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Sandy Alderson’s fingerprints all over 2019 Mets roster

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Sandy Alderson exited with a mixed legacy as Mets general manager. He helped bring stability at the worst of the Wilpons’ Madoff crisis and forged rosters good enough to reach the playoffs in 2015-16, winning the NL pennant in 2015.

But he failed to make the good times last. Alderson’s free-agent gambles fizzled and he was unable to eradicate the negativity and dysfunction that so often swamps this organization. If that indeed starts at the top with ownership, perhaps no GM could consistently succeed.

As the latest to try, Brodie Van Wagenen has an unexpected asset — Alderson’s drafts are aging well.

Alderson, if anything, was criticized in real time for his drafts. But in the past two years, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil and now Pete Alonso have emerged. They join Michael Conforto to provide half of the Mets’ regular positional group.

Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and Tim Peterson are part of the bullpen, Luis Guillorme, Tomas Nido and Dom Smith part of the bench, and Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz are on the roster, in part, because the Mets had Jared Kelenic and Justin Dunn to trade.

Alderson deputized first Chad McDonald and Paul DePodesta, and then Tommy Tanous and later Marc Tramuta to run his drafts. Some thoughts to help assess how they did:

1. Drafts are important. Of the 882 players on Opening Day rosters (which includes those on the injured, suspended and restricted lists) 654 came via the draft (74.1 percent). Of those, 337 were picked from 2011-18 (Alderson’s term).

The most vital drafts to open 2019 were 2011-13 (243 players). This is not a perfect assessment because, as the years go by, the 2014-18 drafts will deliver more impact. This snapshot, though, provides insight to a feeder system so vital to putting affordable players on the roster and using tradeable players to acquire assets.

Only the Padres (18) had more players drafted from 2011-18 on opening rosters than the Mets, who were tied at 15 with the Cardinals, Blue Jays and Royals.

Brandon Nimmo
Brandon NimmoAnthony J. Causi

2. Perspective is needed. The Mets were routinely criticized for Alderson’s first draft (2011). Nimmo was picked 11th overall out of the baseball non-hotbed of Wyoming. It was regularly noted Jose Fernandez went next to the Marlins and Sonny Gray seven picks later to the A’s.

Who knows how Fernandez’s career/life would have transpired had the Mets taken him (he died in a boating accident in 2016)? Gray did not handle New York well as a Yankee. Nimmo did need time to make up for all the youth baseball he didn’t play. The Mets also took Michael Fulmer later in the first round. He was the key piece to acquire Yoenis Cespedes, who was central to the 2015 World Series run.

3. It is hard to get it right, and every team makes big mistakes. The Mets took Gavin Cechini 12th overall in 2012. Corey Seager went 18th. Between Cechini and Seager, the White Sox (Courtney Hawkins), Reds (Nick Travieso) and Blue Jays (D.J. Davis) tabbed players who never got above Double-A.

The Mets had two chances to take Blake Snell in 2011 and went with Nimmo/Fulmer. But even the Rays had four picks between 32 to 42 and did not take Snell until their fifth pick of the first round at 52.

4. The most important element is getting high picks right. The Cubs had a top-nine pick from 2011-14 and nailed it with Javier Baez (ninth), Albert Almora (sixth), Kris Bryant (second) and Kyle Schwarber (fourth). That helped them win a title. And also helped them be not particularly good after the top 10. They had just four other drafted players from 2011-17 on 2019 Opening Day rosters, the best of whom was Zack Godley.

The Giants had a major league-low six on rosters, the best of whom was Joe Panik, which helps explain why they were unable to perpetuate their 2010-14 mini-dyansty.

Pete Alonso
Pete AlonsoAP

The Yankees had just nine. One was Aaron Judge, but the falloff after that is to Greg Bird or Jordan Montgomery or Jonathan Holder. Their strength has been building up the trade value of 2011-17 picks such as Cody Carroll, Dustin Fowler, James Kaprielian and Blake Rutherford.

Conversely, the Red Sox nailed the 2011 draft with Matt Barnes, Blake Swihart, Jackie Bradley and Mookie Betts, who were part of last year’s champions, plus Travis Shaw, a key to the NL Central champ Brewers.

The Mets from 2011-17 drafted better than any other NL East team — their greater failures have been internationally, trades and especially with free agency. The drafts, though, created a framework from which Van Wagenen has reloaded rather than rebuilt.

The baton pass is similar to when Alderson took over. The public belief was that Omar Minaya had left the cupboard bare. But Alderson inherited Jacob deGrom, Lucas Duda, Dillon Gee, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Daniel Murphy, Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell from Minaya’s drafts plus amateur Latin signees Jeurys Familia, Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares and Ruben Tejada. That formed the core of the 2015 NL champs.

Will Van Wagenen have similar success with what Alderson left behind?

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