When Sandy Alderson originally took over the New York Mets back in 2010, he let it be known that his goal was to build the franchise around young starting pitching. The Mets drafted pitchers early and often, while always targeting more arms in the trade market.
Alderson pulled off two fantastic trades during his initial tenure, moving Carlos Beltran in the last year of his deal for Zack Wheeler and parlaying R.A. Dickey‘s stunning Cy Young season into Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud. The 2015 rotation of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard and Steven Matz took the Mets to their first World Series in 15 years, but that would be a short peak for a group that was never able to stay healthy together.
In the years the Mets have been built around pitching, they have done their best to use free agency and the trade market to build a competent lineup around Jacob deGrom and the rest of their rotation, but have come up short more times than not in the offensive department.
That is why Mets fans have to be thrilled when looking over Just Baseball’s inaugural top-100 prospect list, as New York has three position players ranked in the top-50, with Francisco Alvarez ranked the highest at No. 4.
While the Mets have graduated some good offensive talents from their farm system like Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil and of course Pete Alonso, none of those players were that highly regarded in top-100 prospect rankings prior to their debut.
Baseball America had Conforto ranked at No. 80 heading into the 2015 season, with Nimmo cracking the top-50 at No. 45. Smith was ranked in the top-100 three times, but never cracked the top-70. Alonso is clearly the best player of the bunch, but due to his previously shaky defense, he only found himself in the top-100 one time, ranked at No. 48 heading into his Rookie of the Year season in 2019.
The last time the Mets had a position player ranked in the top-25 by Baseball America was Amed Rosario in 2017, as the shortstop came in at No. 7 in that year’s list. Rosario never quite lived up to his potential, but still ended up being of great value to the franchise as one of the pieces sent to acquire superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor.
David Wright and Jose Reyes are really the last examples of homegrown Mets that were highly-regarded in prospect rankings that went on to become perennial All-Stars. Wright was ranked at No. 21 by Baseball America heading into the 2004 season, whereas Reyes topped out at No. 3 heading into the 2003 season.
From 2006 through 2011, Wright and Reyes combined to make nine All-Star appearances as the duo formed the best left side of the infield in the National League during that span. Wright won two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers, while Reyes took home a Silver Slugger and the batting title in 2011.
The Mets have acquired players over the years like Beltran and Mike Piazza who have made multiple All-Star appearances, but outside of Wright and Reyes, the only other homegrown players to make multiple All-Star appearances as a Met were Darryl Strawberry (seven-time All-Star), Bud Harrelson (two-time) and Todd Hundley (two-time).
Alonso is sure to be the next player to join that exclusive list, but the talent in the farm system right now certainly offers the Mets a chance at a bright offensive future.
Francisco Alvarez is the most enticing of the three Mets players ranked in Just Baseball’s top prospect list, as he provides offensive upside that rarely comes from the catcher position. The 19-year-old needed just 15 games at Low-A this season before proving he was too talented for that league, posting a 227 wRC+ in 67 plate appearances.
Alvarez then spent the remainder of his 2021 season playing for the Brooklyn Cyclones in High-A. Across 84 games played, Alvarez hit .247/.351/.538, with 22 home runs and a 132 wRC+. Altogether between Low-A and High-A, Alvarez had 43 extra-base hits across 399 plate appearances.
The catcher could begin his age-20 season in Double-A and may be knocking on the door of the big leagues by the 2023 season. Alvarez is as untouchable of a prospect as the Mets have had in years and has the chance to become the next homegrown superstar to join Alonso in the middle of the lineup.
Along with Alvarez, the Mets have two third basemen who are on the fast track to the show after monster offensive seasons in 2021.
The Mets first-round pick in 2019, Brett Baty finds himself ranked at No. 20 in Just Baseball’s top prospect list. Baty began the season playing for the Brooklyn Cyclones, where he hit .309/.397/.514, with 22 extra-base hits and a 145 wRC+. After 51 games played at High-A, Baty was promoted to Double-A, finishing his season with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.
Baty did not exactly hit the ground running in Double-A, as some adjustments certainly needed to be made at the higher level. Through his first 14 games, Baty hit just .196/.281/.357, with 19 strikeouts in 62 plate appearances. Then the calendar turned to August and Baty’s bat came alive.
Down the final stretch of the season, Baty hit .326/.412/.463 across 26 games played. The 21-year-old still has more power to tap into, but it was very promising to see his strikeout and walk rates remain consistent at both levels of the minors this year.
Finally that brings us to Mark Vientos, the prospect who is probably the most boom-or-bust of the bunch, who is also the closest to the big league level. The Mets have been very aggressive in their development of Vientos all season, dating back to when they started him out at Double-A to open the year.
The 2017 second-round pick never played at High-A, as he spent the entire 2019 season at Low-A. After missing a year of development in 2020, the Mets had Vientos jump a league and figure out Double-A on the fly.
Similar to the learning curve Baty went through a few months later, the early returns of Vientos in Double-A were not great, as he hit .132/.209/.289 through his first 10 games played. But from that point on, all the 21-year-old has done is rake.
After his 10-game slump to start the season, Vientos hit .305/.374/.627 over his final 62 games played in Double-A. The right-handed slugger was then promoted to Triple-A Syracuse in the middle of September, where he has hit .333/.455/.630, with a 188 wRC+ in his first eight games. Altogether, Vientos has 24 home runs and 42 extra-base hits this season, as his raw power is among the best in all of minor league baseball.
When it comes to the defensive side of the ball, there is question marks with all three of the Mets top offensive prospects, as none stand out with their gloves just yet. Vientos is considered the worst of the bunch, as he has yet to prove capable of playing any position at the big league level outside of first base or DH.
The Mets have tried to get Vientos up to speed defensively at third base and left field, but scouting reports have not been kind when it comes to the progress he has made at either position. Baty had similar concerns entering the 2021 season, although he has reportedly made great strides this year.
Baty slimmed down a bit entering this season, as he tried to get more out of his 6-foot-3 frame. The progress has been a pleasant surprise for the Mets, with those closest to the system now believing he will be able to at least adequately defend the hot corner, if not provide some upside at the position.
Lastly when it comes to Francisco Alvarez, having that type of a bat at the catcher’s position is an absolute luxury for the Mets. Still, it is going to require a lot of development for him to be ready to defend at the big league level. Alvarez has some of the physical tools that could translate behind the plate one day, but he is very raw, which is not unexpected when you are talking about a 19-year-old.
Regardless of the defensive limitations, the Mets have not had three bats to get this excited about in a long time. With Baty, Vientos and Alvarez, there is the makings of a young core that could be the heart of New York’s lineup one day.
Considering the way the Mets offense struggled all season long, graduation day cannot come soon enough for this trio of young sluggers.