4 under-the-radar Mets prospects to watch in 2024, including two-way player Nolan McLean

The Mets farm system has made significant strides over the last two years due to a mix of some good drafting and improved player development processes.

Their system is headed up on the pitching side with director of pitching development Eric Jagers and hitting side with director of hitting development Jeff Albert. They have now hired Andy Green as the vice president of player development as New York looks to build some continuity in this department.

The almost yearly change at the head of player development position is the opposite of what an organization should do as it works toward the sustained success that has been talked about.

The reason the Mets are likely a top 10 farm system in the sport is mostly due to the top guys that you have seen written about here and talked about on The Mets Pod.

You have heard names like Jett WilliamsColin Houck, Christian Scott, and others the Mets have drafted and signed themselves. The 2023 trade deadline was of course a huge boost, adding two consensus top 100 prospects in Drew Gilbert and Luisangel Acuña, and another borderline top 100 prospect in Ryan Clifford.

As important as it is to have those top prospects, the true sign of a quality farm system and emerging player development system is depth.

If the Mets want to become the East Coast Dodgers or whatever team you want to cite, it is important for them to continue to find value outside of the first couple of rounds of the draft. Involving the analytics and player development staffs in the drafting process is something that was not always happening, but has changed recently.

Ideally, when you are evaluating a player, it should be a mix of what the scouts on the road see plus the analytical metrics, plus a potential development plan.

The Mets do have some history of under-the-radar prospects making the big leagues and having an impact, like Jeff McNeil. They need more of this going forward, and those are the primary objectives for Green and vice president of amateur scouting Kris Gross. Right now, the depth of the Mets' system is probably in the best shape it’s been in some time.

Here are some under-the-radar prospects to keep an eye on as we head into the 2024 season...

SS Jeremy Rodriguez

If you feel like you recognize this name, Rodriguez was the return from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Tommy Pham at the 2023 trade deadline. Rodriguez was Arizona’s top international free agent signing last January, signing for $1.25 million.

At 17 years old, Rodriguez is a ball of clay for a player development department to work with. His best traits are his advanced plate discipline and bat-to-ball skills. In the small sample size of 13 games after joining the Mets Dominican Summer League team, Rodriguez almost had triple the number of walks (11) as he did strikeouts (four) to go along with a .422/.536/.711 slash line.

Defensively, he has the arm for shortstop and some actions to suggest he could stick there long-term.

These are the kind of trades the Mets have been on the other side of in the past, and it’s like buying an expensive scratch-off ticket trying to hit big.

I expect Rodriguez stateside this year with the Florida Complex League Mets, where he will look to establish himself as a top 10 prospect in the system.

Two-way player Nolan McLean

McLean was the Mets' third-round pick in the 2023 MLB Draft out of Oklahoma State, where he was both a hitter and a late-inning reliever. McLean will be given an opportunity to continue being a two-way player in pro ball, as largely a designated hitter and pitcher.

Offensively, he would be right up against Clifford for the most raw power in the Mets system. Although it was not with a wood bat, in college he had home runs exceeding 470 feet. However, this comes along with a high strikeout rate. He needs to make better, more consistent contact for the hitting thing to last in pro ball.

Where most scouts believe his future really lies is as a pitcher. 

The Mets intend to try him out as a starter/bulk reliever innings type, which is not uncommon for the organization as they have done this recently with converting college relievers into starters. Christian Scott and Tyler Stuart are a couple of examples.

McLean has a fastball that will touch 98 mph, with a swing-and-miss slider. He will need to work on a third pitch for starting to potentially be a reality, but McLean is as unique a prospect as the Mets have brought into the system in a few years. I am fascinated to see how they plan to utilize him in 2024.

LHP Nate Lavender

There were some internal discussions about promoting Lavender to the big leagues late in 2023 after he posted a 3.27 ERA in 35 games with Triple-A Syracuse. Across 54.1 innings, he allowed only 39 hits while striking out 86 (13.7 strikeouts per nine) and walking 23 (4.6 walks per nine).

Lavender, 23, was the Mets 14th round pick in the 2021 MLB Draft out the University of Illinois. He does not necessarily have the biggest and loudest stuff, with a fastball that will sit 90-93 and touch 94 with an improved breaking ball since college. He has some interesting metrics on his fastball that he can pitch up in the zone while not having the most velocity.

In a season where I expect there to be a lot of fluctuation in the bullpen, if Lavender keeps up his success at the Triple-A level, I can see him making his big league debut as soon as the first half of the season.

RHP Noah Hall

This is the deeper cut. If you really follow the Mets system, you may have heard of the three names before this one. Hall was the Mets' seventh-round pick in the 2023 draft out of the University of South Carolina.

He had an abbreviated season for the Gamecocks due to a back injury, which caused his fall in the draft.

Hall's fastball will touch in the mid-90s, but it usually sits more around the 93-94 range. At the time of the draft, his changeup was considered to be one of the best in the entire class, with massive horizontal break. He added a sweeper to his repertoire because, well, the cool kids are all adding sweepers. Jokes aside, it is a pitch the Mets believe has potential.