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Analyzing the Mets’ haul on Day Two of the MLB Draft

While Day One of the MLB Draft receives all of the fanfare and media attention, there’s a good argument to be made that Day Two is more important to the overall success of an organization. That’s because after rounds one and two, the rate at which teams find major league contributors drops significantly, making it all the more important for teams to add potential role five and up players to the system. The Mets haven’t had a third-round pick make the majors with the team since Logan Verrett, whom they drafted in 2011. In fact, the organization hasn’t seen a single pick in rounds three, four, five or six make the majors since 2011. There have been far too many draft misses in the past six years, and you’re seeing the impact that can have on a team. The Mets have been dealing with a ton of injuries to the major league team but because of the thin depth in the system, they don’t have many options to replace the lost production from within. That’s still no excuse for carrying Jose Lobaton as a third catcher or Jose Reyes, but there’s a significant lack of potential major league caliber contributors down on the farm.

The Mets have thus far employed a draft strategy extremely similar to the one they’ve followed in recent drafts, which clearly hasn’t worked at producing even average major leaguers. After taking two prep players in the top fifty overall Monday, the Mets selected only college players on Tuesday. The Mets have shown an affinity in recent years for college performers with no major league tools, and it’s worked about as well as one would expect. While other organizations are looking for college players who might’ve been stuck behind a better player, or a catcher who could be converted to the mound, the Mets like to play it safe and take big school guys that performed well. That strategy hasn’t worked well for them and its predominantly why Jeffrey and the BP Prospect Team ranked the system as one of the worst in baseball earlier this season.

While the strategy was the same, did the Mets grab any interesting prospects?  Before we get into that, realize that these prospects are still young and the Mets player development staff will be given a ton of time to work with these players. Drawing any meaningful conclusions at this point would be a worthless exercise. That being said, let’s take a closer look at who they selected on Day Two and what kind of players they may potentially become.

Round 3, 83rd Overall: Carlos Cortes, 2B, University of South Carolina

The Mets LOVE Carlos Cortes. They previously selected him in the 20th round of the 2016 draft, when Cortes was a prep infielder from Florida, and while they were very interested in signing him and reportedly made a very competitive offer, he decided to head to South Carolina. Cortes was a draft-eligible sophomore and will turn 21 at the end of the month. He enjoyed a terrific freshman season at the dish for the Gamecocks, hitting .286/.368/.565 with 12 home runs, but instead of building on that positive momentum, an early-season slump this year torpedoed his batting line below last year’s campaign. Through 42 games this season, he’s hitting just .260/.379/.507 with 15 home runs while splitting time between left field and second base.

It’s not completely out of the ordinary for a player to spend time in both the infield and outfield, especially in college, but it is out of the ordinary for a player to throw with a different hand depending on his position. Cortes is naturally a left-handed thrower, but he learned how to throw with his right hand in order to play second base. Cortes is just 5’7” and while he’s not a plus defender at either spot, his future home is at second.

The Mets didn’t draft him for his fielding ability though. Cortes is a stomp-and-pull guy from the left side with above-average raw power. He uses a hefty leg kick that allows his raw power to play effectively, but it severely impacts his contact ability, especially against good off-speed. I think there’s going to be a potentially lengthy adjustment period for Cortes against major league quality breaking balls in the minors.

Cortes should get slot value, which is $705,300, but it’s possible the Mets give him a little over-slot considering their deep infatuation with him, and Cortes’ ability to return to South Carolina.

Round 4, 110th Overall: Adam Hill, RHP, University of South Carolina

The Mets went right back to the University of South Carolina in the fourth round, selecting the 6’5” Hill after taking his teammate Cortes in round three. He’s started 14 games for the Gamecocks this season, with a 4.08 ERA, 46 walks and 92 strikeouts in 75 innings.

Hill works with a fastball that typically sits in the low- to mid-90s, but his velocity drops to the high-80s as he gets deeper into starts. The dip in velocity also impacts his arm slot, which drops lower as Hill gets tired. He also throws a changeup and a slider, of which the changeup is presently better but the slider projects as the better future offering. It’s not your typical Mets Warthen slider — it sits in the low-80s — but Hill gets enough break that it should be above-average at peak. He’ll need to work on developing the changeup if he wants to remain a starter, as the fastball and slider won’t be enough against lefties. While his delivery is repeatable, Hill has a tendency to plant his left leg toward the third base line instead of home, which causes command issues. While this helps Hill generate more movement, particularly on his fastball, you don’t see many deliveries like this in the majors.

His inability thus far to hold his velocity over multiple innings and a lack of polished secondary stuff might spell a future in middle relief for Hill, especially if he can’t clean up his delivery.

Round 5, 140th Overall: Ryley Gilliam, RHP, Clemson University

The Mets chose to spend their fifth-round pick on a college closer with no future as a starter. Gilliam has a future as an impact reliever, but do with that first sentence what you will. After starting some games for Clemson as a freshman, Gilliam made a permanent move to the bullpen in his sophomore season. A fastball/curveball reliever, Gilliam was incredible for the Tigers this season, striking out 53 to go with a 0.99 ERA in 36 innings.

Although he’s now a reliever, Gilliam still chooses to pitch out of the windup with nobody on base. It’s a quick and funky delivery that adds some deception while simultaneously causing Gilliam to miss more than he does out of the stretch. Once Gilliam signs, the Mets will have to work with him and decide how they’d like him to proceed. I think they’ll let him keep the windup until he proves it doesn’t work.

