Why Mets will have unique opportunity to jolt farm system in 2022 MLB Draft

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Tommy Tanous, Brett Baty, Marc Tramuta
Tommy Tanous, Brett Baty, Marc Tramuta

When the Mets made the qualifying offer to Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard, there was much thought that Conforto would reject it and test the market and Syndergaard would accept the one-year, $18.4 million deal to stay in Queens and reestablish his long-term value in a place he was comfortable.

Instead of taking the qualifying offer, Syndergaard declined it and agreed to a one-year, $21 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

The Mets absolutely have holes to fill and with Syndergaard departing, another has opened up. That is the task that new GM Billy Eppler must take on to turn the 2022 Mets into a contender.

I think it is also important to talk about the non-major league aspect of these upcoming decisions, and that is the impact the Mets can get in the 2022 MLB Draft.

As SNY’s Andy Martino reported, it is considered unlikely the Mets will sign a player who was offered and rejected a qualifying offer. The Mets not signing a player in that category would allow them to protect their second-highest selection, which happens to be the 14th overall pick.

After drafting and failing to sign Kumar Rocker, the Mets are in a unique situation where they will have two first-round picks in next year’s draft: No. 11 as compensation for not signing Rocker, and No. 14 as their own selection.

If Conforto ends up signing elsewhere like Syndergaard did, the Mets will also have two compensatory picks after the second round, which depending on how many compensatory picks are issued should land those picks in the top 70-80 overall selections.

Overall, the Mets are looking at potentially having six of the top 100 picks in the 2022 MLB Draft.

The Mets' farm system right now in the estimation of those in the league is probably in the bottom third in baseball, which is not where they want to be. The top-level talent is as good as almost anyone else’s with Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty, Ronny Mauricio, and a couple others, but it really falls off after that group. Suffice to say, it is important for the Mets to prioritize improving their farm system.

Jul 11, 2021; Denver, CO, USA; National League infielder Francisco Alvarez (30) rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning against the American League of the 2021 MLB All Star Futures Game at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 11, 2021; Denver, CO, USA; National League infielder Francisco Alvarez (30) rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning against the American League of the 2021 MLB All Star Futures Game at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

If the Mets have visions of sustained success, it needs to be a combination of spending on major league talent as well as drafting, signing and developing prospects from the draft and international free agency.

Trying to win at the big league level and developing a farm system does not need to be mutually exclusive. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the model where they draft, sign, and develop players so there is a constant flow of young talent coming through the system while also producing a winning product on the field each year.

The Mets and their scouting department, led by Tommy Tanous and Marc Tramuta, have the opportunity with all of these picks to overhaul this farm system and turn it into more of a strength with one successful draft.

Early indications from people around the league who I spoke to say the 2022 draft is stronger than the 2021 draft. It is considered a deep class, most notably in high school position players, which has been a position the Mets have frequently invested in early over the last decade. In the coming months we will highlight specific talent to keep an eye on, but it is still early for that.

Having two first-round picks in addition to likely having two compensatory picks should lead to the Mets having a very large draft bonus pool. The draft bonus pool is the sum of the slot values for each pick in the top 10 rounds, and anyone who signs for more than $125,000 beyond round 10 would also count against the pool.

A team can spread out that money however they wish within those parameters. In recent years, we have seen the Mets manipulate their draft bonus pool allotment to sign high-level talents like Matt Allan and J.T. Ginn who fell into their laps outside of the first round. They could have the opportunity to land multiple talents who fall for various reasons due to the flexibility that comes with a bigger bonus pool.

Mets pitching prospect Matt Allan
Mets pitching prospect Matt Allan

There are multiple strategies that can be taken, but there are a couple that are most commonly used. Often, you will see teams go under slot in the first round due to the higher slot value of that pick, and that creates some opportunity to take advantage of falling players in rounds two, three, and beyond who would command an above slot bonus.

The Mets can employ that strategy with one of or both of their first round picks without necessarily sacrificing talent. For example, the Mets drafted Jarred Kelenic in 2018 at No. 6 overall and signed him for more than $1 million under slot, which led to them being able to go over slot with their next two picks in Simeon Woods Richardson and Carlos Cortes.

Conversely, if a situation like Rocker were to occur again where a higher ranked player falls to the Mets with their first pick, they would have the flexibility to go over slot there and not have the need to make up a lot of financial difference like they had to do after drafting Rocker in 2021 since they'll have a larger bonus pool to work with.

Having the extra picks gives the Mets flexibility and potential for creativeness that is not something you see frequently. Yearly, there will be teams that get a compensatory pick for a departed qualifying offer free agent or an extra first round pick for not signing theirs from the previous draft. It is much less common to see a team get both.

While the focus for many will be on the major league roster, the importance of growing the farm system and improving the player development model should not be discounted. Given the state of the Mets organization as a whole currently, I think the 2022 draft might be one of the most important drafts that the Mets have had in some time.

If the Mets are able to nail this coming draft, it can be a big factor in the long-term, sustained success that owner Steve Cohen stated he was looking for at his introductory news conference just over a year ago.