Enough time has passed in the still young minor league season to start to look for meaning in the still relatively small sample sizes. Each Mets minor league affiliate has played roughly 15 games, with the total aggregate outcome roughly league average. The triple-A 51’s have played below .500 baseball, while the low-A Fireflies have played over .500. Both the double-A Rumble Ponies and high-A St. Lucie Mets have hovered around the .500 mark. Here’s a quick look at some story-lines to follow for individual performers on each club.
Las Vegas 51’s (AAA)
While the 51’s have predictably given up their share of runs, the pitching has been perhaps worse than anticipated. While Corey Oswalt and Chris Flexen have been okay, and continue to profile as back-end rotation depth, P.J. Conlon has struggled mightily early on as a starter, though he turned things around with 6 excellent innings in Albuquerque last night. A.J. Griffin is already released, and the 51’s will likely continue to struggle with newly signed pitchers out of the independent leagues.
More troubling for the Mets organization might be the starts that some of the young hitters have gotten off to. For the second year in a row, Phillip Evans has gotten off to a slow start hitting in the PCL, after enjoying an eye-opening big league Spring. Dominic Smith was drawing walks, but has cooled of late, and has his OPS down to an overall disappointing .800. Smith truly has nothing left to prove in terms of ability to hit PCL pitching, but will nonetheless have to prove to himself and Mets brass that he is mentally and physically ready to be counted on as an everyday big-leaguer. An uninspiring first couple of weeks hasn’t exactly pushed Sandy Alderson’s hands just yet.
Gavin Cecchini and Luis Guillorme also enjoyed solid Springs in big league camp, but have cooled considerably since the 51’s season began. With OPS’s running around .700 in the PCL, both will have to show consistent gap power and/or on-base skills, enough so to sport OPS’s closer to .800, to be considered a prospect to join the big league club.
David Thompson, 24, usually takes time to adjust to a new league, and his first taste of triple-A has been no different. Collectively, the 51’s are going to have to start putting up crooked numbers more consistently to win these PCL games, and the lineup is going to have to get more contributions from the above prospects. There is still plenty of season to go, and it should be interesting to see if any of these guys turn the corner.
Binghamton Rumble Ponies (AA)
The Rumble Ponies have a clear weakness, and that is the bulk of the everyday players. Take out Peter Alonso, and we’ll get to his rising star in a minute, and perhaps Patrick Mazeika, and you are left with a lineup full of non-prospects. Jhoan Urena has not continued his hitting prowess that he showed in his third go-round of the Florida State League last year, and would need a quick and significant turnaround to salvage any claim to prospectdom. Mazeika, who got off to a poor start, has heated up over the last week or so, has showed some power lately, and has actually drawn decent reviews for his improvement defensively behind the plate.
While Tim Tebow has also heated up lately to get his OPS to a surprisingly respectable .750 or so, he is largely panned as a non-prospect. John Mora, Kevin Taylor, Levi Michael et al. just are not going to move the needle. Too many games this April, the Binghamton offense has been exclusively the Peter Alonso show.
It is hard to believe how far Peter Alonso has come in just one year. At this point last season, Alonso was being overwhelmed by Florida State League pitching. Flash forward a year of utter dominance, as Alonso has obliterated minor league pitching since the end of last May, Alonso now find himself as one of the very best minor league bats in the Eastern League. With an OPS over 1.000, significant exposure to upper minors pitching has done nothing to cool him off. Alonso is drawing more walks, striking out less, compared to both earlier in his career and to what scouts largely anticipated, and continues to post elite exit velocities. Alonso is probably the largest success story out of the Mets farm this season, as despite his fringe defense at first base, Alonso is now considered a likely everyday player.
On the pitching side, the bullpen is where it’s at for these Rumble Ponies. Tyler Bashlor and Gerson Bautista lead the charge, but Austin McGeorge has also quietly been good out of the Ponies pen. Eric Hanhold has shown a big fastball and nice breaking ball out of the pen as well. Any of those names can continue to put their names firmly on the map by continuing their success.
St. Lucie Mets (A+)
The St. Lucie Mets everyday lineup is probably full of the most true prospects of any of the full season affiliates at this moment. Andres Giminez, 19, has continued to outperform his elders, with stea
dy defense and base running, and a knack for solid contact and gap power. Unfortunately, he was hit on the hand by a pitch a couple of nights ago, and has not returned to action yet. Speaking of injury to a top talent, Desmond Lindsay has split time between CF and DH, likely due to nursing a minor undisclosed injury, and has not showed an ability to hit for power. Granted the FSL is a very difficult hitters league, Lindsay is not hitting doubles either, and continues to both strikeout and walk a good bit. Power will have to come to some degree in order for Lindsay to fulfill his promise, as there have been mixed reports about his barrel control being suspect.
Luis Carpio, Michael Paez, Jacob Zanon, and Dash Winningham have been mediocre, while Ian Strom has excelled. While none of the above have a high ceiling, sustained success from any would be an interesting sign of positive development. Right now, Ian Strom definitely is deserving of that longer look.
Justin Dunn has been better this year thus far, but needs to continue to improve. His terrific stuff is intact, and if/when Dunn shows an ability to repeat his mechanics consistently, watch out. It is a good sign that Dunn is throwing hard and is healthy, as his year did end early last year with shoulder fatigue. While the rest of the St. Lucie rotation is unexciting, the bullpen has a few interesting arms, including Matt Blackham and Ryder Ryan. Both righties throw hard and feature breaking balls that flash plus. Both are having excellent starts to their year, and could really push the envelope for a mid-season promotion.
Columbia Fireflies (A)
Perhaps the most interesting collection of talent in the Mets organization currently resides in Columbia. Offensively, the lineup has received positive contributions from Edgardo Fermin, Walter Rasquin, Quinn Brodey, Blake Tiberi, and Jeremy Vasquez. The latter three are collegiate hitters doing what they should at low-A, but Vasquez, the 28th rounder from the 2017 draft, has been the most pleasant surprise, reaching base in all 18 of his starts, including showing good power. Fermin, only 19, has shown good speed and some additional ability to drive the ball as compared to last season.
Meanwhile, the starting staff is full of college arms that gave performed well. Tony Dibrell and Marcel Renteria have missed bats and looked much better than their brief debuts after being drafted last summer. Chris Viall has multiple double digit strikeout games already, and might be turning a corner with his control, and 1st rounder David Peterson and Anthony Kay have looked the part as well. It is a nice collection of arms that needs to be challenged at higher levels of the minor leagues.
Overall, it has been a solid month for the Mets minor league affiliates. With plenty of names to watch as the calendar turns to May and the weather gets warmer, we will know even more by the end of May, as the Mets will be on the precipice of adding a new influx of talent through the June Amateur Draft.