Gilliam is just 5’10,” but he’s a great athlete and sits in the mid-90s with his fastball. It’s a plus offering, as is his high-70s 12-6 curveball that routinely keeps hitters off balance. Gilliam also throws a changeup, which he’s all but scrapped since his days as a starter, and a cutter, which he introduced but sparingly used this season.

There are always going to be durability concerns with a 5’10” power reliever, but I think Gilliam’s arm action is clean enough and his athleticism should help him avoid injury problems in the future. He should move quickly through the system and has a shot at becoming more than a middle reliever should he add some ticks to the fastball or develop an above-average third pitch.

Round 6, 170th Overall: Nick Meyer, C, California Polytechnic State University

Meyer is a defensive whiz behind the plate but projects as a backup because of his offensive inefficiencies. While he’s incredibly tough to strikeout, Meyer has only hit three career home runs in over 600 collegiate at-bats. He recorded the highest slugging percentage of his career this season, .428, without hitting a single home run. He did have 14 doubles, but Cal Poly plays in the Big Sky, which is not exactly the SEC.

Here’s where the Mets’ draft strategy really starts to become a problem. Meyer might be a plus defender at one of the games toughest positions, but he doesn’t project as anything more than a defense-first catcher, and that’s even if the Mets work successfully with him on his bat. He’s more than likely never going to hit, so why cap your upside in the sixth round? While other teams are looking for untapped upside and potential regulars in these rounds, the Mets are looking for performers that don’t project to have any major league-quality tools. Combine that with the fact that they presumably went under-slot with their first two picks and it becomes all the more puzzling.

Round 7, 200th Overall: Kevin Smith, LHP, University of Georgia

Smith’s a low-arm slot left-hander who has performed in the SEC and on the Cape. He’s tall (6’5”), athletic and his low-slot allows him to carve up lefties, but I think he’s a potential LOOGY because of it. His fastball sits in the low-90s but Smith reportedly hit 94 down on the Cape. Smith’s best pitch is a sweeping slider, atypical for the Mets, that sits in the 78-82 mph range. He’s able to command it well and it’s a potential above-average pitch, especially away from left-handers. There’s also a changeup that’s far behind the other two offerings but has shown some signs of developing.

Smith has been a starter for Georgia over his collegiate career and while the Mets giving him a shot as a starter cannot be ruled out, his future is likely in the bullpen. He’s struggled with his command, a problem that can be better addressed in the bullpen, so look for the Mets to develop him as a LOOGY.

Round 8, 230th Overall: Tylor Megill, RHP, University of Arizona

Megill’s another big dude, 6’7 230-pounds to be exact, who battled inconsistency issues at the University of Arizona the past two seasons. A senior sign likely to get well under-slot, Megill is at least a worthy flier, albeit maybe not in the eighth round. Tall and athletic, he pairs a relatively clean delivery with a low-90s fastball and a curve. While his delivery is repeatable, it looks very similar to Hill’s, minus the left leg landing spot, and both have battled command issues because of it. There’s some crossfire action here that impacts Megill’s ability to command his pitches, particularly his fastball.

There isn’t enough stuff here presently to project Megill as anything but a potential middle relief arm, but if he signs well under-slot as expected, I suppose that’s not a bad pick. I think there may possibly be something a little more than that if the Mets shift him immediately to the bullpen and have him work out of the stretch, where his command improves and his extension plays up.

Round 9, 260th Overall: Bryce Montes de Oca, RHP, University of Missouri

MDO, as the Missouri faithful call him, was the most interesting Mets pick on Day Two. This is exactly the sort of player and profile the Mets should be betting on if they want to roll the dice on college arms. He has a Tommy John and an ulnar nerve transposition on his lengthy injury history, but he has a plus-plus fastball and a plus hard slider out of the bullpen. The fastball sits in the mid- to high-90s and touches triple-digits with regularity. MDO gets incredible sink and movement on it as well, making it a true plus-plus offering. He sits in the high-80s with his slider and it’s already a plus out pitch.

I’m not a fan of player comps so don’t take this for face value, but I get Dellin Betances vibes watching MDO. Both huge dudes with plus-plus fastballs and a plus off-speed offering that fit best in the bullpen. MDO’s delivery isn’t as violent as Betances, but they’ve both had issues commanding their stuff and it’s probably something MDO will always struggle with. There are a ton of “ifs” here: if he stays healthy, if his command improves, if he develops a useful third pitch, and that’s why he was available in the ninth round. This was a fantastic gamble by the Mets and the upside here is undeniable.

Round 10, 290th Overall: Manny Rodriguez, SS, University of Cincinnati

After finally taking a risk on Day Two, the Mets went back to the well with their 10th selection, selecting Manny Rodriguez. Rodriguez grew up in Brooklyn and is a local kid, but he really underwhelmed at Cincinnati prior to 2018. His 2016 and 2017 seasons left a lot to be desired, a .588 and .628 OPS respectively, but he made a swing change this year and its unlocked some raw power. He hit .292/.374/.589 with 12 home runs this year after hitting just two home runs combined in his freshman and sophomore seasons.

Rodriguez is a lean 5’10,” 165 pounds and projects to stay at shortstop in the future. While there are no questions about his future defensive home, Rodriguez will need to prove this power spike was no fluke. I’m skeptical he has the requisite bat-to-ball skills in order to make enough contact and you should be too, but maybe Rodriguez can become a utility infielder capable of playing short.

Photo credit: Brad Penner – USA Today Sports

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