Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the season ahead. Some are competing for jobs in big league camp, others are prepping for the season as they vie for spots at Minor League affiliates up and down a team's system.
Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the season ahead. Some are competing for jobs in big league camp, others are prepping for the season as they vie for spots at Minor League affiliates up and down a team's system. MLBPipeline.com will be visiting all 30 camps this spring. Today, we check in on the New York Mets.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets made it to the World Series in 2015 for the first time since 2000 thanks largely to the contributions of some young impact players who came courtesy of the farm system. That's particularly true of the pitching staff as the 20-something rotation could help the Mets stay competitive for quite some time.
With that much youth in New York, and some spent to bring in some help at the Trade Deadline last July, it would be understandable if the organization needed some time to reboot and re-establish its prospect pipeline. But while the Mets' system isn't quite as strong as it was a year ago -- it was ranked No. 5 overall at the start of 2015 by MLBPipeline.com and dropped outside of the top 10 this year -- there is still a lot to be excited about in terms of the future.
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"I'm proud of our staff and our players because they've done a great job to get as many players to the big leagues, and impact guys to the big leagues, as they have," Mets director of Minor League operations Ian Levin said. "And I think we still have a lot of good players left."
The talent appears to be spread up and down the organizational ladder. Steven Matz, obviously is slated to be a full-time part of the rotation in New York. Top prospects like Dom Smith, Amed Rosario and Gavin Cecchini will all play at the upper levels and there's some high-end talent just getting started lower down thanks to efforts by the international and domestic amateur scouting departments.
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Because of graduations to the big leagues and those trades -- Yoenis Cespedes being the main acquisition -- there are some holes to fill throughout the system. It's not a lack of depth, but rather a clearing of a bit of a talent logjam and it's something Levin and staff want to see how the players in camp handle.
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"Camp has gone really well so far, guys have played well, guys have stepped up," Levin said. "With the trades we made last year, and the promotions to the big leagues, there's an opportunity now for players to step into roles that maybe they wouldn't have been able to before. They've done well in shooting for that."
That could mean prospects could see some upward mobility in 2016 and the Mets have never shied away from challenging players with aggressive assignments. Based on how they perform in camp this spring, some could move a bit more quickly if it's deemed they can handle it.
"I think you want to put players in a situation where they can grow from the experience," Levin said. "Sometimes, that might mean playing up. It's dependent on each guy and each set of circumstances, what they need to work on and what place is best for that for each of them."
The Mets knew that Ivan Wilson would be a bit of a project when they took him out of the Louisiana high school ranks in the third round of the 2013 Draft. Raw and with multiple skills, the outfielder has yet to really translate potential into performance. Based on how he's looked so far this spring, that might be about to change.
"He's made a lot of improvements," Levin said. "He's always had great tools and he's been working on his ability to put them into games consistently, turning those tools into skills. He's had a really good spring doing that and working on that. The results have started to show on the field."
The same can be said for infielder Phillip Evans. Back in 2011, the Mets drafted the California high school product in the 15th round and gave him $650,000 to sign. He's been forgotten a bit, falling behind some of the other young talent in the system, one that boasts a seemingly endless supply of middle infielders. He's yet to play above A ball, but he'll still be just 23 for all of the 2016 season. He's definitely opened some eyes this spring with his performance, with an eye toward jumping back on the prospect radar.
"Every time I look over, it seems like he's making another play, or hitting something hard," Levin said. "He's stood out in that way."
With the opportunity to take advantage of these new roles and expanded playing time, there are a number of potential breakout candidates. Catcher Tomas Nido looks like he could be ready to be among the first to step up.
The 2012 eighth-round pick out of the Florida high school ranks has moved slowly, making his full-season debut in 2015 after three summers in rookie or short-season ball. He had 317 at-bats last year, but if this spring is any indication, he might be ready for a more full-time role.
"He has had a really good camp and could step it up during the season to become the next 'guy,'" Levin said. "He's hit the ball exceptionally hard this spring. His defense has been really good. His catch and throw skills -- he's made some great throws this spring, throwing out some good baserunners. He's shown a lot of things on the field."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow @JonathanMayo on Twitter.