Mets stay opportunistic with diverse Day 2 haul

July 19th, 2022

NEW YORK -- For the Mets, Day 2 of the Draft brought a diversity of talent. Rather than focus on one area of need -- say, college pitching or power hitting -- the Mets scattered their eight Day 2 picks across the talent spectrum.

The day began with University of Florida right-hander Brandon Sproat, whose 100 mph fastball immediately makes him one of the better pitching prospects in the organization. It ended with Arkansas reliever Zebulon Vermillion, who may feature the best Scrabble name of any 2022 draftee. In between, the Mets had plenty of highlights:

Teammates reunited
Sproat, the Mets’ third-rounder at No. 90 overall, will enter the organization alongside a familiar face, having played with the organization’s top selection, catcher Kevin Parada, on the 2021 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. The two now rank among New York’s top names to dream on.

Unlike many college pitchers, Sproat is not the polished prospect that, say, David Peterson was when the Mets took him in the first round in 2017. Sproat struggled a bit early in his junior season at the University of Florida, losing four out of five decisions at one point before recovering to go 6-0 with a 1.59 ERA and 33 strikeouts over his final six starts.

“Throwing 100 is pretty good,” Mets vice president of amateur scouting Tommy Tanous said in his description of Sproat. “It’s high-octane stuff. Not only is the velocity impressive, what’s more impressive is the movement on the fastball -- probably the best overall movement I’ve seen in the last few years. There’s a slider and a changeup. There’s a heck of a competitor and a tremendous athlete here.”

Along with second-rounder Blade Tidwell, MLB Pipeline’s 27th-ranked Draft prospect who fell to the Mets at No. 52 overall, Sproat provides high-upside starting talent to supplement Matt Allan, Calvin Ziegler and the organization’s other top arms. That remains a relatively thin group, particularly at the upper levels of the Minors.

Seeking athleticism
Sproat is not the only Mets draftee whose athleticism impressed Tanous and scouting director Marc Tramuta. The organization’s other first-round pick, Jett Williams, boasts a profile that could allow him to play four-plus positions at the highest level. (Think Jeff McNeil-type versatility.) Comp Round 2 pick Nick Morabito evokes “Chad Curtis or a smaller Clint Frazier-type physically,” according to Pipeline’s scouting report. Fifth-rounder D’Andre Smith can play all over the infield and is “a big-time energy player,” per Tramuta. Seventh-rounder Jonah Tong is “uniquely athletic” for a pitcher, says Tramuta.

While that trend did not necessarily come about by design, the Mets have become drawn to athletic players in recent years after focusing more closely on other attributes -- think the Michael Conforto profile of big bats with solid plate discipline, regardless of defensive potential -- in the past. More than ever, the Mets now value versatile players who could impact the organization in multiple roles.

“I don’t think we try to force anything too, too much where we go into the year saying, ‘We need speed. We need this,’” Tanous said. “It just happened that so many of the players had those combinations, like Morabito and obviously Jett, and they just fell on the board the right way. It’s always nice to take athletes when we have a chance to. If we can stay up the middle, take athletes, we do that.”

North of the border
One other player who stood out on Day 2 of the Draft was Tong, a Canadian high schooler whose stock rose when he struck out 14 batters over 11 2/3 innings in the MLB Draft League last month. That stat line came with plenty of wildness, including 10 walks, but the Mets believe he’s a project worth pursuing -- particularly considering that Tong’s electric performance occurred largely against college players.

“He was rated as one of the top guys in terms of data and metrics in that league, which is impressive for a younger kid,” Tramuta said. “There are some cons to the delivery and arm action, but I’ll let people that look at it on Twitter try to figure out what I mean by that. He was 90-95. We think there’s a chance for a plus breaking ball in there. I think like most high school kids, he’ll have to tighten up the command and control, but we see an upside pick here with that kid.”