Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2019 season approaching, MiLB.com takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.Shining star/Major League-ready: Pete Alonso,
Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2019 season approaching, MiLB.com takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.
Shining star/Major League-ready: Pete Alonso, 1B
The two categories aren't always linked, but in this case, they are. Alonso has been a heavy hitter since he debuted with Class A Short Season Brooklyn in 2016 after a college career at the University of Florida. A pair of injuries -- a broken finger in 2016 and a broken hand the following year -- limited the top Mets prospect to 123 games in his first two professional seasons. Those absences notwithstanding, Alonso produced when healthy, hitting .297 with 34 homers and 84 RBIs in 462 at-bats. The 24-year-old stayed healthy last year and moved quickly from one of the club's intriguing prospects to a spot on MLB.com's Top 100, where he ranks 51st.
The Tampa native batted .285/.395/.579 with Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Las Vegas and led all Minor Leaguers with 119 RBIs. He tied with Reds prospect Ibandel Isabel for the home run crown with 36, smacking a walk-off blast on the final pitch he saw in 2018. The accolades continued in the Arizona Fall League, where Alonso was named to the Fall Stars Game. He garnered more acclaim when he homered off fourth-ranked Blue Jays prospect Nate Pearson and his 103 mph fastball.
With that production came expectations of being the Mets' starting first baseman, a scenario that seems increasingly likely after he batted .368/.394/.647 with 10 extra-base hits and 11 RBIs in his first 21 Grapefruit League games. Alonso may never win a Gold Glove, but his defense has looked noticeably better this spring, putting to rest -- at least temporarily -- worries about his work in the field. Few players hit the ground running at the Major League level, but if his talent matches his work ethic and effervescence, the Mets will have a star on their hands.
"We're very excited about Pete," Mets executive director of player development Jared Banner said. "He did an incredible amount of work on his body in the offseason and came into Spring Training ready to go. He's shown us there are no limits to how hard he'll work on his craft and his diligence to that end translates on the field."
Full-season debutant: Mark Vientos, 3B
With the exception of Alonso and second-ranked Andrés Giménez, few prospects have risen as quickly as the 19-year-old Vientos. The Pembroke Pines, Florida, native spent all but four of his 51 games in 2017 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, so he returned to Rookie Advanced Kingsport last summer and vaulted to the top of the Mets prospect chain. With room to grow into his 6-foot-4 frame, Vientos was one of the more consistent hitters in the Appalachian League, where he batted .287/.389/.489, ranked third with 52 RBIs and fourth with 11 homers in 60 games. Perhaps more impressive was his strike zone judgment that he parlayed into a K-rate of 16.4 percent -- the league average was 22.1 percent.
"We're very excited about what Mark has done so far," Banner said. "He's got a terrific attitude, he works hard and is constantly striving to improve. We've already seen the fruits of that improvement bear out on offense and defense. He's got major upside and is definitely someone to keep an eye on."
Making the jump to Class A Columbia is the likely scenario for Vientos. Expecting similar production in his first full season might be a tad optimistic, but his talent has the Mets excited about a potentially game-changing player who will be among the youngest in the South Atlantic League in 2019.
Breakout prospect: David Peterson, LHP
The Mets used their 2017 first-round pick on Peterson with the idea he would be a quick mover following a standout career at the University of Oregon. The 23-year-old didn't disappoint in what was essentially his pro debut last year after the club limited him to 3 2/3 innings in 2017 with Brooklyn. Peterson was stellar with Columbia, posting a 1.82 ERA in nine starts before moving up to Class A Advanced St. Lucie, where he found the going a bit tougher as his ERA spiked to 4.33 in 13 appearances. The adjustments weren't an unexpected development and the organization was buoyed by their southpaw's progression down the stretch in the Florida State League.
The Mets' No. 6 prospect posted a 7.03 ERA in his first eight starts with St. Lucie, but after allowing two runs over six innings on Aug. 6, he closed the year by yielding an unearned run and striking out 26 over 23 innings. Peterson finished 7-11 with a 3.16 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 115 strikeouts over 128 frames. Despite his 6-foot-6, 240-pound build, he isn't a flamethrower, but his ability to induce ground balls -- he did so 65.4 percent of the time in 2018 for the third-highest mark in the Minors -- bodes well moving forward. Based on his solid season and his college experience, it would be a mild surprise if he doesn't begin the season with Binghamton.
