Triple-A is not the most attractive level to prospect watchers. The rosters are mostly loaded with your team’s role 3 and 4 40-man fodder, useful organizational soldiers, and minor league FA relief arms. And some of those prospects you thought might be significant major league pieces in A-ball, have turned into role 3 and 4s by this point. But the better prospects play here as well, and the 2017 51s have two of the Mets best. At least for now. The better prospects don’t always play in Triple-A that long.
We start exactly where you’d expect with Amed Rosario (#1). I am guessing he needs very little introduction here: Rosario is one of the best prospects in all of baseball, a potential All-Star shortstop with plus tools on the dirt and at the plate. He got assigned to Vegas with less than half a season under his belt in Binghamton, but hitting .350 is a good way to accelerate your timetable. This will be the 21-year-old’s first prolonged look at major league quality secondary offerings, so that is something to watch. Still, the bat is advanced enough, and the PCL Pacific South full of enough launching pads, that the topline numbers should look good. And if Asdrubal Cabrera goes down with an injury, Rosario might be the best everyday option at the 6 in the Mets organization right now. The Mets have indicated he will play third base once a week or so to give him more “defensive flexibility,” but if he isn’t the best defensive shortstop in their system right now, it is only because they also employ Luis Guillorme.
First baseman Dom Smith (#4) shouldn’t have much trouble with the Pacific Coast League either. On the podcast I set the over/under for his batting line at .330/.400/.480 (hmm, this might be low now). We won’t learn much more about the actual power projection here until we see him in the majors, but I am curious to see how he handles the kind of fringy backend lefty types he’ll see plenty more of in Flushing. If there is a weakness in his hit tool, it’s that you can get him to poke or roll over soft stuff away. Dom’s ETA is a little less clear to me than Rosario’s. Either could force the issue with a strong performance, but I don’t know if the Mets would be as willing to hand the first base keys to Smith in the middle of the season if Duda’s back acts up again.
I’ll cop to having more than a bit of prospect fatigue with both Brandon Nimmo (#8) and Gavin Cecchini (#9). They are both likely to be major league contributors for somebody, but it doesn’t seem like it will be with the Mets. Neither ever really blossomed into that everyday player projection that they had as first round picks in 2011 and 2012, but they also don’t have much left to prove in Vegas. Nimmo is currently on the DL after picking up another lower body injury in the WBC, a familiar refrain in his pro career, and the Mets seem to have no interest in playing him in CF in the majors at this point, although he might be their best left-handed hitting defensive option. Cecchini will continue to transition to second base, which puts more pressure on his bat. He’s always been a swing tinkerer, and this spring he seemed more coiled in his setup than he has in the past. I expect both to compete for a PCL batting title again, before getting traded at the deadline for an eighth inning guy and Bartolo Colon.
The 51s rotation doesn’t offer much in the way of prospects—or in all likelihood, PCL run prevention—but righthander Ricky Knapp is at least worth keeping an eye on. He might be the Mets 7th starter at this point, and he isn’t all that worse of a prospect than Seth Lugo was coming into 2016. He tops out around 91, but he is a pitching coach’s son, with all the pitchability and mound smarts that implies…a strong 2016 season put infielder Phil Evans back on the major league radar, but the Mets have depth in utility types that can’t really play shortstop… Matt Reynolds is Phil Evans, but on the 40-man roster. He is the best of this group at faking shortstop at least…Paul Sewald finally got a shot in the bigs to prove whether or not he can get major league hitters out, although I suspect he will be back in Vegas once Jeurys Familia is eligible to come off the restricted list. At least the $1,000 senior sign will be making 40-man roster money now…Kevin McGowan had an awful spring, but given the Mets bullpen issues, could just be a good month away from a major league shot. He’s your standard 91-95 with a slider guy…indy-ball find Cory Burns might be the best Mets candidate for the 2017 Mets Vogelsong award. He was up to 93-94 in the spring and has two secondaries he can throw for strikes, including a change that almost functions like a screwball.
Photo Credit: Butch Dill- USA Today Sports