The New York Mets will be active during the Rule 5 Draft on December 6th. For those who are unfamiliar, every December Major League Baseball holds a draft that allows clubs without a full 40-man roster to select certain non-40-man roster players from other clubs. Players signed at age 18 or younger can be selected after 5 years of minor league service time. Players who signed at age 19 or older can be selected after 4 years. The Mets currently have just 33 players on their 40-man roster.
In recent years, the Mets have been active but unsuccessful during the Rule 5 Draft. In 2019, the Mets selected pitcher Kyle Dowdy from the then-Cleveland Indians. Given Dowdy did not make the big-league club on opening day after a poor showing at Spring Training, he was returned to the Indians and later claimed off waivers by the Texas Rangers. In 2023, the Mets selected pitcher Zach Greene from the New York Yankees but failed to make the club as well.
Even though the Mets have failed to find a success story, this does not mean they should avoid the Rule 5 Draft altogether. Some players selected have turned out to be quality baseball players, the most notable being Johan Santana with the Minnesota Twins. With that being said, who is the best possible fit for the 2024 Mets roster?
Relief pitcher Justin Slaten is the most intriguing name for the Mets
Slaten was drafted by the Rangers in the 3rd round of the 2019 draft out of the University of New Mexico. The right-hander failed to find success as a starting pitcher until moving to the bullpen in AA this past season. From there, Slaten pitched to a 3.16 ERA in 51.1 innings, recording 76 strikeouts and walking just 16 batters. He would finish the season at AAA Round Rock where he allowed just one run in 8.1 innings pitched. Slaten is known as a hard thrower topping out at 98 MPH with his fastball. His low-80s slider provides great deception to alternate with his heater.
Given the Mets' lack of hard throwers in the bullpen, Slaten would be a perfect fit without having to give up any resources. The best route to take when building a bullpen is to find cheap, low-risk arms given the volatility of a relief pitcher’s performance. Slaten would be a pre-arbitration eligible player and would not be relied upon to pitch the late innings on opening day. The only downside is he will not have minor league options until 2025, meaning the Mets must keep him on the roster or return him to the Rangers. Regardless, the Mets have 7 open spots on the 40-man roster, so they can add him without risk and take a chance on his breakout 2023 season.
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