MMN Top Prospects 25-21: Binghamton Shined Last Year

By Mets Daddy

January 17, 2018 7 Comments

#25 LF Kevin Kaczmarski

Ht: 6’0″  Wt: 195  Level: Binghamton

B/T: L/R  Age: 12/31/1991 (25)  Age Dif: 0.8

Acquired: Ninth round of the 2015 Draft from University of Evansville

2017 Stats: 128 G, 531 PA, 452 AB, 66 R, 124 H, 18 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 52 RBI, 15 SB, 8 CS, .274/.370/.369

2017 Pre-Season Rank: 45

Since being drafted by the Mets organization in the 2015 Draft, Kaczmarksi has been a bit of an enigma for the Mets organization.  While he’s been old for every level he has played, he was produced more than well enough to justify giving him a spot in the starting lineup.  Even though he has good speed, he does not have enough speed or instincts to either be a good base stealer or capable of playing center field.  However, despite these caveats, Kaczmarski continuously goes out there and produces.

The biggest thing Kaczmarski brings to the table is a great eye at the plate.  Last season, he had a good 11.3% walk rate, which helped fuel his .370 OBP.  That OBP was the ninth best in the Eastern League.  In addition to the high walk rate, Kaczmarski also had a good 15.8% strikeout rate. Generally speaking, this means Kaczmarski does not get himself out.

If you want to poke some holes in his offensive game, you can.  Kaczmarski typically hits the ball on the ground, and as a result, he does not hit for much power.  This does mean much of his production is tied to his BABIP, and as you can probably guess, he did have what you would typically consider a high .324 BABIP.  However, with his speed and ability to use all fields, he has posted BABIPs that high and even much higher in his career.

With his ability to get on base, and with his outstanding play in the Arizona Fall League where he hit .351/.393/.442, Kaczmarksi has become an outfielder in the Mets system who is trending upwards.  How high that will carry him is anyone’s guess.  What we do know is that whatever opportunity he does get, he will likely make the most of it.

#24 LHP P.J. Conlon

Ht: 5’11″ Wt: 190 Level: Binghamton

B/T: L/L Age: 11/11/93 (23) Age Dif: -1.45

Acquired: Drafted in the 13th round of the 2015 Amateur Draft from University of San Diego

2017 Stats: 8-9, 3.31 ERA, 28 G, 22 GS, 3 CG, 3 SHO, SV, 136.0 IP, 108 K, 1.235 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, 7.1 K/9

Previous Rank: 22

Considering the fact that Conlon’s fastball tops out in the mid to high 80s, you are going to expect that sooner or later, hitters were going to catch up with him as he rose through the Mets minor league system.  If you solely judge Conlon’s first half for Double-A Binghamton, you would come away with that understanding.  However, looking at his whole season, you will see a player who took an important step forward during the 2017 season.

Yes, Conlon struggled with a 4.07 first half ERA, which included a 5.52 ERA in the Month of June.  Even more troubling was batters were making good contact hitting .262 off the lefty.  After that Conlon made the necessary adjustments, including but not limited to significantly cutting down on his fly ball rate.  With that, Conlon saw the batting average against him fall to .236, and he returned to having a very Conlon like 1.91 ERA in the July and August.

With Conlon’s numbers returning to the level they had been for the first two years of his professional career, the question now returns to what exactly Conlon is going forward.

In the 2017 Spring Training, the Mets did give him a chance to win one of the left-handed reliever spots in the Opening Day bullpen.  It does make sense as Conlon has typically pitched better against left-handed batters than right-handed batters.  However, with his change-up being his best pitch by far, and with that pitch typically being more of a weapon against right-handed batters, it does seem Conlon being a LOOGY is a bit misguided.

Instead, Conlon’s likely path to the majors may prove as a starter.  Certainly, Conlon has done enough to justify sticking in the rotation and considering the health issues of the Mets pitching staff over the past few seasons, Conlon may get a chance to prove himself next year.  That is, however, if Conlon doesn’t struggle in Las Vegas next year as other Mets pitchers who pitch to contact like Ricky Knapp and Matthew Bowman have done the past few seasons.

#23 RHP Drew Smith

Ht: 6’2″   Wt: 190 lb.   Mets Level: Binghamton

Age: 9/24/93 (23)   Age Dif: -1.2

Acquired: Obtained from the Tampa Bay Rays for Lucas Duda (7/27/17)

2017 Stats: 4-4, 1.65 ERA, 42 G, 7 SV, 60.0 IP, 57 K, 0.900 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, 8.6 K/9

Previous Rank: 18

When looking back at the 2017 season, it may well forever be known in Mets lore as the season where Sandy Alderson sold off his team for seven right-handed relief prospects.  The first and perhaps best among that group is former Tigers and Rays prospect Drew Smith.

Smith was coveted by initially the Rays, who obtained him before the 2017 season for outfielder Mikie Mahtook, and the Mets because he has a big arm.  Smith has consistently thrown his fastball in the high 90s, and he even gained a tick more on his fastball throwing it closer to the 97-98 range.  With him combining that pitch with a good yet inconsistent curveball, you would expect big strikeout numbers.  If you have followed his career, that hasn’t proven true.

