Mets excited by progress from first-rounders Parada, Williams

March 22nd, 2023

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets haven't had a Draft that has delivered multiple impact players since 2011, when they grabbed Brandon Nimmo and Michael Fulmer with their first two selections and also uncovered Seth Lugo in the 34th round. Armed with extra picks last July, they may have had their best Draft in more than a decade.

New York had two first-round choices after failing to sign first-rounder Kumar Rocker in 2021, and parlayed them into Georgia Tech catcher at No. 11 and Rockwall-Heath (Texas) HS shortstop at No. 14. The top backstop available in the 2022 crop, Parada unexpectedly slid out of the top 10, while Williams steadily rose up Draft boards all spring.

After setting a Yellow Jackets record with 26 homers, Parada, ranked as MLB's No. 36 prospect, signed for $5,019,735 and hit .275 with one homer in a 13-game pro debut, then went 6-for-15 in the playoffs to help Single-A St. Lucie win the Florida State League championship. The Mets knew they were getting a polished hitter with power to all fields, but they've also been delighted by the progress he has made with his defense in a short time.

"From what we saw last summer, his receiving and throwing needed a lot of improvement, and I've never seen a guy improve at both so much this quickly," New York farm director Kevin Howard said. "He looks almost big league ready in both. If he hits like we think he can hit, he's not far from being a big league option."

As a high school product, Williams (the Mets' No. 5 prospect) won't develop as quickly as Parada. But as an advanced hitter with sneaky power and at least plus speed, he should move fast for a prepster. He plays bigger than his 5-foot-8 build with his constant energy and while some clubs wondered about his ability to remain at shortstop, the Mets don't. 

"Jett is a baseball guy," Howard said. "Every time I called the kid in the offseason, he was at the field. He's one of the most polished offensive packages I've seen come out of high school. He controls the zone, is very disciplined in his approach, hits the ball very hard and makes contact consistently. 

"Nothing has made me think he's not a shortstop. He's 100 percent a shortstop. He has the arm strength. He can get better with his accuracy and improve his footwork."

New York also landed a third first-round talent and its top-ranked pitching prospect in second-rounder , who wouldn't have made it to the 52nd overall choice if he hadn't battled shoulder issues at Tennessee during the college season. Signed for a well over-slot $1.85 million, the Mets' No. 7 prospect made an immediate impression in pro ball by running his fastball to 99 mph and consistently demonstrating a plus two-plane slider in the mid-80s.

"I can't remember a guy throwing into the mid-90s deep into games and pitching deep into games with the slider not going in the first round," Howard said. "Blade has a chance to be a No. 1 or 2 starter. He's working on his changeup and command, moving more athletically and more efficiently, pitching to areas where his pitches play best."

Other Mets 2022 draftees bear watching as well. Washington D.C. prep outfielder Nick Morabito (supplemental second round) offers solid raw power and at least plus speed, California high school third baseman Jacob Reimer (fourth) combines pop and plate discipline, and Southern California second baseman D'Andre Smith (fifth) stands out with his bat-to-ball skills and nonstop motor.

Camp standout: Brett Baty

Baty had some of the best offensive upside in the 2019 Draft, which is why he went 12th overall, and he has lived up to that reputation in pro ball. A career .289/.390/.493 hitter in three Minor League seasons, the third baseman/outfielder reached New York at age 22 last August and homered off Jake Odorizzi in his first big league at-bat. 

With Eduardo Escobar off playing in the World Baseball Classic for Venezuela, Baty made a bid for the starting job. He has gone 13-for-38 (.342) with a homer in big league camp while showing improved aptitude at the hot corner. 

"Brett hitting doesn't surprise me because that's what he does," Howard said. "He also continues to impress with his makeup. Brett has a chance to be a superstar because of his drive and how hard he works."

Breakout candidate: Raimon Gomez

Gomez has flown under the radar since signing for $10,000 out of Venezuela at the relatively advanced age of 19 years, 11 months in August 2021. The right-hander spent most of his first full pro season as a reliever in Single-A, displaying a mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider. He'll get a chance to start in 2023 and opened eyes by averaging 100 mph with his heater during a mid-March outing on the back fields.

"Raimon's stuff is electric," Howard said. "He might rival Tidwell as the most high-profile starting pitcher in our system. He has a very good slider and he's working on a changeup. He has pretty decent command for a guy who throws that hard."

Something to prove: Jaylen Palmer

A local product who played high school ball about three miles away from Citi Field, Palmer signed for an over-slot $200,000 as a 28th-rounder in 2018. The outfielder/third baseman quickly became an organization favorite with his athleticism and attitude, but he struggled after getting to High-A in late 2021 and batted just .184/.318/.324 with a 39 percent strikeout rate there last season.

After working to fix his right-handed stroke with High-A Brooklyn batting coach Richie Benes while home during the offseason, Palmer has looked much better this spring.

"Jaylen worked hard this offseason and his swing looks completely revamped," Howard said. "He's already had more barrels this spring than he had all of last spring and the first month of last season. He's a true center fielder with very good speed, though he's not as polished an infielder as we'd like."