This series does a few things: it organizes my thoughts before I publish my organizational rankings and lets you into my process. Remember, our key rule is that I'm only listing a player once - at his best position in the Majors.
There are a number of righties with good arms, who are currently starting, who I think will be Major League relievers. This applies to Cory Mazzoni, Jacob deGrom, Luis Mateo, Domingo Tapia, Erik Goeddel and Logan Verrett. All of these guys have passed through Savannah, and most have been through AA, so I have a much better handle on what they can become than the pitchers who have yet to attack a full-season level.
RHP – Starters1. Noah Syndergaard
2. Rafael Montero
3. Gabriel Ynoa
4. Michael Fulmer
5. Casey Meisner
6. Luis Cessa
7. Robert Gsellman
8. Andrew Church
9. Chris Flexen
10. Rob Whalen
11. John Gant
12. Matt Bowman
1. Thor is not just the Mets' best pitching prospect, he's one of the top five pitching prospects in baseball.
2. Montero just keeps getting guys out. His fastball is plus, and plays up thanks to his excellent command. His slider is flat, but he's learned to throw it for strikes. As a shorter RHP, he's working against type as a starter, but he's made it work so far. He should make his MLB debut in 2014.
3. Ynoa, like Montero, relies on fastball command. The two both have remarkable feel. He's ahead of Montero in that he conquered the same level at a younger level. Also Ynoa's taller, and I think flashed a better breaking ball in the SAL.
Compare the pair's SAL numbers
. AGE ERA BB% K% TBFMontero 21 2.52 2.8 18.9 286
Ynoa 20 2.57 3.0 19.3 597
Ynoa made 24 starts as a Sand Gnat between the regular season and playoffs, exactly double Montero's total of 12 before his promotion to St. Lucie in the middle of the 2012 season. Montero's ascension through the system has been remarkable. Ynoa will start 2013 in advanced-A and could well be in Binghamton by the start of the second half.
4. A torn meniscus in spring training held Fulmer to seven starts in 2013. He's still big, young and throws hard. He has a lot of work to do to refine his feel and nail down his fastball command.
5. Meisner is a big Texan (6'7", 190) who the Mets picked in the third round in 2013. I was told he was throwing 93-94 mph in the GCL in August when he ran a 3.4 K/BB and a 2.86 ERA in 22 innings over four starts. Two years ago, the Mets moved Michael Fulmer straight from the GCL in 2011 to Savannah in 2012. Would they be tempted to follow the same path with Meisner?
6. Cessa had a strong year in Savannah at age 21. The converted infielder stands 6'3" and throws 91-95, and for most of the season, settled in at 92-93. He has a changeup and a curve for a third pitch. At times both looked like they could become Major League offerings. Cessa had a tendency to work up in the zone; he was hurt at times by both elevated fastballs and changeups. While he could generally get away with it in the pitcher-friendly confines of Grayson Stadium, on the road those mistakes turned into homeruns. At home, batters slugged .338 against him in 11 starts; on the road that was .448. I want to see another year of success from Cessa outside Savannah.
7. I saw Gsellman in Savannah where he was working with a fastball that was average or a tick below at 89-92. He threw lots of strikes with the pitch, and at his best, threw his changeup, which he used almost 30% of the time, for strikes 3/4 of the time. Gsellman was a big 19-year-old in 2013, and after pitching reasonably well in five starts for the Gnats, he was dominant in Brooklyn, which speaks as much to difference in the level of competition than an underlying improvement. He should start 2014 back in Savannah where his task will be to improve his breaking ball. If all goes well, he's a mid-rotation guy.
8. The Mets drafted Church in the second round in 2013 out of high school in Las Vegas. At the time he was drafted, Mets VP of Amateur Scouting and Player Development Paul dePodesta explained that he could become a mid-rotation starter, “We feel like he has a chance to be a solid middle of the rotation starter. It’s three pitches, all for strikes. We think he has a chance for a plus breaking ball. Could also log a lot of innings. Athletic. Works fast. Fits into our overall organizational pitching philosophy.” Church made six starts and three relief appearances in the GCL in 2013 where he allowed 49 hits in 35 innings. Church is behind Gsellman only because Gsellman is a few levels ahead.
9. As an 18-year-old, Flexen rolled through the Appy League in his second professional season with a K/BB above five. I was told he could touch 96 in 2013, and was regularly around 94 mph. He's a lean 6'3" who was my #32 prospect last year. I think is the arm in the system who might surprise people in 2014. He should be in the Savannah rotation with Gsellman.
10. Whalen fronted the Kingsport Mets rotation with Flexen in 2013. Make no mistake, his numbers (1.87 ERA, 76 K/17 BB; 4.5 K/BB) were outstanding. He's a solidly built 6'2", 200 pounds. I saw Whalen in July at 88-89 mph with a few 90s mixed in and curveballs at 75-76. Whalen told me he was off that night because a never-ending rain in the mountains had messed with his pitching routine. In their end of the year writeup, Baseball America had him at "low 90s." Fair or not, the distinction between sitting in the low 90s instead of upper 80s is a big deal for a righthanded pitcher. Whalen should head to Savannah in 2014.