Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the season ahead. Some are competing for jobs in big league camps, others are prepping for the season as they vie for spots at Minor League affiliates up and down a team's system. MLBPipeline.com is visiting all 30 camps this spring. Today, we check in on the New York Mets.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The respective arrivals and contributions of right-handers Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo last season laid to rest much of the concern surrounding a perceived lack of pitching depth in the Mets' system following the graduations of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz in previous years.
But with both hurlers set to join the aforementioned trio as regular big leaguers this season, focus will soon shift to the organization's next wave of pitching prospects. Luckily for Mets fans, there's plenty to look forward to in the coming years.
Headlining that crop of promising young arms is Justin Dunn, who enters the season ranked as the Mets' No. 3 prospect after being selected with the No. 19 overall pick last June. The 21-year-old righty shot up Draft boards last spring with an outstanding junior campaign at Boston College, one that saw him thrive after a midseason transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation. He continued to thrive in that role during his pro debut, posting a 1.50 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 30 innings across 11 appearances (eight starts).
"A lot of younger pitchers are tired in their first year out and trying to adjust and acclimate to pro ball," Mets director of Minor League operations Ian Levin said. "So it's fun to see the newly drafted players in their first spring camp, because sometimes they're completely different than they were the year before."
Dunn has impressed Levin with his performance early in the Minor League camp, where his live arm and promising arsenal have been on display during bullpens and live batting-practice sessions.
"Justin has such good stuff and such an electric arm, so I'm excited -- our whole staff is excited -- to see what he can do in a full season of pro ball now that he's gotten that acclimation period over with," Levin said. "He was impressive last year, and we can't wait to see what he can do this year."
Meanwhile, Levin and the Mets are similarly excited about the bright future of left-hander Thomas Szapucki, the club's fifth-round pick in 2015, after his breakout performance last season. The 20-year-old lefty pitched to a 1.38 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP in nine starts between the Rookie-level Appalachian League and the New York-Penn League. Even more impressive were his 86 strikeouts in 52 innings (14.9 strikeouts-per-nine), during which he held opposing hitters to a paltry .145/.241/.218 slash line.
"He just overwhelms guys with stuff," said Levin of the Mets' No. 4 prospect. "The fastball is powerful, sitting in the mid 90s with plus life, and the breaking ball speaks for itself -- that thing is a hammer. His changeup has really come a long way, too. He started playing with it last year and made some adjustments that allowed it to take off for him."
Both Dunn and Szapucki will have much to improve on as their careers progress, but for now, Levin would simply like them to continue down their current paths.
"These guys have been so successful to this point in their careers," he said, "so we want to see what they can do with what they have before we try to make any large-scale changes."
When the Mets signed Andres Gimenez out of Venezuela for $1.2 million in July 2015, they did so knowing that the 16-year-old shortstop would need time to refine his promising raw tools and for his all-around game to materialize.
But the Mets' No. 9 prospect proved advanced beyond his years last summer during his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League, where Gimenez finished second in the circuit in average (.350) and third in OPS (.992) while accruing 27 extra-base hits and more than twice as many walks (46) as strikeouts (22) in 62 games. More importantly, the Mets feel as though those robust numbers were representative of his potential.
"Gimenez just has a great feel for the offensive and defensive game, and the toolset is that of a pure shortstop that has the ability to hit," said Levin. "He's still so young and has so much development remaining, but you can really see the makings of a five-tool, impact player on both sides of the ball."
The fact that Desmond Linsday missed his senior year of high school with a hamstring injury made him a wild card heading into the 2015 Draft. Despite possessing first-round-caliber tools and ability, concerns about his health as well as an overall lack of exposure in front of scouts caused Lindsay to fall to the second round, where the Mets were happy to gamble on his potential.
Unfortunately, Lindsay was plagued by a hamstring injury yet again in 2016, and it limited him to just 37 games between the Gulf Coast League and the New York-Penn League. But the Mets' No. 6 prospect was plenty impressive during his time on the field and batted .303/.433/.451 with 10 extra-base hits, all the while showing as much upside as any player in the system.
But having fully recovered from the injuries that sidelined him for much of the past two years, the 20-year-old Lindsay has been one of standouts this spring in Minor League camp, portending a potential breakout performance in 2017.
"I give a ton of credit to our athletic training and strength and conditioning staffs for helping him get back to the point where he's at now," Levin said. "He put in a ton of time during the offseason to get himself where he needs to be, and I'm thrilled with how he's looked so far."
"He looks completely healthy and more explosive than I ever remember, and I think it could be a big year for him."
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.