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When I put out my Top 20 Mets prospects list for 2022, it was littered with prospects who have an MLB ETA of 2023 or later. This often prompts fans to wonder which prospects will actually help the 2022 team that GM Billy Eppler is assembling.
You probably won’t see prospects like Francisco Álvarez or Ronny Mauricio this year. That is purely a factor of them needing further development. I absolutely believe those prospects and others will be a real part of the Mets' future.
With that said, there are some prospects -- maybe some you don’t know much about -- who will appear for the Mets in 2022 as inevitably there will be injuries or other factors that require them to dip into their minor league system.
Here are six prospects you could potentially see at the big league level this year...
OF Khalil Lee
Yes, I know a lot of Mets fans are turned off by Lee because of his struggles in his cup of coffee in the big leagues in 2021. The reality was he wasn't ready and was forced there out of necessity.
Lee went back to Triple-A and simply tore it up. He led all of minor league baseball in on-base percentage (.451) and was top 10 in wRC+. He is a gifted athlete who started to tap more into his above average raw power in the second half.
He can play all three outfield spots and possesses a plus arm. He has above average speed on the base paths that led to 53 stolen bases for the Kansas City Royals organization in 2019. I’d like to see him get more aggressive there in 2022.
Lee still does strike out a lot and needs to make more consistent contact. If he is able to do that, he has the potential to become an everyday outfielder. He has a reasonable floor of a fourth outfielder due to his power, speed and defense combination, and he very well may be competing for that job on the Opening Day 2022 roster.
With injuries and underperformance inevitably impacting any roster, you will see Lee get another shot in the majors at some point in 2022 if he doesn't make it from the outset.
3B/OF/1B Mark Vientos
If I were to award the most improved prospect for 2021, it would go to Vientos. Prior to this season, Vientos was a guy who had power and could hit the ball hard when he barreled it up. He did not do so with consistency, and he needed a lot of work on his pitch recognition skills and the contact portion of the game.
Vientos basically answered all of those questions in one year and had a unique season as a 21-year-old in Double-A.
Dating back to 2006, only six other players hit 20+ home runs with a .920+ OPS prior to turning 22 years old in Double-A. The other players on the list include impact big leaguers like Javier Baez, Mike Moustakas, Evan Longoria, and Giancarlo Stanton.
Vientos got a taste of Triple-A last season after hitting .281 with a .346 on-base percentage and 22 home runs in Double-A. In 11 games in Triple-A he had an OPS of .979 and tacked on three more home runs. Some of his Double-A numbers are weighted down by a poor month of May where he was adjusting to the level of competition. From June through August, he hit .301 with a .367 on-base percentage and 19 of his 25 home runs on the season.
On the defensive side of the ball, where he fits best is more of a mystery. The Mets have worked to increase his versatility and find the best spot to get his bat in the lineup long term.
With the DH being inevitable in the National League, that can certainly be an option for Vientos as you look ahead. Either way, I believe that Vientos, who was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, will hit at the big league level. He will start 2022 in Triple-A, but I would be quite surprised if he did not receive the call to the big leagues at some point this season.
OF Jake Mangum
The Mets drafted Mangum in the fourth round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Mississippi State, where he left college as the all-time leader in hits for the prestigious SEC conference. He entered pro ball as a bit of a slap hitter and prioritized remaking his body and adding strength for 2021.
That worked out for Mangum, who will probably never be mistaken for a 30-home run bat. But he had 35 extra-base hits including nine home runs across 84 games between High-A Brooklyn and Double-A Binghamton last season. Those nine home runs are almost double the amount he hit in his entire collegiate career. The important thing is he did not sell out for power as his strikeout rate remained relatively unaffected.
Defensively, Mangum is above average in center field and can cover gap-to-gap and chase down balls over his head. He is a smart player who understands defensive positioning and quarterbacks the outfield. Vientos told us on Mets Prospective that Mangum was a huge help during his transition to the outfield as he really helped position him when it came to where to stand for each batter.
Mangum will be 26 years old in March, which is older than your normal prospect, but he should have the opportunity to start in Triple-A Syracuse and be ready for a call if a need arises for outfield depth. He projects to me as a grinder fourth outfielder who has great bat-to-ball skills and can play defense.
RHP Adam Oller
The Mets selected Oller in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft in 2019 after he did not put up particularly great numbers for the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants organizations.
The Mets saw something in Oller and he earned the opportunity to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the likely to occur major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft.
Between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Syracuse last season, the 26-year-old posted a 3.45 ERA in 23 starts across 120 innings and struck out 138 batters. He was named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year
He isn’t going to blow you away with stuff -- he sits 91-93 mph and touches 95 with an above average slider and solid changeup to go along with it. He is the perfect definition of a depth starting pitcher.
The Mets will likely look to add more depth to the rotation when the lockout ends, but as you saw in 2021 you need eight-to-10 starting pitchers to get through a season. I think Oller has a very real chance to be one of the pitchers called upon if they need a spot starter or someone to fill in for injuries.
RHP Eric Orze
The 2020 MLB Draft was shortened to five rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Orze joins J.T. Ginn as the only two prospects still remaining in the Mets' system. New York traded away Pete Crow-Armstrong, Isaiah Greene, and Matt Dyer while releasing Anthony Walters.
Orze, who has beaten cancer twice, comes with a tremendous story. That is not his entire story, however, as he has made a rapid ascent through the minor league system after being drafted in the fifth round out of the University of New Orleans.
The 23-year-old made his pro debut in 2021 for High-A Brooklyn and made it all the way to Triple-A Syracuse, posting a 3.08 ERA across 34 relief appearances spanning 49.2 innings while striking out 67 batters.
I actually saw Orze pitch twice in person this past summer and his fastball touched 95 mph with a splitter that the bottom drops out of. His third pitch is his slider that is another solid offering.
In a small sample size of 12.1 innings in Triple-A, Orze had a ridiculous 43.5 percent whiff rate. Of his 34 appearances, 16 of them were more than one inning, so he is already experienced in a multi-inning reliever role.
I think Orze has a bright future as a solid middle reliever who can give you a couple of innings in a game if you need it. The bullpen might be one of the spots that you have the most flexibility to have guys going up and down, so if Orze continues on his trajectory I definitely foresee him making his big league debut in 2022.
RHP Cole Gordon
Gordon might be the one on this list you know the least about. He was the Mets' 32nd-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft out of Mississippi State, where he was teammates with Mangum.
In college, Gordon was essentially a full-time reliever and spent some time as the Bulldogs' closer in his last year on campus. In 2021, the Mets decided to move Gordon full-time to a starting/piggyback role with Double-A Binghamton, where he posted a 3.69 ERA in 20 appearances.
In that role, he tossed 83 innings and struck out just over a batter per inning with 85 strikeouts. In the month of August, he made four starts and allowed zero earned runs all month in 26 innings pitched while only surrendering eight hits.
I believe his big league future could potentially be in the bullpen, where you can possibly get the top end of his stuff with a fastball that’ll hit 94-95 mph that he shows the ability to elevate. He also has a curve that he can locate pretty well and get swings and misses on.
Since Gordon is now more of a starter, it would stand to reason that he could also be an option to pitch multiple innings out of the pen potentially as soon as 2022, where he should start the year with Triple-A Syracuse.