on the same schedule as all of our college guys that first year, so he just got a few less innings in the long run," said Levin about Peterson's abbreviated pro debut.
Healthy this spring, Peterson has impressed Mets officials with his leadership skills in Minor League camp, continuing a trend that has seen the 22-year-old southpaw emerge as a leader within the organization in a short amount of time.
"First of all, he's an excellent worker -- a guy who puts in the time that it takes in order to become a good player and takes pride in all of the things that he does on and off the field. He sets a good example for everybody. Now it's just a matter of getting him on-mound experience," said Levin.
The Mets will be without left-handed pitcher Thomas Szapucki (Mets' No. 5) and righty Jordan Humphreys (No. 13) this year as they each work their way back from respective Tommy John surgeries. The club will, however, receive a boost from the return of Anthony Kay, a 2016 first-rounder who missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Ranked No. 14 on the Mets' Top 30 list, Kay looked like a potential quick-to-the-big-leagues college lefty during his final season at the University of Connecticut, showcasing a promising blend of stuff and pitchability. Though he's now behind the development curve, the Mets believe Kay, once he gets on the mound and establishes a workload, could still move quickly in his path to become a mid-rotation starter at the highest level.
"He has looked good this spring," said Levin of the 23-year-old southpaw. "He's looked healthy, looked strong out here, so it's nice to see that. He hasn't thrown yet professionally but has all the makings of it and the pedigree for it. He obviously needs to get on the mound and be built up, but I expect good things out of him."
Levin and the Mets are similarly excited for what the upcoming season holds for No. 6 prospect Mark Vientos, New York's second-round pick in the 2017 Draft. The 18-year-old third baseman impressed last summer during his pro debut by posting a .262/.318/.398 slash line with four home runs and 14 doubles across a pair of Rookie levels, and he has continued to open eyes in his first Spring Training, showing improved physicality that has helped him makes gains on both sides of the ball.
"He's actually someone that has gotten a little bit better already," noted Levin. "He's already matured some physically and is starting to really show the power we thought he'd have. And he's still agile and mobile defensively, so that hasn't affected him. It's been a very strong showing for him so far -- all the steps are going in the right direction for him."