No. 5 Braxton Lee
Age: August 23, 1993 (25) Bats/Throws: L/R Level: MLB/AAA/AA/A+ (Miami)
Acquired: Selected from the Miami Marlins in the minor league phase of the 2018 Rule 5 Draft
2018 MLB Stats: 18 PA, .176/.222/.176, 2 RBI
2018 MiLB Stats: 357 PA, .233/.316/.294, 12 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 19 RBI, 7 SB, 8 CS, 0.64 BB/K
The Mets have historically done nothing of substance in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. It’s not that most teams have, but the results show that after the major league phase concluded, Sandy Alderson hopped on his plane out of town as quickly as possible. Maybe he hung around a couple times, but five of the eight Winter Meetings during Alderson’s tenure as general manager saw him pass on making a selection in the minor league phase.
The Mets were shrewd in picking up Lee from the Marlins in the minor league phase of this year’s draft. Although Miami outrighted him off their 40-man roster in November, he made eight major league appearances after cracking the Opening Day roster. After a strong 2017 showing, Lee took a “step back” in the minor leagues in 2018, according to Marlins GM Michael Hill, but it was nonetheless surprising to see Lee left off their 38-man Triple-A reserve list.
In Lee, the Mets are getting a lefty bat who will make a lot of contact (since 2016, he’s swung and missed at 6.8% of pitches—contact extraordinaire Jeff McNeil has posted a 9.5% rate in the same time) and run very fast, despite his hits not traveling very far. He’s only hit four home runs in just under 2,000 minor league plate appearances (including one off of Braves top prospect Mike Soroka), but it’s not like he’s trying to and failing. Look at his career minor league heatmap (keeping in mind the side of the plate he stands on):
Lee’s slap-hitting, speedy profile could serve a useful role on the Mets’ bench this year (or in the future, as he wouldn’t be declared a minor league free agent until after the 2020 season). Should he return to the majors, he would be the first Mets minor league Rule 5 pick to do so since Henry Owens in 2006.
No. 4 Freddy Valdez
Age: December 6, 2001 (17) B/T: R/R Level: DNP
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic (7/2/2018)
2018 Stats: DNP
As is the case every year, Valdez is simply a mystery until he starts playing the games in which they keep score and publish the results online. Until that time (which will either be early or late June, depending on how aggressive the Mets are with his initial assignment), we’ll go off the profile, scouting reports, and video:
As a 6’3″, 212 l.b. 17-year-old with power and athleticism, there’s a lot to like about Valdez. His first professional assignment likely comes in the Dominican Summer League, although he could see a stateside push later in the season.
No. 3 Ross Adolph
Age: December 17, 1996 (22) B/T: L/R Level: SS-A Brooklyn
Acquired: Selected in the 12th round of the 2018 Amateur Draft from the University of Toledo
2018 Stats: 264 PA, .276/.348/.509, 9 2B, 12 3B, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 14 SB, 3 CS, 0.40 BB/K
Adolph’s success in his debut season was one of the better stories out of the Mets’ 2018 draft class, highlighted by a Sterling Award, a New York-Penn League All-Star Game MVP award, a share of the Brooklyn Cyclones’ single-season triples record (set by Darrell Ceciliani in 2010), and a spot on MiLB.com‘s organizational all-star team. Adolph got off to a roaring start in his professional career, hitting .288/.367/.490 through his first 28 games. Immediately, I was drawn back to former Cyclones who had equally impressive first months, like Vinny Siena (.352/.417/.380) or Colby Woodmansee (.282/.317/.364). Siena’s average would drop to .214 over his next 40 games and Woodmansee’s to .237; neither player lasted more than three seasons in the organization.
So it would have been wise to take Adolph’s hot start with a grain of Coney Island sand. The 21-year-old proved me wrong by maintaining his OPS (.857) over his final 33 games, picking up a triple, home run, and three RBI in the NYPL All-Star Game in between. I do, however, think it’s valuable to look at how Adolph recorded his numbers, specifically those 12 triples that boosted his slugging percentage by 144 points.
