Thursday Thought: 3 factors to consider when evaluating prospects

2021 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game
2021 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game / Dustin Bradford/GettyImages

Prospects have become an integral part of the game of baseball. So much so that the future of a franchise is often considered more important than its current standing. The New York Mets are not currently one of those teams, but they do have a handful of top prospects that will be exciting when they make their debuts.

There are a lot of factors to take into account when evaluating prospects. Let’s take a deep dive.

1) Their age.

Youth reigns supreme in the prospect world. 

If you have a very young player - meaning a high schooler you drafted or somebody signed internationally - that rises quickly through the system and can debut as a 19-year-old or in his early 20’s, it’s extremely valuable. You’re getting an exciting mixture of raw talent combined with their athletic, physical prime. 

Think of some of the young stars in the game now. Juan Soto got the call at 19. Ronald Acuna, Wander Franco, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Fernando Tatis Jr. debuted at 20.  These are not merely good baseball players, they are generational talents. These guys are the face of their franchise. These guys are playing with energy, swagger, and emotion and make baseball so much more fun and entertaining. They could all be Hall of Famers when it’s all said and done. 

The Mets have a couple of guys who are extremely young and could come up in the next couple of years. I don’t think we’ll see either of these guys this year, but Francisco Alvarez and Ronny Mauricio are both 20 years old. I think they both have the chance to come up at 21 years old in 2023. Another guy to watch is outfielder Alex Ramirez, who will likely play most of this season in A+ ball as a 19-year-old, but could move up if he performs well.

Ronny Mauricio, Mets
St Louis Cardinals v New York Mets / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

2) The position they play now, and the position they will play later.

If you look at recent drafts, you’ll see a trend of three positions that most teams target: center field, shortstop, and starting pitcher. The goal of drafting these positions is that if they don’t stay there, they have places they can move. If your center fielder loses a step, he slides to one of the corners. If your shortstop doesn’t have the range, he slides to third if he has a good arm, or second if he doesn’t. If your starter can’t go three times through the order, he moves to the bullpen and will likely see an uptick in velocity and stuff.

Teams build their core around those positions, so it makes sense to target them. If you look at the Houston Astros infield over the last few seasons, they have three guys who were drafted or signed as shortstops: Alex Bregman at third base, Carlos Correa at shortstop, and Jose Altuve at second base. They’ve had one of the most athletic infields in the game for a while now, so it is a sound strategy. 

Positioning can also lead to roadblocks though. If you look at the top of the Mets system, Mauricio is currently listed as a shortstop. There have been doubts about whether or not he will stick there or if he will end up at another position. A lot of people seem to think third base is the spot for him to move to, but the Mets also have Brett Baty and Mark Vientos there. 

I think he’d be a great fit at second base, because A) the Mets have a hole there now, and B) the Mets have a hole there going forward. His bat would immediately be one of the best at the position, considering second base is one of the shallowest positions in the Majors right now. 

Mar 2, 2021; Port St. Lucie, Florida, USA; New York Mets first baseman Mark Vientos (87) plays his / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

3) Their skillset

What does this prospect add to your roster? How does he fit onto the team? What will his role be? Is it worth bringing him up now if he still needs more development? These are just some of the things that get taken into account when discussing a prospect’s callup. 

The five tools apply to prospects the same way they apply to Major Leaguers. The five tools are hitting for contact, hitting for power, speed, fielding, and throwing. Each category is rated one the 20-80 scouting scale (Yes, it’s dumb, and yes, I support changning it). 80 is otherworldly and rarely used, 70 is well-above average, 60 is above average, 50 is average, 40 is below average, and 30 well-below average, and 20 is a non-existent skill (I’ve never seen this used). Players can receive a half grade (75/65/etc.) if they are in between two categories.

Let’s look at Mark Vientos, a guy who will likely get the call this year. He is known for his power (60 grade) but he’s also known for not making good contact (45). He’s an average fielder (50) and he has a good arm (60), but he isn’t a true third baseman or left fielder due to his lack of range (40 speed). So how does he fit this team? He’s basically slotted into the DH/power-pinch-hitter role. He might get the occasional start when Eduardo Escobar or Pete Alonso need a day off, but he won’t see much time in the field unless one of those guys get hurt. The Mets also could look to move him in a trade, as his powerful bat could be attractive and they still have Brett Baty who is a better contact hitter (55) and has a little more range (45 speed). 

Pitchers are graded by each pitch and overall control. Matt Allan has a fastball rated at 65, a curveball at 60, and a changeup at 55. His control is slightly above average at 55 as well. Before he got hurt, he was touted as one of the better pitching prospects in the game. 

These are the three main factors to take into account when looking at prospects. Their age, the position they play now and will play later, and their skills tell the story that could be the future of a franchise. Prospect development is essential for baseball, and I’m looking forward to seeing some Mets prospects come up over the next couple of years.

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