Baseball Prospectus is one of the “big three” in terms of rankings of minor league players. They released their updated Top 101 Prospects this week and there were a couple of New York Mets who made the cut.
Opinions will vary and shifts in where each ranked within the organization was expected. This list seems to heavily favor last year’s performances a little more than just what the scouts see. And for this reason, we see Jett Williams launch up and become the franchise’s top prospect.
But that’s not a surprise. Seeing Ryan Clifford, the “other guy” from the Justin Verlander trade with the Houston Astros might have caught a few more fans off-guard.
Ryan Clifford’s prospect ranking by Baseball Prospectus suggests we need to stop sleeping on him
Clifford was a high school draft pick taken in the 11th round in 2022. A left-handed first baseman who plays the corner outfield as well, he’s not exactly one of those flashy young center fielders or shortstops top prospect lists seem to be fully made of. His presence among the best prospects in baseball is fully earned. He tore through the Carolina League last season and continued to hit well and with power once he got to the South Atlantic League where he played out the season with the Brooklyn Cyclones.
Prior to the trade with the Astros, Clifford was slashing .271/.356/.547 with 16 home runs and 46 RBI. He made the jump within the same High-A league to the Mets’ representative and the struggles did begin.
Clifford fell off the fan’s bandwagon by hitting just .188/.307/.376 during his 32 games with the Mets organization. Much like Luisangel Acuna who saw his overall numbers decline in a stellar season started elsewhere, Clifford fell on some hard times. The Verlander trade was all about Drew Gilbert who performed at a high level with Binghamton. Fans prematurely penciled him into their starting lineups for the 2024 season while forgetting completely about Clifford.
Baseball Prospectus has tapped us on the shoulder with a reminder. This Mets trade included someone else.
Exactly where Clifford fits in will depend on many factors with one of the obvious being whether or not Pete Alonso remains with the ball club. Flexible enough at the moment to play the corner outfield spots in addition to first base, we should believe that there are ways to get him playing time even if the Polar Bear stays.
But that’s a solution to find in the future. Despite his struggles with Brooklyn, Clifford should graduate to play in Binghamton to begin the year. He won’t turn 21 until July 20. A full season in Double-A wouldn’t be the worst thing for him. Neither would a quick promotion to Triple-A if he proves he’s ready.
Gilbert will be in the majors well before Clifford is. Our minds will circle back to the Verlander trade. Just don’t forget, Clifford was far more than a throw-in.