"The plan for David is simple," Banner said. "We just want him to continue to develop and build on what he did last year. He came into his first full season, made the adjustments he needed to and excelled at certain points. We want to see the same type of things from him in 2019 and he'll be just where he needs to be."
Back and healthy: Thomas Szapucki, LHP
Szapucki has not thrown a pitch in a competitive setting since July 6, 2017. The southpaw was placed on the disabled list three days later and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery, wiping out all of last year. Unfortunately for Szapucki, his latest setback was among several that have limited the Toms River, New Jersey, native to 83 1/3 innings since he was drafted in the fifth round in 2015. A back injury cut short his exceptional 2016 season, which included a 1.38 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 86 strikeouts over 52 innings with Kingsport and Brooklyn. Slated to begin 2017 with Columbia, the ninth-ranked Mets prospect was held back due to a shoulder impingement that delayed his season debut two months. He was terrific in six starts for the Fireflies, posting a 2.79 ERA and 1.17 WHIP before injuring his elbow.
"With Thomas, first and foremost we're focused on his health," Banner said. "He appears all the way back and from what we've seen of him, he's throwing the ball free and easy and looks great. It's a process, but we're looking forward to seeing what he can do once he's back on the mound."
When healthy, Szapucki was able to dial up his fastball to 97 mph, which was complemented by a power breaking ball. He showed the signs of developing a changeup, although it was a work in progress at the time of his most recent injury. The success rate of pitchers who've undergone Tommy John surgery remains high, but the Mets won't know what to expect from Szapucki until he's back on the mound in competitive action. Assuming his fastball and breaking ball remain strengths, there's little reason to doubt he could be, at least, a solid max-effort reliever.
At the crossroads: Desmond Lindsay, OF
To say that life as a professional has been tough for Lindsay would be an understatement. The Mets had high hopes for the Bradenton, Florida, native when they selected him in the second round of the 2015 Draft. Solid seasons in the GCL and Brooklyn seemed to have him on the right path, but since making the jump to full-season ball in 2017, it's been a struggle. The outfielder hit .220/.327/.388 in 65 games in 2017, then followed with a .218/.310/.320 slash line in 84 contests with St. Lucie last year. Injuries have played a part Lindsay's downturn -- he's made three trips to the injured list totaling more than three months over the last two seasons. Age isn't against the 22-year-old yet, but entering his fifth professional season, the time is now for Lindsay to show the Mets he has what it takes.
More to keep an eye on: Shortstop Andrés Giménez (No. 2) has drawn high praise since making his domestic debut in 2017. It all came together last season for the 20-year-old, who batted .281/.347/.409 with 40 extra-base hits, 38 stolen bases and superb defense with St. Lucie and Binghamton. ... Another shortstop to keep an eye on is third-ranked Ronny Mauricio, who most likely will play in a full-season league on his 18th birthday. Standing 6-foot-3, the native of the Dominican Republic hit .273/.304/.410 in 57 games in the GCL and with Kingsport. ... Right-hander Simeon Woods Richardson (No. 7) looks to be the prototypical hard-throwing Texan. Drafted in the second round last June, the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder posted a 1.56 ERA and fanned 26 over 17 1/3 innings in Rookie ball, thanks in large part to a fastball that touches 97 mph. ... Tim Tebow begins his third professional season one step away from the bigs with Triple-A Syracuse. The former Heisman Tropy winner batted .273/.326/.399 in 84 games with Binghamton last season. He missed final five weeks with a broken hamate bone in his right hand.
2019 organization predictions:
Most home runs: Rymer Liriano
Most stolen bases: Gimenez
Most strikeouts: Anthony Kay
Current prospect to get most Major League playing time: Alonso
Non-Top-100 prospect to end 2019 in the Top 100: Mauricio
Michael Avallone is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB.