In their initial season as the Rumble Ponies, the Mets Double-A affiliate made a somewhat and surprising run to the Eastern League playoffs. Manager Luis Rojas will attempt to lead his team back to the postseason, but with a revamped coaching staff that sees Frank Viola take over as the pitching coach and Luis Rivera become the bench coach.
The roster features an interesting mix of highly drafted prospects and players who have made a name for themselves through their better than expected play on the field. This group will look to come together and win Binghamton’s first Eastern League championship since 2014:
Peter Alonso – Despite suffering a broken hand, the Mets 2016 second round pick slugged .524 and hit 18 homers in 93 games. For him to take the next step, he will need to improve his defense and perform better against right-handed pitching.
Andrew Ely – Mets acquired Ely in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. The glove first middle infielder hit .259/.356/.355 last year for the Cubs Double-A affiliate
Jhoan Urena – After struggling defensively at third, the Mets moved him to the outfield in the Instructional Leagues. It is an attempt to find a place for a potent bat that was good for .277/.358/.440 last season. He’s likely to see time at all four corner spots.
Jeff McNeil – Over the past few seasons, McNeil has dealt with injuries, but when he is on the field, he has been a productive player who has shown the ability to get on base. Even with the injuries, he managed to hit .295/.351/.432 in 48 games between Binghamton and Las Vegas.
Matt Oberste – While maintaining a good .351 OBP over the past two years in Binghamton, he has seen his slugging percentage drop in each of the last three seasons.
Wuilmer Becerra – Becerra was once seen as the hidden gem of the R.A. Dickey trade. However, with him not getting back to form after shoulder surgery, the Mets outrighted him from the 40 man roster. He now looks to rebound from a .267/.332/.335 season in St. Lucie.
John Mora – With his speed, he plays good defense at all three outfield positions. He will need to improve both his walk and stolen base success rate for him to better utilize his speed on the other side of the ball.
Champ Stuart – For the first time in his professional career, Stuart did not significantly improve when repeating a level. He has tremendous speed which has helped him be a plus defender, but he needs to being drawing walks to utilize that speed.
Tim Tebow – Last year, the legend was reborn as he homered in his first professional at-bat. There were not many that ensued as Tebow hit .226/.309/.347 in his first full season. It will be interesting to see if the crowds which followed him in Columbia and St. Lucie will follow him to Binghamton.
Patrick Biondi – It’s very possible that the speedy outfielder starts in Vegas but we had a hard time finding a spot for him on the roster there. Biondi has a good eye at the plate as evidenced by his 11.2% walk rate last year.
Patrick Mazeika – Mazeika’s bat profiles extremely well for a catcher, but he has not progressed to the point defensively where the Mets fully trust him behind the plate. An interesting note is Mazeika seems to hit for more power when playing first base than when he catches. Despite only slugging .416 overall last year, he slugged .568 in the 34 games Alonso was on the DL with the broken hand.
Tyler Moore – The backup catcher only has a .578 OPS across four seasons. In addition to his time behind the plate, he has also seen time at first and second base.
Marcos Molina – In his first season back from Tommy John, Molina pitched well enough to get himself added to the 40 man roster. If the takes the leap in 2018, he has an outside shot to make his Major League debut.
Mickey Jannis – Jannis seemed to figure out his knuckler in July finishing the season with a 2.68 ERA and 1.106 WHIP over his final eight games. He carried that success forward into the Arizona Fall League.
Ricky Knapp – After struggling most of last season in Vegas, he returned to Double-A to help the team with their postseason push. He did his part going 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA and 1.037 WHIP in four starts.
Andrew Church – In putting his disappointing 5.06 ERA last year into context, the then 22 year old was unlucky with a .326 BABIP and 66.1% of batters left on base. However, it is still troubling his strikeout rate dropped from a 7.3 K/9 in 2016 to a 5.6 K/9 last year.
Nabil Crismatt – With his excellent change-up, the Mets finally gave him an opportunity to start for a full season. After a brilliant May and June (1.51 ERA), he tired as the season progressed (5.80 ERA). The next step for him is to build the stamina to be able to pitch effectively for a full season.
