After enduring three straight losing seasons and a 2017 season that featured, by far, the worst record in franchise history (24-52), the Brooklyn Cyclones had a successful season in 2018. Despite just missing the playoffs with a 40-35 record, the three year losing streak was broken and there were several very impressive performances.
The 2018 Cyclones featured the best offense in the New York-Penn League as the team lead the league, in runs scored, batting average, OBP, and OPS, while also finishing second in slugging percentage, doubles and hits. The team’s strong offensive performance was fueled by impressive debut seasons from several recently drafted players, such as Ross Adolph and Carlos Cortes. Solid performances by returning players, such as Jose Medina, Walter Rasquin, and Wagner Lagrange also contributed to the league leading offense.
Of the previously mentioned players, Adolph’s season was, by far, the best, as well as the most surprising. Drafted in the 12th round with little to know fanfare, Adolph went on to lead the NYPL in triples, while also finishing in the top 3 in slugging and OPS. Adolph’s season was highlighted by a 36 game stretch from July 12 to August 27 during which he hit .317/.363/.599 with six home runs and eight triples. His excellent numbers, as well as better than expected scouting reports, have gotten him some attention in prospect circles as a player who could potentially contribute to the major league team in the future.
Cortes, a third round draft pick who received much more attention on draft day than Adolph, also showed some of his potential in his first professional season. Cortes signed a bit later than most of the other draft picks and didn’t get into a game until July 3. After a very slow start, he would turn it around in a big way hitting .294/.362/.441 over the final 27 games of the season. Despite being drafted as an outfielder, as well as a second baseman, Cortes played exclusively at 2nd base during his time with the Cyclones.
Returning to Brooklyn after a decent 2017 season, Medina improved in every category except for steals and even displayed some intriguing power. His five home runs were a career high and were almost equal to his career home run total (seven) heading into the season. While he has been in the system for a while, Medina is still quite young, recently turning 22, and still has time to develop into a fairly interesting prospect.
Unfortunately, not everything was positive for Brooklyn’s offense. Coming off a season in which he hit .305/.372/.455 and emerged as one of the best catching prospects in the Mets system, Juan Uriarte was expected to have a big year as the Cyclones starting catcher. However, in his first plate appearance, Uriarte fouled a ball off his leg and was removed from the game. He didn’t play again in 2018, making it a lost season for the talented 21-year old.
While Brooklyn’s offense was impressive, the team’s pitching staff featured several truly outstanding performances. As a whole, the Brooklyn pitching staff ranked second in the NYPL with a 3.21 ERA and ranked top 4 in the league in almost every major pitching category.
Throughout the 2018 season, the Cyclones’ clear ace pitcher was Jaison Vilera, whose incredible breakout season featured him leading the league in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. Vilera’s season was highlighted by an incredible July in which he had a 0.53 ERA, 0.743 WHIP, 10.4 K/9, and held batters to a .155/.218/.182 line. While there was some regression in August and September (3.58 ERA over his last 5 starts of the season), Vilera’s season definitely increased his prospect stock by a lot. For his career, through three minor league seasons, Vilera has an incredible 1.78 ERA .
If not for Vilera’s dominance of the NYPL, 20-year old righty Christian James likely would have gotten more attention for his breakout 2018 season. After making a couple of spot starts in Binghamton and St. Lucie, James was named the opening day starter for the Cyclones. Despite very pedestrian strikeout numbers (only 45 strikeouts in 71,2 innings pitched), James would end up with a 2.01 ERA that ranked 2nd in the NYPL.
Despite a comparatively unspectacular ERA of 3.86, Kyle Wilson was another starting pitcher that showed signs of his potential in 2018. Wilson struggled through his first few starts of the season, posting a 4.70 ERA through mid-July. However, he would follow this with the most dominant three start stretch of any Brooklyn pitcher in 2018: Over 17.0 innings pitched, Wilson allowed just a single earned run and had a 24:2 K:BB ratio. This stretch included a start in which Wilson struck out 10 batters over five no-hit innings. For the season, Wilson would lead Brooklyn starters in K/9, BB/9, and K:BB ratio, indicating that he may deserve more attention than he’s received so far.
The dominant performances didn’t end with the starting rotation; many Brooklyn relievers had huge years, as well. Two recent draft picks had K/9 over 15, 4th-rounder Adam Hill (15.3) and 5th-rounder Ryley Gilliam (16.1). Hill is generally expected to be a starting pitcher at first in the minors and was mostly used as a multi-inning reliever for the Cyclones. Gilliam was used in the more traditional single-inning closer’s role and is considered to be the most major league ready of any of the Mets 2018 draft picks. While the 6.8 BB/9 certainly needs work, Gilliam’s 41.9% K% ranked top 20 in the entire minor leagues among players with at least 15 innings pitched.
However, even with those outstanding strikeout numbers, it was recent 7th-round draft pick Kevin Smith who had the best season of any Brooklyn reliever. With a 0.76 ERA and 0.761 WHIP that both ranked in the top 10 among NYPL relievers, Smith showed that he is pitcher to keep an eye on as he moves into full season ball in 2019. Most interestingly is that, while Smith was mostly used as a reliever, eight out of his twelve appearances lasted 2.0 or more innings. It is unclear whether Smith will be used as a starter or reliever in 2019, but it is clear that he opened some eyes with his performance in 2018.
For the first time in several years, the Brooklyn Cyclones had an exciting team featuring multiple players who would emerge as legitimate prospects. Even with the team falling just out of the playoffs, one can argue that the Cyclones were better than their record would indicate, considering they were among the top teams in the league on both offense and defense and their Pythagorean Win-Loss record was 45-30. Most of the top performers on the 2018 Cyclones will look to repeat and improve upon their great seasons in their first taste of full-season ball next year.
Manager: Edgardo Alfonzo
Pitching Coach: Royce Ring
Hitting Coach: Sean Ratliff
Pitcher of the Week: Kyle Wilson (Aug. 6-12)
PA: Ross Adolph 264
AB: Ross Adolph 232
R: Ross Adolph 47 (T-3rd in the NYPL)
2B: Jose Medina 16 (T-5th in NYPL)
3B: Ross Adolph 12 (led NYPL)
HR: Ross Adolph 7
RBI: Ross Adolph 35
SB: Ross Adolph 14
BA: Walter Rasquin .299
OBP: Walter Rasquin .372
SLG: Ross Adolph .509 (3rd in NYPL)
OPS: Ross Adolph .857 (3rd in NYPL)
W: Billy Oxford 8 (led NYPL)
ERA: Jaison Vilera 1,83 (led NYPL)
G: Billy Oxford 26 (led NYPL)
SV: Ryley Gilliam 5
IP: Jaison Vilera 73.2 (3rd in NYPL)
K: Jaison Vilera 78 (led NYPL)
WHIP: Jaison Vilera 0.977 (led NYPL)
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