Breaking down state of Mets' farm system position by position for 2022 season

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Brett Baty Ronny Mauricio Francisco Alvarez treated art 2022
Brett Baty Ronny Mauricio Francisco Alvarez treated art 2022

While the top prospects dominate the headlines, it’s worth taking a step back and examining a minor league system like the Mets' from a bird's-eye perspective.

Team brass has talked up the need to build depth throughout the organization in recent years, which is the right thing to say but has very slowly started to materialize.

Let’s break down the state of each position and highlight areas of strength while underscoring areas for improvement...

CATCHER

Top prospect: Francisco Álvarez

Álvarez continues to do everything right. The Mets quickly realized that his initial 2021 placement in Low-A was too conservative, and he was quickly promoted to High-A Brooklyn. But the organization doesn’t plan to move him up the system at a similar rate. Only one 20-year-old took as many plate appearances in Double-A last season as Álvarez did as a 19-year-old in High-A, meaning Binghamton baseball fans should get excited for a summer with one of the most talented young players the organization has seen in some time.

Closest to majors: Hayden Senger

Senger made a bid for protection from the Rule 5 Draft. Instead he’ll be eligible for selection when the lockout ends and the proceedings are rescheduled. It’s unlikely he’ll be taken, but Senger’s skill set has come together quite nicely for a former 24th-round pick. He was one of the best pitch-framers in Double-A and did damage when putting the ball in play last season (something he’d like to see happen more frequently this season).

Álvarez is going to play every day in Binghamton and Senger is enough of a prospect to warrant more than a backup role. The Mets have Patrick Mazeika and offseason signing Nick Dini in the mix for reps at Triple-A Syracuse as well.

Under-the-radar: *shrug*

This isn’t a strong position within the organization, with players who either joined the system via minor league free agency or recently left as minor league free agents taking a bulk of the reps at the upper levels. Álvarez represents not only the best chance but likely the only chance to develop an in-house major leaguer at the catcher position in the coming years.

FIRST BASE

Top prospect: JT Schwartz

Schwartz, the Mets’ fourth-round draft pick last summer out of UCLA, had a knack for putting the bat on the ball in college and posted one of the best contact rates among draft-eligible players. That trend withstood the transition to wood bats when he made his professional debut in Low-A, as Schwartz’s whiff rate (13.6 percent, league average of 31.2 percent) was better than all but 10 of the nearly 2,000 players who saw at least 400 pitches last season.

Over a full year, that skill (and his 13 walks to 12 strikeouts) should output numbers better than his .195 average and .576 OPS in St. Lucie.

Closest to majors: Jeremy Vasquez

Perhaps even more than catcher, first base is a thin position when it comes to Mets prospects. That makes this choice ironic when you consider Vasquez began the 2021 season in Double-A and then was demoted twice (though the second was likely to be closer to his newborn in his hometown — coincidentally the greater Port St. Lucie area). Vasquez has always possessed a good knowledge of the strike zone, but the 15 home runs he hit in 51 games in college in 2017 have never really reappeared as a pro.

Under-the-radar: Wilmer Reyes

Reyes is remarkably athletic, owning more than just brief experience at all four infield spots and left field (he’s also dabbled in center and right). When he returned from an MCL injury that cost him nearly all of 2021, he was Brooklyn’s starting first baseman for the final week of the season, so that’s where we’ll put him despite the fact that he didn’t sniff the position during the Arizona Fall League.

Reyes has a solid bat at best and is a fun player to watch at worst, though the clock is ticking — he’s slated to reach minor league free agency at the end of the upcoming season unless he and the team mutually agree on an extension of his contract.

