This Week in Mets: Who to watch in the Mets minor-league system (2024)

“What a jovial and merry world would this be, may it please your worships, but for that inextricable labyrinth of debts, cares, woes, want, grief, discontent, melancholy, large jointures, impositions, and lies!”
—”The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman,” Laurence Sterne

For the Mets organization, there are actually five different Opening Days.

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There was last Thursday in Miami, the Opening Day of Opening Days when the major-league Mets started their 2023 season with a win over the Marlins. One night later, the Triple-A Syracuse Mets, perhaps boasting as stout a lineup as any in the minors, began their season in Worcester, Mass. This week, the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies will open their season Thursday, and the High-A Brooklyn Cyclones and Low-A St. Lucie Mets get going Friday.

With Will Sammon all over the major-league picture from the weekend in Miami, I figured this was a good time to prep for the minor-league campaign throughout the organization. I’ve listed key prospects at each spot with the help of Keith Law’s top 20 prospects in the organization.

Triple-A Syracuse Mets

Pitching Staff
José Butto (No. 19 in organization)

Syracuse’s staff was supposed to be full of arms from the 40-man roster — except several have ended up in the majors or on the injured list already. If the big-league Mets had broken camp healthy, Syracuse could have boasted David Peterson and Tylor Megill in its rotation alongside a bullpen with John Curtiss, Sam Coonrod and Bryce Montes de Oca. Instead, only three members of the 40-man roster are currently on the staff here: starters Joey Lucchesi and José Butto and reliever Jeff Brigham.

The bullpen, though, still has several other players who impressed in camp: Zach Muckenhirn might have made the Opening Day roster had he been on the 40-man. Jimmy Yacabonis, Grant Hartwig and Eric Orze also figure to see major-league time at some point this season, with Hartwig in particular a fast-mover in the system.

Lineup
Francisco Álvarez (No. 1 in organization, No. 7 overall)
Brett Baty (No. 2 in organization, No. 31 overall)
Ronny Mauricio (No. 5 in organization, No. 87 overall)
Mark Vientos (No. 7 in organization)

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All eyes will be on the Syracuse infield, catcher included, as it houses the Mets’ best and nearest prospects. Brett Baty is already off to a sensational start at third base, Mark Vientos will see a lot of time at first, Francisco Álvarez is behind the plate and Ronny Mauricio is, still, manning shortstop.

One key question for Syracuse (and the Mets organization, as a whole) is where to fit Mauricio defensively. Shortstop, clearly, is not his long-term home for the franchise; Francisco Lindor has that covered through 2031. Mauricio played some third base in winter ball and has some comfort there; Syracuse has Baty there with Vientos also set to get some chances at the hot corner. The major-league Mets may have Eduardo Escobar and Mark Canha hit free agency this season (both have club options), and Baty and Mauricio make the most sense as internal replacements. Perhaps, then, a corner outfield spot becomes Mauricio’s ultimate home.

It’s noteworthy that the Mets have been this slow with moving Mauricio off short. I talked to several general managers in spring training about when you switch positions for a prospect when he’s blocked at that position in the majors, and the common answer was that you diversify a player’s defensive profile before that becomes an issue.

“Generally speaking, we should be giving these guys options whether they’re blocked or not,” said Chaim Bloom, Boston’s chief baseball officer. “The more options you give them, the easier it is for them to add value at the big-league level.”

“In a good way, the game has evolved where fewer and fewer players identify at a sole position,” said Pirates GM Ben Cherington. “Teams more and more trust that with good coaching and effort and time, players can improve at other positions. It shouldn’t be that difficult. It’s probably something we used to worry about more than we do now. Just get the best 13 players on the team and the best nine in the lineup.”

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For their part, the Mets have remained confident that Mauricio can pick up another position relatively swiftly; shortstops usually can. And if the criticism is that Mauricio should have been exposed to other positions years ago, well that’s not on a current front office in just its second year with the club. But where Mauricio takes his glove is as important to watch as how his bat develops following an excellent offseason and spring.

Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies

Pitching Staff
Mike Vasil (No. 10 in organization)
Dominic Hamel (No. 12 in organization)

The most important players at Binghamton to start the year might be Dominic Hamel and Mike Vasil — next in the Mets’ pipeline of potential starting pitchers. Hamel was on Puerto Rico’s roster at the World Baseball Classic but didn’t get into a game. While not invited to major-league camp, Vasil made a spot start late in the spring against Atlanta and what was more or less its everyday big-league lineup. Aside from one misplaced changeup that Matt Olson launched out to right, Vasil more than held his own.

