Rosario, Smith rising through Mets' ranks

New York's top two prospects among those making significant strides

Amed Rosario collected 42 extra-base hits in 120 games between St. Lucie and Binghamton in 2016. (Gordon Donovan/MiLB.com)

By Michael Leboff / MiLB.com | November 21, 2016 11:00 AM ET

This offseason, MiLB.com will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organizations. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League baseball

The Mets have earned a lot of praise for the way they've cultivated young power arms over the past couple of years. But now it is the organization's offensive prospects, headlined by Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, that are beginning to emerge.

"They know what kind of players they can be and they embrace the challenge," Double-A Binghamton manager Pedro Lopez said of Rosario and Smith. "It's definitely a good thing that they are going through it together and are able to push each other to get better everyday."

The Mets top two-ranked prospects bring different elements to the organization. While Rosario's game is built around finesse and flashy athleticism, Smith's game revolves around a mature-beyond-his-years approach and his developing power.

"They're completely different players with different body types and tool sets," said Kevin Morgan, the Mets' director of player development. "But they are always feeding off each other and sharing what they are experiencing, and that helps each guy get the most out of his individual skill set."

The Mets also got fantastic years out of T.J. Rivera, Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini, who all finished atop the race for the Pacific Coast League batting title and made their Major League debuts in 2016.

"Each of those three guys has worked his tail off," Morgan said. "They all come from such different backgrounds, but they've all worked and matured and proved themselves on the field. To have each of them finish the way they did, I don't know if I've ever seen anything like that before."

Mets Organization All-Stars

Catcher -- Tomas Nido, St. Lucie (90 games): Although a lot of the hype belongs to Rosario and Smith, Nido was quietly one of the organization's most consistent hitters in 2016. In 90 games for Class A Advanced St. Lucie, the Mets' No. 19 prospect slashed .320/.357/.459 with seven homers and 46 RBIs in 90 games. He put together an especially impressive stretch in July, when he hit .405 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 19 games.

First baseman -- Dominic Smith, Binghamton (130 games): After being selected in the first round of the 2013 Draft, Smith has looked the part in each of his three full seasons with the Mets.

For the second straight year, Smith hit above .300 and appeared in over 115 games. He also showed some encouraging signs by setting a career high with 14 homers for the B-Mets this season.

"Power is the last tool to develop," Lopez said. "And for Dom, with his eye and ability to manage the strike zone, the power numbers will surely come. He was hitting home runs to opposite fields in legitimate ballparks for us this season."

Smith truly found his form in the second half of 2016, slashing .345/.413/.492 in 47 games after the All-Star Game.

Second baseman -- Walter Rasquin, Kingsport(49 games): After an encouraging stint in the Gulf Coast League in 2015, Rasquin put together a solid 2016 for Rookie-level Kingsport.

The 5-foot-9 Venezuela native slashed .294/.353/.374 with two homers and 20 RBIs in 49 games for the K-Mets and appears ready to take on full season ball in 2017.

Third baseman -- T.J. Rivera, Las Vegas (105 games), New York (33 games): There wasn't much fanfare when the Mets called up Rivera to help the team during its Wild Card push, but he quickly endeared himself to fans with his knack for putting together solid at-bats when his team needed them the most.

Rivera captured the 2016 Pacific Coast League batting title by hitting .353 in 105 games for Triple-A Las Vegas. In addition to his fantastic year at the dish, Rivera proved himself to be quite the utility man in the field for the 51s. The Bronx, New York, native spent time at first, second, third and left field in 2016.

Shortstop -- Amed Rosario, St. Lucie (66 games), Binghamton (54 games): Despite being three years younger than the average position player at Double-A, Rosario flashed signs of being a future franchise cornerstone in 2016.

"Going back to last year when he was with us for the playoffs, I was impressed with his approach at the plate," Lopez said. "Then this season, there was a big improvement in how he put together his at-bats. He did not miss a beat this season."

After a wonderful start to the season with St. Lucie in which he hit .309 in 66 games, the Mets moved Rosario to Binghamton on June 23. The 20-year-old continued to excel in the Eastern League, and even though his season was interrupted by a couple of stints on the disabled list, Rosario put together a slash line of .341/.392/.481 with two homers and 31 RBIs in 54 games.

