MLB: Atlanta Braves at New York Mets

Scouting Notes From Triple-A Las Vegas and Double-A Binghamton

BP Mets writer Alex Rosen dropped by the Las Vegas team on April 17 and in Binghamton for two games on April 24 and 25 to see what the organization’s top prospects are up to.

AAA Las Vegas 51s

1B Dominic Smith

Smith is a great example of just how quickly the public perception of a prospect can change. At this time last year, Mets fans were clamoring for the highly regarded Smith to get a call-up to the big leagues. Now? They want to trade him after only 170 at-bats to clear the way for Peter Alonso. A first-round pick in 2013, Smith hit at every level in the minors but really struggled last year with the Mets, slashing .198/.262/.395. A rare hit-before-power first baseman prospect, Smith is going to really need to get on base in order to be anything more than league average.

One of the biggest criticisms of Smith has been his weight, but he looked a lot lighter this spring and I was floored when I saw him in person. He looked at least 20 pounds lighter and his athleticism is more evident now. Smith has always been considered a plus defender at first due to his soft hands and ability to scoop bad throws, and I saw much of the same in my look. Unfortunately, Smith didn’t see a single good pitch to hit on the evening; Fresno chose to pitch him cautiously, and it ultimately resulted in four walks for Smith. Smith has an old-school approach at the plate, which explains his high walk-to-strikeout ratio as well as his low home run output. I was impressed with his pitch recognition and approach, which need to be plus, and they are, if this profile is going to work in the big leagues. He’s the sort of player that really divides scout’s opinions: they either like him and think he’ll get on base enough, or they don’t think he profiles as a regular at first. I fall into the first camp and think Smith is going to be a major league contributor at first for some organization. With Peter Alonso doing his best Rhys Hoskins impression though, it’s become a real question whether Smith will get the chance to be that for the Mets. I don’t think it’s in the Mets best interests to sell him for pennies on the dollar based on his short major league stint last season, but I also think Alonso has passed him at this point and there may not be a spot on the major league team. It’s a good problem to have and if Adrian Gonzalez continues to struggle, one of them will get the call. Just who that is remains to be seen, although Alonso has to be the favorite at this point.

SS Luis Guillorme

Upon first glance, Guillorme looks extremely out of place on the diamond, much less at shortstop. Then you see him play defense and wonder why he’s in Triple-A and Jose Reyes is in the big leagues. I wrote about Guillorme in our first Prospect Watch of the season and think he’s going to be a valuable contributor for a long time. He has fantastic range at short despite his below average wheels and makes plays Reyes dreams of. I saw him make a diving stop on a ball up the middle and throw the runner out from his knees, just to give you an idea of the impact he could have at short. At the dish, Guillorme likes to go the opposite way and has an advanced two-strike approach; he walked 17 more times than he struck out last season at Double-A Binghamton. He’s never going to hit for much power and it’s likely his OBP is higher than his SLG, but couple that with his defense and we’re talking about an extremely valuable player. I think there’s utility man risk here, especially with the Mets, but Guillorme can get a starting role with a different organization at short. There’s no doubt in my mind he can be an asset for the Mets right now but the team’s in more immediate need of guys who can hit, which Guillorme can, but he still has some things to work on and can use the everyday at-bats he’s getting in Vegas.

3B David Thompson

Thompson, a 2013 fourth-round pick, hit .263/.325/.429 for Binghamton last season and showed enough promise to earn a promotion to Triple-A to begin the year. He’s a pretty “boring” prospect in the sense that he doesn’t do anything particularly well; instead, he does everything good enough. Thompson is intriguing as a hitter because he doesn’t strike out at an egregious rate and has some pop — he hit 16 home runs in Double-A last season — but it remains to be seen if that’s enough to outweigh his below-average on-base production. He’s never OBP’d higher than .344 in the minors and was at just .325 last season. Thompson went 1-3 in my look, with a single, a walk and a strikeout. I thought his defense was good enough to stick at third but I don’t think the bat profiles there. Thompson is currently a 35 with a chance for a 40, a below average regular, because he could be a guy who sees his home run rate spike in the big leagues.

UTIL Phillip Evans

Evans is the definition of a utility player and his defensive flexibility can be valuable for a National League team. Like other position player prospects at Vegas, he doesn’t strike out often and walks a healthy amount. Evans broke out in 2016 with a .321 average across two levels, but it’s an outlier among some subpar minor league seasons. Capable of playing “passible” defense at every infield position, Evans earned a spot on the Mets Opening Day roster but only made three appearances as a pinch hitter before being sent back down. Evans went 0-4 with two strikeouts in my look and was disappointing at the plate overall. The Mets have a lot of guys in the upper-level minors who can play multiple positions but project as utility players, which is a good thing or a bad thing depending on who you ask. Evans value will come from his defensive versatility, but I’m not sure he ever gets a long enough look with a major league club.