SECOND BASE

Top prospect: Travis Blankenhorn

Blankenhorn checks a lot of boxes toward being the type of player the Mets have generally lacked in recent years. He’s young for the major leagues, 25 for most of next season. He’s versatile, having the ability to plug in at multiple infield positions and the corner outfield spots. He has roster flexibility, maintaining one more minor league option year. And, in a small sample, he hit the ball really hard, finishing second in average exit velocity (min. 15 batted balls, yes) directly in front of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Jul 18, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Mets pinch hitter Travis Blamkenhorn (73) circles the base on a three run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fourth inning at PNC Park. It was the first career MLB home run for Blankenhorn.
Jul 18, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Mets pinch hitter Travis Blamkenhorn (73) circles the base on a three run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fourth inning at PNC Park. It was the first career MLB home run for Blankenhorn.

Closest to majors: Blankenhorn

It isn’t easy to do your job well if you’re constantly being shuttled back and forth between Syracuse and New York. If Blankenhorn can do it admirably in 2022, he’ll set the Mets up for an interesting decision the following year when he’s out of options.

Under-the-radar: Luke Ritter

Hamate bone injuries are known to take frustratingly long to heal. For a minor league player, that period of inactivity can be the difference between a major league future and needing to find another profession.

Luckily for Ritter, he was sidelined for just over a month after needing surgery. Conversely, he saw a near-100 point drop in his isolated power numbers upon returning. He still finished with 14 home runs and should continue to regain strength as he moves further away from the injury.

THIRD BASE

Top prospect: Brett Baty

It’s hard to keep in mind that 2021 was Baty’s first full season as a professional. From impressing against older competition at two levels, to earning an MLB Futures Game selection, to putting a bow on the year at the Arizona Fall League, Baty did everything asked of him. That included learning some left field, an experiment that produced mixed results but is certainly a positive if it increased his versatility by a smidge.

Closest to majors: Mark Vientos

All else being equal, Vientos would get the first crack at the majors between him and Baty due to the fact that Vientos is the only one currently on the 40-man roster (that doesn’t mean Baty can’t or won’t make his debut this season). Of course, the way Vientos is trending he could have easily commanded both this paragraph and the previous one.

The last six players who hit 20 home runs and OPS’d at least .920 before turning 22 at Double-A have all had success in the major leagues.

Mets prospect Mark Vientos batting at 2021 spring training in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Mets prospect Mark Vientos batting at 2021 spring training in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Under-the-radar: Jose Peroza

Peroza has been a Met since 2017, yet he’ll be just 21 for most of the upcoming season. He’s had excellent starts throughout his career and struggled after three different midseason promotions, which I’m willing to throw out in favor of the circumstances (he was a teenager for two of them and needed a passport for one).

Peroza hits the ball hard, finishing as one of only four St. Lucie Mets to cross the 110 mph exit velocity threshold, a line not even crossed by Álvarez in his brief time there.

SHORTSTOP

Top prospect: Ronny Mauricio

Mauricio’s outlook can be summarized succinctly. Improvements in the pitch recognition, swing decision, and defensive attentiveness departments will make him a major league star. The raw tools are that loud. But perhaps to a greater extent than any other player in the system, it’s worth questioning if those improvements can feasibly be made. The organization still thinks so, as they continue to expend significant resources in trying to make it happen.

Closest to majors: Mauricio

Though he finished 2021 in Double-A and was added to the 40-man roster, Mauricio will likely head back to Binghamton and get his footing there before a promotion to Syracuse is considered. The 40-man situation accelerates things a bit, but there won’t be a rush to get him to the majors since he might need to play a different position to get there.

Under-the-radar: Justin Guerrera

Hitters hit, and Guerrera packs a punch despite standing under 6-foot and spending his entire amateur baseball career in the northeast. The Fairfield alum had an eventful 2021, recording 42 extra-base hits in 63 games between the Stags’ run to the NCAA Tournament and his time in summer ball. Then, the Mets made him their final pick in the 20-round draft, which preceded a taste of pro ball where he had another 11 extra-base hits in 30 games.

Guerrera has a grinder mentality and could continue to surprise as he rises up the ranks.

