Last week I covered the Mets’ top 10 draft picks and in the days since I’ve found it significantly more pleasant to keep my eye on the young talent than watch the actual Mets being swept by the Braves.
Like the Mets’ first 10 picks, the crop from draft rounds 10-20 is also pitching-focused; six out of ten are pitchers, all right-handed this time. But rounds 10 and 11 also saw a few 2016 draft Mets’ firsts— their first outfielder and first high school prospect, respectively.
In the weeks since the draft, many contracts have already been signed—including fifth-round pick shortstop Colby Woodmansee, now a Brooklyn Cyclone, and at least seven of the players below—allowing us a few months of pure, unmitigated optimism at the promise of these young Mets-to-be.
Gene Cone (310th overall)
The 20-year-old South Carolina native has been a standout even amongst a star-studded, albeit unfortunately named, team—his fellow USC Gamecock, the pitcher Braden Webb, was also chosen in the MLB draft this year by the Brewers. Cone was named first-team All-SEC this May.
As the Mets’ first outfield pick, most would expect Cone to be a big hitter. With only four home runs in 2016, Cone is not exactly a power hitter, but arguably he is something better—he’s consistent. In 59 games, the USC Columbia junior hit .363/.474/.498, including 13 doubles and 30 RBI, and led Division I baseball (and set a school record) with a 31-game hitting streak. Opposing pitchers seem to find Cone a particularly formidable opponent as well—he finished the season with an impressive 45 walks to 26 strikeouts.
Cone is said to have signed a contract with the Mets last Friday, which included a $150,000 signing bonus, but it’s unclear whether he will start at the Rookie or Low-A level.
Cameron Planck (34oth overall)
I was surprised that the Mets’ first high school pick would be a pitcher, given how unpredictable his development is from here on out. That said, the 18-year-old is six-foot-four, has a fastball that currently ranges from 90-94 MPH, and has also had success as a first baseman, so coming from a pretty strong starting point.
Recruiters have had their eye on Planck for years—the Kentucky native is said to have verbally committed to the University of Louisville in 2014; that year he went 7-3 with 84 strikeouts in 60 innings.
Matt Cleveland (370th overall)
The Mets 12th-round pick was another high school pitcher—an 18-year-old Connecticut senior who also has a lot going for him, like 6’5” and a 95 MPH fastball. He’s a self-proclaimed Yankees fan, though, so I hope he’ll submit to some kind of ceremonial juju cleansing ritual if and when he finds his way to Citi Field.
Cleveland was named Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect in New England this year, number 34 in the country. He was said to have left his high school team at the end of May with an undisclosed medical issue, but the mystery setback evidently didn’t worry Mets scouts too much. Cleveland had a 2.07 ERA for 2016 upon his departure, and was slated to attend Florida Southwestern junior college before the draft.
Dan Rizzie (400th overall)
The Mets’ first prospective catcher for 2016 is the 22-year-old senior from Cincinnati’s Xavier University. Xavier has seen 10 players drafted in the last 12 years, all under the tutelage of coach Scott Googins, and Rizzie is considered the best of the best; he is particularly lauded for his defensive skills as catcher, having made the Johnny Bench Award watch list for three straight years.
Offensively Rizzie is strong as well, hitting .317/.383/.472 in 2016 with an impressive .483 postseason average, including eight runs and eight RBI over seven games. He earned NCAA All-Region honors twice while at Xavier. Rizzie currently appears on the 2016 roster for the Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones.
Christian James (430th overall)
Another promising high school pitcher, James has seen success both as a starter and closer for his East Lake HS team in Florida. The 18-year-old senior went 9-2 with a save, a 1.29 ERA and 98 strikeouts across 71 innings in 2016.
James is 6’4″ and his fastball currently clocks in at about 93 MPH. Before the draft he announced plans to attend St. Petersburg College.
Jacob Zanon (460th overall)
The outfielder, who turns 21 this week, was one of four players drafted from Idaho’s Lewis-Clark State Warriors—at round 15, the Zanon was the school’s highest pick. In 2016 he hit .393/.464/.676 with 14 home runs, 56 RBI, and 27 stolen bases (in 27 attempts).
With those numbers, I’ll happily overlook this rather high-in-the-Google-search-results hothead moment for which he was suspended back in 2014.
Trent Johnson (490th overall)
The 19-year-old Florida-native was a sophomore at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, where he went 8-2 this season, with a 2.20 ERA and 89 strikeouts. In his starting career at Santa Fe he went 24-3, making him the winningest pitcher in the school’s history.
According to the Santa Fe Athletic office, Johnson has signed a contract and will report to the Rookie affiliate Kingsport Mets this week.
Jay Jabs (520th overall)
Former Franklin Pierce University third baseman Jay Jabs’ career as a minor-league Met is already off and running; he hit a two-run single for the Cyclones last week—his first professional hit and the team’s first 2016 victory.
For his 2016 season with the FPU Ravens, the junior hit .352/.466/.638 with 14 homeruns and 69 RBI (16th in the NCAA). He played third base, outfield and pitched while at Franklin Pierce, and is the third player in the school’s history to be drafted by the Mets.
Adam Atkins (550th overall)
The 22-year-old at Louisiana Tech was the first of three Bulldogs’ pitchers to be drafted this year. A closer for Louisiana, he finished out his senior season going 6-1 with 9 saves and a 1.20 ERA. His saves put him in fourth place in Conference USA, tied for second in the school’s history.
Atkins is 6’3 and right-handed. He has signed with the Mets and appears on the Brooklyn Cyclones’ roster.
Gary Cornish (580th overall)
Also a 22-year-old righty pitcher standing at 6’3, Cornish was in the starting rotation for the University of San Diego. He went 5-3 in his senior season with a 4.57 ERA but an impressive 80 strikeouts in 80.2 innings, a team high for the year.
Cornish has signed with the Mets and is also with the Cyclones.
Carlos Cortes (610th overall)
Rumored to be the best hitter in the state of Florida at the moment, Cortes was likely overlooked in earlier rounds because of his size; at 5’8 and 185lbs he’s short and stocky, which has led to some defensive shortcomings. He usually plays second base for the Lake Howell High School Silver Hawks, but has played outfield and catcher as well, with left field considered the position in which he might be most successful professionally.
Bonus fact: as a fun, albeit not entirely useful major-league skill, this lefty batter can throw with both hands.
Photo Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports