When the season started, the New York Mets' prospect list was headlined by a man added at the 2011 trade deadline. As this campaign comes to an end, that same pitcher, Zack Wheeler, still takes the cake in the MLB Prospect Watch rankings, which has been updated this month.
Even though they play in New York, the Mets are a team in rebuild mode. A payroll that continues to decline -- which still includes some crippling contracts -- and a team with limited depth that has fizzled since it's fluky-good early start, Sandy Alderson and his staff are in it for the long haul when it comes to infusing young talent into the organization. Many teams have turned to developing their own own players rather than spending -- almost always foolishly -- year after year on big-ticket free agents. The Mets are now in that mode. The Mets' system still leaves a lot to be desired, as MLB.com ranks it 17th overall, though it did stand 20th at the start of the season.
Let's take a look at the team's top-five prospects:
1) Zack Wheeler
2) Matt Harvey
3) Jeurys Familia
4) Wilmer Flores
5) Brandon Nimmo
Perhaps the most exciting news for the Mets is that Wheeler, who was involved in the Carlos Beltran swap, is a thought of as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. MLB.com slots him in at seventh among all prospects. Not only has he enjoyed a sensational year -- 149 innings, 3.26 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 115 hits, 148 strikeouts -- he is on the brink of reaching the major leagues and could conceivably crack the opening day rotation.
To include Harvey in this list seems a bit cheap, as he's already thrown 47 1/3 innings at the majors. He was considered the 25th-best prospect, but that could be an underestmation of his talent. His stuff at the majors has ticked up a notch (in velocity, now easy mid-90s, and sharpness), his command has been serviceable and the results have shown it: 3.04 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 36 hits allowed, 53 strikeouts. He appears to have the makings to be a front-of-the-rotation horse.
Familia has an excellent arm and the Mets have kept him in the rotation in the minors because his stuff is that good ... however, his command and control are below average. In the minors, he threw 137 innnings, walked 73, gave up 145 hits and fanned 128. His ERA was 4.73 and WHIP 1.59. He's up for a cup of coffee in the majors now, and it really seems like he'll end up as a power arm in the bullpen.
Still just 21, Flores has always been young for his league but appeared to stall (numbers dipped across the board) last season when played a full year at Class A after already being there for about a half a season the year before. This season, though, the third baseman has taken off. He began the year in Class A, earned a promotion to Double-A at mid-season and has continued to rake at the higher level. His batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage also increased. Altogether, he has 18 home runs, 75 RBI, .300 average, .349 OBP and .479 SLG.
Nimmo, 19, is still a ways away. Selected in the first round of the 2011 draft out of Whyoming, the outfielder possessed the raw ability but not a lot of high-end competition to back it up. In short-season A-Ball, (69 games) Nimmo had a .248 average, six home runs, 40 RBI, and a .406 slugging percentage. His approach also seems pretty advanced as he also had a .372 OBP.
BONUS: Wheeler may be the most exciting, but the best news for the organization may be the leap 2012 first-round pick Gavin Cecchini made from his early-season ranks. He jumped 15 spots to sixth on the Mets' list. The shortstop hit .246/.311/.330 with one home run, and 22 RBI in Rookie Ball. The numbers don't look too amazing, but he's only 18 years old and obviously impressed MLB.com's scouts enough for him to merit such an ascension.