NEW YORK -- One year ago, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen took a unique approach to his first MLB Draft, selecting first-round talent Matthew Allan in the third round and sacrificing elsewhere in the Draft to pay for him. The Mets garnered rave reviews for that strategy at the time, but it didn’t seem like it would start a trend. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Draft was only five rounds, leaving little room for teams to wiggle around slot values.
Then the Mets went ahead and did it anyway. In the second round of the 2020 Draft on Thursday, they selected J.T. Ginn, another first-round talent who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. And with their third pick, in the compensation round, they took an athletic outfielder named Isaiah Greene, who, in vice president of amateur scouting Tommy Tanous’ estimation, “does not belong where we took him.”
“To get these deals done the last two years is a weapon,” Tanous said. “That’s all it is. It’s an absolute weapon. To be able to line up the best players is one thing, and I think as a staff we’re really good at that. To go and sign them, that’s a totally different thing. And we’ve been able to do that.”
Technically, the deals are not done yet; the Mets still must sign Ginn and Greene, but -- just like in Allan’s case a year ago -- they are confident they can do so. In the third through fifth rounds, the Mets took three players who did not rank among MLB Pipeline’s Top 200 Draft prospects, perhaps opening the door for under-slot deals that can free up cash for them to sign Ginn and Greene.
Here’s a fuller look at what the Mets achieved on Day 2 of the Draft:
Second round, 52nd overall: J.T. Ginn, RHP, Mississippi State University
A Draft-eligible sophomore, Ginn recently underwent Tommy John surgery and won’t return to game action until at least the spring of 2021. When healthy, he is a dynamic pitcher who could easily have become a first-rounder had he not been injured.
Just 21 years old, Ginn pitched three innings this season before undergoing surgery. As a freshman at Mississippi State, he struck out 105 batters in 86 1/3 innings, posting a 3.13 ERA while featuring a mid-90s fastball that topped out at 99 mph.
“This is a rare combination of turbo sink, as we call it, with strikeout ability,” Tanous said. “It’s an out-pitch curveball, an at-will curveball that he throws for strikes. It’s a super athletic kid. He’s got all the qualities of being a top-of-the-rotation guy.”
The major question is whether the Mets will be able to sign Ginn, who reportedly turned down an over-slot deal of $2.4 million when the Dodgers drafted him 30th overall out of high school in 2018. The slot value of the 52nd overall pick this year is approximately $1.4 million, but Ginn’s current status as a rehab player could affect his decision.
While Allan was considered a similar risk last year, the Mets did ample research before the Draft and agreed to terms -- albeit, significantly over slot -- without major issue. Van Wagenen said the team has held interest in Ginn since he was in high school.
“There’s history with this player,” Van Wagenen said. “There’s … work that’s been done on him. So that helps. That’s a starting point. Secondly, we recognize that he’s a premium talent and premium talent is going to require real investment in terms of dollars.”
Compensation pick, 69th overall: Isaiah Greene, OF, Corona HS (Calif.)
Seeking to add outfield athleticism to their system, the Mets took a premium center-field defender in the first round in Pete Crow-Armstrong. Then they took another in Greene at 69th overall, their compensation pick for Zack Wheeler signing with the Phillies last offseason.
Blessed with excellent speed and a strong arm, Greene rebounded from a mediocre junior year at Corona High to open scouts’ eyes at the Area Code Games and other high-level tournaments last summer and fall. Just 18 years old, he could develop into an even stronger prospect if he develops power as he matures.
“You don’t have to see him play too much to not be impressed with both his hit tool and his secondary tools,” Tanous said. “Really, really impressive kid.”
Third round, 91st overall: Anthony Walters, SS, San Diego State
The Mets did not need to look far to find their next pick. Walters hails from Corona, Calif., the same town where Green attended high school. (Walters went to nearby Tustin High.)
As a transfer, Walters hit .271 with a .689 OPS in 16 games for the Aztecs before their season ended due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is possible that the Mets try to sign Walters below slot value so that they can offer Ginn an over-slot deal.
Fourth round, 120th overall: Matthew Dyer, C, University of Arizona
Listed as a catcher, Dyer is capable of playing multiple positions, including first base, second base, third base and the outfield. He hit .220 with three home runs and 18 RBIs in 15 games before the coronavirus shutdown ended his junior season at Arizona.
Like Walters, Dyer did not rank among MLB Pipeline’s Top 200 Draft prospects.
Fifth round, 150th overall: Eric Orze, RHP, University of New Orleans
Orze’s story is as extraordinary as anyone’s in the 2020 Draft. Diagnosed with both skin and testicular cancer in ‘18, Orze sat out part of that season and all of ‘19 to recover. When he returned, he struck out 17 batters in 12 2/3 innings for New Orleans before COVID-19 concerns prematurely ended the college baseball season.