Baseball America’s list of top 20 prospects in the Pacific Coast League was released today, and three Mets made the cut. Right handed pitcher Zack Wheeler was ranked fourth, infielder Wilmer Flores checked in at #15, and Right hander Rafael Montero was 18th.
After spending the first few months of the season in the PCL with Triple-A Las Vegas, Wheeler made his debut with the Mets in mid-June. Flores spent the majority of the second half of the season with the Mets, and Montero finished up the year in the PCL after being promoted from Double-A Binghamton.
Wheeler, 23, had a 3.97 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 68.2 innings pitched this season in the hitter friendly PCL for Triple-A Las Vegas. Like most pitchers in the PCL, he was often the victim of routine grounders turning into singles, and would be fly outs drifting over the wall for home runs.
Baseball America noted in today’s report that Wheeler had the best fastball in the PCL, and a “complementary” curveball that has the potential to be an out pitch.
Wheeler is slated to open 2014 in the Mets’ rotation.
Flores, 22, tore up Triple-A before his promotion to the Mets. In 463 plate appearances over 107 games, Flores had a triple slash of .321/.357/.531. He hit 15 home runs, smoked 36 doubles, scored 69 runs and drove in 86.
Flores’ offensive potential isn’t in question. Rather, it’s where he ends up defensively that needs to be determined. There are three potential positions for him – third base, second base, and first base. If he’s with the Mets, third base is obviously not an option.
If he isn’t traded, Flores will likely open the season as part of a platoon at first base for the Mets, or back in Triple-A.
Montero, who turns 23 on Thursday, had an adjustment period after being promoted to Triple-A. After he settled in, he started to dominate.
In 16 starts over 88.2 innings pitched, Montero had a 3.05 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. He allowed 85 hits, walked 25 batters, and struck out 78 (an average of 7.92 per 9).
Most scouts view Montero as a mid-rotation starter, though his ceiling is probably a bit higher. Montero has tremendous control, and works mostly off his fastball that sits in the low to mid-90’s. He also features a slider and developing changeup.
Montero will be in the mix for a spot in the Mets’ opening day rotation. He tossed roughly 150 innings last season, so he should be good for 180 innings pitched in 2014. If Montero doesn’t make the club out of spring training, he’ll start the year back in the PCL with Las Vegas.