Welcome back to the Baseball Prospectus Mets Prospect Watch! This weekly column will take a look at one pitcher and one hitter from each level of the Mets organization and offer thoughts on their performance thus far, as well as a brief scouting report with a future outlook.
Las Vegas 51s (AAA)
Pitcher: RHP Corey Oswalt
Corey Oswalt hasn’t thrown for Vegas since April 13 but he did make his major league debut last Wednesday, throwing 4.2 innings of much-needed mop-up duty against the St. Louis Cardinals. The 24-year-old righty is a former seventh-round draft pick that was named the organizations Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2017 after posting a 2.28 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 134.1 innings at AA Binghamton. Oswalt needed to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this offseason, earning him a spot on the 40-man as well as an invite to big league spring training. The 6’5,” 250-pound hurler looks intimidating on the mound and sits 90-94 mph with his fastball, but it doesn’t generate much movement, leaving Oswalt susceptible to a lot of contact. This was a bigger problem when he was in Single-A throwing an extremely hittable 95 and allowed 153 hits in 128.2 innings, but he’s added a little more sink now and it has seemed to do the trick just fine. The fastball has lost a couple ticks since last season, where he was more in the 92-95 mph range, and it averaged 90.8 mph in his 4.2 innings big league debut. In addition to the heater, Oswalt also throws a slider, changeup and a curveball, of which the slider is definitely the best of the bunch. He doesn’t possess a plus offering, although the slider is close to, if not above average, and he doesn’t have great command either. That being said, Oswalt projects as a back end of the rotation innings eater, and all things considered, that’s a great outcome for a seventh rounder. I think he’s more of a long reliever type than a guy you’re comfortable throwing every fifth day, but he’s capable of starting and his stuff may play up out of the pen.
Hitter: Gavin Cecchini
Cecchini has been on fire to start the season, batting .342/.395/.532 with seven walks against 13 strikeouts for Vegas. The former first-round draft pick in 2012 has moved over to second full time after beginning his professional career at short, a move made in part by the presence of Amed Rosario, but more so because of his limited defensive profile. Cecchini had to be moved off short mainly because of his arm, which isn’t particularly strong and became so inaccurate that he left the Mets little choice. He doesn’t possess great range or speed either, and he profiles as a below-average defender even at second. At this point, his prospect status begins and ends with his ability to get on base, which he’s showcased at every stop throughout his five-year minor league career. Cecchini has 60 hit tool at peak, but his 40 raw power leaves a lot to be desired and he’s never hit more than eight home runs in a single season. The swing is flat and is geared more for any contact rather than good contact, which is a bit of a problem for a second baseman who can’t really field. Cecchini is now 24 years old with nothing substantial left to prove in the minors, but he’s blocked by Rosario and Asdrubal Cabrera at the major league level for the foreseeable future. At this point in his career, Cecchini profiles as a utility guy who can get on base, and that’s valuable enough for a roster spot with an organization next season. I just don’t see it with the Mets, or any National League team rather, as this sort of player is much more valuable to an American League team.
Binghamton Rumble Ponies (AA)
Pitcher: RHP Eric Hanhold
This is Hanhold’s first season as a member of the Mets organization and he’s gotten off to quite the start. After being acquired from Milwaukee in last season’s Neil Walker trade as the PTBNL, the Mets chose to convert him from a starter to a full-time reliever, and the move has paid early dividends. The 6’5,” 220-pound right-hander is long-limbed and has seen his velocity spike in the bullpen, as I had him sitting 94-96 and touching 99 mph in my look a couple weeks ago. The fastball is already a 60 and I’m comfortable projecting heavily on it, I think it’s a 70 at peak, due to the movement it generates in addition to the premium velo. Hanhold gets great sink and movement on the four-seamer — it even shows some two-seam run at its best — and it allows him to induce a ton of ground balls. He posted a 60% groundball rate with the Brewers organization last season and I expect similar numbers moving forward. Like every other Mets relief prospect, Hanhold throws a slider, but it’s already above average and he’s comfortable throwing it in any count. The slider sits 87-89 mph with tight break and is a great change of pace pitch that keeps hitters off his fastball. In a Binghamton bullpen full of interesting relief prospects, I think Hanhold may be the best of the bunch. I see a potential high leverage reliever that could eventually be a middle of the pack closer, which is a fantastic outcome for half a season of Neil Walker.