As good as his numbers looked on paper, his manager at Binghamton was even more encouraged by how Rosario's entire game has come together.

"When you're watching Amed run the bases, whether it's going from first to third or from home to second, it's pretty impressive to watch," Lopez added. "Then you see him in the field and everything goes so smoothly, like there's no effort involved. He plays with flash but is under control the whole time."

Outfielders:

Brandon Nimmo, Las Vegas (97 games), New York (32 games): The 23-year-old scuffled in the early going and was hitting just .220 after his first 15 games of 2016. As the calendar turned, Nimmo got into a groove, hitting .357 in 44 games between May and June.

The Mets rewarded Nimmo for his terrific stretch by calling him up to the Majors on June 25, and the next day Nimmo became the 16th Wyoming native to play in big leagues.

Despite bouncing between Triple-A and the Majors, Nimmo didn't stop producing for the 51s. He put together his best stretch of the season in August when he hit .407 in 20 games, earning himself a September callup to Flushing.

Travis Taijeron, Las Vegas (129 games): After making a good impression in his first Triple-A season in 2015, Taijeron took it a step further in 2016.

In 129 games for the 51s, Taijeron slashed .275/.372/.512 with 19 homers and 88 RBIs. The 27-year-old slugged consistently all year and led the Pacific Coast League with 42 doubles. Taijeron's 66 extra-base hits were tied for sixth among all Minor Leaguers in 2016.

Ricardo Cespedes, Kingsport (56 games): Signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Cespedes had a stellar 2016 for Kingsport. In 56 games for the K-Mets, the left-handed hitter slashed .322/.356/.379 with one roundtripper and 16 RBIs.

Just 18 for most of this season, Cespedes showed tremendous improvement at the plate from 2015 when he played 44 games with the GCL Mets. After such an encouraging season in Kingsport, there's a good chance the Mets' No. 23 prospect is the starting center fielder for Class A Columbia in 2017.

Utility player -- Gavin Cecchini, Las Vegas (117 games), New York (four games): Cecchini built on a great 2015 campaign at Double-A with an even better season with Las Vegas in 2016. In 117 games the Louisiana native only struck out 55 times and put together a slash line of .325/.390/.448 with eight homers and 55 RBIs.

Cechinni's consistent performance earned him a September callup to Queens, where he went 2-for-6 with two doubles and two RBIs in four games.

Left-handed starter -- P.J. Conlon, Columbia (12 games), St. Lucie (12 games): The Belfast-born southpaw was lights-out for the first two months of the season with Class A Columbia. In 12 appearances for the Fireflies, Conlon only allowed three or more runs in an outing twice and held opponents off the board in four starts. His best moment of the campaign came June 4 when the 23-year-old hurled 10 scoreless frames in a game his team ended up losing in 12 innings.

Conlon carried that momentum to St. Lucie where, he pitched to a sparkling 1.41 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 63 2/3 innings.

Right-handed starter -- Harol Gonzalez, Brooklyn (14 games): Just about every part of Gonzalez's stat line for Class A Short Season Brooklyn in 2016 jumps out at first glance. In 85 innings the 21-year-old struck out 88 batters and walked 17 while posting a 2.01 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. Gonzalez was also able to keep the ball in the yard for Brooklyn, allowing only two homers all season.

"He's always been a guy that's had a good feel for pitching," Morgan said. "What we started to see this year was him putting together the command with his mentality. He's very smart and cerebral, so he's able to get a feel for what the opposing team is trying to do and adjust accordingly. He came into his own and began understanding himself and executed this season."

The Dominican Republic native put together his best stretch from July 14 to August 26 when he allowed just three earned runs over 46 2/3 innings.

More Organization All-Stars

Relief pitcher -- Corey Taylor, St. Lucie (45 games): In his first professional season in 2015, Taylor didn't get a single save opportunity in 18 appearances for Brooklyn. This seasoon, Taylor led all Mets' Minor Leaguers with 20 saves in 23 opportunities.

A lot of the 23-year-old's success stemmed from his ability to avoid giving up home runs. In 53 innings of work, Taylor only allowed one ball to leave the park and sported a 1.87 ERA with 45 strikeouts and 13 walks.

Michael Leboff is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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