Tyler Bashlor – Bashlor has tremendous stuff, and he made strides last year to harness it. He had a career best 15.2 K/9, and when he was called up to Binghamton late in the year, he had a 2.5 BB/9. If he wants to go through to Las Vegas and the majors, he will have to have his BB/9 closer to that mark than the 5.4 it was in St. Lucie last year.
Kelly Secrest – The left-handed reliever allowed left-handed batters to hit .260/.313/.384 off of him last year. That puts him in a somewhat precarious situation as there are other left-handed relievers ahead of him on the organizational depth chart who fared much better.
Gerson Bautista – With a fastball that reaches the triple digits, Bautista likely has the highest ceiling of the three relievers acquired in the Addison Reed trade. Albeit in an extremely small sample size, he cut down his BB/9 from 5.6 to 1.9 after joining the Mets organization.
Austin McGeorge – Intriguing right-hander who is adept at both keeping the ball on the ground (66.2% ground ball rate in 38 St. Lucie innings and only two homeruns allowed in his career) and striking batters out (11.7 K/9).
Adonis Uceta – Uceta was the breakout reliever in the Mets minor leagues posting a 1.51 ERA across three levels, and he did not yield an earned run for a three calendar month stretch.
Tim Peterson – Peterson was among a group of Mets prospects last year who were simply outstanding in the Arizona Fall League. He was no exception going 1-0 with a 0.87 ERA and 0.774 WHIP in seven appearances.
Daniel Zamora – Mets acquired from the Pirates for Josh Smoker earlier this year. He limited left-handed batters to a .232/.284/.261 batting line between the Florida State and Eastern Leagues last year.
David Roseboom – In 2016, Roseboom had a 1.87 ERA in Binghamton, and he followed that with a terrific run in the Arizona Fall League and the ensuing Spring Training. His 2017 season was cut short with a broken foot which needed to be surgically repaired. He did not appear in a MLB Spring Training game this year, which may be partially due to the Mets not wanting to rush him back.
From a non-prospect perspective the name that will put people in the seats here is obviously Tim Tebow, he should also give the Eastern League a nice attendance boost much like he did with the South Atlantic League and Florida State League last season.
The rest of the Rumble Ponies outfield is underwhelming in the sense that you have two guys in Becerra and Stuart that the Mets previously had high hopes for. Shoulder surgery has likely derailed the career of Becerra who was removed from the 40-man roster this offseason, and Stuart has done nothing to improve his plate discipline.
The obvious standout on offense will be first baseman Alonso. If he continues his progress against right-handed pitching and cleans up his defense a little, he could make it an interesting battle between him and Dominic Smith to see who the Mets first baseman of the future is.
Molina showed well last year in Binghamton on the stat sheet though his velocity still hasn’t made it’s way back following Tommy John surgery. Starting him in Double-A to work some things out before going to the Pacific Coast League could be beneficial. Crismatt is the likely No. 2 starter on this team given his upside over Jannis, Knapp and Church.
The one name you will notice that is missing from the rotation is Justin Dunn. We believe he will stay in warm Port St. Lucie to begin the season as he works on control of his secondary pitches.
Bullpen is going to be the strength with this team for sure and that’s without Matt Blackham who should probably start in Double-A but we ran out of room on the roster. The combination of Smith, Bashlor, Bautista and Uceta could be the best back-end of the bullpen in the all of Double-A baseball. Don’t expect those guys to be in Binghamton long.
L.J. Mazzilli is another name that could fit here though he’s likely only in the Mets organization still because of his last name. A large handful of these guys like Urena, Oberste, Biondi, McNeil, Bashlor, Peterson, Secrest, Jannis and Knapp could be ready for Triple-A to start the season though we had trouble find spots for them on the Vegas roster.
Each year, we do see many changes in the minor league rosters over the course of a season. That is especially true after the June draft. Looking at this Binghamton roster, between those who were squeezed out of a Triple-A roster spot, those who are repeating the level again, and some talented players who will begin the year in St. Lucie, we may see the roster in Binghamton be as fluid as we have seen in many years. That alone makes this team one to watch this season.