Mets Top 5 Fantasy Prospects
1- Zack Wheeler, SP
The prize acquisition in the Carlos Beltran deal didn't waste any time in strutting his stuff. Wheeler was dominant in six starts at the High-A level as a member of the Mets organization. In 27 innings he had a 10.33 K/9 and 1.67 BB/9 which helped result in a 2.00 ERA and insane 1.68 FIP. Prior to the trade, he had no problems striking batters out, but did have problems finding the strike zone (5.83 BB/9 in 2010 and 4.81 BB/9 in 2011 with the Giants organization). Matt Eddy of Baseball America notes that his control gains coincided with returning to his high school pitching mechanics in July. If his control gains stick, look out.
He throws a fastball that gets grades that range from plus, to plus-plus. It is a blazing hitter, sitting at 93-95 mph, and touching as high as 98 mph. He backs it with a plus curveball that gets plenty of empty swings. His change-up shows promise, but needs further refinement. Wheeler has fantasy ace potential, and should open the year playing for the Mets Double-A affiliate in Binghamton.
2- Matt Harvey, SP
Not everyone believes Wheeler should top the Mets prospect list, Kevin Goldstein and John Sickels have Harvey atop theirs. Harvey had an outstanding professional debut in 2011 dominating the High-A level before pitching much better than his 4.53 ERA would suggest at the Double-A level. His FIP in Double-A was 3.23, and he struck out better than a batter an inning at 9.65 K/9. His walk rate was passable, but could use improvement at 3.47 BB/9 while in Double-A.
Harvey's fastball is a plus weapon at 92-94 mph and hitting 98 mph when he needs to reach back for something extra. He throws two breaking balls, a plus slider and a plus curveball. The slider gets the better grade of the two. The final pitch in his repertoire is a change-up that lags behind his other three pitches. Even as an average offering, it would give him a four pitch mix, something that would be trouble for those in the batters box opposing him. His ceiling is arguably just as high as Wheeler, and he's further along in the development process. He should start the year in Triple-A. His time will come soon.
3- Jeurys Familia, SP
Familia's fastball bests both that of Wheeler and Harvey. Unfortunately for Familia, the rest of his game isn't in the same class as the other two. Familia began 2011 repeating the High-A level after struggling with his control and command in 2010. The results were nothing short of phenomenal, and he made the leap to Double-A after just six starts. He struck out just under a batter an inning in High-A, and saw that rate jump to 9.86 K/9 in 87.2 innings. That came with a slip in control, but it remained passable at 3.59 BB/9. He missed time with shoulder tendinitis, so keep an eye on his health going forward.
Familia's money pitch is a premium heater that resides in the 92-96 mph range, hits 99 mph, and has tons of movement. He throws an inconsistent slider that flashes plus sporadically, and a change-up that is below average, but good enough to keep hitters from sitting dead red. His power arsenal will make it tempting for the Mets to turn him loose in the bullpen, where he could become their “closer of the future.” He should join Harvey in Triple-A pitching for Buffalo to begin the year, where he'll continue to see time as a starter.
4- Brandon Nimmo, OF
Nimmo was the Mets first round selection in this past June's draft. He's a prep outfielder drafted out of the state of Wyoming. That fact is an important one, as the state of Wyoming does not offer high school baseball, making Nimmo quite raw. In spite of his rawness, the Mets were intrigued enough by his tools to pop him at pick 13. Reports are that his makeup and work ethic are off the charts good. He saw a bit of time in Rookie level ball, and could earn a roster spot in full season Low-A. Nimmo could offer the always tantalizing power and speed combination that excites fantasy owners. Even if he turns his tools into baseball skills, it will take a while. Patience is required with Nimmo.
5- Jenrry Mejia, SP
Mejia was jerked around by the previous Mets brass, and it's possible that helped contribute to him hurting his elbow and requiring Tommy John surgery last May. Prior to surgery, he pumped out 94-96 mph cheddar, a plus change-up with downward splitter action, and an average-ish curveball that occasionally flashed better. He's a bit of a high effort pitcher which helps explain his poor control. Ultimately he may end up in the bullpen, where he has closer potential, but he'll need to show he's healthy before we can peg him for any future role.
Bonus- Michael Fulmer, SP
Nimmo wasn't the only high ceiling high school player drafted in 2011, the Mets also used a supplemental first round pick to nab Oklahoma prep arm Michael Fulmer. Fulmer is a big bodied, 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, fastball/slider pitcher. His fastball ranges from 92-97 mph, and his slider is a swing-and-miss breaker. Like many high school pitchers with a dominating stuff, Fulmer had no use for a change-up in the prep ranks. He's working on learning one, and will need it to succeed as a starter. Even if that pitch never develops, plenty of pitchers have ridden a power fastball/slider combo to the back end of a big league bullpen.
Top 5 in 2012
1- Jeurys Familia, SP
It could be a race to the majors between Familia and Harvey. Familia tops the 2012 ranks because it wouldn't surprise me to see the Mets cave in and shift him to the bullpen where he could just grip it and rip it, completely forgetting about his change-up. Frank Francisco and Bobby Parnell are the Mets top late inning relievers, and they dealt for Ramon Ramirez, but keep Familia's name in mind as a dark horse for saves. It is also entirely possible he continues to pitch well as a starter and reaches the bigs on those merits.
2- Matt Harvey, SP
The Mets rotation doesn't provide much to get excited about. Harvey could be the beneficiary and force his way into the rotation by the late summer.
3- Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF
Nieuwenhuis's season was cut short by season ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his non-trowing shoulder. He can play all three outfield positions, but his defense is probably best suited for the corner outfield. His bat would profile as a plus in center field, but is a bit below the standard set for the corner. On a first division team, Niewenhuis would be a fourth outfielder. The Mets are not a first division team. Jason Bay and Lucas Duda are safe bets to be main stays in the lineup, but newcomer Andres Torres has the burden of proving 2010 wasn't a fluke. If he struggles, Nieuwenhuis, who is already on the 40 man roster, could find himself playing center field for the parent club over the summer. Nieuwenhuis strikes out too often to project him to hit better than in the .275-.280 range, and his power and speed tools are just average. Jack of all trades, but master of none types like David DeJesus have proven to have a place as glue guys in fantasy baseball. If it all comes together, that's about what you can hope for from this NAIA product.
4- Reese Havens, 2B
Staying healthy is a problem for Havens. Since being drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft, Haven's has failed to play even remotely close to a full season of games. His single season high came back in 2009 when he played in 97 games. He has struck out in 21.4 percent of his minor league plate appearances, and whiffed at a higher rate, 24.4 percent, at Double-A this past season. With those whiff rates, it is unlikely he'll be much better than a .265-.270 hitter. That said, he walks at an above average rate which will help his on-base percentage and run scoring chances, and he has enough power to homer in the mid-teen range. An assignment with Triple-A Buffalo appears in the offing, with a chance to reach the majors later this year if he stays on the field and produces.
5- Jordany Valdespin, SS
Valdespin had a breakout 2011 campaign hitting 17 home runs and stealing 37 bases playing in Double-A and Triple-A. He hit for average at both stops, .297 in Double-A and .280 in Triple-A, but rarely walks and will likely have that exposed by major league pitchers. He's should begin the year back in Triple-A sharing double play duties with Reese Havens for the Bisons. If an injury were to prevent Ruben Tejada from playing for an extended period of time, Valdespin would be on a short list of candidates to start at shortstop for the Mets. The onus will be on him to show that he can overcome his aggressive approach, and showcase his power and speed against major league pitching. He may get his chance in 2012.