Mets Rule 5 Draft Preview: Which prospects will New York protect?

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Mets prospect Mark Vientos batting close-up at 2021 spring training
Mets prospect Mark Vientos batting close-up at 2021 spring training

Free agency is officially open, meaning the next major date on the MLB offseason calendar is Nov. 9 when the GM Meetings kick off. Then will come the deadline to accept or reject qualifying offers on Nov. 17, followed by the Nov. 19 deadline to add Rule 5-eligible minor leaguers to the 40-man roster to protect them from being selected.

With the expiration of the current CBA on Dec. 1 looming large, there’s no guarantee that the draft goes off as scheduled on Dec. 8. But until then, MLB teams will be operating under business as usual, meaning rosters will be set by the deadline as they are each November.

The Mets are in a position to make multiple additions to their 40-man roster at the deadline this year. That’s a stark change from 2020, when no eligible players were deemed worthy of a spot. With seven slots on the roster currently open, the Mets could add as many as four or five players.

Let’s break down the more interesting eligible players the Mets will be assessing in the days leading up to the deadline. Players with an asterisk (*) are up for selection for the first time...

Locks to be added

- SS Ronny Mauricio*
-
3B Mark Vientos*

This is the beginning of an upcoming wave of the organization’s top prospects who can now begin to taste the major leagues.

Mauricio, long hailed as one of the Mets’ brightest young players, finally translated his raw tools to in-game outputs this season. In eight fewer games, he increased his 2019 home run output by five times while also swiping 11 bases. Mauricio has also continued his strong season in the Dominican Winter League.

The interesting part of the equation is the likelihood that Mauricio becomes a major league option in 2022. With just a week’s worth of Double-A games under his belt, it would take an extreme jump off his current development path to reach the majors next season. Still, the organization's patience could be rewarded in a major way down the line if Mauricio keeps tapping into his huge raw power and can quiet defensive questions to remain at shortstop.

Though it feels like he’s been in the system forever, Vientos, a second-round pick in 2017, is reaching Rule 5 eligibility for the first time this winter. The 21-year-old broke out in a big way in 2021, hitting 25 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A as one of the youngest players in both circuits.

Vientos has a much better chance than Mauricio of not just making the major leagues next season but being a contributor. With third base being a position in flux for the Mets at the moment, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him play himself into an option at some point over the summer. Like Mauricio, however, Vientos still needs a lot of polish on the defensive side of the ball, or else he’ll be confined to first base or a corner outfield spot.

Will warrant significant consideration

- OF Carlos Cortes*
-
RHSP Jose Butto*
-
RHSP Adam Oller
-
C Hayden Senger*

These next four are the most likely to be selected if the Mets leave them unprotected. That’s within the realm of possibility depending on how many spots the team is willing to set aside for players with no MLB experience.

Cortes has the best chance of this group to fit into the “locks” category, but there are valid questions about the ability of his hit tool to translate at the next level. While his power numbers exploded with Double-A Binghamton this year, his strikeout rate jumped 10 percent from 2019 and was at 27 percent over the final three months of the season.

Cortes has already moved off second base to a corner outfield spot despite looking the part of the former, so it remains to be seen if his ceiling is anything more than a bench bat. Good barrel control and raw power will be his ticket to a major league spot for the Mets or another organization.

Butto, a trendy sleeper in the system entering the year, was dominant over eight Double-A starts to end the season after 12 mediocre ones with High-A Brooklyn. After his promotion, the 23-year-old saw an increase in strikeouts, a decrease in walks, and a huge jump in whiff rate (20 percent above the Double-A average) thanks in large part to one of the best changeups in the organization.

Could Butto survive in a major league rotation right now? Probably for a second-division team. At the very least, he’ll give the Mets additional rotation depth with the chance to make spot starts or fill a bullpen hole at some point next year.

Oller is intimately familiar with the Rule 5 proceedings. Two years ago, the San Francisco Giants elected to not only leave him off the 40-man roster but their 38-man Triple-A reserve list as well. That meant he was free to be scooped up in the minor league phase of the draft, which is where the Mets pounced.

This winter, Oller has a strong chance to crack a 40-man roster for the first time. Not a “prospect” by traditional terms at 27 years old, he’s put the work in to put himself in a position to now warrant MLB consideration.

