Have the New York Mets suddenly become a developmental haven for pitching? With Matt Harvey's homegrown success story as a background, the Mets have unearthed several jewels in their farm system. Rafael Montero, the organization's 2012 minor league pitcher of the year, is finally getting some national notoriety with a 3.47 ERA and 54:6 K:BB ratio through 46.2 innings at Double-A this season. Meanwhile, despite a recent shoulder injury, Zack Wheeler is primed to step into the No. 2 rotation slot behind Harvey by 2014 at the latest. And perhaps the best pitching prospect coming through the pipeline is Noah Syndergaard. The 20-year-old righty was obtained as part of the R.A. Dickey trade and has been dealing at High-A this season. He has a 2.62 ERA and 48:13 K:BB ratio through 44.2 innings, showing an excellent combination of strikeout stuff and control. In sum, the Mets could have a young, deep, studly rotation with these names as early as 2015. Now, if they could only get some hitting ...
Let's look at the rest of the prospect scene in this edition of the Minor League
Chris Stratton/Clayton Blackburn, P, SF - Stratton and Blackburn always get lumped together in my mind for some reason. Perhaps it is because they are both 6-foot-3 right-handers with strikeout potential who get a decent amount of grounders. Their prospect pedigree is rather different, though; Stratton was a first-round selection in 2012 out of Mississippi State, while Blackburn was a 16th-round pick in 2011 straight out of high school. Stratton is at Low-A with a 3.38 ERA and 47:13 K:BB ratio through 42.2 innings. Meanwhile, Blackburn has a 4.49 ERA and 48:12 K:BB ratio through 41 innings at High-A San Jose. Stratton is clearly the higher upside pick, a more polished product with a projectable frame and four quality pitches. However, Blackburn's downward action on his fastball along with solid secondary pitches of his own make him an intriguing prospect. In a pitching-rich organization chock full of homebred stars, both pitchers could have incredible success for the Giants down the road.
Nick Delmonico, 1B, BAL - Delmonico battled concussion issues to begin the season, but has since returned with a bang for the O's. The 20-year-old first baseman is batting .328/.463/.625 with four home runs and 15 RBI through 18 games for High-A Frederick. Delmonico has almost as many walks (16) as strikeouts (17). Delmonico slid to the sixth round in 2011 due to signability issues as well as injury concerns; however, he was still one of the premiere bats in that draft. If his power stroke is for real, and he can stay on the field, Delmonico could have a bright future.
Rafael De Paula, P, NYY - Low-A batters have looked overmatched against De Paula this season. The 6-2 righty has fanned an astounding 69 batters in 39.1 innings, posting a 2.75 ERA and walking 17 batters. There have been some questions about De Paula's age; as it stands now, he is 22. This would make him a bit old for this level. Still, his strikeout rate is far too ridiculous too ignore, and De Paula should see the higher levels shortly. Can he be a true ace? His statistics as he moves up the ladder will be a better gauge as to De Paula's future rotation slot.
Sean Nolin, P, TOR - Nolin missed some time in April due to a groin injury, but the 23-year-old southpaw has shown no signs of rust since his return. In three starts, the 6-5 Nolin has a 1.17 ERA and 16:5 K:BB ratio through 15.1 innings for Double-A New Hampshire. Nolin was sensational in 2012, notching a 2.04 ERA and 108:27 K:BB ratio in 101.1 innings between High-A and Double-A. Nolin is polished with a four-pitch repertoire. Although his fastball isn't overpowering, his above-average change-up makes it more effective. With an emerging curveball and slider to boot, Nolin may not be long for the minors if he continues to dominate.
Addison Russell, SS, OAK - Russell was touted as the next breakout star before the 2013 campaign began, but it hasn't exactly been all sunshine and rainbows for the 19-year-old shortstop this season. Russell is batting just .206/.322/.429 with five home runs, 15 RBI and four steals through 32 games for High-A Stockton. Although Russell has drawn 22 walks, he has also fanned 42 times. Perhaps he should have started the season at Low-A? Ride out the rough stretches, because Russell is too talented to be kept down for long. However, clearly there's going to be an adjustment period for the young shortstop.
