Minor League Opening Day Preview!

By Joseph Hill

April 5, 2018 No comments

Corey Oswalt/Photo by Ed Delany

It’s Minor League Opening Day! It’s sure to be a fun and interesting season for all the Mets’ minor league teams and players. Let’s take a look at a brief preview of each affiliate as they prepare for a fun season of hard work and development.

Las Vegas 51s

Led by new manager Tony DeFrancesco, the 51s will have multiple former big leaguers looking to make it back to the show as well as some under-the-radar prospects who could surprise. The starting rotation will be led by Opening Day starter and reigning Eastern League Pitcher of the Year Corey Oswalt, who had a 2.28 ERA in Binghamton last year.

It also features Zack Wheeler and Chris Flexen, who will both try to pitch their way back to the Majors. They will be joined by P.J. Conlon, a deceptive lefty who may end up transitioning to being a reliever, and Mickey Jannis, a 30-year-old knuckleballer who had success in Binghamton and in the Arizona Fall League last year.

The bullpen features some potential future LOOGYs such as Kyle Regnault and Matt Purke. Also has Jamie Callahan who got his first taste of the majors last season after coming over in the Addison Reed trade.

It looks to be a strong infield, with quality prospects at all four positions such as Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini, who both have Major League experience. Defensive stud Luis Guillorme will also receive a lot of playing time at shortstop and will form the left side of the infield along with third base prospect David Thompson. B

ehind the plate will be veteran catcher Jose Lobaton as well as Colton Plaia, who has played the last two years for Binghamton. The outfield is a bit crowded with minor league veterans such as Matt den Dekker, Ty Kelly and Zach Borenstein.

The entire Las Vegas 51s roster can be found here.

Photo by Ed Delany

Binghamton Rumble Ponies

After leading them to the Eastern League playoffs last year, manager Luis Rojas will be returning along with new pitching coach Frank Viola and new bench coach Luis Rivera. Their starting rotation will be led by Drew Gagnon, who was signed as a minor league free agent after pitching for the Angels’ Triple-A team last year. Joining him will be Andrew Church, a contact-first pitcher who was solid for St. Lucie last year, and Nabil Crismatt, who will be beginning his second full season as exclusively a starter. Marcos Molina, who dominated High-A last year with a 1.26 ERA, will also be a part of the starting rotation, as well as another righty getting a promotion from St. Lucie in Joseph Shaw.

This team should also feature a lights-out bullpen that includes strikeout machines such as Tyler Bashlor, Gerson Bautista, and Adonis Uceta.

The most intriguing name in the infield is first baseman Peter Alonso, who mashed in St. Lucie last year, and continued to mash in a small sample for Binghamton. Joining him will be versatile utility men such as Jeff McNeil and Andrew Ely, as well as Jhoan Urena, who will look to find a permanent position after struggling defensively at third.

Tomas Nido remains in Binghamton after a down offensive year, and will split time with the offense-first Patrick Mazeika as well as backup Tyler Moore. They have two speedy outfielders in John Mora and Champ Stuart, as well as former Dodger prospect Kevin Taylor, and of course, Tim Tebow.

The entire Binghamton Rumble Ponies roster can be found here.

Justin Dunn/Photo by Ed Delany

St. Lucie Mets

After coming in last in the Florida State League last year, St. Lucie will be returning with its same coaching staff, led by manager Chad Kreuter in his second season as manager. Marc Valdes returns as the pitching coach and hitting coach Joel Fuentes comes up from Columbia.

The Opening Day starter will be Justin Dunn, who is still one of the Mets’ most highly regarded prospects despite struggling in his first full year as a starter. He will look to begin a breakout campaign with a strong start today. After him will be Mike Gibbons, who will try to get his career back on track after Tommy John surgery, and Harol Gonzalez. Gabriel Llanes, Blake Taylor and Josh Prevost to round out the rotation.

Matt Blackham, Joseph Zanghi, Matt Pobereyko, Adam Atkins and Ryder Ryan are among the group of guys in the bullpen which should be a strength in the 2018 season.

The most exciting prospect on this roster, Andres Gimenez, will assume the starting shortstop job after holding his own in his stateside debut last year at the age of 18. Joining him up the middle will be fellow youngster Luis Carpio. The infield will also consist of some versatile utility men who will see time at multiple positions such as Dale Burdick, Michael Paez, and J.J. Franco.

The team no longer has the first base slugger Peter Alonso, so replacing him will be the 22-year-old Dash Winningham, who is coming off two full seasons in Columbia. Behind the plate will be the solid defender Jose Garcia, as well as two offense-first catchers who will see time at various other positions in Anthony Dimino and Brandon Brosher.

In the outfield, the talented but injury-riddled Desmond Lindsay will look to break out, while Gene Cone, Ian Strom and Jacob Zanon all provide versatility but will also try to break out offensively.

The entire St. Lucie Mets roster can be found here.

Anthony Kay/Photo by Ed Delany

Columbia Fireflies

After managing in Las Vegas last year and in Binghamton the year before, Pedro Lopez will be the new Fireflies manager, and will join a coaching staff that includes pitching coach Jonathan Hurst and hitting coach Ender Chavez.

The talented but unproven Tony Dibrell will get the Opening Day start, and will be followed by an exciting lefty in 2016 first-rounder Anthony Kay. There’s a bit of a dropoff after those two, as Jake Simon will try to rebound from a 6.02 ERA last year between Columbia and Brooklyn. Nicolas Debora is a guy who impressed in Brooklyn with a 2.33 ERA and 9.3 K/9, and Darwin Ramos will try to settle in after up and down results across three levels last year. Mets are still hoping tall righty Chris Viall can produce as a starter too.

The bullpen is full of 2017 draft picks including sidearmer Steve Villines, hard throwing Marcel Renteria and breakout candidate Joshua Payne.

There will be two third base prospects in Blake Tiberi and Rigoberto Terrazas. Terrazas broke out last year with an .898 OPS, and Tiberi has struggled in his brief career and this will be his first game action since undergoing Tommy John surgery. Edgardo Fermin also broke out with the bat last year, and will probably get a lot of time at shortstop as well as possibly some second and third base. Gio Alfonzo should also see time at multiple positions. The first base duty will be held by Jeremy Vasquez, who had an impressive .905 OPS in Kingsport last year.

Behind the plate will be a couple of weak bats in Dan Rizzie and Scott Manea, and interestingly, Jay Jabs is also listed as a catcher despite having never caught a professional game, perhaps to increase his value considering his poor offense. The outfield features the strong arm of Wagner Lagrange, who also had an offensive breakout last year, as well as some outfielders looking to break out such as former first baseman Matt Winaker, Quinn Brodey and Raphael Gladu.

The entire Columbia Fireflies roster can be found here.

Opening Day Games

All four teams will start their seasons at home. Las Vegas, Binghamton and Columbia can be seen on MiLB TV and St. Lucie can be heard on the MiLB app as well.

The 51s get started tonight at 10:05 ET vs the El Paso Chihuahuas.

Binghamton starts their season against the Portland Sea Dogs with a 6:35 ET start.

St. Lucie Mets get going at 6:30 p.m. as they battle the Bradentaon Marauders.

The Columbia Fireflies play their opener at 7:05 against Augusta GreenJackets.