After spending time in Australia and the independent leagues, Oller was named the Mets’ minor league Pitcher of the Year on the strength of a 3.45 ERA and 138 strikeouts in 120 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

While his whiff and called strike rates were around league average at both levels, Oller proved that he’s an intelligent arm with the ability to work deep into games (he worked into the sixth inning in 12 of 23 outings) and use his entire arsenal of pitches. He certainly had a case for making the majors in September last season, and it’s not hard to see it happening soon.

Senger, a 24th-round pick in 2018, put himself on the map with an excellent first three months of 2021 before an abnormally high BABIP caught up to him in August. The backstop hit .310 with an .879 OPS over his first 41 games, then tailed off for a .152/.511 line over his final 20 contests.

Still, the Mets thought enough of Senger to send him to the Arizona Fall League, where his season has continued. With a strong enough glove and arm, the Mets could essentially swap out Patrick Mazeika for Senger, or add him as a fourth catcher to the 40-man mix behind James McCann and Tomás Nido. Next winter, a Rule 5-eligible Francisco Álvarez should shore up catching concerns for the foreseeable future.

Next tier: Pitchers

- LHSP Josh Walker
-
RHRP Colin Holderman
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RHRP Brian Metoyer*
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RHRP Bryce Montes de Oca*
-
RHRP Michel Otañez

Any player from these next two groups could theoretically be swapped in for one of the “likelies” above.

Walker is a soft-tossing southpaw whose vertical release and huge breaking ball carved through High-A and Double-A hitters before hitting a wall at Triple-A. Like Oller, he’ll be 27 next season but might not possess the same upside.

Holderman, an imposing figure on the mound at 6-foot-7, has had difficulties staying on the field throughout his career, but his stuff has ticked up recently and he now touches the upper 90s with a good slider. A recent move to the bullpen might be the saving grace in his career.

The fact that Metoyer, a 40th-round pick in 2018, is still in the organization is impressive on its own, but the righty is now a legitimate relief prospect. Armed with elite curve ball spin rates, Metoyer (pronounced me-TWYER) spent most of the season in High-A, where his stuff was too much for hitters to handle (42 percent whiff rate, one home run in 33 innings).

Shaky fastball command is what is preventing a push up to a higher tier here, but an organization that believes it can harness Metoyer’s profile could get a steal here if he goes unprotected.

Montes de Oca and Otañez are both capable of hitting triple digits with ease, leading both to record excellent whiff rates in High-A (20 and 39 percent above average, respectively). Both can flash an above-average breaking ball, but in this day and age there are plenty of fish in the sea who can light up the radar gun — just not in this organization.

Next tier: Hitters

- C Nick Meyer*
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3B Jose Peroza
-
INF Wilmer Reyes
-
OF Carlos Rincon

Meyer has the defensive edge over Senger, but his offensive potential lags behind. The Mets like him as an organizational guy, so that could give him a leg up. Meyer isn’t likely to be selected if left unprotected.

Peroza, still just 21, has quietly hit 22 home runs over the last two minor league seasons. That puts him in an organizational top-six with Vientos, Álvarez, Cortes, Mauricio, and Brett Baty. In other words, the crème de la crème of Mets hitting prospects. It’s unlikely Peroza gets protected or selected with just brief High-A experience, but he’s a name to watch out for in 2022.

Reyes, the most aptly-named Mets infield prospect, was trending upwards entering the season before a spring training MCL injury knocked him out for all but 16 games at the end of the year.

The Mets acquired Rincon from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Billy McKinney, who had been designated for assignment. McKinney made LA’s postseason roster and Rincon had 19 extra-base hits in 38 games with Binghamton, so it’s fair to call the trade even. With defensive limitations (and the fact that he went unselected as a Dodgers prospect last winter), he’s likely safe but could sneak his way onto the major league roster as a power threat down the line.

Interesting, but won’t be protected or selected

- RHSP Daison Acosta
-
RHRP Yeizo Campos
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RHRP Ryley Gilliam*
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LHRP Andrew Mitchell*
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RHRP Willy Taveras
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INF Shervyen Newton
-
OF Stanley Consuegra*