Congratulations to both the World Champion Kansas City Royals and to the well-deserved, unexpected National League Champion New York Mets. I, as well as many, thought that the Royals were due for regression and that the Mets were a year or two away. Turns out alot of us were wrong.
One of the things that made the Royals such a great story this season was that they defied what has become the conventional wisdom for how a team is supposed to win. Their minor league system reflects that 2015 wasn’t a fluke, it is their philosophy of how to draft and develop prospects. Their offense ranked 24th in home runs (139), 29th in walks (ahead of only the Marlins with 383), and fifth in stolen bases (104), which is a stat that many sabermetricians disavow and devalue in today’s game.
Royals’ hurlers ranked 22nd in strikeouts (1,160), yet even without the Ks, the staff was tenth in ERA (3.73) and 13th in WHIP (1.28). When home runs and walks are eliminated, Kansas City was still 11th in both on-base percentage (.322) and slugging (.412), tenth in OPS (734) and third in batting average (.269). The end results were good enough to get it done; yet how they got there has to be considered unconventional.
What made the Mets such an interesting story was how they defied expectations throughout the season. Entering the regular season, most pundits knew the Mets had an abundance of young pitching, but so did the Nationals. We knew they would be able to eventually tap into the potential of their pitching, but it was supposed to be in 2016 and beyond.
We were impressed that the Mets were in the thick of the National League East race at the All-Star break, yet figured they would eventually fall back into the pack. At the trade deadline, they made an aggressive move to acquire Carlos Gomez to upgrade a futile offensive unit, bringing tears to the eyes of shortstop Wilmer Flores, who was to be sent to the Brewers in the deal, which was nixed due to a medical issue. When the failed deal appeared to be the end of their run, they turned around and made a last-minute trade with the Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes, who went on to carry the Mets to the NL East pennant with a herculean final two months, which gave long suffering Mets fans their first glimmer of postseason optimism.
The similarities between the rosters of these franchises are that they were both built primarily through the amateur draft and player development. Neither team was built through free agency or by throwing money around to acquire production. Both teams developed their draft picks and traded veterans in order to acquire more prospects, or used their prospects to acquire the pieces to make a run at a World Series title.
Royals’ Homegrown Players:
* 3B Mike Moustakas
* 1B Eric Hosmer
* C Salvador Perez
* OF Alex Gordon
* SP Yordano Ventura
* RP Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar, Danny Duffy, Greg Holland
Royals Trade Acquisitions:
* OF Lorenzo Cain and SS Alcides Escobar (via Zack Greinke trade)
* RP Wade Davis (via Wil Myers/James Shields trade)
* SP Jonny Cueto (via Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, Cody Reed trade)
* UT Ben Zobrist (via Sean Manaea and Aaron Brooks trade)
Mets Homegrown Players:
* 3B David Wright
* 2B Daniel Murphy
* 1B/OF Lucas Duda
* SS Wilmer Flores
* OF Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares
* SP Jacob de’Grom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz,
* RP Jeurys Familia
Mets Trade Acquisitions:
* SP Noah Syndergaard and C Travis d’Arnaud (via R.A. Dickey trade)
* OF Yoenis Cespedes (via SP Michael Fullmer and Luis Cessa trade)
* 2B/SS Dilson Herrera (via Marlon Byrd trade)
* SP Zach Wheeler (via OF Carlos Beltran trade. Missed 2015 with Tommy John Surgery)
How will the repercussions of these moves impact Fantasy teams? We know that neither the Mets nor the Royals will wantonly spend money this offseason (the Mets could add a big piece but that is unlikely, and we know the Royals won’t be in on the high-priced free agents). It means that their futures are in their minor leagues, either as trade assets or as major league contributors. The Mets and the Royals are going to have to make do with their prospects going forward and that means giving opportunities to players that will have an impact on our Fantasy teams.
