Prospects In Person: McLean, Clifford highlight High-A Mets prospects in Brooklyn

April 10, 2024

The Brooklyn Cyclones play in front of arguably one of the best backdrops in the minors, with the ballpark neatly tucked into Coney Island about a five-minute walk from the nearest subway station. They’ve also had a lengthy history of helping to produce some of the best prospects the Mets have had come through their roster since the franchise’s inception, so seeing some standouts on Joe Doyle’s FSS Mets Top 30 Prospects List there on Wednesday afternoon was no surprise.

Nolan McLean, RHP/DH (No. 14 Mets prospect)

Back when we first saw Nolan McLean, he was emerging as a legitimate two-way threat with the Dirtbags at the 2019 New Balance Baseball Future Stars Series national tournaments.

There was a buzz at the facility any time he’d either pitch or step up to the plate, and it’s fair to say that still hasn’t changed. McLean went on to star on both sides of the ball at Oklahoma State, and was first drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the third round in 2022, but he didn’t sign. One year later, and the New York Mets took him in the same round, and his pro career began.

While McLean is still hopeful that the two-way path will go as long possible in pro ball, most evaluators see his future ultimately being on the mound, and he flashed plenty of signs in that first start that he’ll have a future there. The 22-year-old righty needed 56 pitches to get through 3 1/3 innings on Wednesday, mostly using the same four-pitch mix he had in college, albeit with a slight variation to his slider and a still-work-in-progress changeup.

Listed at six-foot-two and 214 pounds, McLean relied mostly on a fastball/slider mix, with the former sitting between 94-96 miles per hour, and the latter at 84-88 MPH, with some variation between a tighter gyro and more new school sweeper mixed in with a cutter at 90 and curveball. He fielded his position as well as you’d expect for someone with his athleticism — he racked up two GIDP’s hit directly back to him — but lacked some of the strikeout stuff seen in college, when he was able to let it fly more as a reliever.

The adjustment to starting is still very much so ongoing for him, but once he’s able to refine some things, especially on the command side, there’s plenty of upside here that could carry him to a back end of the rotation-type big league role.

Again, more evaluators seem to see him as more of a bullpen arm moving forward, however, and it would be easier to see him slide into a high-leverage role there if that’s how it ended up going. In the meantime, this is the best way to both manage the two-way plan with more of an every fifth day routine, as well as get him consistent innings moving forward.

Ryan Clifford, OF/1B (No. 4 Mets prospect)

Clifford and Drew Gilbert were the prized acquisitions here in last year’s trade by the Mets that sent Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros. The overall package here is extremely easy to like with a six-foot-two, 200-pound left-handed bat with some plus tools that can play multiple positions.

However, Clifford struggled in Brooklyn last year and had some question an approach that saw him seeing a lot of pitches over being aggressive. That approach netted him three walks on Wednesday in five plate appearances, and he didn’t see much in the way of defensive chances in left field, so an evaluation of any kind on just that game would be difficult.

He was just one night removed from a home run that left the bat at 106.9 miles per hour with a 28 degree launch angle that traveled 402 feet in a notoriously pitcher-friendly ballpark, so this was more he simply wasn’t getting much to hit than anything else. He’ll be a priority to see again in a future trip.

Past McLean and Clifford? Brandon Sproat (11) and Calvin Ziegler (16) will also warrant visits to see in Brooklyn’s rotation. On Wednesday, perennial fringe top-30 prospect Stanley Consuegra popped as a plus defender in center field with two exceptional catches that showed significant range, while down-the-depth-chart catcher Drake Osborn impressed with his defensive prowess, showing a 2.05 in-game pop time on an early caught stealing, and some athleticism behind the plate in his blocking, particularly to his right, all day long.

Mike Ashmore
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