Josh Phegley, C, CWS - The 25-year-old backstop is having a breakout season with the bat for Triple-A Charlotte. Phegley is slashing an impressive .336/.397/.664 with 10 home runs and 27 RBI through 32 games. He has been surging over his last 10 contests, hitting .359 with four home runs and 12 RBI. A first-round selection in 2009, Phegley's career-high is nine home runs, and he had not hit above .292 at any level coming into this season. With Tyler Flowers hitting just .202 at the big-league level, Phegley may be able to make his way into lineup sooner rather than later, particularly if the White Sox fall further out of contention. However, he could just be a flash in the pan as well. Don't invest too heavily in Phegley, but monitor his progress, as catchers are tough to come by in fantasy.
Reymond Fuentes, OF, SD - Fuentes is also on pace for career highs across the board this season. He is batting .321/.405/.455 with three home runs, 13 RBI and 18 steals through 43 games for Double-A San Antonio. The 22-year-old speedster continues to battle strikeout issues, though; Fuentes has fanned 37 times this season and was punched out 133 times in 2012. Fuentes also hit .218 last season at the same level, and has not hit above .290 since 2009, his first season in the minors. In sum, Fuentes appears to have grown as a hitter this season, but make sure the transformation is legitimate. As a future leadoff hitter and base stealer, he'll need to continue to work on limiting his strikeouts.
Robbie Ray, P, WAS - Ray was simply atrocious in 2012. The 6-2 wiry southpaw possessed an ugly 6.56 ERA with an 86:49 K:BB ratio in 109 innings at High-A. Ray walked too many batters and also allowed too many long balls. His numbers have done a complete-180 in 2013, however, as the 21-year-old has a 2.42 ERA and 62:23 K:BB ratio through 48.1 innings at High-A. Although the walks are still a tad high, he has experienced a significant bump in his strikeouts. Opposing batters are hitting an anemic .173 against him. Ray was solid in 2011 so this performance isn't exactly coming out of nowhere. Still, Ray's wildness could cause him problems down the road. Nevertheless, it's hard to argue with the overall results so far in 2013.
Roman Quinn, OF, PHI - The speedy Quinn stole 30 bases in 66 games in 2012 in the short-season New York-Penn League, while posting a .370 OBP in the process. His bat has not quite adjusted yet to Low-A this season, though, as the 20-year-old is slashing just .236/.311/.331 through 37 games. Quinn has fanned 40 times over that span. On the bright side, Quinn has stolen 19 bases already, but his low average and high strikeout rate will obviously hinder his ability to use his greatest asset, his speed. Quinn also will never likely hit for much power, though he does have three home runs this season. He is still young and has time to mature, but Quinn hasn't exactly hit the ground running to begin the 2013 season.
Daniel Corcino, P, CIN - One of the breakout stars of 2012, Corcino has been a dud in 2013. The hard-throwing 22-year-old has a bloated 7.20 ERA and 27:18 K:BB ratio through 35 innings for Triple-A Louisville. Opposing batters are hitting an absurd .327 against the 5-11 righty; Corcino has surrendered five home runs in his first eight starts to boot. With too many walks as well, Corcino has a lot of work to do to get back into the good graces of the Cincinnati organization. It certainly doesn't help his cause either that there is no place for star prospect Tony Cingrani in the big leagues now, let alone for a struggling hurler like Corcino.
Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, KC - Cuthbert's baseball skills have not caught up to his raw talent yet. The 20-year-old third baseman is hitting just .259/.317/.374 with two home runs and 17 RBI through 38 games for High-A Wilmington. Cuthbert hit just .240 last season, and his career high in home runs in a single year is eight. The Royals clearly hope the 20-year-old matures in both plate discipline and power as he gets older, but that hasn't materialized so far. If his power doesn't come around, and he cannot hit for average, it will obviously be tough for Cuthbert to stick at the higher levels, let alone in the majors.
Dorssys Paulino, SS, CLE - Paulino torched the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2012, slashing .355/.404/.610 with six home runs, 30 RBI and nine steals in 40 games. This year has been a different story, though, as the 18-year-old is hitting a mere .206/.278/.229 with 11 RBI and six steals through 35 games for Low-A Lake County. Paulino is certainly extremely young; he will not turn 19 until November. As such, he should be given the benefit of the doubt for the slow start. Nevertheless, he has struggled mightily and will need quite a few years of seasoning before even sniffing the big-leagues. Keep Paulino on your radar, but don't expect an impact for a number of years.