Hitter: Patrick Mazeika
The Mets have had success drafting position players from Stetson University (see: Jacob deGrom) and Mazeika hopes to be the next major league contributor from the small school in Florida. An eighth-round pick in 2015, Mazeika has hit for a high average at every stop of his minor league career thus far. Although his hit tool far outweighs his game power, Mazeika gets on base at an excellent clip for a catching prospect. It’s not too often you find catchers with this track record of on-base ability, but Mazeika needs to show he can perform at the higher levels of the minors. He’s currently hitting .225/.304/.394 for AA Binghamton, a far cry from his 2016 and 2017 numbers. The biggest knock on Mazeika has been his defense behind the dish; he has a strong arm, but he doesn’t block particularly well and is big for the position. I’ve been able to get three looks at him behind the plate and all in all it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. I saw some positive developments in regards to his framing as well as the strong arm he possesses, but I also saw him allow a couple passed balls, not to mention a couple of steals, mainly because he’s slow to pop despite his strong arm. He only threw out 32% of base stealers last season between Single-A and Double-A and that’s going to need to improve in order for him to have a shot. Unfortunately, I think he’s a little too big and not a good enough athlete to stick behind the dish. I’m intrigued by the on-base ability though, and if I squint hard enough, I can see a big league backup catcher who’s more hit tool than defense.
Columbia Fireflies (A)
Pitcher: LHP Anthony Kay
After missing all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery, Kay made his highly anticipated minor league debut for the Fireflies on April 8, allowing no runs in four innings to go along with four strikeouts. Kay is a local kid — he grew up on Long Island and went to the University of Connecticut — who was overworked heavily in his draft year before being selected 31st overall by the Mets. Prior to the injury, Kay projected as a solid lefty starter who could potentially move quickly through the system. He’s actually been throwing harder since his return than he was at UConn, which is unexpected but certainly a welcome development. He was 88-93 mph with his fastball in college but is reportedly now 90-94 and even touched 96 in his debut outing. Kay complements his fastball with a changeup that sits in the low 80s and flashes plus, as well as a curveball that’s fringy and slurve-like. The 23-year-old has a clean delivery that he has no trouble repeating and he works quickly. He doesn’t have great command (he’s walked seven in 20 innings so far), but it should get better with more reps and it probably settles around average or a little above. Kay already looks to be too advanced for Low-A and should get the chance to pitch in Port St. Lucie at some point this season. It’s hard to project a 23-year-old in Low-A, but Kay still looks like a future No. 4 starter for the Mets. That being said, he’s probably two years away at his point, which would make him 25 when he eventually latches on in the big leagues full time.
Hitter: Jeremy Vasquez
Vasquez has exploded onto the scene in 2018, hitting a blistering .325/.455/.545 while reaching base safely in 23 consecutive games. A 28th round pick in the 2017 draft, he split last season with Kingsport and Brooklyn and hit only .266/.368.430. The 21-year-old has more walks (20) than strikeouts (16) so far, but he’s old for Low-A Columbia and has never performed this well previously. Vasquez has below average raw power and is more hit tool than power, which isn’t a great profile for a guy who can only play first. The more highly regarded Peter Alonso faced similar questions last season as a first base-only guy who was more hit tool than power, but a swing change has allowed for his 70 raw power to play much better in games. I don’t see above-average raw power here for Vasquez, so a swing change may not do much in the way of increased power production. The expectations weren’t high to begin with — they never are with a 28th rounder — but I’ve seen Vasquez’s name thrown into the first baseman of the future conversation along with Peter Alonso and Dom Smith and frankly, that’s absolutely ridiculous. I’m extremely skeptical of Vasquez’s hot start to the season, but I’d like to see him get a chance at Port St. Lucie before I jump to any major conclusions.
Photo credit: Gregory Fisher – USA Today Sports