The MLB Draft has always been the most fascinating of the major sports leagues. With the slot value concept informing negotiations, players not only get a say in which teams they want to join, but teams also conduct varied strategies rather than just picking the best talent available. In previous years, the Mets have chosen mostly college-level talents in the first round, using the full slot value to sign these players. In the past five drafts, four of their five first round picks (Michael Conforto, Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, David Peterson) came from college and signed for slot value or less. Of their four second round picks over this time, three were high schoolers (Desmond Lindsay, Mark Vientos, Simeon Woods-Richardson) with two (Vientos and Woods-Richardson) signing over slot value. This general trend of slot value first round signings and over slot second round signings followed most of these drafts. In their following picks, while most teams target college seniors to save money, the Mets swayed from this more than most teams. They frequently gave full slot value or more to non-college seniors with seemingly low upside, including draftees David Thompson, Blake Tiberi, and Carlos Cortes. This strategy resulted in the Mets taking fewer over slot value high schoolers in rounds 3 – 10. With less slot money available, the Mets took lower-rated high school talents, who have yet to develop like Bryce Hutchinson, Nate Peden, Cameron Planck, and Matt Cleveland.
With the arrival of new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen last off-season, the Mets were bound to shake things up at least a little. While in the Sandy Alderson era, the Mets were rightly criticized for acting slowly and ultra-conservatively, the Van Wagenen era debuted with splash and pizzaz, starting with the thus-far ill-advised Robinson Cano – Edwin Diaz trade. Van Wagenen’s statements caused excitement among the team’s fanbase and, unsurprisingly, his first draft did the same. Having the 12th pick in the draft and no extra compensatory or supplemental picks, the Mets had the 16th largest draft pool to work with. Nonetheless, Van Wagenen managed to create excitement with three splash picks, landing three arguably first round talents. To do this, he finished the draft with less-inspiring college senior picks.
1.12 Brett Baty, 3B, Lake Travis High School (Austin, Texas)
BaseballAmerica #15 MLB.com #17
Slot Value: $4.37m; Signing Bonus: $3.90m
One of the three players before the draft I did not want the Mets to select at #12 (Baty, Bryson Stott, and Zack Thompson), Baty’s last minute buzz carried into his Mets selection at #12. When selecting a high school player approximately where they are rated, my expectation is the player will sign for slot value. With Baty signing under slot value, the Mets signed the next two players over slot value, drastically changing my thoughts about the pick.
Between his reported advanced bat speed and hitting approach, and his exceptional power, Baty seems like a potential impact bat from the left side. My biggest concerns, other than his projected signing bonus, was his age in comparison with his competition level and his potential defensive limitations. Turning 20 this November, Baty is nearly a year older than fellow Texas high school Mets draft pick Josh Wolf (#53). Much development of teenage players is based on physical growth “filling out”. Baty being a year older than his competition means less physical growth should be expected, likely limiting his improvement in comparison to other high school senior draftees. Baty has reportedly worked tirelessly, ala the great Pete Alonso, to maintain his viability at the hot corner, but with poor footwork, limited agility, and potential to gain weight, many have him pegged as a future first baseman. However, with his 60 grade arm, others think he could develop as a corner outfielder.
Personally, I think Baty reaches the majors at 3rd base, staying there until the DH reaches the NL, shifting either Baty or Alonso to DH.
2.53 Josh Wolf, RHP, St. Thomas High School (Houston, Texas)
BaseballAmerica #54, MLB.com #36
Slot Value: $1.37m; Signing Bonus: $2.15m
With the Mets tendency to draft high school players in the second round, Wolf was a player I highlighted as a potential Mets target. With high school players usually signing over slot value (if picked near their ranking), I expected Wolf to sign over slot value. However, when reports that Wolf would sign $0.780m over slot value, my opinion of his selection soured.
