Tonight, At&T Stadium in Dallas will play host to the NFL draft, easily the most publicized draft of all of the major sports. All 32 professional football teams will be looking to add players who can make an immediate impact, which got me thinking about how different things work in Major League Baseball. The MLB draft is the hardest one in professional sports for the teams, because you’re drafting in some cases high school kids, and projecting what they will be four or five years down the road. Your scouting and player development teams are imperative towards long-term success; if you can’t draft and develop, you’re stuck trying to fill holes through free agency expensively. The Mets have long been one of the more active players in amateur international free-agency, but let’s take a look at how they’ve done towards the top of the draft in recent years.
Round 1: Pick 7
Matt Harvey, SP (North Carolina)
This was the last year of Omar Minaya’s tenure as Mets’ GM, and he truly left New York with a bevy of talent in the minor leagues. Matt Harvey is obviously a popular topic of conversation right now for negative reasons, but Minaya knocked it out of the park taking him in the first round eight years ago. Pitching is fickle any way you look at it, and few pitchers in the history of baseball had the immediate impact Harvey did on the game. His debut in 2012 was impressive, his dominance in 2013 was nearly unprecedented, and after missing a season due to Tommy John surgery, winning comeback player of the year in 2015 en route to helping the Mets win the National League pennant cemented his place as one of New York’s best first-round picks ever. Injuries in recent years have sapped Harvey of what he once was, but let’s not forget quite how good he really was.
As for the rest of the Mets’ 2010 draft, Minaya left the new regime quite a parting gift in ninth round pick Jacob deGrom.
Round 1: Pick 13
Brandon Nimmo, OF (High School)
Brandon Nimmo was Sandy Alderson’s first first round pick as GM of the Mets, and prior to his emergence last season, he was at risk of being proclaimed a bust. Nimmo was taken with the pick directly before Miami selected Jose Fernandez, and those comparisons will always be there, but the kid from Wyoming has begun to distinguish himself over the past 12 months or so. Nimmo plays like a seasoned veteran, has a keen awareness of the strike zone, is not fazed by pressure, and most importantly has fun and enjoys playing the game. He’s currently New York’s fourth outfielder but that has everything to do with how much talent the Mets currently have on the roster, as he’d easily be a starter most other places.
Round 1: Pick 44
Michael Fulmer, SP (High School)
Fulmer never threw a pitch for the Mets but holds a place in team history, as he was the centerpiece of New York’s 2015 deadline trade with the Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes. The big right hander has gone on to become one of the better pitchers in the American League, but that hasn’t changed the fact that it was a good trade for the Amazins’.
Other familiar names New York drafted this year include Robert Gsellman, Logan Verrett, Jack Leathersich, Tyler Pill, Danny Muno and Phil Evans.
Round 1: Pick 12
Gavin Cecchini, IF (High School)
Cecchini was the second of three consecutive high school players Alderson drafted in the first round, and he is by far the one most at risk of the bust label. The Louisiana native has seen limited time in the big leagues to date, and while he has shown flashes at times, he clearly is not high on the team’s organizational depth chart.
Round 1: Pick 35
Kevin Plawecki, C (Purdue)
The Mets’ better first round pick from this draft was their supplemental selection: Plawecki, who has been far from a star but has at least proven himself to be a big league player. It’s well documented how the Mets are in the market for catching at the moment, and while Plawecki getting hurt sort of sent that into overdrive, they had already needed help behind the plate. Catcher is arguably the most difficult position to find a bonafide star, and if you can develop one that can at minimum be a strong contributor to your roster, you did well.
Some other familiar names New York drafted in 2012 include Paul Sewald, Tomas Nido, Matt Reynolds, Matt Bowman and Chris Flexen.
Round 1: Pick 11
Dominic Smith, 1B (High School)
Dom Smith had long been viewed as the Mets first base successor to Lucas Duda, and I guess in some capacity he still is, although his top prospect status has certainly dwindled. During his first extended big league opportunity down the stretch last season the LA native hit on the interstate, and he failed to make a positive impression on new manager Mickey Callaway during this year’s spring training. Smith is currently hitting just .246 for Triple-A Las Vegas, and he’ll have to seriously pick it up for New York to consider pulling the plug on Adrian Gonzalez anytime soon.
Sadly, as a whole the 2013 draft was a disappointment for the Mets, as the only other player from that class to make it to Citi Field was reliever Kevin McGowan.
Round 1: Pick 10
Michael Conforto, OF (Oregon State)
To date, Conforto represents the biggest draft hit for Alderson and his staff, and perhaps not coincidentally he was the first collegiate player they drafted this high. In Conforto, the Mets added a pure hitter who was in the big leagues in just 13 months, not only filling a roster spot, but becoming a critical component of a World Series team. Last season, the Washington native blossomed into a star, and he’s well on his way to becoming the club’s next face of the franchise.
The rest of this draft class was not quite as big a smashing success, as nobody else has reached the majors; the most recognizable prospect on the list is Dash Winningham.
Round 2: Pick 53
Desmond Lindsay, OF (High School)
The Mets did not have a first round pick in 2015 as they had to surrender that selection to Colorado as compensation for signing Michael Cuddyer as a free-agent, so their first pick in the draft came at number 53 overall in the way of Desmond Lindsay. The Florida-born outfielder has unfortunately never hit for the power he was projected to as he owns only 13 career minor league home runs, and he’s failed to advance past High-A St. Lucie.
The rest of New York’s 2015 draft class is more promising, as Thomas Szapucki, David Thompson, Corey Taylor and P.J. Conlon are all considered viable prospects.
Round 1: Pick 19
Justin Dunn, SP (Boston College)
Dunn was a much talked about arm leading up to this draft, and the Mets were absolutely thrilled to add him with pick number 19. His minor league career got off to a little bit of a bumpy start but he has figured it out of late, and he’s unanimously considered one of New York’s premier prospects. In St. Lucie this year, the right hander has been dominant, pitching to a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings.
Other notable Mets draft picks from 2016 include Anthony Kay, Michael Paez and Peter Alonso.
Round 1: Pick 20
David Peterson, SP (Oregon)
Most scouts consider the left-handed Peterson the Mets’ top minor league arm, and New York is confident he’ll be on an accelerated track to the big leagues. The former Oregon Duck is currently pitching for the Mets’ A-ball team in Columbia, but they’re hopeful he’ll be able to advance to St. Lucie some time before the end of the year.
Another name to watch from this class is 3B Mark Vientos, whom New York selected in the second round, as the team believes he can ultimately become their first long-term answer at the hot corner since David Wright.
Photo credit: Andy Marlin – USA Today Sports