The New York Mets will have many evaluators arriving in Port St. Lucie, Florida, when pitchers and catchers report on February 14th. The front office will be evaluating all aspects of the team to find the best 26-man roster for opening day in March. The scouts will travel back and forth from the major and minor league complexes, grading the Mets' new prospect additions from the draft and international signing period. Some in the media will rush to Pete Alonso's locker asking about his contract status, while others will start pestering Carlos Mendoza and David Stearns with questions from the press conference podium.
One of the questions Stearns must answer is the estimated arrival of the Mets' top prospects. With the Mets' commitment to rebuilding for the future, all eyes will be on the minor league players to start spring training. In particular, the AAA roster will be the most closely monitored since they are the closest to major league ready. In 2023, the organization's best minor league affiliate was the AA Binghamton Rumble Ponies with most of the Mets' top prospects finishing the season on their roster. Many of those players have already proven enough in Binghamton and are ready to take the drive up I-81 to AAA Syracuse. In particular, who are the 3 best prospects set to make their AAA debuts and when can we expect them on the Mets?
1. Drew Gilbert will debut by May 1st.
If the 2023 Mets season could be summed up in one sentence, it would be "The year Steve Cohen bought a farm system". Not only did Cohen buy free agents last offseason, but he pivoted to buy top prospects at the trade deadline who are close to major league ready. The headlining trade acquisition was outfielder Drew Gilbert, dealt from the Houston Astros along with Ryan Clifford for Justin Verlander. Best known as the 'bat-flip king' from his collegiate career at the University of Tennessee, Gilbert was selected 28th overall in the 2022 draft.
Gilbert has very little left to prove at the minor league level. Before changing organizations, Gilbert hit .361 with 6 home runs and 18 RBI for the Astros' High-A Asheville affiliate. Though he struggled upon his promotion to AA Corpus Christi, he seemed to have flipped a switch once traded to AA Binghamton. From there, Gilbert hit .325 with 6 home runs and 21 RBI. He demonstrated great plate discipline drawing 19 walks in 35 games as well as earning accolades for his efforts in centerfield.
Stearns has recently committed to Gilbert starting the season at AAA Syracuse while also leaving the door open to an early season call-up. The Mets have a solid mix of outfielders on paper, though only Brandon Nimmo has proven to stay healthy and perform in the past few seasons. Starling Marte is coming off the worst season of his career at age 35, while Harrison Bader was limited to 98 games between the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds. D.J. Stewart and Tyrone Taylor are also above Gilbert on the depth chart, though neither has proven to be an everyday player. Should Gilbert impress enough in spring training, he will be an option if Bader and Marte falter in April.