For example, this was Adolph’s record-setting three-bagger on the season’s final day:
And another, on July 26 against Mahoning Valley:
This one is particularly…yeah:
You get the point. I’m not trying to detract from Adolph’s performance, but simply pointing out that even average opposing defenses would have made his final numbers look significantly different. The final chart I’ll leave you with is Adolph’s performance relative to his peers, broken down by batted ball type (which, it should be noted, is subject to inconsistent stadium stringer inputs).
There’s a lot to like about Adolph. He hits the ball hard, plays a passable center field, and has plus speed, but there’s certainly reason to hold off on labeling him as a future major leaguer before he makes an appearance in full season ball. As we looked at above, some of the extra-base hit numbers are suspect and there’s his 19.7% strikeout rate, which is right about where it was during his three years at Toledo (19.0%). Adolph swung and missed at 11.7% of the pitches he saw, which puts him in the top 15 among stateside Mets with at least 250 plate appearance. He didn’t walk a ton in college, but his junior year walk rate of 14.0% dropped to 8.0% with Brooklyn. Guys get tired and I’m sure he’ll be fine. I’m looking forward to seeing what Adolph can do in Columbia next season.
No. 2 Adrian Hernandez
Age: February 8, 2001 (17) B/T: R/R Level: Dominican Summer League
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic (7/2/2017)
2018 Stats: 285 PA, .261/.351/.386, 12 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 34 RBI, 9 SB, 5 CS, 0.33 BB/K
While fellow July 2017 signee Ronny Mauricio bolted up prospect lists with a strong showing in the Gulf Coast League and a late-season promotion to Kingsport, Hernandez spent the entirety of his first professional season in the Dominican Republic. The early returns were satisfactory, as he led the DSL Mets1 squad with 65 hits and 50 runs scored.
This placement is all about Hernandez’s projection, as scouts have lauded his natural power and sneaky speed for someone his size. While we don’t have access to video from the DSL, we can make use of MLB.com‘s play-by-play search tool which makes use of the public data. Since pitchers in the lowest ranks of the minor leagues have less control of their pitches, I like to look at what percentage of a hitters’ strikeouts are coming on dropped third strikes; in other words, one of the many pitches that they should not have been swinging at. Six of Mauricio’s 40 strikeouts, or 15%, for example, came on pitches that required a catcher’s throw down to first base. This happened to Hernandez a much more respectable 7.7% of the time.
With his well-rounded game and a strong finish to his debut season (.289/.374/.434 in August), Hernandez could be pushing for a Kingsport assignment in 2019.
No. 1 Desmond Lindsay
Age: January 15, 1997 (21) B/T: R/R Level: A+ St. Lucie/Rk GCL Mets
Acquired: Selected in the second round of the 2015 Amateur Draft from Out-of-Door Academy (FL)
2018 Stats: 360 PA, .223/.317/.325, 13 2B, 5 3B, 3 HR, 33 RBI, 9 SB, 7 CS, 0.42 BB/K
Well, here we are again. For the second straight season (and a third of four as a pro), Lindsay missed a significant chunk of the season due to injury. The elephant in the room is not encouraging, and neither are his numbers. The Mets’ first pick in the 2015 draft recorded the ninth-highest strikeout rate in 2018 among Florida State League hitters with at least 300 plate appearances.
Still, there is reason to hold out hope. For starters, Lindsay will be 22 for all of next season, and, with a strong showing, could find himself in Double-A by the end of the season. Additionally, he put up excellent numbers in this year’s Arizona Fall League, with three home runs, including one that Statcast tracked at 111.6 mph, to his credit. Lindsay and his coaches were pleased with the strides he took in the postseason skills league.
“Improving his swing has been a priority for Lindsay, stating that he is working on getting his lower half and upper half working together,” wrote Baseball America’s Bill Mitchell. Said Mets minor league hitting coordinator and Scottsdale Scorpions hitting coach Ryan Ellis, “He came in here and just refined a few things. He’s really taken a liking to it. It’s conducive to his swing … he’s on the fastball, he’s using his legs a lot more efficiently, and his bat plane is a lot flatter. It’s working out pretty good.”
— William Boor (@wboor) October 24, 2018
Here’s hoping Lindsay has finally put everything together: athleticism, power, and health. With his impending Rule 5 eligibility, the young outfielder can either play his way onto the Mets’ 40-man roster, another team’s, or far away from it.