Mets vs. Braves: Outfield Prospects

Nimmo has upside but some question marks too

Continuing our comparisons between the Braves and Mets farm systems, we take a look at the crop of outfield prospects in each system. Which system is deeper? Which prospects have the most power? The highest ceilings? Take a look at this comparison between the two rival NL East farm systems.

The Two Farm Systems: Neither farm system is flush with a solid stable of rock-solid outfield prospects but that is especially the case with the Atlanta Braves, which is probably why they went so hard after the Upton brothers this offseason.

The top outfield prospects for the Braves -- Evan Gattis and Matt Lipka -- both have long-term question marks and for completely different reasons. Gattis, a catcher by trade, has arguably the highest offensive ceiling of any outfield prospect between the two organizations after hitting a combined .305 with 20 doubles and 18 home runs in just 272 combined at-bats over three minor league levels last season. Defensively, however, he projects to be average at best in left field since he has little range, a trait of most slugging types. Think Josh Willingham for a good big league comparison

Lipka, Atlanta's first round selection in 20120, is nearly the polar opposite. The former shortstop has turned himself into a potential impact defensive centerfielder. He has great speed, advanced plate discipline that should help him become a good hitter for average someday, and he has some power too. However, like Gattis he has hit a rough stretch health-wise after missing a good portion of the season last year with hamstring problems.

Beyond those two though, the Braves have a collection of potential big league reserve outfielder or organizational player types, the most big league ready of which is Todd Cunningham. The second round pick in 2010 is a switch-hitter with good plate discipline who can really hit and he shows above average speed, but his power is very limited and that does not bode well for potential big league starting opportunities even though he is Double-A tested.

After Cunningham the Braves have a long list of more organizational type players who could possibly break through into potential big league reserve duties someday but each has a significant question mark to reach even that kind of ceiling, including the likes of Robby Hefflinger, Adam Milligan, David Rohm, Matt Weaver, Todd Mueller, and Will Skinner.

It's not as if the Mets have a greater collection of high-end outfield talent of their own either, but what they do have is a bit more depth of potential impact talent if things break right. The top outfield prospect for New York is years away from being big league ready and that's Brandon Nimmo, the Mets' first round pick in 2011 out of high school in Wyoming. He hit .249 with 28 extra-base hits in just 69 games last year for short-season Brooklyn and the left-handed hitter has the potential to add more power as he continues to fill out. However, a centerfielder right now, there is some thought that he's a bit of a 'tweener' currently, one who might have to shift to a corner spot in the coming years and if that's the case the power is really going to have come a lot more.

The Mets do have some quality outfield prospects who are close to being big league ready in the form of Matt den Dekker and Cory Vaughn, two completely different players. den Dekker, a fifth round pick out of the University of Florida in 2010, has all of the physical tools to be an impact player; above average power potential, above average speed, and plus defensive abilities in centerfield. However, with 154 strikeouts between Double-A and Triple-A last season, he needs to show a lot more consistency in the contact hitting department. He has the look of reserve outfielder for now until he can be more consistent in the batter's box.

Vaughn, the son of former big league slugger Greg Vaughn, has his father's power potential. In fact, he's right up there with Atlanta's Evan Gattis when it comes to pure power, especially after hitting 23 home runs in the pitching friendly Florida State League last season. He can run too, swiping 21 bases last year, and he shows great patience at the plate. However, like den Dekker, he's prone to striking out a bit too much [114 times last season] so he needs to work on that and hit for higher averages overall.

Like the Braves, the Mets have a collection of more organizational types in the outfield right now, including Travis Taijeron, Pedro Zapata, Raul Reyes, Eudy Pina, Stefan Sabol, etc, but where New York differs is that some of their current organizational types do have realistic big league ceilings if things break right, highlighted by the trio of Juan Lagares, Darrell Ceciliani, and Alonzo Harris.

All three have above average speed, perhaps even plus speed in the case of Ceciliani and Harris, above average to plus defensive abilities, and they are consistent hitters, but all three, like Atlanta's Todd Cunningham, have limited power potential that will most likely keep them out of big league starting outfield discussions. Harris could be the lone exception though after hitting eight home runs last year in high-A St. Lucie. His game appears to be peaking so he is the wild card of the bunch.