AA Binghamton Rumble Ponies

1B Peter Alonso

Alonso is all the rage these days and rightfully so: the dude is smashing the cover off the ball at Binghamton, hitting .393/.490/.762 with eight home runs to start the season. He’s struck out 18 times against 16 walks and has debuted a new approach at the plate to go along with the swing change he made at the end of last season. Safe to say it’s worked, as Alonso’s hit tool has caught up to his game power, resulting in the incredible output we’ve seen thus far. I’ve seen Alonso three times this season and he’s been impressive, to say the least: he homered in two of the three games and was 2-4 with a walk in the other. Alonso has always had 70 raw power, but he’s now got a 60 hit tool to go along with it. I do think he needs to work on his off-speed recognition, I saw him hit two soft lineouts on offspeed pitches to second in my most recent look, but it’s a minor qualm with an otherwise polished hitter. On the defensive side of things, he’s still a 40 for me at first, as I’ve seen him make great plays along with some really bad ones. Alonso takes bad routes to fly balls and completely whiffed on an easy popup in front of the dugout in my most recent look. He still pulls his head out on scoops and has dropped a couple balls because of it. That being said, I saw him snag a sharp line drive from Cavan Biggio to double up Vlad Jr. and it was a thing of beauty. The defense is better than last year but I don’t know if there’s much more room for improvement, he may just be what he is, which isn’t a problem when you can hit like Alonso. I think that some sort of transaction is going to be made before June 1, but I’m not entirely sure what it’s going to be. Dom Smith could get the call to the bigs while Alonso heads to Triple-A, or Alonso can follow the Michael Conforto route, jumping straight from Double-A to the majors. I think the latter is more likely and there’s no question the Mets are going to be aggressive in upgrading the position if Gonzalez proves he’s just not a good baseball player anymore.

RHP Nabil Crismatt

Crismatt’s gotten off to an incredible start to the season and he’s doing it with some pretty average stuff for a starting pitcher. He’s got a 2.28 ERA to go along with 32 strikeouts against only five walks in 27.2 innings for Binghamton. I saw Crismatt against the best team in the Eastern League, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Toronto Blue Jays Double-A affiliate) and I came away extremely impressed. Crismatt was efficient and finished with 92 pitches, allowing only one earned run while striking out six and only walking one. He was working with a fastball sitting 86-87 mph and touching 88 in the early innings, but it dropped to around 85-86 as we entered the fourth. The fastball has natural two-seam run and Crismatt keeps it low in the zone, which leads to a lot of groundball outs. Although it doesn’t have great velo, the fastball plays up due to Crismatt’s above average command, and he’s not afraid to attack hitters with it in two-strike counts. His best offering is a plus changeup that sits 78-80 mph and generates a ton of swings and misses. It has good drop and is his go-to two-strike pitch, and it wasn’t squared up once on the evening. He also throws a curveball which was 66-70 mph for me with 12-6 movement, but it can get loopy and advanced hitters are going to tee off on it. Crismatt hung a curveball to Vlad Jr. (note to MLB pitchers, this is a REALLY bad idea) and he smashed it to left center for an RBI single. Crismatt also has a slider but he only threw six for me; it was 76-77 mph with late break and flashes above average. I think it’s useful against right-handed hitters but it’s probably too slow to get outs against lefties consistently. Overall, I thought he had great pitch mix, limits hard contact, and wasn’t afraid to go after guys despite his average (besides the change) stuff. I think he’s a future No. 4/5 who should be ready to debut sometime next season.

RHP Andrew Church

Church was just placed on the 7-day disabled list, but I saw him in a start against New Hampshire and the results weren’t pretty. Church was in trouble all night and the Fisher Cats got to him early, as he allowed two runs in the first: a leadoff home run to Jonathan Davis and an RBI groundout to Vlad Jr. Church was sitting 88-90 mph with his fastball, which is consistent with what I had him at when I saw him earlier in the season, but it got him into trouble early and he went away from it after the first inning. Instead, he was working with his slider, which was 82-84 mph, and his curve, which was 70-74 mph and generated groundball outs. He was starting at-bats out with his slider, which has significant right to left movement, and it’s a real weapon against left-handed hitters. Church was reluctant to use his below-average curveball, but development of a useful third pitch is necessary for him to move up the minor league ladder. He works quickly and pitches to contact but based on my two looks, I think he’s a 30 who still has many things he needs to work on.

RHP Tyler Bashlor

Bashlor is one of many hard throwing right-handed relievers in Binghamton, but he wasn’t great in my most recent look. Bashlor was brought in with one out and a man on first, and he proceeded to walk the bases loaded on only eight pitches. He was able to escape trouble though, with a strikeout and a fly ball to end the inning. Bashlor was missing up and out of the zone with his fastball consistently, and pitching coach Frank Viola went out twice during the inning to try and calm him down. Overall, Bashlor has been terrific this season with a 0.96 ERA and 12 strikeouts against five walks in 9.1 innings. Fastball command is going to be a big key for Bashlor, who’s already on the 40-man and looks likely to take a ride on the Mets bullpen shuttle at some point this season.

Photo credit: Andy Marlin – USA Today Sports

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