The main reason is Smith’s fastball is a straight fastball.  To his credit, he has offset that by being able to locate the pitch well.  This doesn’t just mean in terms of not walking batters, but also in his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark.  In fact, in his entire professional career, Smith has allowed just two homers with one of them being yielded to now-teammate Peter Alonso.

Overall with him locating well and getting his fastball near triple digits, you have a pitcher who has tremendous arm talent.  Pitchers like that typically respond well to good coaching, and the Mets have one of the best in Glenn Abbott.  With Smith being assigned to Binghamton after being obtained by the Mets organization, he improved.

While a small sample size, it is worth noting Smith struck out 17 batters in his 15 innings pitched for the Rumble Ponies.  That was higher than at any of his other stops last year.  The fact he increased his strikeout rate fairly significantly while also pitching to a 0.867 WHIP with the Rumble Ponies has to get the Mets excited about his chances of being a late inning reliever at the Major League level.

#22 UTIL Phillip Evans

Ht: 5’9″ Wt: 220 Level: Las Vegas & MLB

B/T: R/R Age: 9/10/92 (24) Age Dif: -2.4 (AAA)

Acquired: 2011 11th Round Draft Pick from La Costa Canyone HS (Carlsbad, CA)

2017 MiLB Stats: 127 G, 510 PA, 466 AB, 58 R, 130 H, 26 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 2 SB, 3 CS, .279/.341/.418

2017 MLB Stats: 19 G, 38 PA, 33 AB, 4 R, 10 H, 2 2B, RBI, .303/.395/.364

2017 Pre-Season Rank: 31

If not for all the injuries the Mets sustained at the Major League level last season, it quite possible Evans is not in these rankings.  Evans was slated to be a minor league free agent, and he was unable to repeat his 2016 season when he won the 2016 Eastern League Batting Title.  It seemed more and more like that was a fluke season fueled by a .384 BABIP than it was a breakout season.

All of that remained true, but when Evans was called up to the majors in September, you began to see and appreciate the things he does well and how those things translate well at the Major League level.

At the plate, Evans is not going to get cheated at the plate.  He’s an aggressive dead pull line drive hitter that is not going to walk much (8.2% in AAA) or strike out that much (15.5% in AAA).  While this does not translate well to the Major League level where every team shifts their infield, Evans does hit the ball hard.  With his ability to make contact and hit the ball hard, there is some raw ability for a hitting coach to get Evans to reach his full potential.  The question is whether a hitting coach can get through to him in a way that no one has previously.

In the field, Evans has a good glove and the range that certainly translates to second and third.  With him being to learn left field last season, he has increased his versatility making his chances of making the 2018 Mets roster as a utility player all the better.  It should be noted with his size and arm strength, Evans is best suited to second base.  However, with his skill set, he is more than capable of filling in at multiple positions on a game-t0-game basis.

After the 2017 season, Evans was removed from the 40 man roster to help permit the Mets to make some moves this offseason.  By no means does that absolutely preclude Evans, who re-signed with the Mets on a minor league deal, from either making the Opening Day roster or playing in the majors at some point next season.  That will largely depend on what the Mets do to address the roster and what Evans does to become a better player.

#21 RHP Adonis Uceta

Ht: 6’1″ Wt: 225 lb Level: Columbia, St. Lucie, Binghamton

B/T: R/R Age: 5/10/1994 (23) Age Dif: -1.3 (AA)

Acquired: Signed as International Free Agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2012

2017 Stats: 6-0, 1.51 ERA, 41 G, 14 SV, 59.2 IP, 67 K, 0.905 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 11.0 K/9

Previous Rank: 40

Heading into the 2017 season, Uceta seemed like a prime candidate to not only move to the bullpen but also thrive as a reliever.  That was mainly due to his mid 90s fastball that was coupled with a terrific change-up and no other pitch.  Uceta began the year in the Columbia bullpen, and his 2017 season turned out much better than anyone could have possibly imagined.

From May 11th to August 11th, Uceta would make 27 appearances, and he would pitch 36.0 innings without allowing an earned run.  In that stretch, he kept opposing batters to a .133/.198/.158 batting line while maintaining a 44:9 strikeout to walk ratio.  Putting it much more simply, Uceta was absolutely dominant out of the bullpen.  It is a major reason why the reliever who started the year in Columbia would get promoted to St. Lucie and finally Binghamton to help the team try to win an Eastern League Championship.

If you are going to pick nits with Uceta’s season, there are really just two to pinpoint.  The first is he walked more batters than you would like with a 3.0 BB/9.  At various times in his professional career, walks have been an issue, and after a 2016 season where he seemed to resolve the issue, his walks have crept up again.  The other nit is that when he was promoted to Binghamton, Uceta was nowhere near as dominant allowing three runs in 6.0 innings pitched.

Still, that is an extremely small sample size at the end of Uceta’s first season in the bullpen.  More important was he has increased his fastball velocity, with him reaching 97 MPH with the pitch, and his ability to flat out dominate at multiple levels.  If he repeats his 2017 season, and he very well may, he could find himself on a Major League pitching mound before the 2018 season is over.

PREVIOUS RANKINGS:

50 – 41 Led by Jacob Rhame
40 – 36 Led by Wagner Lagrange
35 – 31 Led by Gregory Guerrero

30-26 Led by Juan Uriarte