Led by Syndergaard, Mets have five of Top 100 Prospects
Plawecki, Matz, Nimmo, Conforto also make MLB.com's rankings
NEW YORK -- Forget Noah Syndergaard's down year for a moment. Though Syndergaard struggled in his first taste of Triple-A Las Vegas last season, that did little to dent his prospect status.
The proof is in MLB.com's annual Top 100 Prospects list, released Friday, which features Syndergaard in the Top 10 for the second straight year. The Mets had five representatives on the list in total, including Syndergaard (No. 10), catcher Kevin Plawecki (No. 63), left-hander Steven Matz (No. 66), and outfielders Brandon Nimmo (No. 72) and Michael Conforto (No. 82). Only three organizations in baseball put more prospects in the Top 100.
The annual ranking of baseball's Top 100 Prospects is assembled by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLBPipeline.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2015. Team-by-team Top 30 Prospects lists for 2015 will be unveiled in March.
Had everything gone well for Syndergaard last summer, he might have spent his rookie eligibility as Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler did before him. All spring, talk of Syndergaard following in the footsteps of those two was inescapable, and the big Texan poured gasoline on it by pumping the upper 90s with his fastball throughout Spring Training.
But when the season started, something changed for Syndergaard. Struggling through a pair of injuries, including a mild right forearm strain and a shoulder issue stemming from a home plate collision, Syndergaard finished the year 9-7 with a 4.60 ERA. Some of that was undoubtedly due to the hitter-friendly environment at Las Vegas, but some was due to Syndergaard himself.
Still, the 6-foot-6, 240-pound right-hander remains as projectable as pitchers come, with an upper-90s fastball and a hammer curve. No longer the shy 20-year-old he was when the Mets traded R.A. Dickey to snag him and Travis d'Arnaud in a seven-player deal, Syndergaard sits on the cusp of stardom. In addition to ranking him 10th overall among the game's prospects, MLB.com pegged him as baseball's second-ranked right-handed pitching prospect.
"What I saw was a kid learning who he is and what he's about," Las Vegas pitching coach Frank Viola said. "He went through some ups and downs, but he stayed positive. He learned from it. He's only going to get better from it. Throw those numbers out from last year because as far as learning experience, you're not going to have a better learning experience than what he went through last year."
Syndergaard should open this season in the Las Vegas rotation alongside Matz, a former top pick who exploded back onto the prospect scene last summer. Long a victim of nagging arm injuries, Matz stayed healthy enough to make 24 starts split between Class A Advanced St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton, posting a 2.25 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 140 innings.
"I don't think he flies under the radar," Viola said. "The kid's just got incredible stuff. He's left-handed and he's young and he's getting it."
Both of those pitchers will spend time this season throwing to Plawecki, a 23-year-old with little left to prove in the Minors. Showcasing the patience and hit tool that made him a supplemental-round pick back in 2012, Plawecki batted .309 with 11 homers and an .825 OPS over two levels last season. He could challenge d'Arnaud by midseason, or more likely become a valuable trade chip.
The final two Mets on MLB.com's list represent the organization's newest wave. Long dominated by pitching prospects, New York's farm system has leveled out and then some under general manager Sandy Alderson, with Nimmo famously becoming the first Draft choice of his tenure back in 2011. Though he struggled at first, Nimmo reached Double-A Binghamton as a 21-year-old by batting .322 at St. Lucie and is now the Mets' best outfield prospect.
Pushing him for that title is Conforto, last year's first-round pick who is actually three weeks older than Nimmo. With just 42 professional games on his resume, Conforto -- a corner outfielder with a power bat and plenty of patience -- boasts as much potential as anyone to make a significant leap forward in next year's rankings.