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.
With the trade deadline looming and rumors swirling around a number of Mets, including but not limited to Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, I thought we’d switch things up for this weeks Prospect Watch. Instead of Mets prospects, let’s take a look at the top prospect with each organization the Mets have been connected to leading up to the deadline.
2B Keston Hiura (Biloxi Shuckers, Double-A)
We can debate whether the Mets should even entertain the thought of trading possibly the best pitcher in baseball, but there’s no doubt the return would be massive if they did, in fact, move deGrom. The Brewers invested their resources heavily this offseason, trading for Christian Yelich and signing Lorenzo Cain to a five-year deal, and have been rewarded with a one-game lead over the Cubs in the Central. With a potent lineup and lockdown bullpen, Milwaukee looks primed to make a lengthy postseason run.
The only thing holding the Brewers back is the lack of a top of the rotation arm. It’s no surprise then that Milwaukee is interested in deGrom, and the two teams lineup extremely well for a potential trade. The Mets are rumored to be asking for near MLB level talent in any potential deal, and there’s no better one-two punch than Keston Hiura and Corbin Burnes.
Hiura isn’t tearing it up in Biloxi, but he’s hitting .300/.361/.483 across two levels this season to go along with some power (nine homers) and second base defense. He’s got a plus hit tool with pop, giving him a high floor and an even higher ceiling. Add it all up and you’re looking at the fifth-ranked prospect in all of baseball, according to our Midseason Top 50.
RHP Corbin Burnes (MLB)
Burnes wasn’t eligible for the Midseason Top 50 as he’s now on the major league roster, but he was on the Top 101 (80th) and would theoretically be sent to Queens along with Hiura should a deal be struck.
Burnes has a four-pitch mix but works primarily with a mid-90s fastball and a plus slider. Our minor league editor over on the main site, Craig Goldstein, has seen Burnes and had this to say in his Call-Up piece: “I watched him last year in High-A, where he sat comfortably in the low 90s with the fastball but showed the ability to run it up higher every now and then. He’s been better than that since, with reports of him sitting 93-96 mph with natural cut, good finish up in the zone and elite spin rates. The slider has also progressed from an average offering in my early viewing to a more consistently plus pitch that arrives at 83-86 mph with bite.”
While the Mets would need Hiura as the main piece in a deal for either deGrom or Syndergaard, Burnes would be a must as well for an organization once rich in pitching depth. The profile is more of a No.3 starter rather than an ace, but that’s plenty for the second best player you’re getting back in a potential trade.
Los Angeles Dodgers
OF Alex Verdugo (Oklahoma City Dodgers, Triple-A)
Verdugo has seen some time in the majors this season but was sent back to the minors for consistent playing time. He’s likely in the majors if Matt Kemp wasn’t actually good again but alas, welcome to 2018.
The Dodgers may determine that they’re ready to push all their chips in again, and the Mets ask would begin with the 19th ranked prospect on the Midseason Top 50. Verdugo’s a versatile outfielder with a plus hit tool and would give the Mets a young and dynamic outfield to build around. If you’re looking for the best case scenario with Verdugo, look no further than Brandon Nimmo. While Nimmo’s a better defender in center, the profile isn’t all that different. The skepticism with Verdugo comes from his lack of power, and the same things were said about everyone’s favorite Met not too long ago.
If the Mets could bring Verdugo to Queens, they’d theoretically have their outfield set for the next half-decade. They’d also have an incredibly crowded group of capable regulars, including lost friends Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce and Juan Lagares. If Verdugo does indeed come over via trade, the decision is easy; Bruce moves into a bench role and plays some first base, while Lagares would be the fourth outfielder. It’d also allow Yoenis Cespedes to move to first base, improving the Mets defense and availability at the same time. There may be no better fit on this list than Verdugo with the orange and blue.
RHP Adbert Alzolay (Iowa Cubs, Triple-A)
Alzolay was struggling a bit in the PCL before going down with a lat strain that will end his 2018 season. While he should return back to full strength next season, Alzolay may need some more developmental time in the minors before a potential call-up.
With the Mets seeking major league ready contributors, Alzolay may come over in addition to some of the young talent already in Chicago, such as Addison Russell. Still, the 23-year-old right-hander has a chance to stick as a starter with two future 60 offerings. One of those offerings is a fastball that sits in the mid-90s but tops out around 97 with arm side run. The other is an 11-5 slider that’s a potential out pitch in the majors.
Alzolay can help the Mets, but it’s unlikely he’s the headliner in a potential deal with Chicago. He’s more likely to come over as a complimentary piece, although the reported package the Cubs have been floating doesn’t sound as enticing as what the Brewers could offer.
Boston Red Sox
LHP Jay Groome (Disabled List, Out for Season)
Here’s an interesting prospect the Mets may target in a potential trade with the Red Sox. Groome at his best looks like an ace with a devastating curveball that may be an 80 pitch when all is said and done. After being drafted in the first round in 2016 though, Groome has thrown just 62 innings and has dealt with a number of injuries.
The Red Sox are in need of a second baseman and a reliever, not a front-end starter. The Mets are looking to move Asdrubal Cabrera and Jeurys Familia, not deGrom or Syndergaard. The two teams lineup extremely well, and Groome would be a really interesting grab in any potential deal. While his health makes him a high-risk prospect, the potential reward here certainly seems worth that risk. Dave Dombrowski isn’t afraid to trade young pitchers far away from the majors (see Espinoza, Anderson) and the Mets would do well to grab Groome from an otherwise thin farm system.
New York Yankees
LHP Justus Sheffield (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Triple-A)
The Mets and the Yankees historically avoid trading with one another, for fear of watching a former player succeed with the rival across town. We saw this last year with Jay Bruce, when the Yanks reportedly made the best offer, but the Mets didn’t want to assist the Yankees in their playoff pursuit. While this isn’t the smartest business strategy and seems to be one-sided (ahem) the Yankees need a starter.
It’s quite ironic that Sheffield would headline a potential deal considering he’s likely ready himself to enter the Yankees rotation. The 6’0” southpaw sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and found himself ranked No. 40 on the Midseason Top 50. He’s got a chance for a couple of above-average secondaries and profiles as a mid-rotation arm.
While there are some concerns with Sheffield — mainly his health and his lack of height — he’s a relatively “safe” arm. He’s also close to, if not already, major league ready, and the Mets would surely insist on his presence in any sort of deal. While the likelihood of a potential deal increased with Omar Minaya reclaiming power within the Mets front office, I’ll only believe these crosstown rivals would make a trade like this when I actually see it.
Photo credit: Mark J. Rebilas – USA Today Sports