I believe that the five players listed below have a good chance to have a breakout season in 2017. Most of them are younger and are not particularly well-known, but I think that will change by the end of the season.
One guy who I have left off of the list is Chris Flexen, who was ranked #20 on our Top Prospects list, and who I’ve seen several people suggest as a breakout candidate. I agree that there’s a good chance for him to have a big year and establish himself as a top pitching prospect in the system. However, he is someone who is fairly well-known by many fans, so I decided to leave him off of the list.
In general, I wanted to focus on players outside the top 25. The five players are listed in order of 2017 ranking from highest to lowest.
RHP Nabil Crismatt
2017 Ranking: #26
Crismatt, 22, has been quietly dominating the lower minors for several years now with his plus change-up and excellent command. He already experienced a mini-breakout in 2016, compiling a 2.47 ERA and a ridiculous 10.57 K:BB ratio across three levels.
Despite this, it still feels like not many people are familiar with him and MMN has been the only list to have him in the top 30.
In 2017, he will finally get the chance to start the year in full-season ball, likely with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. He still needs to work on his 3rd pitch, as his breaking ball is currently fringy, but Binghamton pitching coach Glen Abbott has been great at developing the sliders of young Mets pitchers, including Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.
While I don’t expect him to be as dominant in AA as he was last year, I expect Crismatt to build upon his great 2016 and turn some heads in a real breakout year in 2017.
3B Blake Tiberi
2017 Ranking: #47
When Blake Tiberi was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft, the Mets knew they were getting someone who was a very good hitter. He didn’t hit particularly well in Brooklyn, but that’s not cause for much concern.
Tiberi, 22, has a smooth line-drive swing and makes a lot of hard contact, while not striking out much. I believe that Tiberi goes to Columbia as the starting third baseman, hits much better, and jumps into the conversation for the best third base prospect in the system by the end of next year.
OF Ranfy Adon
2017 Ranking: #48
Ranfy Adon, who played center field for the GCL Mets in 2016, is a very toolsy young player. He will be just 19 for the majority of the 2017 season and his combination of power potential, speed, and defensive ability make him very exciting.
He did struggle offensively in 2016, but his tools combined with his impressive ability to take a walk (a 10.5% walk rate is very impressive for an 18-year old) make me think he’s going to break out soon. He will likely start in Kingsport and I think he will have a very good year.
LHP Sixto Torres
2017 Ranking: #56
Sixto Torres is a high upside lefty who was drafted in the 17th round of the 2015 draft. So far in his minor league career, he has been overshadowed by other young Mets pitchers, such as Thomas Szapucki, Justin Dunn, Harol Gonzalez, and Merandy Gonzalez. However, despite getting less attention, Torres has been solid since being drafted and I think he joins the group of rising top pitching prospects mentioned above, in 2017. Torres features a fastball that touches 94 with good movement, a good change-up, and a developing curve that shows potential. I believe that Torres continues to improve his control and his secondary pitches and is a top 30 prospect in the system by the end of 2017.
RHP Chris Viall
2017 Ranking: Not yet ranked
I admit that I might be jumping the gun on this one a bit, as Viall is such a raw talent. However, it’s difficult not to get excited about a pitcher with the kind of stuff that Viall has, especially in a system that has been so great at working with tall, hard throwing pitchers. Granted, the Mets haven’t had many pitchers as tall as Viall’s 6’9”, but they have shown an ability to improve consistency in mechanics and control with pitchers similar to Viall.
Chris Viall’s stuff is explosive: his fastball touched 101 MPH in Kingsport and his curve can be nasty. The big problem is that he has no control over where his pitches are going, as evidenced by a BB/9 over 7. It may take a long time to get his control to the point where he can reasonably be a starter. More likely, his control issues force a move to the bullpen. Still, if any system could drastically improve Viall’s control, the Mets are the one to do it. I think they work with him to find consistency with his mechanics in XST and he shows significant improvements this season in Brooklyn.
Viall is recovering from having his ulnar nerve reposition surgery (same surgery Jacob deGrom recently had) and is expected to be ready for the start of the minor league season.
I’m still holding out hope that center fielder Champ Stuart (ranked #39) finally learns to make enough contact to be a productive hitter. He’s a 4-tool player, but he’s unfortunately lacking the (arguably) most important tool: the hit tool. Still, he’ll only be 24 and there’s still some time to improve.
Jake Simon (ranked #36) is another high upside lefty from the 2015 draft who has been overshadowed by all of the breakout pitching performances in the lower minors last year. He’s a projectable pitcher, but I think he’s a little behind Sixto Torres in both secondary pitches and control.