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It may be true that you never draft for need, but the Mets went heavy on pitching through the first 10 rounds of the 2021 MLB Draft, immediately strengthening an otherwise barren depth chart at the position.
First rounder Kumar Rocker and second rounder Calvin Ziegler will grab the headlines from this class, but the Mets’ third rounder, Dominic Hamel from Dallas Baptist, could have the most immediate impact on the system from that group.
Hamel graduated from Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona, known in baseball circles as the alma mater of Cody Bellinger, who went straight from the Huskies to the Dodgers in 2013.
Hamel took a different route, heading to nearby Yavapai College to play in the JUCO ranks. Like current major leaguers Kole Calhoun, Willie Calhoun, and Merril Kelly, Hamel used Yavapai as a platform to Division I baseball, ultimately signing to play at Dallas Baptist where he built his draft stock from the ground up.
Hamel went from the Patriots’ Sunday starter in the brief 2020 season to their Friday night ace this season. He set the single-season program record with 13 wins and 136 strikeouts, the latter figure being 38 more than any other Missouri Valley Conference pitcher. On a per-PA basis, his 36.1% strikeout rate was one of the best figures among starting pitchers in the nation.
Like Ziegler in the second round, Hamel is an analytics darling. With an increased data-driven approach to building their board compared to prior years, the Mets feel they’ve added a pitcher that fits the desired modern mold.
“We like to scout through both lenses, a [traditional] scouting lens and an analytics lens,” director of amateur scouting Marc Tramuta said. “It’s a plus-ride fastball, which all of you know in today’s game is very effective.”
When a scout says a pitcher has good “ride” on his fastball, that translates analytically to above-average vertical movement. Hamel gets about 20 inches of induced vertical break, meaning the pitch appears to rise to the hitter thanks to extremely high spin, near-perfect spin efficiency, a low release height, and a flat vertical approach angle.
Hamel’s slider is a spin rate masterpiece as well, and would rank among the Top 25-30 in the major leagues. The raw spin, combined with low spin efficiency, make it a perplexing pitch for hitters to pick up out of his hand. These characteristics make Rocker’s slider an equally devastating pitch as well.
Add in a potentially average curveball and changeup, alongside improving command, and Hamel has the prototypical fourth starter profile, with the potential to play up in pro ball if the right coaching and data is implemented.
Hamel threw about 30 innings less than Rocker during the college season, so the mileage on his arm is considerably less. If the Mets want to get him going in pro ball as soon as possible, a stint of 2-3 inning outings at Low-A St. Lucie shouldn’t be out of the question.
Hamel should comfortably sit in the 12-15 range on updated prospect lists. He has the opportunity to move quickly, given how his stuff should play against low minors hitters. I would expect him to reach Double-A by the end of 2022, with an eye on being in the major league rotation plans down the line.