In Peterson and Megill, the Mets have some internal answers over the next couple of seasons for their starting rotation. But as you look to 2025 and beyond, they’ll need others to emerge to fill in when their frontline starters depart. Hamel and Vasil loom large.

Lineup

With Mauricio moving up to Triple A, there’s a gap in the Mets’ position-player pipeline to start the year at Binghamton. No one in this lineup cracks Keith Law’s top 20 for the organization or MLB.com’s top 30; second baseman Wyatt Young was No. 29 in FanGraphs’ top Mets prospects last summer, thanks to his exceptional ability to make contact (albeit with very little power).

Catcher Hayden Senger remains on the major-league radar as a potential depth piece behind the plate.

High-A Brooklyn Cyclones

Pitching Staff
Blade Tidwell (No. 8 in organization)

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You can take that same point above about Hamel and Vasil and apply it here to Blade Tidwell, New York’s second-round pick in last summer’s draft. Tidwell possesses the highest ceiling of any pitching prospect for the Mets right now; he fell to the second round largely because of physical concerns after missing most of his final season at Tennessee. This year will be important for Tidwell to establish a healthy baseline of innings to build on in 2024 and position himself on the major-league radar after that.

Lineup
Kevin Parada (No. 3 in organization, No. 44 overall)
Alex Ramirez (No. 4 in organization, No. 68 overall)
William Lugo (No. 15 in organization)

Brooklyn’s lineup includes a pair of top-100 prospects in catcher Kevin Parada and outfielder Alex Ramirez. Parada, the Mets’ first first-round selection last year, was invited to big-league camp — teams always need as many catchers as possible — and had a nice spring trying to be a sponge while working with the pitchers. He raked in a brief professional debut last season over 13 games.

Ramirez got a little bit of action in big-league camp, collecting four hits in 21 plate appearances. He’s been a fast riser on prospect rankings these last two seasons, and the 20-year-old will try to build on the .757 OPS he fashioned over the final two months of last season with Brooklyn. He’s got a good chance of getting to Binghamton sometime this summer.

Low-A St. Lucie Mets

Pitching Staff
Layonel Ovalles (No. 16 in organization)

A right-hander who touches 98 mph, Ovalles was terrific as a 19-year-old in the Florida Complex League last summer before getting a handful of more challenging appearances in Low A late in the season. He headlines a staff with plenty of intrigue but no other standouts, just yet.

Lineup
Jett Williams (No. 6 in organization)

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New York’s other first-round pick, Jett Williams, will start his first full professional season with St. Lucie after playing 10 games at the Complex League last year. The shortstop has a chance to move quickly in the system and up some prospect rankings; Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus have him in their top 100 entering the season. He’s known for an outstanding hit tool that should play well at an up-the-middle position. If he shows that this season, he’ll rocket up the rankings.

The exposition

The Mets snagged three of four from the Marlins in Miami, behind solid starting pitching, some timely hits, and exceptional defense. That puts them in first place in the National League East, a half-game ahead of Atlanta.

The Brewers took two of three from the Cubs at Wrigley Field, bouncing back from Corbin Burnes’ Opening Day loss. Milwaukee’s 2-1 record has it tied with St. Louis and Cincinnati atop the NL Central.

The Marlins, you should realize through deductive reasoning, lost three of four to the Mets. Miami hosts Minnesota before traveling to Queens for the weekend. After that, the Mets and Marlins won’t see each other until September and the final fortnight of the season.

The pitching possibles

at Milwaukee

RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.97 ERA in 2022) v. RHP Freddy Peralta (4-4, 3.58 ERA in 2022)
RHP Max Scherzer (1-0, 4.50 ERA) v. LHP Wade Miley (2-2, 3.16 ERA in 2022)
LHP David Peterson (0-1, 1.80) v. RHP Corbin Burnes (0-1, 7.20)

versus Miami

RHP Tylor Megill (1-0, 3.60) v. RHP Edward Cabrera (0-0, 4.50)
RHP Kodai Senga (1-0, 1.69) v. LHP Trevor Rogers (0-1, 6.23)
RHP Carlos Carrasco v. RHP Johnny Cueto (8-10, 3.35 ERA in 2022)

What can we learn about the Mets this week?