Let’s look at both team’s prospects and see how they look going forward:
New York Mets
If it’s possible to have too much young pitching, then the Mets are guilty as charged. With Wheeler returning from Tommy John surgery (is it a rite of passage for Mets pitchers to have Tommy John surgery? Four of their projected 2016 starters and two of their relievers have had the surgery), the Mets have five starting pitchers that could strike out 180 batters or more in a full season. Two hundred strikeouts each isn’t out of the question and would be an incredible accomplishment for a single staff if they all were to reach their potential ceilings. The bullpen should be improved with Familia’s emergence and Jenrry Mejia eventually returning from (you guessed it) Tommy John surgery. The club is likely to lose Murphy and Cespedes to free agency, and Wright isn’t the All-Star he once was. The one thing that was made abundantly clear in the World Series was that this team struggles defensively, especially up the middle.
So what do the Mets have in store and how will it help Fantasy teams?
*OF Michael Conforto: 56 G, 174 ABs
He had nine home runs while batting .270 in 56 games, which probably excludes him from accurately being called a prospect, but to me he deserves mention here. After his seasoning this year and with a full-time job and 500 at-bats a strong possibility in 2016, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that we see 20 home runs with a respectable batting average from Conforto.
*SP Steven Matz: 6 GS, 35.1 IP
The Mets won’t have to baby Matz, but because of his injury history you can expect them to limit him to less than 200 innings, and with their abundance of pitching it shouldn’t be difficult for the Mets to do it. He has strikeout per inning ability, so it isn’t inconceivable that we see 170 strikeouts and 180-185 innings.
*2B/SS Dilson Herrera: 31 G, 91 AB, 3 HR, 2 SB
Herrera profiles a lot like what you saw from Murphy: a player with the potential for double-digit home runs and 10-15 steals, but he’s also a player that will struggle defensively, which could put his playing time in jeopardy. Ahmed Rosario, Gavin Cecchini and Wilmer Flores are all shortstops, but with Herrera’s defensive limitations he may have to fend them off to ensure full time at-bats.
*OF Brandon Nimmo: 2015- 269 AB Double A, 91 AB Triple A
Nimmo doesn’t profile well as a Fantasy player, but he makes consistent contact and he can defend in centerfield, which could lead to significant major league at-bats. It would be a surprise if he reaches double-digits in either home runs and/or stolen bases, but it won’t be a shock to see at least 300 plate appearances if the Mets don’t add an impact outfielder via free agency,
Kansas City Royals
The Royals are unlikely to re-sign Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist, Alex Gordon and Alex Rios, and while they have affordable club options that they are likely to exercise, they could let Alcides Escobar and Wade Davis hit free agency too. The Royals’ starting rotation is filled with opportunities for prospects with Jason Vargas out due to the Tommy John virus and Cueto’s potential departure, but they don’t have the prospects to take advantage of those opportunities. They traded John Lamb and Brandon Finnegan for Cueto to make their World Series run, and while both profile better as relievers, they would have likely been in the Royals’ starting rotation next spring.
Here are the prospects that could earn opportunities for the Royals next season, one short on names and even shorter on upside.
SS Raul Mondesi Jr.: 2015 – 81 games Double-A
Scouts love the athleticism but they can’t honestly be excited about the performance at any level of his development so far. Mondesi is an athletic kid that doesn’t hit for much power, doesn’t blaze around the bases like Billy Hamilton and he struggles to make consistent contact or get on base. He is a career .246 hitter with an OBP of .293. He needs more at-bats at both Double-A and Triple-A, but Fantasy owners could see him in Kansas City by the All-Star break. There will be a lot of buzz about the son of former Dodgers All-Star Raul Mondesi, but don’t be fooled, the Fantasy production won’t be there. He is still only 20 years old, but for now the weaknesses are too glaring to get excited about for 2016.
Coming in to 2015, many of us thought the Royals were due for regression, but for 2016 their losses and lack of adequate prospects to replace them is a major challenge for general manager Dayton Moore. The Mets are loaded on the mound but could face the same issues at the plate that they did in 2015, unless they make a significant splash in free agency. The free agent outfield market is deep and the Mets have available spots, so this offseason could be the perfect storm for them to make a meaningful move at an affordable price, which could eliminate Nimmo as a possible contributor. The minor league system doesn’t have the bats to allow them to stand pat and build from within, but it doesn’t mean they won’t. Mets fans are likely to be in for the same kind of frustrating offseason that they have come to expect and the lack of offensive prospects in their system could mean that the 2015 world series run was the exception and not the rule.