SNY contributors Joe DeMayo and Jacob Resnick answer fan questions in this edition of the Mets Minor League Mailbag…
What do you think the ceiling is for Alex Ramirez? – @Recio__Jr:
Joe: Alex Ramirez received the third-biggest international signing bonus in Mets history when he signed for $2.05 million in 2019 out of the Dominican Republic. A scout who has seen Ramirez play this year described him to me as “a raw toolshed.”
If you look at his statistical line, you aren’t going to be completely blown away. He has a .708 OPS with five home runs and 15 stolen bases. As an 18-year-old getting his first taste of pro ball in a full season league, he has predictably had his ups and downs. However, in the month of August, he hit .278 with a .333 on-base percentage with three of his five home runs on the season.
Ramirez has plenty of development left to do. But if there is a prospect in the system with the chance to put all five tools out there on the field, that player is Ramirez. The ceiling is a well-above-average regular, who could potentially end up an impactful up-the-middle player who will stick in center field. We are simply a long way from that becoming a reality.
Jacob: Agreed with Joe on all points here — particularly the fact that it’s unlikely he even sniffs the major leagues before, say, 2024 — but there is a boatload of tools to dream on here and the organization is going to devote a lot of resources to making sure they are all actualized.
The power-speed combo — Joe mentioned the stolen bases, I think his legs are even more prominent in the outfield — it simply isn’t a profile the Mets have overflowing quantities of in their system. And frankly, it isn’t one they’ve excelled at developing in recent years.
At this point, Ramirez is doing everything a talented 18-year-old is expected to: hitting the ball hard (90.6 mph average exit velocity), striking out plenty (32.5 K%), playing exciting baseball and requiring patience from his team and its fans.
What is Jaylen Palmer’s ceiling? – @MMBTVS
Joe: Drafted in the 22nd round out of Holy Cross High School in Flushing, Palmer is a Brooklyn native, so the hometown kid has a chance to develop and play for a team that is under five miles away from his high school.
The most notable thing Palmer needs to do is cut down on the strikeouts. He has 123 strikeouts in 90 games played this year split between Low-A St. Lucie and High-A Brooklyn. But what he brings to the table is explosive athleticism, a lot of defensive versatility and above-average raw power that he is just beginning to tap into during games.
Palmer has played second base, third base and all three outfield spots this year. I think his upside is perhaps a player somewhat akin to a Ben Zobrist, who would play virtually every day but often at multiple different positions on the diamond.
Jacob: There’s a lot to like with Palmer. But like Ramirez, Palmer is another toolsy bat that is going to need a lot more time to put everything together. Palmer has already been moved off shortstop and third base. He doesn’t yet feel like a true center fielder, where he’s played the majority of his innings this season. I’m not sure if he has the arm to ultimately stick out there.
After hitting seven home runs in 62 games at rookie-level Kingsport in 2019, I was expecting a continued uptick in power numbers this season. But Palmer hit just two in as many games with St. Lucie before joining Brooklyn, where the results have been slightly improved. His speed — particularly, at his size — is a fun part of his game, but the strikeout numbers that Joe alluded to point to an approach that needs significant refining.
The tools and makeup are there to eventually mold him into a versatile reserve, but remember that as a 21-year-old in A-ball there’s a ton of development left.
When do you think Francisco Alvarez can reach the major leagues? Do you think he can take over at catcher before the James McCann contract is over? – @not_helo
Joe: What Alvarez has done as a 19-year-old catcher in High-A is incredibly impressive. This is why you see him ranked inside of the top 10 prospects in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline.
On average, catchers tend to develop at a slower rate because the defensive adjustments you have to make are much more than other positions on the diamond. You need to be the leader on the field, call games, help align the defense and then — of course — catch and throw. He does still need some work defensively, but the Mets are very excited with his progress behind the plate and are optimistic that he could be a plus behind the plate.
