While the New York Mets’ roster has been decimated by injuries, the Brooklyn Cyclones are playing short-handed from the start.
That’s because about a third of the roster, released on Sunday, was not in the organization prior to last week, after being selected in the 2017 MLB Draft.
But the Cyclones will make do with the players they currently have, which includes sending 20-year-old southpaw Jake Simon to the hill for Monday’s season opener in Staten Island, although the forecast is likely to have the last word. In that case, Simon will make his New York-Penn League debut on Tuesday at MCU Park.
“It’s definitely different than Texas,” said the Galveston, TX native on his first impressions of Brooklyn. “Just seeing all these people around here, I’m just glad to be here.”
Simon, the Mets’ 11th round selection in 2015, made a cameo in Columbia with the Fireflies earlier this season, after a promising first full season with Kingsport a year ago. In 12 starts with the K-Mets, he went 2-5 with a 4.83 ERA. He struck out 9.4 batters per nine innings, although Simon fell victim to 4.4 batters walked per nine.
“He doesn’t throw that hard, but he knows how to pitch,” remarked Cyclones manager Edgardo Alfonzo.
For Alfonzo, 2017 marks his managerial debut, after he spent three years as a bench coach for Brooklyn under Tom Gamboa, who retired following the 2016 season. Alfonzo said that he hadn’t been planning to eventually succeed Gamboa, but multiple nudges from various people within the organization, including Gamboa, led him to take the job.
“For the first three years, they asked me to [manage], but it’s not easy being a manager,” Alfonzo said. “I like to learn, as a coach, how to deal with the guys, how to prepare them, and see different characters. Three years with Tom was great, but he decided to walk away, and I was ready.”
If Alfonzo ever feels like he needs some assistance during his first season, he has a wealth of baseball friends and phone numbers at his disposal, including that of Edgar Alfonzo, his older brother and the first manager in Brooklyn Cyclones history.
“Believe me, I’m under pressure right now,” the junior Alfonzo said. “He told me ‘I won 146 games, there’s no pressure.’ I remember when he was the manager here, and really, he taught me everything that I know. I think it’s going to be great to follow in his footsteps, and I know I’m going to call him a few times to ask questions.”
Aside from Simon, the Cyclones are also looking forward to watching Chris Viall take the mound. Viall, who played three years at Stanford before he was drafted by the Mets in the sixth round last year, is one of the more physically imposing members of the Brooklyn squad. Standing at 6’9″, 230 lbs., Viall struck out 27 batters in 20 innings with Kinsport in 2016.
“Considering he is 6’9″, [repeating his delivery] is not a problem for him,” said pitching coach Royce Ring of his starter that has been known to hit triple digits on the radar gun. “He’s pretty meticulous about his work, he’s a Stanford kid, and mechanically he’s pretty good.”
The Cyclones will play 76 games over the next 81 days, as they attempt to become the first group in team history to reach the postseason since 2012.
Stay tuned to Mets Minors for Brooklyn Cyclones coverage all season long!