A farm system that already boasted plenty of organizational depth -- particularly in pitching -- added to that talent pool this winter, with the acquisition of Noah Syndergaard, Travis d'Arnaud and Wuilmer Becerra. Two of those three have found a new home in the Mets' 2013 MLB.com Top Prospects list, with Syndergaard coming in at the No. 3 spot and d'Arnaud's name resting on the top line.
"I think we're pretty happy with where it is right now," Mets vice president of player development and amateur scouting Paul DePodesta said of the system. "Obviously, we can get it better, but we're really happy with the progress we've made. I think we're very strong from a pitching standpoint, both with high-end guys and a tremendous amount of depth."
Both d'Arnaud (No. 6) and right-hander Zack Wheeler (No. 8) are among baseball's Top 10 prospects, according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. Wheeler came to New York in the 2011 deal for Carlos Beltran, and the two-time Futures Game participant shone in his 2012 season, split between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Buffalo.
He's part of what DePodesta considers an overall bright group of pitching prospects.
"Last year, we were fortunate -- our teams in the Florida State League, the South Atlantic League and the New York-Penn League all led their leagues in ERA, WHIP and strikeout-walk ratio," DePodesta said. "And they did it with six-man rotations and guys who were not known as marquee guys."
DePodesta also said the club has recognized and addressed potential shortcomings at catcher and shortstop, with d'Arnaud obviously becoming a franchise centerpiece.
"Our position players aren't as strong as our pitchers," DePodesta said. "There's still quite a few guys we like and some guys we think are going to do really well. We've really tried to address shortstop, catching in the last two years, both in the Draft and internationally. I think we feel really good about where we are in those spots."
Top 20 Prospects
It's the aforementioned d'Arnaud who headlines the Mets' Top 20 list, with a slew of hurlers following him. Wheeler is second, Syndergaard third and outfield prospect Brandon Nimmo fourth, ahead of right-hander Jeurys Familia.
Wheeler, who went 12-8 with a 3.26 ERA overall in 2012, is projected to see the big leagues in 2013 along with d'Arnaud, who hit .333/.380/.595 with Triple-A Las Vegas, while hitting 16 homers and driving in 52 RBIs.
Overall, 10 of the Top 20 Mets prospects are pitchers -- all of them right-handers -- with six considered either shortstops or third basemen. There are two catchers (Kevin Plawecki is No. 17, accompanying d'Arnaud on the list) and two outfielders. Nimmo, who hit .248 with six homers and 40 RBIs with Short-Season Class A Brooklyn, is the top-rated outfielder in the organization.
DePodesta mentioned Wheeler and Familia, along with right-hander Jenrry Mejia, as some top pitching arms for fans to keep an eye on this season, and potential contributors for 2013.
"All three guys have a chance of helping us this year," DePodesta said. "Mejia and Familia were up last year. They're three power arms -- 22, 23 years old, and all close. And they will all be competing for jobs early on in this season and will probably be available."
Under the radar
DePodesta certainly knows a talent when he sees it -- last year, he says, he considered right-handers Rafael Montero and Domingo Tapia as some under-the-radar talents, and they are ranked on this year's list in the No. 8 and No. 11 spots, respectively.
"These guys have a chance to be really good," DePodesta said. "Montero's come around quickly. We signed him in January 2011 in the Dominican, and he's coming to Major League camp. He's come through six levels already and hasn't missed a beat in any of them. … Tapia's a bigger arm. He's touched 100 [mph] on occasion. He usually tops out at 97-98, with good command, good sinker, good changeup."
This year, DePodesta points to right-hander Hansel Robles, who excelled with Brooklyn last year. Robles was 6-1 with a stellar 1.11 ERA that DePodesta says was a product of season-long consistency.
"He was in Brooklyn this past year and was absolutely dominant in the league, and I think if you were to include the playoffs, he had a consecutive streak of not giving up an earned run in over 40 innings," DePodesta said. "He goes 90-94 with a good sinker. Also very good command. Good slider, good changeup, has a good idea of what he's trying to do on the mound."
Hitter of the Year
d'Arnaud is certainly a star in the making, and DePodesta calls him "the biggest name," but there's plenty of good reason to believe Nimmo will have a breakout year. He was taken in the first round (13th overall) in the 2011 Draft and hit six homers for the Cyclones this season in a place that is not easy for young players to hit, particularly 19 year olds. Nimmo has plenty of raw power, a good feel for the strike zone, runs the bases well and is an average defender across the board.
Pitcher of the Year
With all due respect to Montero, who was the organization's Pitcher of the Year in 2012, there have been too many good things said about Wheeler to ignore him for this honor. He's been hyped since the day he was drafted by the Giants, and he has quickly risen through the Minors. Wheeler has grown from a thrower into a fully loaded pitcher and is poised to make an impact on the organization this year.