After he was selected in the 28th round of this year’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Jeremy Vasquez‘s phone was inundated with so many calls and text messages that he couldn’t even tell which team had picked him.
But it was one call from a former — and now future — teammate, Mets prospect Peter Alonso, that clued him in.
“We’re still close,” Vasquez said of his teammate of two years at the University of Florida. “When I got drafted he gave me a call and congratulated me, and I even saw him in St. Lucie the next day. He was just kind of my mentor in college.”
While Alonso, the Mets’ second-round selection in 2016, has quickly become one of the brightest prospects in the organization, Vasquez, who also plays first base, has similarly outperformed expectations in 2017. Through 54 games in his debut season, Vasquez is hitting .295 with eight home runs and 34 RBI. All three figures are tops among the Mets’ 2017 draft picks.
“He’s been great for us,” said Brooklyn Cyclones (SS-A) manager Edgardo Alfonzo. “Jeremy has great discipline at the plate, and he can really pick it at first base. He’s been making a huge difference in our lineup.”
After 36 games with the Kingsport Mets (R), Vasquez was promoted to Brooklyn, where he immediately gave a punch to a struggling offense. He had hit .370 (17-46) through his first 13 games with the Cyclones, before a recent 2-24 stretch helped drop his average.
“This whole summer has been awesome for me,” Vasquez said. “The biggest thing for me has just been getting in the day-by-day routine, and knowing there’s going to be highs and lows. I’ve really just tried to stay consistent and not get too high or too low.”
New Approach Yields Favorable Results
In two years with the Gators, Vasquez, the team’s primary right fielder while Alonso manned first base, hit .310, but only managed to record two home runs in 274 at-bats. After transferring to Nova Southeastern University to play for the Division II Sharks in 2017, the 6’1″ lefty mashed 15 long balls in 189 at-bats.
“My first year at Florida, my approach was mainly to hit line drives,” Vasquez said. “Once I got to Nova, I really started lifting the ball a lot more. If I was going to put a bad swing on the ball I still wanted to get it in the air, and I was fine with that. Sometimes when you put the ball in the air, it keeps carrying. I get more into my legs when I swing now, it’s not just upper body anymore.”
The Mets tend to use their recent draft picks’ first season to strictly observe. The player development staff won’t get too hands on until the post-season instructional league, which carries over into the following year’s spring training. Not wanting to waste valuable time to soak up information, Vasquez has used his initial campaign to become more in tune with the mental aspect of the game.
“The physical side, we haven’t really touched. It’s mainly just been mentally showing up to the park with a clear mind. If you had a good night the night before, it’s over with, and if you had a bad night, it’s over with.”
Although his secondary school, Martin County high school in Stuart, FL, is only about 20 minutes from the Mets’ complex in Port St. Lucie, Vasquez didn’t have much interaction with the organization prior to the draft.
“I did an eye test for one of the scouts this year, but that was really it,” he said.
When he does receive the eventual promotion to the St. Lucie Mets (High-A), there is no doubting that the Vasquez family will be out in full force to watch him play.
“I’m definitely thankful that my family will be so close, in spring training and hopefully down the line as well.”
Learning From the Best
Most members of the Cyclones, upon learning that their manager played 12 seasons in the major leagues, are overcome with some shock, followed by delight. The truth is, there is no better resource for a young minor leaguer than the man who sits in the office across the hall from the locker room.
“I had a little bit of background knowing Alfonzo, but I didn’t know he played in the big leagues that long until someone told me. He doesn’t big time anyone, he’s a very humble guy, and he’s a great manager,” Vasquez said of his skipper, who has said repeatedly that if his players want to know more about him, Google is their best friend.
“He’s just been a great guy to ask questions to, both about the mental and physical side of the game.”