NEW YORK -- Ever since the Mets revamped their front office and scouting staffs after the 2010 season, they have obsessed themselves with improving their farm system. By most measures, it has worked. Though general manager Sandy Alderson and his scouting team inherited one blue-chip prospect in Matt Harvey, they also made significant trade acquisitions in Zack Wheeler, Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard to supplement their first three Draft hauls.
Now, they are beginning to receive national accolades for their improvements. Over the past two weeks, MLB.com rolled out Top 10 Prospect lists for every position on the diamond. The Mets had an entrant on five of the eight lists.
On Thursday, MLB.com revealed its annual Top 100 Prospects list, and the Mets had three representatives. The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLBPipeline.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2014.
Here's a rundown of the three Mets who made MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list, as well as two others who made positional Top 10 lists:
Syndergaard: No. 11 overall; No. 3 RHP
When the Mets landed Syndergaard last winter in the seven-player deal that made R.A. Dickey a Blue Jay, they knew they were acquiring someone with top-of-the-rotation potential. They also knew that without any experience at the upper levels of the Minors, Syndergaard was as much at risk of flaming out as any other young phenom.
In 2013, Syndergaard gained that experience, breezing through his first taste of Double-A. Now he's a half-season away from breaking into the big leagues, like Wheeler before him and Harvey before him. Syndergaard possesses every bit as much potential as both of them, with an upper-90s fastball, a hammer curve and a developing changeup. Mets fans have already graced him with the nickname "Thor," thanks to the costume he wore last Halloween. Superhero or not, Syndergaard ranked third on MLB.com's list of the top right-handed pitchers in baseball, behind only Archie Bradley of the D-backs and Taijuan Walker of the Mariners.
d'Arnaud: No. 22 overall; No. 1 C
Even casual Mets fans know all about d'Arnaud, the centerpiece of last winter's Dickey deal. Had d'Arnaud been healthy in either 2012 or '13, he would have logged more than enough big league innings to graduate from MLB.com's prospect lists.
As it was, d'Arnaud tore up his knee two summers ago and broke his left foot last April, sidelining him for much of each season. That may have stunted his development, but it did nothing to dissuade MLB.com from crowning him the game's top catching prospect yet again, just ahead of Padres backstop Austin Hedges. d'Arnaud has "a chance to be an outstanding offensive player with the ability to hit for average and power," according to the catcher rankings, and "is not a slouch behind the plate, either, with more than enough catch-and-throw skills to be an everyday player."
"All d'Arnaud needs," the scouting report concludes, "is health."
Rafael Montero: No. 85 overall; unranked on RHP list
Scouts are still split over whether Montero has the tools -- namely, the physical presence and the secondary pitches -- to remain a starter. But as long as he continues posting standout numbers, the Mets aren't going to change a thing.
Even super-hitter-friendly Triple-A Las Vegas hardly slowed down Montero, who managed a 3.05 ERA in 88 2/3 innings there last summer, with 78 strikeouts and 25 walks. Tack those numbers on to the 2.43 ERA, 72 whiffs and 10 walks he posted at Double-A Binghamton, and it's clear Montero is close to making a Major League impact.
Montero will ostensibly compete for the fifth-starter's job this spring alongside John Lannan, Jenrry Mejia and Jacob deGrom. But the Mets might prefer to see him head back to Vegas for a bit more seasoning, before what should be a big league debut at some point in 2014.
Dominic Smith: Unranked on Top 100; No. 2 1B
It speaks to Smith's potential that he clocked in second on MLB.com's first-base rankings despite only one half-season in pro ball. Many of the other first basemen on the list are years older than Smith, an 18-year-old graduate of Serra High School in Gardena, Calif.
While that means Smith might not reach Flushing until late 2016 at the earliest, it also indicates that the Mets will like the finished product. Smith boasts the ability to hit for both power and average, and he is a slick fielder to boot. His first full pro season is on tap this summer; if Smith makes a strong showing, he could rocket onto MLB.com's Top 100 list at this time next year.
Wilmer Flores: Unranked on Top 100; No. 10 2B
First a shortstop, then a third baseman, now a second baseman. That's been the progression of Flores, whose ability to man the keystone long term remains a point of contention among scouts.
No matter. Flores held his own there last summer, and with David Wright signed through 2020, second base is now Flores' most obvious long-term landing spot (the Mets have made it clear they have no plans to convert him to the outfield anytime soon). There's still a decent chance the team could look to trade Flores, but a successful transition to second would only increase his value.
Offensively, Flores began realizing his long-untapped potential with an 18-homer season in 2012, following it up with an .887 OPS over 107 games last summer at Vegas. Because Daniel Murphy is blocking him at second and the Mets want him to continue developing anyway, Flores is a strong bet to be back in Vegas come Opening Day. But he is also only an injury away from playing a major role with the Mets.