One inevitability of a newer, smarter front office is that the June Amateur Draft becomes a more valued commodity. The assumption bodes well for the Mets, who recently have either given draft picks away or spent them on relievers. With Sandy Alderson and company moving in to run things, I have a feeling this team will retain its draft picks, look to add more where they can, and draft a good blend of upside, cost and ready-made talent. And if Alderson can merely maintain the dedication to scouting and development internationally of his predecessor, things will improve here.
In my opinion, the Mets currently have two must-follow, top tier prospects: Wilmer Flores and Matt Harvey. I believe there is good depth in the next tier, with lower level upside talent like Juan Urbina and Aderlin Rodriguez, or good collegiate draftees like Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Reese Havens (and not to mention one potential post-hype sleeper). But in guys whose present talent and upside projections demand daily box score checking for Mets junkies, the list stops at two.
The hopeful Mets fan, the Bill Simmons of Flushing, probably has sent an e-mail to his friends comparing Wilmer Flores to Miguel Cabrera. Both came up as shortstops who were never considered long-term options at the position. Cabrera was listed at 6-2, 180 and Flores at 6-3, 175. Both debuted in full season leagues at the age of 18. Cabrera had a .114 ISO in a pitcher-friendly environment; Flores had a .135 ISO in two environments not much friendlier. Cabrera walked and struck out a little more, but the walk rate needed a touch of work, and the strikeout rate was considered a plus for a future power hitter. Therefore, a reasonably insane Mets fan can assume that Flores should be good for a .311/.383/.542 production throughout his team-controlled seasons, presumably beginning in mid-2012. Right?
Because you’re reading this website I know I don’t have to tell you where that logic veers off course. I really like Wilmer Flores as a prospect, and while I don’t believe he’ll achieve his highest potential outcome, there is little reason to believe he won’t develop the power requisite for his prospect status. I think he’ll be able to get up to 25-30 home runs, but there is a development path we have to acknowledge that he could max out with 15-25. Either way, given his contact abilities and the assumption that more line drives are forthcoming, he should be a .300 hitter, too. Where his power potential exists somewhere in that 15-30 range, it’s far more difficult to predict his walk rate. It will be so hard for him to exceed a .360 wOBA should his walk rate not improve by a significant number.
We know that Flores isn’t going to stick at shortstop, so it seems the destinations left are limited to third base or a corner outfield spot. We know the difference in terms of WAR compilation is a win between those two positions, and with David Wright entrenched at third, Flores’ likeliest big league position is the outfield corner. Projecting his defense at either location is quite difficult — the development path his body undergoes has outcomes as diverse as his power projections. We know that his arm will rate as a slight plus at essentially any position, and that his range should be solid at third base. How he’ll read balls in the outfield remains to be seen, though there’s no reason he should be bad at it. Projecting anything above or below 3 runs is probably a mistake.
The list of minor league hitting prospects that have the legitimate potential to hit .300 and club 30 home runs is extremely short. But he’s a great example in the difficulty in ‘ranking’ prospects. So much of Flores’ value is tied up in the development of his body and plate approach, which should control how much power he develops, how much he ends up drawing walks, and how he plays defense in the field. (Article idea for another day: the potential reverse correlation in power development and defensive ability.) No full-season position player has outcomes as diverse as Wilmer Flores, but my suggestion is to bet on success, whichever path he uses to get there.
I once saw Matt Harvey strike out six players at the East Coast Showcase in between his junior and senior seasons in high school. He was the hot name in the draft class that year, with a fastball reaching 96 mph, and this slow curveball that high school hitters couldn’t hit, and that he could spot. When bonus demands led to a drop in the draft the next year, Harvey opted to attend North Carolina, and ultimately, it was a good decision. He landed $2.5 million with the Mets, and also is a different arsenal. The curveball is gone, as Harvey learned a good slider at North Carolina that got better and better during his time there. His fastball velocity is about the same, but the projection that it came with is probably gone. What is replaced is a feeling of security that he will eat innings at the big league level. Pitchers with the upside of a number two starter, and a floor of a back-end guy is a great combination.
Note: If we want to have a discussion why I think the Mets second tier prospects aren’t must follow, that can be done in the comments. I’ll be back this evening to give my thoughts on that group. And, tomorrow, I’ll have a piece about the prospects in the system that don’t make Marc Hulet’s forthcoming top 10 rankings.
New York Mets Must Follow Prospects: Wilmer Flores, Matt Harvey.