Mets looking to replenish their arms supply
After recent focus on position players, club out to mine talent in pitching-rich Draft
NEW YORK -- For years, the Mets have lauded the starting-pitching depth in their system. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler paved the route for Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom, who will soon pitch alongside Noah Syndergaard and others. The Mets expect all of them to contribute heavily to their big league team for years to come.
Such depth came in handy for the Mets when Harvey was sidelined by Tommy John surgery last October, one of a rapidly growing list of pitchers around the league to undergo that operation. Pitching, in general, is a risk for all teams -- particularly with young, hard-throwing arms. So with many of the Mets' top young pitchers now graduated to the big league level, the organization will look to stock up on some more in this year's First-Year Player Draft.
"It cuts both ways," general manager Sandy Alderson said of the prevalence of elbow injuries in Major League Baseball. "On the one hand, you've got an injury risk you want to stay away from. On the other hand, to counter risk you need quantity.
"I think most clubs go for the best talent available. I don't think a club would shy away from drafting pitching just because of the injuries. You accept the risk. In fact, I think some players -- even those who are injured currently -- will still get taken fairly high."
The 2014 Draft will take place Thursday-Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m. ET, with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday.
Additional coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and fans can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft and tagging tweets with #mlbdraft.
In their most recent Drafts, the Mets have shied away from pitching just a bit, preferring to restock their system with position players. Their past three first-round picks came from that pool -- including outfielder Brandon Nimmo in 2011, shortstop Gavin Cecchini in '12 and first baseman Dominic Smith in '13.
That leaves the Mets with plenty of room to add arms to their system. Luckily for them, college pitching may be the strongest aspect of this year's Draft.
"I think we tried to go for what we thought was the best-available [player], with a slight preference for position players because our system was weaker in that area," Alderson said. "It's nice to have pitchers that are graduating to the Major League level, but you have to constantly remind yourself that the lower levels of this system are also important. It's important to have pitching coming throughout your system. We're fortunate now, just now actually, to have it coming to the Major League level in good quantity. But we certainly don't want to have to go through another period of time without having more options coming through the system."
In about 50 words
Most of the organization's top-rated talents have graduated to the Majors or are close to doing so, leaving the upper levels of the farm system somewhat bare. Now, it's about replenishing the system while the Mets' recent Draft picks continue to mature. Pitching may become more of a priority.
Like most teams, the Mets insist upon selecting the best-available player when picking, regardless of position. Alderson amended that in recent years, leaning toward position players if there was any question. But these days, it's back to drafting without an obvious bias. The GM considers college pitching a strength of this year's Draft, and there's a good chance the Mets go in that direction with their top pick.
MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo has consistently projected the Mets to take a pitcher 10th overall, most recently pointing to University of Hartford left-hander Sean Newcomb. The Mets have followed the local path twice in recent Drafts, selecting Connecticut-native Harvey in the first round in 2010 and Long Island-native Steven Matz with their top overall pick in 2009. If Newcomb is off the board at that point, chances are one of the other top arms in the Draft -- Tyler Kolek, Aaron Nola and Kyle Freeland, to name three -- will not be.
The Mets have also been linked to Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto.
Mets bonus pool
Under MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team can sign players with an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has -- and the earlier it picks -- the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax, plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage, as well as the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax, plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
The Mets have a bonus pool of $5.31 million, which ranks 22nd in baseball, largely because they have the second-fewest picks (nine) of any team. Their top pick comes with a value of $2.97 million, roughly 56 percent of their entire Draft total.
Ideally, the Mets would like to use this Draft to replenish their pitching, while continually adding power bats to their system. Outfield remains an organizational weakness, so the Mets would love to add a blue-chip outfielder to their system, as well.
In their first three Drafts under Alderson and Paul DePodesta, vice president of player development and amateur scouting, the Mets have selected a high school hitter in the first round each time. There's a good chance that trend ends in 2014, given the strength of this Draft and the Mets' organizational needs.
* RECENT DRAFT HISTORY *
Catcher Kevin Plawecki, the organization's second-round selection in 2012, has been thriving at Double-A Binghamton. He could make his way to Triple-A Las Vegas before season's end, putting him in line for significant big league duty as soon as next year.
A 30th-round pick in 2010, Josh Edgin has spent parts of three seasons in the big leagues, and is working hard to entrench himself in this year's relief corps. Yet, the Mets' poster child in this category remains Dillon Gee, a 21st-round selection in 2007, who has won 36 games over the past five seasons.
In The Show
A huge chunk of the Mets' active roster came from the Draft, including David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Jon Niese, and many, many others. This season alone, the Mets have received significant contributions from homegrown rookies Montero and deGrom.
The Mets' recent top picks
2013: Smith, 1B, Class A Savannah
2012: Cecchini, SS, Class A Savannah
2011: Nimmo, OF, Class A St. Lucie
2010: Harvey, RHP, 60-day disabled list
2019: Matz, LHP, Class A St. Lucie