(Editor’s Note: Welcome to BP Mets, Skyler Kanfer! Skyler will be supplementing our minor league coverage, and will start off with an in-depth look at the Bingo
Mets Rumble Ponies from this previous season.)
Amed Rosario, SS
When you show up to see a consensus top-20 global prospect–or is it top-10?–you expected to be wowed by at least something. Your expectations are set quite high and a merely decent toolset will leave you a bit disappointed. Well, there is no such disappointment when going to see Amed Rosario play.
The first pitch I saw Rosario swing at this season, which came in an early August game against the Reading Fighting Phils, landed mere inches short of being a home run to dead center field. (It ended up going for a double.) He absolutely crushed that ball. And the hits didn’t stop there. He had two more that game and, throughout my looks, showed an ability to fight off pitches and utilize right-center field. His wrist/bat speed is off the charts and gives him a good chance to be successful regardless of swing path. His bat is impressive for anyone, let alone for a slick-fielding shortstop, and Rosario certainly qualifies as one.
Putting a plus grade on Rosario’s arm at SS might be conservative. He has no trouble throwing quickly or across his body. Even in those situations, he makes strong and accurate throws to first base. This sort of arm affords him extra time to hesitate on balls or play back, but that is a luxury he does not need. His instincts and reactions at shortstop are phenomenal, which allow him to get to balls and into his throwing motion very quickly. His hands at shortstop are merely good at this point, but it would hard to grade his overall glove at anything less than a 60 given the rest of the defensive profile.
On the negative side, Rosario did strike out a fair amount in the times I saw him, which might be something to keep an eye on. All of my looks at him this year came in the month of August after he had already surpassed his previous career high for games played in a season, so it might be understandable to chalk some of this up to fatigue. However, it is worth noting that a good number of Rosario’s strikeouts seem to have come on changeups down in the zone from both lefties and righties. In one look, he struggled to identify and make contact with the changeup of Tigers LHP prospect Tyler Alexander, an advanced college arm with an impressive change. While such struggles are not uncommon for a prospect, let alone a 20-year-old in Double-A, it is something Rosario will need to work on going forward. Overall, Rosario projects as an All-Star-caliber shortstop.
Phil Evans, IF
After receiving a $650,000 signing bonus from the Mets as a 15th-round pick out of high school in 2011, Evans had struggled prior to this season to prove himself worth second-round money. He hit .234/.300/.313 while repeating the Florida State League in 2015 and failed to hit a single home run in 280 plate appearances. The former highly touted high school shortstop prospect had become a minor league utility infielder without much utility.
In 2016, five years after being drafted, Evans finally began to show why he was worthy of such a high signing bonus and started to regain his former prospect status. The body is still less than ideal, with a bit too much bulk packed into a shorter frame. Evans played both second base and third base in my looks at him and showed decent enough hands and lateral movement, although I didn’t get a chance to see him have to make any tough throws from across the diamond at third. The bat, however, is the tool that is helping to put him back on the map.
Though a bit overly aggressive at the plate, as would be suggested by his below-average walk rate this season, Evans has a shot to hit due to a short, compact swing that allows him to make frequent hard contact. It’s a line drive swing that allows him to spray balls to all fields. It remains to be seen if he will be exposed as a hacker in Triple-A (probably not, because Vegas) or in the majors, but ultimately, the swing changes give him a shot to stick as a fifth infielder, albeit one that will be stretched to play shortstop. The potential major league profile isn’t too different from Justin Turner’s prior to his days with the Dodgers.
Paul Paez, LHP
I went to four Binghamton Mets games this August. In them, I somehow managed to watch Paul Paez–a pure middle reliever who has never started a professional baseball game–pitch for a total of 6.7 innings. He is a 5’7”, former 38th round pick with a sizable midsection who tops out at 90 mph and pitches at nearly the same pace as Antonio Bastardo; in other words, this guy should not be exciting. Yet, in some weird ways, Paez is actually quite an interesting guy to watch and perhaps a bit more than just an organizational arm.
While Paez’s 89-90 mph fastball comes from more of a low three-quarters release point, he is almost exclusively a sidearmer at this point. From that angle, his best pitch, without a doubt, is his curveball, which sits in the 71-74 mph range. That curveball comes with beautiful, late movement that makes it a potential plus pitch and a weapon against both lefties and righties. If Paez ever sticks in a major league bullpen as a lefty arm, it will be because of that curveball. And the key towards him progressing from a struggling 24-year-old in Double-A to a major league relief pitcher will be finding the ability to pitch off of that curveball. He had some level of success pitching backwards and using his curve to set up his fastball, which can come in at 89-90 from a three-quarters release and a few ticks below that as a sidearmer. He also threw a pitch at 76-79 mph (changeup?) that need some development before it can become a weapon. I also once clocked him throwing a 65 mph eephus, which just about sums up the Paul Paez Experience.
Kevin McGowan, RHP
Kevin McGowan, a 13th round pick out of Franklin Pierce University, a small Division II school in New Hampshire, has never been a major presence on prospect radars. However, McGowan has a case as the best right-handed relief prospect in the system. McGowan, who is listed at 6’5” and 235 lbs, is an intimidating presence on the mound and has the stuff to match. His fastball sits at 92-94 and touches 95, with the potential to add a tick or two as he gets moved full-time to a one-inning reliever role. He has plus movement on the fastball that allows him to induce swings and misses and allows him to throw the pitch in and out of the strike zone in any count. On the back of this plus fastball and impressive numbers, McGowan should be added to the 40-man roster to this winter and get the call up to Queens at some point in 2017. If he is left unprotected, he would be a strong candidate to stick in someone’s bullpen for an entire season as a Rule 5 pick and possibly make a positive impact in such a role.
Nabil Crismatt, RHP
It feels a bit wrong to provide a write-up here on a pitcher who had made exactly one start above the South Atlantic League based on a cameo in Binghamton. But in this case, grading on a curve or not, Nabil Crismatt didn’t embarrass himself after making a two-level jump for this spot start. He is not an overpowering pitcher, with a fastball that sits at 90-91 and touched 92. His best offering is a plus changeup that will be his carrying pitch if he is ever going to make it to the majors. The pitch had good velocity separation at 80-83 and helped him to strike out the side in his second Double-A inning. Given his funky and deceptive delivery and his shorter, maxed out frame, Crismatt’s most likely path to the majors most will come as a reliever. An eventual move to the pen would allow him to ditch his loopy and mostly ineffective curveball for a straight two-pitch repertoire. It is possible to stick as an effective major league reliever with a low-90s fastball and a good changeup, as Tyler Clippard has shown us over the past decade. But Clippard is essentially a 90th percentile outcome for any FB-CH prospect with a low 90s fastball.
Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez- USA Today Sports