Meet the Mets' 2021 Organization All-Stars
Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club. The strength of the Mets farm system is clear. Bats, bats and more
Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.
The strength of the Mets farm system is clear. Bats, bats and more bats.
Francisco Álvarez, Ronny Mauricio and Brett Baty constitute the organization's Top 100 contingent with Mark Vientos knocking on the door, based on his thunderous 2021 season at the upper levels. All four are currently 22 or younger with experience at High-A or above, and their considerable ceilings give Mets fans reasons to dream about future success that extends beyond the massive signings of Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar and Mark Canha.
On the mound, even after top pitching prospect Matt Allan's season was lost to Tommy John surgery in the spring, there were notable gains in that department. Tylor Megill started the season at Double-A and ended it as a rotation regular in Flushing. Adam Oller and Josh Walker (both featured below) enjoyed late-stage prospect jumps and find themselves one step away from Citi Field. J.T. Ginn remained healthy with 92 innings after his elbow surgery had put him on the shelf for much of 2020.
Until Allan can show his stuff has held up post-procedure or someone makes a Megill-like breakout, the ceiling on this pitching group remains in question -- the non-signing of 2021 pick Kumar Rocker didn't help -- and even considering the bats, overall depth is still an issue. But the upper position-player talent is enviable and gives the organization a solid foundation on which to build.
Mets Organization All-Stars
Catcher -- Francisco Álvarez, St. Lucie (15 games), Brooklyn (84 games): Álvarez’s successes are well-known to those who followed the system even casually in 2021.
The 19-year-old backstop started the season with a .417/.567/.646 line with seven extra-base hits and 15 walks over 15 games with St. Lucie. That prompted an early and challenging promotion to Brooklyn. It also helped his defensive framing skills to move on from the automated strike zone of the Low-A Southeast. Álvarez thrived in Coney Island, hitting .247/.351/.538 with a 132 wRC+ over 84 games with the Cyclones. His 22 homers tied for sixth among all High-A batters, and his 24 total dingers placed second among Mets Minor Leaguers. Only Khalil Lee (.951) had a higher OPS among full-season qualifiers than Álvarez’s .941.
That bat fueled his move to the No. 10 spot in MLB Pipeline’s overall prospect rankings, and he might only need to be an average defensive catcher to meet his considerable ceiling.
"We want to have a little brother syndrome here in the organization, making sure that we're challenging people as opposed to just letting them sit and dominate a level," said Mets director of player development initiatives Jeremy Barnes in a phone interview last month. "It was time for him to move up and focus on catching. Getting exposed to that higher level was really important for him. ... I think he really showed this year that he's going to be an elite hitter. Obviously, there's room to develop there as well, but I'm really excited to see how he comes back as a pure catcher next season."
First baseman -- David Thompson, St. Lucie (three games), Syracuse (67 games): Playing in his age-27 season, Thompson proved to be a powerful force in the Syracuse lineup during his most successful Triple-A campaign to this point. His 13 homers ranked third among Syracuse sluggers, while his .493 slugging percentage -- which included a rehab stint in St. Lucie -- placed fourth among Mets Minor Leaguers with at least 200 plate appearances, regardless of level. More than half of his hits (28 of 54) went for extra bases, thus the gulf between his slugging percentage and .238 average.
Thompson, who also saw time at third base, elected free agency in November and has played in the Dominican Winter League over the last month.
Second baseman -- Drew Jackson, Syracuse (85 games): Claimed off waivers from the Dodgers last December, Jackson was another veteran infielder who put up solid Triple-A numbers but didn't break through to the Majors in 2021.
The 28-year-old right-handed hitter sported a .251/.397/.424 line with nine homers in 85 games with Syracuse. His 24 steals placed second in the organization and tied for 11th among all Triple-A players. He was one of only three players at the Minors’ top level to post an OBP above .390, steal 20 or more bases and collect 250 or more plate appearances. Like Thompson, he elected free agency at the start of the offseason. He signed a Minor League deal with the A's on Dec. 4.
Third baseman --
His 25 homers were the most in the system and more than doubled his previous career high of 12. His .581 slugging percentage led Mets full-season qualifiers, and by way of comparison, was a touch above Bobby Witt Jr.’s .575 mark at the same levels. Riley Greene (148) was the only Minor Leaguer to post a wRC+ higher than Vientos’ 146 at Triple-A and Double-A in his age-21 season or younger.
Evaluators have noted Vientos’ power potential from the right since he was a second-round pick in 2017, but the 2021 campaign was the first in which potential turned into true performance. He did strike out in 28.7 percent of his plate appearances, and his defensive home remains in question with the Mets getting him some limited looks in left field. But the growth with the bat has been exciting enough to give the 21-year-old a real chance at being an impact player at the top level.
"I think it was just a matter of him learning how pitchers are going to pitch him at Double-A and really honing in on his approach," Barnes said. "He started off pretty slow there. He was chasing quite a bit and he was getting exposed with his approach. But he really started to hone in and his natural ability started to take over. He started loading better and controlling his head moment a little bit.
"But I think the biggest thing was just him really figuring out what his approach was and sticking with it. There was always power potential. There were always the tools. They just weren't manifesting because he was expanding the zone and swinging at less-than-ideal pitches."
Honorable mention: This group would be incomplete if it didn’t include Brett Baty, MLB Pipeline’s No. 45 overall prospect. The 2019 12th overall pick hit .292/.382/.473 with 12 homers in 91 games between Brooklyn and Binghamton. His 132 wRC+ was third-best among New York full-season qualifiers. Baty also saw some time in left to cope with the third-base logjam, but 18 starts on the grass (compared to 65 on the dirt) weren’t quite enough to move to him another spot on the list.