Known in the scouting community for his pitcher intangibles (refinement, projectability, and pitchability) last summer, Wolf developed his 6’2” frame, which resulted in a velocity increase, with his fastball now touching 97mph. While it is unknown what his current weight is, he is clearly beefier than his previous 165#. I expect Wolf can gain more muscle, with 190# a fair weight for him to target. Despite a serious fastball, Wolf’s best pitch is his curveball, which rates as a “plus” to a “plus-plus” pitch. He throws his curveball in the mid- to high 70s. His third pitch, like most high schoolers, is his changeup, which he rarely uses, relying on his two best pitches. His changeup has shown flashes of becoming an average or above average pitch, but is currently below average. The biggest fear from Wolf comes from his delivery, as he has a violent motion, which causes great movement on his pitches.
Personally, I value Wolf slightly below last year’s second round pick, Simeon Woods-Richardson. With the Mets (and all of baseball) often being snake-bitten with arm injuries with pitchers with motions like Wolf, I fear Wolf’s career as more likely to end with injury than, say, Allan. However, whether due to injuries or failure to develop a third pitch, I see Wolf’s potential as a high-impact relief pitcher with his fastball-curveball combination.
3.89 Matthew Allan, RHP, Seminole HS (Sanford, Florida)
BaseballAmerica #16, MLB.com #13
Slot Value: $0.668m; Signing Bonus: $2.50m
Both BaseballAmerica and MLB.com’s highest-rated high school pitcher, Allan slipped to day two of the draft due to his reported $4 million requested signing bonus. When my friend texted me that the Mets drafted Allan, I thought: “Are you sure its Allan and not Allen?”, thinking there was no way the Mets just drafted a player with a $4 million asking price. The Mets new strategy of maximizing the quantity of blue chip prospects is clearly a Van Wagenen specialty, and I am growing to expect aggressively unconventional moves from the young general manager.
With a 6’3” 210# frame, Allan is unlikely to gain much more velocity to his mid-90s fastball. This above average fastball pairs with his above average curveball. Regarded as his best pitch, Allan has used the curve as his strikeout pitch throughout his high school career. Like Wolf, his third pitch, the changeup, is further behind his two best. With more development, scouts believe this will be a viable third pitch. Allan combines these pitches with average to above average command.
Before the draft, Allan seemed to me to be slightly overrated, as he seemed to be highest-rated due to his relatively low risk, with a big frame, a smooth, easy, visually appealing windup and follow through, and consistency throughout his high school career. I rated him among the top tier of high school pitchers with Quinn Priester, Daniel Espino, and Brennan Malone. After looking at other high school pitchers bonuses, I personally would’ve rather had Jack Kochanowicz at $1.25m; he seems like a similar yet less-hyped version of Allan. I would slot Allan right below Baty among the Mets’ top prospects. With the Mets prowess for developing pitching, I see Allan developing into a good #2 starter.
College Senior Draft Picks:
Jake Mangum, CF, Mississippi State, Round 4
Following in the footsteps up recent picks Anthony Kay and Carlos Cortes, Mangum was chosen by the Mets in the 32nd round last year. With his premium speed and excellent hitting tools, Mangum became the SEC’s all time leader in hits. With these two top hitting tools, his average to above average field and arm tools, and rare leadership and character, Mangum seems like a great bet to reach the majors as a 4th outfielder, a great value for a guy with a 20k signing bonus.
Luke Ritter, 2B, Wichita State, Round 7
Unranked in BaseballAmerica’s top 500, Ritter is a classic grinder utilityman. With experience at 2B, 3B, SS, and LF, Ritter offers defensive versatility. Ritters has solid hitting tools (.333 batting average) and decent speed (12 SB in 59 games). Ritter has developing power, improving his doubles from 12 to 16 and home runs from 6 to 9 in equal at bats over the past 2 seasons. His plate discipline is an almost-even strikeout to walk ratio (39:36), which could be the result of being on a poor team.
Scott Ota, RF, University of Illinois – Chicago, Round 10
High School teammates with Giants first round pick Hunter Bishop, Ota had a power explosion this season. Coming into the season with 13 career home runs, Ota had 20 on the season. He accompanied this with a 23:33 strikeout to walk ratio. Reports say he is a solid defender, with an above average arm.
Kennie Taylor, CF, Duke, Round 14
A good defensive center fielder, Taylor’s speed is his stand out skill. With a poor hitting approach showed by his strikeout to walk ratio (54:15) and nearly no power, Taylor will be carried by his defense, speed, and leadership (co-captain at Duke) if he is to make the major leagues.