The bat, however, is his calling card. Big-time exit velocities to all fields with plus raw power. Some in the industry think it is potentially 70 grade on the 20-80 scale. He did hit a bit of a wall for a bit, as people forget this is his first full season of pro ball. He found his way out of it, and is in line to put up a pretty unique season.
I would expect he will start 2022 as a 20-year-old in Double-A Binghamton. I think the Mets want to be aggressive, but I’d be looking at Alvarez optimistically as a mid-to-late 2023 call up. If you would like to be cautious, it could be early 2024 where he will only be 22 years old. Ultimately, performance, growth and development will really dictate this timeline.
In regards to McCann, I cannot imagine the Mets would call up a prospect like Alvarez to be a backup. So when he is called upon, I’d expect him to be the bulk starter.
Jacob: No sense in repeating the scouting report here. Even the casual Mets fans are aware of Alvarez’s impressive season. Assuming he hits one more home run over the final two weeks of the season, he’ll become just the third teenaged catcher to hit 20 home runs in one year since 2006 (one of the others: Alvarez’s hitting coach in St. Lucie, Tommy Joseph).
As impressive as Alvarez’s season has been, I don’t really envision him being the clear-cut, solidified starter in the majors before McCann is completely out of the picture (assuming he plays out his contract). We’ve seen a laundry list of young catchers either quickly flame out or go through multiple years of growing pains before they cement themselves as big leaguers. Not that Alvarez isn’t talented enough to buck that trend, but it’s worth being patient with him even if it means waiting until 2025 or 2026.
Which prospects made the most progress this season? – @AureMoreRu
Joe: There have been a few prospects that have stepped up in 2021. On the highest level, Mark Vientos is a guy that I think has made huge strides this year. In 2019 with Columbia, he was a power hitter that needed work on his approach. Now, in 2021, he looks the part of a complete hitter who hits the ball harder than anyone in the organization.
He is second in the Double-A Northeast League in OPS, ahead of two of the very best prospects in the game in Riley Greene (Detroit Tigers) and Adley Rutschman (Baltimore Orioles). He has split time at third base and left field, as the Mets look to see how they can fit both Brett Baty and Vientos in the lineup long-term.
Jake Mangum is a prospect that I had ranked inside the top 20, but most public lists didn’t have him in the top 30. He may not have the upside as a prospect like Vientos, but I think Mangum is shaping up to be a big league contributor, likely in a fourth outfielder type of role. He is a high-energy player who can play all three outfield spots. He has also made significant strides in his offensive approach. He has tapped into more power — he may reach double-digit home runs this season, after hitting only five in his collegiate career. What is unique about it is that he increased his power output, while not striking out at a bigger rate. In the month of August, Mangum hit an absurd .432 with a .475 on-base percentage and 1.134 OPS. I believe at some point in 2022 Mangum will be banging on the big league door.
Jacob: I recently wrote on five upper-level Mets minor leaguers who could realistically make the majors as interesting contributors within the next year. Joe mentioned Mangum, who was on my list, but a pair of Triple-A pitchers really stuck out to me.
Josh Walker will never blow his fastball past hitters in the mid-to-upper 90s, but he’s a crafty lefty who has been able to spot his pitches well and keep opponents off balance with a good curveball. He’s a late bloomer in the sense that he missed virtually two full years of development. But at 26, the mileage on his arm is preferable to that of his peers. He’s a candidate to eat innings as depth next year.
Adam Oller is another older “prospect.” His path to reaching Triple-A for the first time this year has been anything but linear, though. He’s been released, played independent baseball and was left unprotected in the minor-league phase of the 2019 Rule 5 Draft, where the Mets scooped him up from the Giants. Oller’s fastball can creep up to 95 mph, and he’s been able to put away hitters with his changeup and slurve-type breaker. He’s only allowed one run in 17 innings since joining Syracuse, and could find himself filling a hole in the bullpen at some point in the near future.
Source: Yahoo Sports