Shortstop -- Ronny Mauricio, Brooklyn (100 games), Binghamton (eight games): Having spent the vast majority of his season by the boardwalk, Mauricio was named a High-A East postseason All-Star at shortstop and took the circuit’s Top MLB Prospect award for his spin with the Cyclones.
He hit .242/.290/.449 with 19 homers and nine steals in 100 games there. If those numbers look a little deflated, just note that the switch-hitter produced a more palatable .261/.307/.533 line with 13 long balls in 48 games played away from the potential pitchers' haven of Maimonides Park. He also led Mets Minor Leaguers with 105 hits and placed third with 20 total homers, including those from his brief spell in Binghamton.
The No. 53 overall prospect has plenty of more power projection in him following his age-20 season and earns better defensive grades than you might expect from a 6-foot-3 shortstop. Even as he closes in on Francisco Lindor, Mauricio continues to only get game looks at short, including during his current run in the Dominican Winter League.
"He's a shortstop right now," Barnes said. "There are so many skills that he needs to hone at shortstop that, if he ended up moving to a different position later on, he's still going to get that that skill set at shortstop. Shortstop is such an elite, difficult position to play. He has the ability to play it right now. Let's let him continue to develop there. We hope this never happens, but you never know if there's an injury or some other reason why we need him to play shortstop [in the Majors in the future]. So getting him to play there as long as possible now is our mind-set."
"The biggest thing is not letting his passiveness at the plate turn into being too passive," Barnes said. "He has power. He has the ability to do damage, and if he can do damage, he should do that, as opposed to taking a walk every single time. With that said, a near-20 percent walk rate is fantastic, and I don't want that to drop. But if he gets a fastball in his hot zone, he should take a hack at it."
Lee belted 14 homers and stole eight bases while batting in every spot in the Syracuse order except eighth. He played primarily right field but also saw ample time in the other two outfield spots, picking up seven assists on the strength of his plus arm. He appeared in 11 games for the big club (all of which came in May), and the 23-year-old should remain a piece of the Mets’ outfield depth heading into 2022.
The 2018 third-rounder’s bat was always his best feature anyway, and he performed solidly in his first taste of the Minors with a .257/.332/.487 line and 14 homers in 79 games. That resulted in a career-best 120 wRC+, making him a solidly above-average hitter for Double-A. Cortes, who turns 25 next June, was not added to the Mets’ 40-man roster this offseason and will be eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.
Mangum hit .294/.342/.459 with seven homers and 14 steals over 75 games with the Rumble Ponies. His .294 average ranked sixth in the Double-A Northeast, and he was one of only three league qualifiers to bat at least .290 while sporting a strikeout rate below 20 percent (17.6, in this case). The 25-year-old’s speed also made him a solid option in center, and that package of tools and performance helped earn him a spot on the Double-A Northeast postseason All-Star list.
"He has an insane bat-to-ball skill," Barnes said. "It's something that actually can hurt him at times because he feels like he can get to just about anything. Once we were able to talk with him and he was able to limit his chase and really start to zone up pitches to do some damage, his numbers went through the roof. ... A lot of that just came down to a shift in mind-set and approach and him trying to make sure that the pitcher had to earn his swing as opposed to him just giving it freely."
Right-handed starting pitcher --
The 27-year-old right-hander led Mets full-season pitchers with a 3.45 ERA and a 3.51 FIP and was tops among all hurlers in the organization with 138 strikeouts in his 120 innings. What’s more, he appeared to get better deeper into the season. Four of his eight Triple-A starts were scoreless, and his 2.45 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with Syracuse were improvements over his numbers at Binghamton (4.03, 1.25 respectively).
Oller’s ability to hit his spots with his fastball-slider-changeup mix helped get him to the doorstep of the Majors, and he should have a chance to be more than just Minor League depth in the spring.
"I think that's just a matter of him getting comfortable in the system and also gaining confidence," Barnes said. "Coming off a year where we didn't play in 2020, I think it was a matter of him getting more confident in who he is and what he's trying to do and letting the information that we were giving him really drive home that confidence. We wanted to let him really learn and know who he is and how he could go out and attack the game every day."
Left-handed starting pitcher --
Walker led all qualified Mets pitchers with a 1.02 WHIP over 115 2/3 frames. In fact, that ranked 14th among the 155 pitchers to toss at least 100 frames during the regular season. That came on the strength of a 6.4 percent walk rate, which sat as low as 4.4 percent prior to his jump to Triple-A. The 6-foot-6 southpaw finished with a 3.73 ERA, 98 strikeouts and a .211 average-against in 21 appearances. His Syracuse numbers (5.19 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 33 K's in 50 1/3 innings) were rougher, and the Mets are hopeful Walker can use that as a learning experience to become more than just a control artist in his attempt to break through to the Majors in 2022.
Relief pitcher --
The 26-year-old right-hander finished with the best ERA (1.72), WHIP (0.81) and average-against (.143) among Mets domestic pitchers with at least 40 innings, and those numbers weren't tilted toward either one of his two levels with sub-2.00 ERAs and sub-1.00 WHIPs at both stops. His 57.8 percent ground-ball rate was second-best in the system behind J.T. Ginn's 61.6 percent, and that weak contact most directly led to the lower numbers elsewhere. He'll need to elicit more swings-and-misses (45 strikeouts in 47 innings) once he reaches the upper levels, but this ground-ball-heavy approach at least put the 2018 17th-rounder on the map a bit this summer. He was left eligible for the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft and was subsequently selected by the Braves.
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.