Birth of Generation K
Full list of 1991 Mets draft picks
Today’s Mets have a clear surplus of talented young pitchers. With Matt Harvey returning from Tommy John surgery, Jacob deGrom coming off a Rookie of the Year season, Noah Syndergaard making his MLB debut tonight, and Steven Matz not far behind, the future looks bright. And that’s without even considering Zack Wheeler, who should be back on this list sometime next year after he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Hot young pitching is nothing new for the Mets, but neither is heartbreaking disappointment for Mets fans. Case in point: Generation K.
The Mets were a complete disaster in the early ’90s. One after another, big-name free agents failed to deliver anything but embarrassing headlines. The only hope for Mets fans came in the form of the 1991 draft class, which contained pitchers Bobby Jones, Bill Pulsipher, and Jason Isringhausen. The “Worst Team Money Could Buy” Mets were terrible, but Generation K (Pulsipher and Isringhausen plus 1994 pick Paul Wilson) promised to turn things around and send the Mets back to the World Series.
Partially thanks to their increasing prevalence in MLB, MiLB, and unlicensed baseball card products, prospects were being hyped more than ever before. By 1994, autographs from every team’s top prospects had become commonplace. Pulsipher and Isringhausen had autographs in 1994 and 1995, but the most successful pitcher of the bunch for the Mets, Bobby Jones, would have to wait until 1996 for his first autographs. Rounding out this draft class is a trio of relative nobodies, Randy Curtis (shown in a Mets uniform but with the Padres), Jason Jacome (who actually spent time with the Mets), and Donny White (who signs as Donnie but is listed as Don on Baseball-Reference).
As luck would have it, the Mets would make it to the World Series with the help of someone from this draft class. But not anyone from Generation K. Bobby Jones couldn’t do it by himself though, so we’ll pick up the story in 1995.
Them’s the breaks
It didn’t take long for the season to start wearing down this team. While Daniel Murphy made it into the Opening Day lineup despite a spring training hamstring injury (which seemed to still be bothering him weeks later), a hamstring injury would put David Wright on the DL just a few games into the season. Eric Campbell should have been there to replace Wright, but the Mets were playing with a short bench and opted for Anthony Recker at third for one inning until Campbell could be recalled. Daniel Muno was then called up to make his major league debut as the backup to backup-turned-starter Campbell (and, inexplicably, as the ineffective DH in one game against the Yankees) before sanity took over and Daniel Murphy moved to third to make room for Dilson Herrera’s return. When fractures sent Jerry Blevins and Travis d’Arnaud to the DL, Kevin Plawecki and Hansel Robles were called up as replacements. Jack Leathersich also got a brief look in the pen before Johnny Monell was called up to back up the bench as the reserve roles remained in flux. And then the starting rotation got in on the action with Dillon Gee going on the DL with a groin injury, opening a door for Noah Syndergaard. In years past, the team might have tried to go day-to-day with a minor injury to a starter, but the combination of top MLB-ready pitching talent in AAA and a dwindling division lead made this a no-brainer.
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Lefty LOOGys, Righty Bats
Ignoring the shortstop position, the Mets were in the market for two types of players coming into the 2015 season: right-handed corner outfielders and left-handed relief pitchers. The former came together quickly in the form of Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry Jr., but the latter was looking a bit shaky as spring training entered its final week. Then, in the span of an afternoon, the Mets turned Matt den Dekker and Cory Mazzoni into lefties Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres. All three made the Opening Day roster, but early results are mixed. Gilmartin’s ability to get Freddie Freeman out though could be a big point in his favor.
Firsts, lasts, and everything in between
It’s hard to believe that it’s March already. And this piece is two months late… Between Topps and Panini releasing products right down to the wire, chasing down cards, and chasing down answers, it took me longer than expected to get this the way I wanted it. 2014 brought us the first cards, first autographs, and first memorabilia from the first Mets player to win the Rookie of the Year award in 30 years. It also brought us the last autograph card from the first person ever to wear a Mets uniform.
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The Prospect Boom Goes Bust
With all of the cards released across dozens of products in 2014, it can be hard to figure out what is worth collecting and what might as well be forgotten. What makes something essential? It’s a mix of collectibility, notability, and attainability. Popular brands/inserts and player debuts will dominate here, not big money low-numbered parallels or big stars. Just about everything mentioned here should still be fairly easy to find on the secondary market at reasonable prices.
