The New York Mets have certainly improved their future outlook with a series of strong selling trades at the deadline. The decision to part with co-aces Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander has netted some impressive prospects for the organization, including second baseman LuisAngel Acuna and outfielder Drew Gilbert. One of the players with the highest ceilings, outfielder Ryan Clifford, came over in the Verlander trade and is the focus of this week’s edition of Minor League Mondays.
Clifford, 20, was an 11th-round pick of the Houston Astros in 2022 out of the Pro5 Academy in Apex, North Carolina. Houston offered Clifford a signing bonus worth over $1.1 million to forego his commitment to Vanderbilt and turn pro, a sign that they had tremendous faith in Clifford’s potential. Things started out strongly for Clifford this season as he hit .337 with two homers and 15 RBIs in 25 games for Low-A Fayetteville, earning a promotion to High-A Asheville. Clifford continued to hit well for Asheville, batting .271 with 16 homers and 46 RBIs in 58 games before being shipped with Gilbert to the Mets in the Verlander deal.
The Mets opted to keep Clifford in High-A with the Brooklyn Cyclones and he has flashed some pop, hitting another five homers and driving in 16 runs in his 27 games in the organization. The batting average has lagged a bit behind for Clifford, who is hitting .190 in 100 at bats, ut he has posted a strong .317 on base percentage for the Cyclones. The power that Clifford has displayed thus far is prodigious as he has hit some towering bombs for Brooklyn, including a three-run bomb for the Cyclones yesterday.
Scouts avre very high on Clifford, who is currently rated as the Mets’ sixth-best prospect by MLB.com, with some believing he has the highest ceiling in the entire farm system. A classic hitter who focuses on working the count and making hard contact, Clifford projects as a corner outfielder or first baseman with legitimate middle-of-the-order power when he reaches his full potential. Those types of players don’t grow on trees so the Mets will let Clifford take all the time he needs to develop.
The optimal approach for Clifford would be to let him finish this year with Brooklyn in the hopes he heats up down the stretch. 2024 will likely see him either repeat Brooklyn or get bumped to AA Binghamton, which would explain why MLB Pipeline has his ETA for the majors at 2026. Clifford is a bit behind the other prospects the Mets acquired in his development cycle but he has a chance to exceed all of them if his power tools come together to produce a major-league slugger.