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Mets' aggressive drafting helps restock farm system

Mississippi State pitcher JT Ginn throws during the

Mississippi State pitcher JT Ginn throws during the first inning of an SEC Tournament game against LSU on May 24, 2019, in Hoover, Ala. Credit: AP/Butch Dill

One early hallmark of Brodie Van Wagenen’s tenure as Mets general manager has been a willingness to trade prospects to try to improve the major-league team.

He gave up Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to bring in Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano. Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson got shipped out for Marcus Stroman.

That has left the Mets with a dearth of talent in the upper minors.

Part of his thinking in making those moves, Van Wagenen said Tuesday, was to help refill the prospect pipeline with the aggressive strategy seen in his first two drafts.

“We’d given some thought to it even before we made the trades,” Van Wagenen said. “It’s not easy to trade away prospects and high draft picks that were brought into the organization in recent years, but in order to do it, we had to have some foresight in what we wanted to accomplish in each of these last two drafts.”

The Mets closed the book on their 2020 class Monday when they signed second-round righthander J.T. Ginn. He was a potential first-rounder who fell because of Tommy John surgery. The Mets liked him so much that they met his demands with a $2.9 million signing bonus — more than double what is recommended for the No. 52 overall pick.

With Ginn, first-round centerfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong and third-round centerfielder Isaiah Greene, the Mets landed three of the top 30 players on their draft board.

Van Wagenen said that was the case last year, too, when they selected third baseman Brett Baty and righthanders Josh Wolf and Matthew Allan. Allan was the question mark — another potential first-rounder who fell due to money demands and his perceived desire to go to college — but the Mets reeled him in with a huge bonus.

In both years, the Mets sacrificed later picks by choosing lower-rated players and signing them to smaller bonuses, pushing the extra money toward Ginn and Allan.

“Be as creative as possible to not necessarily have to stay in a particular lane with draft picks but look more at a portfolio approach,” Van Wagenen said. “How can we really move the needle by impacting the top of the organizational prospect system?”

Now it will be a matter of developing these players into major-leaguers. That is much more difficult this year without a minor-league season because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Mets’ player development staff, led by Jared Banner, is trying to help minor leaguers as much as possible via video chatting and data sharing.

“This is not a time when anybody is sitting on their hands,” Van Wagenen said.

But there is no replacing all of the missed reps. That is true for all farm systems, not just the Mets.

“You can practice all you want, you can watch all the videos you want, but until you compete with somebody one on one, it’s a different adrenaline,” said Omar Minaya, a special assistant to the GM. “That’s just the way it is. But we have to do the best we can.”

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