The Mets have two other big-time wild cards in Cesar Puello and Gilbert Gomez, neither of which has come close to tapping their immense ceilings but both are also reaching critical points in their careers as to whether or not they will actually begin producing like their talent suggests they should.

Puello in particular has the above average power potential, the above average speed, the above average defensive abilities and the potential to be a consistent hitter for average to perhaps be an everyday big league outfielder, but a slew of injuries over the years and his over-aggressive offensive approach has his game somewhat stalling right now.

Gomez, a Dominican native like Puello, has a similar impact type ceiling but the soon to be 21-year old just has not produced enough on the field after hitting just .253 with two home runs for the two A-ball clubs last season.

Atlanta's Felix Marte falls into the the Puello-Gomez category of a toolsy player who simply has not been consistent enough over the years to break through into the high-end category of outfield prospects just yet. The now 22-year old has shown an ability to hit for power at the lower minor league levels but the fact is he's about to enter his sixth minor league season and he has yet to have any tangible production in the long-season leagues.

Both organizations have some long-term, high upside potential outfielders at the rookie minor league levels worth tracking in the coming years; New York's Vincent Lupo and Atlanta's Connor Lien and Justin Black. Lien and Black are just teenagers drafted last year, neither produced much in the Gulf Coast League, but both have above average speed, long-term hitting ability, and the body types that suggest power should come in due time.

Lupo on the other hand, a Venezuelan native, has shown he can do it all in the Dominican Summer League last year, hitting .343 with 31 extra-base hits in just 65 games, showing great plate discipline and above average speed, but it remains to be seen how he'll react the steady diet of quality secondary pitches he will most surely see once he comes States-side in 2013.

How Do They Compare In...

Power: Atlanta's Evan Gattis and New York's Cory Vaughn essentially cancel each other out power-wise and that's bad news for the Braves because they can't come close to matching the likes of den Dekker, Puello, Nimmo, and even Dustin Lawley in the power department. New York has too much depth here. Advantage: Mets

Hitting For Average: This is where Atlanta, despite their lack of depth, has an edge. Gattis can flat-out hit and so can Todd Cunningham, and Matt Lipka with his great plate discipline should be right up there in due time. Where the Mets struggle offensively in the outfield is in their collective consistency. Advantage: Braves

Defense: Lipka and Cunningham have great defensive potential but Gattis is a question mark, and the Mets can stroll out the likes of Matt den Dekker, Juan Lagares, Cory Vaughn, Cesar Puello, Gilbert Gomez, Darrell Ceciliani, Alonzo Harris, etc, etc, etc, all of whom are at least above average defensively. Advantage: Mets

Speed: Again, New York has too much depth here. Lipka can really fly and Cunningham can run too, but even Atlanta's organizational type outfielders have better power than speed. The Mets on the other hand have a better collection of speedsters, including den Dekker, Ceciliani, Lagares, Harris, etc, etc. Advantage: Mets

Overall Potential: Evan Gattis could and really should be the gem of the bunch between the two organizations but behind him there's just not enough depth here. Lipka has a very high ceiling too but so do a lot of the Mets' outfield prospects. Whether it's den Dekker, Ceciliani, Vaughn, Harris, Nimmo, or even Lupo [who won't qualify for the categories below just yet] who has yet to come the States, the Mets have the much better depth and therefore the best chance for potential. Advantage: Mets

Highest Ceilings: Evan Gattis (Braves), Cory Vaughn (Mets), Cesar Puello (Mets), Brandon Nimmo (Mets), Matt Lipka (Braves)

Best Power: Evan Gattis (Braves), Cory Vaughn (Mets), Cesar Puello (Mets), Matt den Dekker (Mets), Brandon Nimmo (Mets)

Best Average: Evan Gattis (Braves), Todd Cunningham (Braves), Matt Lipka (Braves), Brandon Nimmo (Mets), Juan Lagares (Mets)

Best Defense: Matt den Dekker (Mets), Matt Lipka (Braves), Cesar Puello (Mets), Juan Lagares (Mets), Darrell Ceciliani (Mets)

Best Speed: Matt Lipka (Braves), Darrell Ceciliani (Mets), Cesar Puello (Mets), Alonzo Harris (Mets), Todd Cunningham (Braves)

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