OUTFIELD

Top prospect: Alex Ramirez

Ramirez is the antithesis of the “closest to the majors” paragraph. He simultaneously had a productive season in Low-A in 2021 yet might not be ready for the jump to High-A in 2022. He’ll be 19 like Álvarez was this past year, but expecting a similar performance is misguided. That doesn’t mean Ramirez isn’t capable of such a breakout. He has tools for days, owning a power-speed combo that’s rarely present in players his age. Patience here could be rewarded in a big way.

Closest to majors: Khalil Lee

Lee’s next major league appearance won’t be his first but he’ll certainly carry more pressure to get off on a better foot. Or perhaps knowing that it’s pretty hard to replicate a 72 percent strikeout rate will relieve some of that pressure. With Syracuse, Lee was nothing short of impressive. His wRC+ was the best by a Mets minor leaguer in eight years and his walk rate the best in seven.

May 21, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; New York Mets center fielder Khalil Lee (26) reacts after connecting for a base hit against the Miami Marlins during the twelfth inning at loanDepot Park.
May 21, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; New York Mets center fielder Khalil Lee (26) reacts after connecting for a base hit against the Miami Marlins during the twelfth inning at loanDepot Park.

One area worth an eyebrow raise: Since batted ball trajectories have been tracked at the minor league level, no player has hit the ball on the ground as often as Lee did while turning as many of their fly balls into home runs as he did. In short, expect some offensive regression.

Lee will get a chance to reacquaint himself with Mets fans but his ultimate role is still in question.

Under-the-radar: Carlos Dominguez

62 Mets minor leaguers put at least 80 balls in play last season. None had a higher slugging percentage when making contact than Dominguez, who finished second in the Florida Complex League with 10 home runs. That .875 SLGcon, as we’ll call it, was impressive enough to rank inside the top 10 over the last decade among all complex-level players (Joey Gallo topped the list).

But Dominguez has been hitting the ball hard for a while now. His .667 SLGcon in 2019 was tops among players who are still in the organization. Strikeouts remain an issue for him, but keep an eye on the hard-hitting 22-year-old.

PITCHER

Top prospect: J.T. Ginn

Joe DeMayo said it best in his most recent prospect list. When he’s right, Matt Allan can easily claim the title of top Mets pitching prospect. He just hasn’t thrown enough innings as a pro and won’t for quite a while. Thus, Ginn, who has impressed in his own right, leaps to the front.

While he’s still building back up from Tommy John surgery, from which he’ll be two years removed in March, Ginn's first season in pro ball was a success and the stuff looked the part of a future major league starter. He might not start 2022 in Double-A but he’ll be there eventually and will soon be knocking on the door.

J.T. Ginn on the mound pitching while playing for the Brooklyn Cyclones.
J.T. Ginn on the mound pitching while playing for the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Closest to majors: Adam Oller

Oller’s story — nearly retired to making the 40-man roster — is a perpetually heartwarming one, but he’s primed to start writing a new chapter this year. His stuff is not overpowering on the velocity scale or inducing whiffs at insane levels, but he’s learned how to use all of his pitches effectively as he has climbed the minor league ladder. Oller’s first run at Triple-A was a success and the spots at the front of the Mets’ depth starter line are up for grabs.

Under-the-radar: Daniel Juarez

I introduced Joel Diaz in this space a few months ago and that seemed to have taken off as a trendy sleeper pick among pitching prospects in the organization. Juarez might not have as much upside but he’s popped up in a few inquiries recently.

Listed at 5-foot-11, 155 pounds, the left-handed Juarez picks up 18-20 inches of vertical movement on his fastball from a low release height, which allows the pitch to play above its low-90s velocity. He also comes armed with a slider that has unique movement characteristics and a changeup that fades heavily towards his armside. At just 20 years old, Juarez struck out 38 percent of the batters he faced in the Florida Complex League before making one appearance in Low-A to end the season.