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State of the System: New York Mets

Top prospects Mauricio, Alvarez got valuable time at alternate site
Ronny Mauricio played at the alternate training site this summer after spending last year in the South Atlantic League. (Jeff Blake/Columbia Fireflies)
November 5, 2020

Starting in October and running through the end of the year,'s State of the System series will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each Major League organization, highlights prospects who've made the biggest strides in 2020 and offers a peek at 2021. The offseason is barely a week old

Starting in October and running through the end of the year,'s State of the System series will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each Major League organization, highlights prospects who've made the biggest strides in 2020 and offers a peek at 2021.

The offseason is barely a week old and it’s already been a wild one for Mets fans. New York’s National League club has a new owner after Major League Baseball approved the sale of the franchise to Steve Cohen on Oct. 30. Cohen, a lifelong Mets fan and New York native, is already gleefully soliciting ideas from fellow Mets supporters on Twitter about what he can do to make their experience better as the team pursues its first World Series title since 1986.

It hasn’t all been rosy. Like everything in 2020, nothing comes without the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the day after Cohen’s purchase was approved, the Mets decided to shut down their instructional camp for Minor Leaguers in Port St. Lucie, Florida, after a pair of positive tests for the virus, Newsday reported. Instructs would’ve lasted two more weeks and featured such players as the organization’s top prospect, shortstop Ronny Mauricio (MLB Pipeline's No. 57 overall), catcher Francisco Alvarez (No. 58) and third baseman Brett Baty (No. 88).

Still, the Cohen era is bringing positivity that’s been missing in recent years to Mets fans, and after a 26-34 finish at the big league level this season, New York’s faithful hope better days are ahead.

System strengths: Youth is strong with the Mets, and Mauricio and Alvarez are teenagers who represent a bright up-the-middle future. Mauricio, a 19-year-old shortstop, came aboard at the beginning of the international signing period in 2017 and spent the 2019 Minor League season with Class A Columbia. There, the native of the Dominican Republic batted .268/.307/.357 in 116 games and parlayed that performance into an assignment to the Mets’ alternate training site in Brooklyn, where he started living up to his billing.

“He’s a really impressive young player with a lot of great tools,” Mets executive director of player development Jared Banner told last month. “Our focus is just on refining his game, recognizing his strengths and areas where he needs to improve and then having him attack both on a daily basis.”

A switch-hitter, Mauricio is still growing into his 6-foot-3, 166-pound frame and should hit for more power as he fills out.

Alvarez, 18, signed on July 2, 2018, a year to the day after Mauricio inked his deal. Alvarez has played in only 42 games as a pro, seven in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and 35 in the Rookie Advanced Appalachian League, but was striking in his limited experience, posting a .312/.407/.510 slash line with seven home runs in 2019.

“We were thrilled to get him in [the alternate site],” Banner told “A catcher his age getting a chance to work with some older pitchers and pick their brains on things like how to call a game and prepare. ... I think it was a very valuable time for him.”

Areas for growth: It may be nitpicking, but only one of the Mets' Top 30 prospects is a left-handed pitcher. The lone southpaw is 2015 fourth-rounder Thomas Szapucki, who was limited to six games in 2017 and missed the '18 season following Tommy John surgery. Eighth-ranked Szapucki returned with a flourish last season, cruising through Class A Columbia and Class A Advanced St. Lucie to reach Double-A Binghamton. All told, he made 21 appearances and 18 starts, posting a 2.63 ERA across three levels with 72 strikeouts and only 26 walks over 61 2/3 innings. Szapucki is on the 40-man roster and pitched at the alternate site. Aside from the 24-year-old, the Mets don’t have many high-profile lefties among their prospect ranks as they look to rebuild one of the game's most formidable pitching staffs.

What's changed: With the graduations of a couple of highly ranked players to the big leagues this year, the Mets’ Top 30 is even younger. Of the organization’s top 10 prospects, only right-hander J.T. Ginn (21) and Szapucki (24) are over 20. That means that while the Cohen era begins and the National League East seems open for the taking, much of New York’s top-end talent is still a couple of years away, at best. If the new owner wants to make a splash by doling out some of his considerable cash for help at the big league level, it could bring contention back to Citi Field. If the Mets choose to go the homegrown route, a divisional crown may not come for another couple of seasons.

Alternate site standouts: According to MLB Pipeline, Baty and fellow third baseman Mark Vientos -- the Mets’ No. 7 prospect -- showcased impressive power in Brooklyn. Baty belted seven homers in 51 games in his debut last season across the Gulf Coast, Appy and New York-Penn leagues after being drafted 12th overall out of a Texas high school.

“It’s pole-to-pole power,” Banner told MLB Pipeline of Baty's ability.

Vientos reportedly showed pop to the opposite field this summer, a year after going yard 12 times in 111 games with Columbia.

While neither 20-year-old is necessarily close to the Majors, they could provide a longterm solution for the Mets, who employed five players at that position this season.

“They’re both athletic, with good hands and strong arms, and they both have good internal clocks,” Banner said. “Of course, we need to refine a lot of the little details that come with playing defense at the highest levels, but they both have the makings to be high-quality defensive third basemen in the big leagues.”

Impact rookies: Heading into the 2020 season, Andrés Giménez was the Mets’ No. 3 prospect and on target to reach the big leagues this year, especially after being optioned to Triple-A just after Spring Training was suspended. It wouldn’t have been a shock if his approach to New York slowed, but Giménez graduated after seeing time in 49 games at the big league level, batting .263/.333/.398.

Speaking of left-handed pitchers, the Mets' top-ranked southpaw coming out of the 2019 season showed he belonged at the highest level. David Peterson went 6-2 with a 3.44 ERA and .202 opponents' average against in 10 big league appearances, including nine starts.

Next big thing: Although neither of them spent time in Brooklyn this summer, keep an eye on top 2020 Draft picks Pete Crow-Armstrong and Ginn. Armstrong, an outfielder, won’t arrive in the Majors before Jarred Kelenic -- the Mets’ one-who-got-away -- does with the Mariners, but he could help New Yorkers forget Kelenic. The 19th overall pick in June and the Mets’ fifth-ranked prospect, boasts above-average big league hit, arm, run and field tools. Just 32 picks later, the Mets nabbed Ginn out of Mississippi State, where he pitched only three innings this spring before undergoing Tommy John surgery. When healthy, the club's No. 6 prospect sports a fastball that reaches 97 along with a plus slider and changeup.

Tyler Maun is a reporter for and co-host of “The Show Before The Show” podcast. You can find him on Twitter @tylermaun.