State of Mets' farm system ahead of 2023 season

Jett Williams, Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty, and Kevin Parada.
Jett Williams, Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty, and Kevin Parada. / USA TODAY Sports/SNY Treated Image

When you ask people in the game where the Mets' farm system is at, you will hear a lot of "still a bit top-heavy" or "improving, but not there yet." One thing that is clear is the Mets are big fans of the either big league-ready or near big league-ready bats in Francisco Álvarez, Brett Baty, Ronny Mauricio, and Mark Vientos.

There were inquiries on all of these players last trade deadline and this winter, and the Mets rejected concepts involving nearly all of them. GM Billy Eppler has spoken about needing to be picky about which prospects are dealt, and that thought process could pay dividends in the majors soon.

There is a clear path to playing time in short order for at least three of those four in Queens. I think Mauricio needs to show continued growth in his pitch selection as well as experiment defensively in Triple-A to figure out his long-term home. He had specifically mentioned third base while speaking recently at spring training.

I believe Álvarez's arrival in the majors will ultimately come down to when he is ready defensively. The Mets have Omar Narváez and Tomás Nido holding down the fort as a defense-first platoon. Once the 21-year-old Álvarez meets the player development benchmarks they have laid out, the Mets believe they are adding a future All-Star to their lineup.

Defensively, they believe he will stick at catcher with an above-average throwing arm, albeit with maybe average receiving skills that could be somewhat negated by an automatic strike zone down the road -- but that’s for another day.

I am of the opinion that Baty should be considered more for the Opening Day third base job than he perhaps is at this moment. Does he need some growth defensively? Sure, but it is also worth noting that Eduardo Escobar did not grade out particularly well defensively (-11 DRS, -6 OAA in 2022).

The Mets need to decide if Baty is a third baseman for them and if so, when will he be ready defensively? If there is a true internal struggle, then he should be getting left field reps, too.

Houston Astros catcher Korey Lee (11) looks on as New York Mets third baseman Brett Baty (22) singles to right field during thesixth inning at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Houston Astros catcher Korey Lee (11) looks on as New York Mets third baseman Brett Baty (22) singles to right field during thesixth inning at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. / Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Vientos has shown off his raw power this spring, and he made some tweaks to his swing this offseason that he believes will yield more consistent results this year. As of now Darin Ruf is still nursing a sore wrist, and I think that could open the door for Vientos.

If Vientos is not on the Opening Day roster, then the pressure will be on Ruf to perform early. If not, Vientos can take the right-handed DH job as he had a 1.094 OPS vs left-handed pitching in 2022 and has historically hit lefties in his minor league career.

As far as their 2022 MLB Draft class, the organization received rave reviews. That class was headlined by catcher Kevin Parada, shortstop Jett Williams and pitcher Blade Tidwell.

They also drafted a premium athlete with some questions about his bat in outfielder Nick Morabito, as well as Jacob Reimer, who profiles as a power hitting third baseman. Parada and Williams have already cracked top 100 lists, and Tidwell could with a strong 2023. Parada has a chance to be the No. 1 catching prospect in the sport this time next year.

I still think this is a system lacking top-end pitching prospects, with Tidwell being the only one I look at with the potential to be a No. 2 type of starter. Others like Dominic Hamel, Mike Vasil, Joel Diaz, Calvin Ziegler and José Butto have fluctuating potentials that could be mid-to-back-end starters or bullpen arms down the road.

Unfortunately, Matt Allan underwent UCL revision surgery, which is a wordy way of saying a second Tommy John surgery. At this point he has to be looked at as a bit out of sight, out of mind as we won’t see him until 2024 and it will be over four years since the last time he pitched in a professional game.

One of the biggest questions is what will the status of the system be when the likes of Álvarez, Baty, Mauricio and Vientos graduate, which should occur for most of them in 2023?

Naturally, the public rankings will take a bit of a dip. Very few systems in the sport can support graduating multiple top 100-type prospects and not have that impact the public perception of the system without picking high in the draft on a year-in-year-out basis.

This is where the lower minors will have to produce some results with the new player development system in place. A chunk of last year’s international signing class will be heading stateside this year -- most notably outfielder Simón Juan, outfielder Willy Fanas, shortstop Dangelo Sarmiento, and the breakout from that class in shortstop Jesus Baez, who right now would be the highest-ranked from that class in the Mets' system after an impressive run in the Dominican Summer League in his pro debut.

They will also be looking for pitchers like Javier Atencio, Jordany Ventura, Luis Rodriguez and potential sleeper Layonel Ovalles, who all have exciting stuff to emerge as potential meaningful pitching prospects. Rodriguez is set to return this summer after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Much like they hit on the 2022 draft class, it will be imperative for the Mets to also take the right approach to the 2023 draft. Their first pick will not be until No. 32 overall, as it was dropped 10 spots due to exceeding the luxury tax by north of $40 million in 2022.

However, they received a compensatory pick after the third round for not signing last year’s third rounder Brandon Sproat, and two compensatory picks after the fourth round for departed free agents Jacob deGrom and Chris Bassitt. While they may not have as high a pick as last year, they still have four of the top 101 and seven of the top 134 picks, which should give them maneuverability with their bonus pool.

Farm systems have their ups and downs based on graduating prospects and the strength of drafts and international free agency year-to-year, in addition to the strength of a player development system. Last offseason, the Mets invested in their analytics department. This year was about player development, where they added personnel, headed by Director of Hitting Jeff Albert and Director of Pitching Eric Jagers, who will be tasked with maximizing the talent at their disposal as well as the new and improved systems and technology provided to them.

Baseball America ranked the Mets as having the fifth best system in baseball, though they count Kodai Senga as a prospect, which I and MLB do not. There is a system in place that grants an extra first round pick if a team carries a top 100 prospect on their Opening Day roster and they win Rookie of the Year, and Senga does not apply. Thus, he shouldn’t be on prospect lists.

I’d say the Mets' system is somewhere around the top 10-to-12 in the sport, with some ebbs and flows to come. Ultimately, a farm system -- much like Rome -- was not built in a day, and the Mets are doing everything in their power to expedite a process that they believe will lead to a sustainable winning culture year-over-year.