Prospect Watch: Mets Relievers

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.


The New York Mets have a talented group of young arms in the minor league system. That’s great news in terms of the pitching talent pipeline but it might make roster management difficult.

The club has eight arms that would be at risk of being lost in the annual Rule 5 draft if they were to be left unprotected: Noah Syndergaard, Cory Mazzoni, Logan Verrett, Jack Leathersich, Gabriel Ynoa, Luis Mateo, Domingo Tapia, and Akeel Morris.

Right-hander Rafael Montero was also on the list prior to having his contact purchased by the club mere days ago. The need to protect infielder Dilson Herrera will further muddy the waters.

New York has the potential to clear upwards of seven roster spots at the end of the season via free agency. A quick glance at the club’s 40-man rosters also shows expendable players such as Josh Edgin, Gonzalez German, Erik Goeddel, Scott Rice, Jeff Walters, Zach Lutz, Wilfredo Tovar, Andrew Brown, and Eric Campbell.

So, the club could potentially protect all eight of the pitching prospects (and Herrera) but it would hinder the club’s ability to build depth in other areas (such as the infield) and would also prevent them from acquiring much in the way of new talent. As a result, between now and when offseason rosters are set in November (in advance of the Rule 5 draft), a number of talented arms in the Mets system will be jockeying for the coveted 40-man roster spots (which includes a bigger payday for the players).

Let’s have a look at a couple of the above relief arms that I’ve recently seen pitch:

Akeel Morris, RHP, New York Mets (Profile)
Level: Low-A   Age: 21   Top-15: N/A   Top-100: N/A
Line: 20.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 34/10 K/BB, 0.00 ERA, 1.89 FIP

It’s not common for a player to spend four years in short-season ball and still be considered a prospect – but Morris is the exception to the rule.

Morris is one of the least known names vying for roster consideration. The 21-year-old right-hander spent four seasons in short-season ball before receiving an opening day assignment to A-ball in 2014. After striking out 60 batters in 45 innings last year, he’s now whiffed 30 in his first 18.2 innings.

Morris possesses a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a promising curveball with good shape and break (despite a low arm angle). However, he’s a little undersized at 6-1 and has command issues — which were on display when I watched him pitch; his stuff looked crisp but he was his own worst enemy by falling into favorable hitters’ counts and leaving pitches in hittable zones.

When he’s on, though, he’s almost unhittable — as witnessed in his last bullpen appearance on May 9 when he recorded five of his seven outs via the K. Overall this season, he has yet to allow a run in his 18.2 innings of work with just even hits allowed but 10 free passes. He just might be a diamond in the rough.


Jack Leathersich, LHP, New York Mets (Profile)
Level: Double-A   Age: 23   Top-15: N/A   Top-100: N/A
Line: 13.0 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 24/10 K/BB, 3.46 ERA, 3.49 FIP

Leathersich isn’t a one-trick pony so don’t try and pigeon hole him as a future LOOGY. His stuff suggests he could be a solid middle reliever against hitters on both sides of the plate – assuming he can solve his command issues.

I’ve been rather high on Leathersich for a few years now. However, like Morris above, he struggles with his command and control – in part due to his max-effort delivery. So far this season he’s struck out 24 batters but walked 10 in 13.0 innings of work. Interestingly, the southpaw has actually been better against right-handed hitters than those on the left side of the plate. One of the most eye-catching numbers for the 23-year-old hurler is the 23% line-drive rate for left-handed batters versus 11% for righties.

Undersized at 5-11, Leathersich has good stuff nonetheless. His fastball generally sits in the low 90s but works its way up into the mid 90s. He also possesses a slider that flashes plus potential when he commands it. The lefty told our very own David Laurila in a December 2013 interview that he was working on incorporating a changeup into his repertoire. His lack of premium height does cause issues and he struggles to maintain a consistent plane on his offerings, which leads to more fly balls than I’d like to see.

Even though he’s not an ideal candidate for the LOOGY role, Leathersich’s stuff suggests he could develop into a solid middle reliever at the big league level — He just might end up as a late-bloomer.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.