Las Vegas Infield Looking Star-Studded in 2017

By Jacob Resnick

March 17, 2017 9 Comments

Photo Credit: Rick Nelson/MiLB.com

The success of minor league teams is difficult to project. Each club must operate with the understanding that their roster by the end of the season will likely look completely different from opening day. With the main goal being to bring the major league team success, minor league managers simply trot out who they’re told on any given night.

That being said, there appears to be one team in the Mets’ system poised to showcase the top talent in the organization on a nightly basis, with that being the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s.

Over the past few seasons, Las Vegas has become a sort of repository for organizational filler. Players such as Marc Krauss, Roger Bernadina, and Brandon Allen have been sprinkled into lineups. They weren’t taking valuable reps away from anyone, it simply was necessary to field a ball club.

To this point, the Mets have not brought on any players of such nature that are in position to see time with Las Vegas, and for good reason. The 51s’ lineup, and their infield in particular, looks to be full of prospects in 2017.

First Base

Dominic Smith has all the momentum in the world. The 21-year-old put up excellent numbers with Double-A Binghamton in 2016, and recently wrapped up his second major league camp this spring.

Smith, whose one knock throughout his career had been his lack of power, more than doubled his home run total entering the year by knocking 14 long balls for Binghamton. This is enticing as he heads for Las Vegas in April, where he will face the notoriously hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. Smith recorded the third highest fly ball rate (30.02%) in the Mets’ system last year, and it isn’t crazy to think that the PCL could translate that to several more home runs in 2017.

Second Base

The Mets are going to have to get creative here, because this isn’t a particularly wealthy position in the organization. However, shortstop is, and they will likely need to introduce Gavin Cecchini to second base. The team has already taken the first step, as Cecchini saw action there in six games this spring before departing for the World Baseball Classic, but he will need more opportunities. After all, Cecchini has played all but three games of his minor league career at shortstop.

I do believe the 23-year-old projects as a useful bench piece in the major leagues, but he has to gain versatility in the field to make that happen. On the offensive side, Cecchini has improved immensely from a few years ago, when he had recorded a measly .251 average through his first three seasons. All he’s done since then is hit .321 with 15 home runs and 106 runs batted in between Binghamton and Las Vegas. If his numbers continue to improve at that clip, Cecchini will be a force for the 51s.

Shortstop

Amed Rosario is a known commodity at this point, but it’s exciting when you realize how close he is to the major leagues. Rosario, who will be 21 for the entire 2017 season, needed to break out offensively in 2016, and did just that, and more. He led the entire Mets system in hits (155), and set career highs in home runs (five), runs batted in (71), and stolen bases (19), among other categories.

I don’t see the PCL affecting Rosario’s numbers in a big way, either positive or negative. His fly ball rates are pretty much average, so it’s possible he tacks on a few more home runs.

Reynolds

Third Base

There are a few players that would fit here, but Matt Reynolds is the most logical. The organization knows what they are going to get from Reynolds: he picks his spots, strikes out a fair amount, and drives in runs at a high clip. I think he can serve both the 51s and the Mets in 2017, but Reynolds needs to find success with Las Vegas first.

Reynolds, 26, picked up an outfielders glove last season to improve his versatility. That experiment ended quickly, although he did record his first major league home run while manning left field for the Mets last June.


Also available to start in the 51s infield this year should be Ty Kelly and Phillip Evans. Kelly, of Team Israel fame, is valuable based off his versatility in the field alone. However, he put up a .328/.409/.435 line with Las Vegas a season ago, so he could be looking at a starting outfield spot. Kelly played every position except pitcher and catcher in the organization in 2016.

Evans, thought to be virtually done as a prospect entering last season, broke out in every possible way and led the Eastern League with a .335 average in 2016. Evans, like Kelly, can play virtually anywhere around the diamond, as he has logged over 600 innings at second base, third base, and shortstop in his career.

We believe that with the David Wright injury infielder T.J. Rivera will be on the Opening Day roster otherwise the 51s infield would be stacked even greater.

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  • Looking like the most talented infield as a group to hit aaa affiliate together in the Sandy era.
    Now my ongoing and well known bias is hoping the high a club sports the best rotation of prospects as a group at some point this year.

  • Buddy3

    I am guessing that both Conforto and Nimmo go to AAA and Kelly makes the team as the 25th man once the captain goes on the 60 day DL…..unless we sign Kelly Johnson.

  • Michael Mayer

    I still think there’s an outside shot they carry Nimmo, although I agree that Kelly (assuming they find a 40-man casualty to their liking) is more likely.

  • mr. belvedere

    I think Rosario spends April and most of May in Binghamton…kind of a logjam in the AAA infield right now, especially if NY keeps an extra pitcher on the 25 man to start the season…Rosario will obviously eventually come up but spending an extra 50 games in Binghamton isn’t a bad idea…that will open things up a little…
    C Plawecki and Carrillo
    1B Smith
    2B Cechinni
    SS Reynolds
    3B Evans
    UT Kelly

  • oleosmirf

    lol I don’t think the Mets best prospect over the last decade is going to be made to repeat a level he already dominated because of the “logjam” that is Ty Kelly, Matt Reynolds and Phillip Evans.

    That’s just nonsense.

  • mr. belvedere

    Lol he did it last year starting the season in St Lucie where he ended in 2015….it’s not repeating a level either, he played like 50 games in AA…it’s about the reps, you’re not gonna put Kelly or Reynolds in AA

  • oleosmirf

    Rosario struggled in his first exposure to A+ in 2015. In 2016, Rosario dominated AA.

    As for Matt Reynolds and Ty Kelly, there is a DH spot more than half the time and an OF spot open if one of Nimmo or Conforto is in the majors. And if both are in the minors, one of them is in the majors.

    But Rosario is in AAA to start the year.

  • blue_and_orange

    Throw in Nimmo and Conforto and that’s going to be a fun team to follow. I guess many of them could be in NY in ’18, including the manager.

  • Ari Berkowitz

    Rosario started in St. Lucie to keep him out of the frigid weather so he’d have a chance to develop, he was so good that he ended up playing in AA in May instead of June. I hardly doubt that they’d do the opposite to him this year. Time will tell.