2014 continued the Mets prospect autograph explosion that started in late 2013, but that fizzled out late in the year. While that meant lots of autographs for many top Mets prospects who had previously been overlooked, it was bad news for the Mets’ 2014 draft class, which is still waiting for its first autograph card from Topps.
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Panini 3, Leaf 1, Topps 0
Full list of 2014 Mets draft picks
With the 2014 product year now behind us, we can tally up the score for getting the year’s draft picks to sign autographs. Panini came out on top with Milton Ramos, Eudor Garcia, and Josh Prevost (the team’s round 3-5 picks) live in Elite Extra Edition and Michael Conforto only available as a redemption (or live on dual player autograph cards). Topps completely whiffed with no Mets autographs in 2014 Bowman Draft and a Michael Conforto redemption (supposedly signed as of 30 January 2015) in Bowman Sterling as their only 2014 autograph from a 2014 Mets pick. Leaf beat out Topps for the number 2 spot with the only live 2014 autographs from Michael Conforto in 2014 Leaf Metal Draft, 2014 Leaf Valiant, and 2014 Leaf Trinity. That makes a total of 0 MLB-licensed autograph cards from 2014 Mets picks issued live in all 2014 products. The dark days of Mets prospect autographs are once more upon us.
Six out of eleven ain’t bad
After drafting just five players with any baseball cards in 2013, the Mets came up big in 2014 with 11 of 39 picks having certified autograph cards. Most of these were from 2013 Leaf Perfect Game, which has asserted itself as the premier pre-pro product and should merit a look when it returns later this year. While the Mets did sign all of their picks in the first 20 rounds, most late-round high school picks declined to sign, taking away five players with 2013 Leaf Perfect Game autographs: Luke Bonfield, Tommy Pincin, Keaton McKinney, Jordan Hand, and Jonathan Teaney. McKinney and Hand also have various memorabilia cards, leaving top pick Michael Conforto as the only signed Mets pick from 2014 with memorabilia. The loss of nearly half of the potential autographs in this draft class is unfortunate, but the remainder still rates as the best-ever draft day autograph crop.
2013 Mets Draft Class Autographs
2012 Mets Draft Class Autographs
2011 Mets Draft Class Autographs
The Mets get less than you would expect but more than you think
Full list of 1992 Mets draft picks
Tonight’s big story is about the 6th overall pick in 1992. After a 20-year career, he will be walking off into the sunset, a sunset called Fenway Park. Yeah, I don’t get it either. In honor of the cream of the 1992 draft class crop, we’re taking a look back at the Mets’ picks in 1992. Those weren’t quite as creamy. Or much of anything else. Combined, all of the players drafted by the Mets in 1992 appeared in just eight games with the team. Only three made the majors with any club. And yet, the Mets’ 1992 draft was key in bringing another iconic player to New York.
The autographs for this draft class begin and end with Preston Wilson. The nephew / adopted son of fan-favorite Mookie Wilson, Preston had name recognition working for him in addition to his prospect status. With the big guy off the board three picks before the Mets made the first of their three first-round picks (they received two comp picks for the loss of Frank Viola), Wilson was a reasonable choice. Looking through the rest of the names in this draft, it becomes apparent that there just wasn’t much elite talent on the board.
So what of those other two first-round picks? Um, not much. With plenty of players who would at least prove useful over their careers still available, the Mets walked away with absolutely nothing. Of their remaining picks, the only one who became a star player (albeit briefly) was Darin Erstad, who didn’t sign with the Mets. The third pick that would reach the majors was 20th-rounder Allen McDill, who did so with the Royals and didn’t do much. Neither did the players he was traded for. The Mets weren’t alone in failing to sign a future star at least; the Padres failed with Todd Helton, who would go on to become a franchise player for the newly-created Colorado Rockies. Of the players who did sign, the only big stars the Mets passed on were Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi, who would both spend time as teammates of a certain someone on the Yankees.
Viewed on its own, it sure looks like the Mets made the worst of a mediocre draft class. Only 8 games in the majors for the entire bunch? It’s hard to do much worse than that. But things look a bit different when you realize why Preston Wilson’s Mets career ended after just 8 games. On May 22, 1998, after just two weeks in the majors, Wilson was the centerpiece in the trade that brought Mike Piazza to the Mets. Piazza would nearly take the Mets to the postseason in 1998 before signing a 7-year contract extension. With Piazza behind the plate, the Mets ended a decade-long playoff drought and made it as far as the World Series in 2000. He was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 2013 and should be enshrined in Cooperstown soon (well, he should be there already…). And that’s how Preston Wilson (plus $91 million) helped to make history in Queens.