A few months ago, I got a call from someone I knew who wanted to know about the system. He asked me what I knew about it, and I said, “it’s not looking very good right now. We have a few guys at the bottom, who I like, but the topside doesn’t have enough talent.”
He replied, “Yeah, one scout told me they don’t have any athletes.”
I could only reply with agreement, after only remembering Desmond Lindsay, who was just named the system’s best athlete, and Amed Rosario off the top of my head, knowing Lindsay was hurt, and Amed isn’t actually a minor leaguer anymore. In fact, I could only name the amount of actual true athletes in the top four levels of the minors on one hand with any real certainty, and honestly, that may be up for debate (Kevin Kaczmarski and Marcos Molina are two others who came to mind).
When it comes to playing modern pro baseball, you certainly have to be athletic, but being athlete in baseball has a different association. In pro baseball, you have to be acknowledged to be good at one of the five tools associated with the scouting scale, (though, at times, makeup, grit and passion do play a role in their decisions). However, an athlete has multiple tools to work with, some raw, but with potential. A lot of times people mentally associate “athlete” with speed, and while that does have merit, there are a few catchers considered athletes, depending on agility and reaction time. Pitchers tend to be athletes, but not always. Pitchers are usually athletic if they move around their spot really well, have stamina, and can repeat their delivery.
This is why when you look at the international free agency or the draft, you see people trying to sign shortstops, outfielders, catchers, or pitchers. They’re the premium positions, and often times the most versatile one. A premium athletic shortstop can be switched to the outfield like Juan Lagares was, and show moxie at a new position. They can be versatile, utility, find new ways to play any position.
So where did the Mets go wrong in lacking athletes? In the International Free Agency, they definitely have signed a few athletes including Rosario, Guerrero, and a few others, but many failed to get too far, like Jose Garcia, Franklin Correa, and Kenny Hernandez. That’s just bad luck, but they’ve still chugged out some athletes, and some have shown promise such as Molina, Ranfy Adon, Anthony Dirocie, and others.
In the draft, the Mets strayed away from getting true athletes in the first round except Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Justin Dunn. It could be argued that David Peterson is an athlete, but Cecchini, Smith and Plawecki weren’t as far as the criteria go. In addition, they drafted quite a few positionless bats such as Eudor Garcia, Michael Katz, Jayce Boyd, and several others, who just didn’t do well with either part of their assignments. In general, sans Michael Conforto, the 2014 draft likely won’t produce much. The top athletes they drafted were Ivan Wilson (Retired to football after not hitting), Justin Dunn (We’ll give him more time), Bradley Marquez (Retired to Football), and Desmond Lindsay (Jury’s out, but a top prospect still).
Mets are still lacking in the department, and need to start drafting more athletes, and less positionless players. One of the things that gives me hope that the trend towards athletes started to tick up, but it’s only going to trickle up as years progress. Bryce Hutchinson is a two-way player the Mets drafted this past year. Lindsay, should he stay healthy, looks like a stud and picked it up before having Ulnar Nerve Transposition Surgery are two examples, as well as fast players such as Adon (who got injured, but is a good athlete), Anthony Dirocie, and Christian James bring up the rear. Signing a power-speed guy in Adrian Hernandez last signing period also helps, but they need to pay it forward in drafting more athletes for the farm this year, starting with the Mets highest pick since Phillip Humber.
The other thing that gives me hope is the re-hiring of Omar Minaya, who has always been an advocate for athletes, and put that as his modus operandi. Why we strayed away from that, I don’t know.
Some of the premium athletes in the draft are Jarred Kelenic, Brice Turang, Jeremy Eierman, Travis Swaggerty, Jackson Kowar, Kumar Rocker and Joe Gray Jr., and they’re all within striking distance of #6. In addition, the Mets will have the 6th highest draft slot value in each round subsequent. Let’s hope they pick some good athletes.
Next in this series, I’ll be talking about the positions we lack and should focus on. Stay tuned.
I have returned, and am happy to say I have assumed a role of editor at MetsMinors.net.