More about how they handle good pitching. They’ll miss Sandy Alcantara and Jesús Luzardo this time against Miami — though Peter Gibbons would say he’s not “missing” them — but will see outstanding stuff from Burnes and Peralta and effective veterans in Miley and Cueto. The Mets offense did what it needed to do against good pitchers in Miami. Can they keep doing that the way they did during their best stretches of 2022?

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Recent series history

The Mets took four of six from the Brewers last season, including clinching a playoff berth during a series win in Milwaukee last September. Before that series, New York had lost nine straight and 14 of 15 at Miller Park/American Family Field.

The Mets’ .563 winning percentage at home against the Marlins is their second-best against any National League franchise; only Miami’s expansion twin, the Rockies, has done worse in Queens. The Mets were 6-4 when hosting the Marlins last season.

Inside baseball

Two years ago, in his first spring training with the Mets, Francisco Lindor wasn’t shy in sharing his feelings about the shift.

“I’m not a fan of shifts,” he said. “You work your entire life to get to the big leagues and to have the freedom to play the game. Let me have my instincts, let me do me.”

One series into shiftless baseball, you can see why Lindor felt that way. The shortstop had a standout series defensively in Miami, making several key plays behind New York’s pitchers.

OUR SHORTSTOP. 👑 pic.twitter.com/l6gVypnQrF

— New York Mets (@Mets) April 1, 2023

The Mets had improved defensively over the last two seasons not just because of the addition of Lindor, but because they embraced shifting around the diamond. This year presents a new challenge for that defense; it sure helps to have one of the game’s very best at a premier position as part of it. And without shifts, Lindor’s excellent range might be more valuable than ever.

Injury updates

Player

Injury

Elig.

ETA

Low grade strain of teres major in right shoulder

4/12

4. April

Right shoulder strain

4/14

4. April

Right lat strain

4/14

5. May

High-grade right lat strain

4/14

6. June

Stress fracture in left ribcage

4/14

7. July

Edwin Díaz

Torn patellar tendon in right knee

5/29

X. 2024

Tommy John surgery

4/14

X. 2024


Red = 60-day IL
Orange = 15-day IL
Blue = 10-day IL
Gray = COVID-19 IL

• The Mets revealed the morning of Opening Day that Justin Verlander was headed to the injured list with what they’re calling a low-grade strain of the teres major muscle in his right shoulder. That injury has a varied timeline, but the good news is that Verlander can still play catch for the time being. Other pitchers who have missed more time because of the injury generally have to shut down throwing at first.

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• What had initially been good news for Bryce Montes de Oca turned sour: During a procedure to remove loose bodies in Montes de Oca’s right elbow, the surgeon determined that the pitcher’s ulnar collateral ligament required revision — also known as Tommy John surgery. Montes de Oca is done for the season. Because Montes de Oca suffered the injury in major-league spring training, he’ll at least receive a full year of service time and the major-league minimum salary this year.

• The ETAs here on Elieser Hernández, Stephen Ridings and Sam Coonrod are guesswork. Hernández was pitching until the end of spring training. Ridings didn’t get into a game in spring but was building up close to it at that point, and Coonrod is a candidate for the 60-day IL, which means June’s about as early as we could see him.

Minor-league schedule

Triple A: Syracuse at Rochester (Washington)
Double A: Binghamton at Portland (Boston) starting Thursday
High A: Brooklyn v. Jersey Shore (Philadelphia) starting Friday
Single A: St. Lucie v. Daytona (Atlanta) starting Friday

Last Week in Mets

  • From Will Sammon, Kodai Senga’s been defying odds and outperforming expectations for a long time
  • From Will, Peterson and Megill delivered what the Mets needed.
  • From Will, it was only one game, but the Mets’ lineup struggled again against a good left-handed starter.
  • From Will, Opening Day was a roller coaster showcasing the best (and potential worst) of the Mets
  • Why did the Mets sign Brandon Nimmo to the longest contract they’ve ever given a free agent? Because of his unceasing quest for self-improvement
  • TWIM: The Mets can only be patient with their prospects for so long
  • With Will, what we learned about every player on the 40-man roster during spring training
  • With Will, our predictions for the 2023 Mets season

A note on the epigraph

The Athletic’s watch party for Opening Day at Other Half Brewery in Brooklyn was a lot of fun (despite my facial expressions as captured on Twitter). It was a blast to chat with Mets fans about this team, expectations, and, with one, Tristram Shandy.

Prediction time

Friday might be a good time to check out the Syracuse Mets on MiLB.tv.

(Photo of José Butto: Rich Storry / USA Today)

This Week in Mets: Who to watch in the Mets minor-league system (2024)
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