If the Mets can pull it off — again — they just might have won another draft.
Like last year, the Mets began Day Two of the MLB Draft on with a big, bold move Thursday, this time using their second-round pick on Mississippi State righthander J.T. Ginn. He was considered a potential first-round talent before he had Tommy John surgery in March.
That was the first hint at a strategy that by the end of the night became clear as they broke out the blueprint from 2019: Aim for players with huge upside early on, and whatever happens after that is OK.
“We had the opportunity again to be very aggressive in targeting players that, frankly, sat among the top players on our overall draft board,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “I don’t think we could have possibly imagined that type of talent would be coming into the organization with a five-round draft.”
Tommy Tanous, senior adviser of amateur scouting, said: “To get these deals done the last two years is a weapon.” The Mets expect to sign all of their draftees.
The Mets followed up by selecting Southern California high school centerfielder Isaiah Greene with the 69th pick, which they received as compensation for losing Zack Wheeler in free agency. Baseball America ranked him as the No. 48 player available.
To round out the abbreviated five-round draft, the Mets chose a trio of lower-rated college players: San Diego State shortstop Anthony Walters in the third (91st overall), Arizona catcher/utility player Matthew Dyer in the fourth (120th overall) and New Orleans righthander Eric Orze in the fifth (150th overall).
Orze missed part of 2018 and all of 2019 fighting testicular and skin cancer.
“This is a kid that will not quit,” Tanous said.
The Mets’ next task is signing Ginn (and the others). Doing so is not a given. Two years ago, the Dodgers picked him 30th overall and offered him a reported $2.4 million signing bonus, but he said no thank you and went to college.
Now, as a draft-eligible sophomore, Ginn, 21, still has leverage. If the Mets don’t meet his asking price, he can bet on himself again, go back to Mississippi State for his junior year and take his chances in the 2021 draft.
The recommended signing bonus for the No. 52 pick, Ginn’s spot, is about $1.4 million. Per MLB rules, the Mets are allowed to spend $7.533 million combined on their six draft choices without losing future picks. If they give Ginn more than $1.4 million — “over slot,” in draft jargon — they will need to go “under slot” with others.
Their second-half choices should give the Mets that chance. Walters, Dyer and Orze were all selected far earlier than various predraft rankings would have suggested, meaning they might be in line for smaller signing bonuses.
The Mets deployed that strategy last year in Van Wagenen’s first draft. They snagged Matthew Allan, another potential first-round talent, in the third round and gave him a big bonus after saving money on the draftees behind him, a bunch of college seniors.
Van Wagenen expects to sign Ginn and the others.
“We recognize that he’s a premium talent, and premium talent is going to require real investment in terms of dollars,” Van Wagenen said.
For Ginn, 6-2 and 200 pounds, the amateur pedigree is very much there. He throws his fastball in the low-to-mid 90s, which pairs well with an above-average breaking ball and a changeup.
Marc Tramuta, director of amateur scouting, said Ginn would fit right in with the power pitchers already on the Mets’ major-league staff.
“He’s got all of the qualities of being a top-of-the-rotation guy,” Tanous said.
After denying the Dodgers in 2018, Ginn earned national freshman of the year honors last spring. He had a 3.13 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 105 strikeouts (19 walks) in 86 1/3 innings.
Ginn pitched in one game this season before needing surgery.
Predraft Tommy John surgery has recent precedent, including the Yankees’ Clarke Schmidt. He was the No. 16 overall pick in 2017 and now is among their top prospects — and, in a normal 2020 season, likely would have reached the majors.
Among Mets who had Tommy John surgery at relatively early stages of their careers: Jacob deGrom (shortly after getting drafted in 2010), Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Wheeler and others.
“We’ve got a long and good track record of rehabbing players from Tommy John surgery and developing them into major-league stars,” Van Wagenen said. “We think we have the infrastructure to help J.T. in his rehab.”
All of that left the Mets feeling awfully good about their draft — again.
“To get these deals done the last two years is a weapon,” Tanous said. “To be able to line up the best players is one thing, and I think as a staff we’re really good at that. To go and sign them, it’s a totally different thing.”
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