It was a season of rain outs and disappointment for the St. Lucie Mets, the Class A Advanced Affiliate for the New York Mets who finished dead last in the Florida State League South division with a 54-76 record. Though there was a number of key prospects developed over the course of the year in St. Lucie that
At the beginning of the year one would have expected better outcomes from a team filled with elite organizational prospects and solid contributing former college bats to go with a rotation topped by first rounders and a solid bullpen. The team was headlined by top overall ranked Mets prospect Andres Gimenez, along with former first round draft pick pitcher Justin Dunn and the long awaited debut of 2016 first round pick pitcher Anthony Kay. To go along with the highly athletic and arguably considered 5 tool potential outfielder Desmond Lindsay.
This may sound familiar to Mets fans but yes the season came down to some solid pitching, at times lights out production from the bullpen but inconsistent bats leading to many quiet days from the offense in losses coupled with too many injuries throughout the year. One of my observation throughout the year included concerns about some impatience from the hitters at the plate, often seeing numerous hitters swinging at the first pitch accounting for some short innings and way too many strikeouts during the course of certain games. However, as is always the case down on the farm, there were bright spots in league of development and talent production.
Cream always rises to the top, and in this case the top overall prospect in the organization had a breakout season with the club. The 19 year old began April with some very much expected anxiousness at the plate as he made adjustments to the league, swinging early and often leading to high strikeout rates the first couple of weeks. After that Andres showed off his talent and what he is known for. Throughout the season his strengths were clear, showing off a sweet swing from the left side, with ability to power the ball into right field or go with the pitch to opposite field depending on the pitcher and situation. His splits show that his numbers against right handed/left handed pitchers made no difference.
vs left handers: 104 AB .298/.345/.433/.778
vs right handers: 204 AB .275/.349/.431/.781
Andres also showed off his speed spending most of his time with the team leading the league in stolen bases, finishing with 28 in his 85 games played with the club prior to his promotion. (Stole 10 bases in 37 games for AA level Binghamton). Gimenez also finished with 20 doubles, 4 triples and 4 home runs for the team rounding out a solid season. Below is video of one of his hits.
Defensively Gimenez showed great instincts at shortstop, making all the routine and not so routine plays, and showing more than adequate arm strength along with quick hands. Also keep in the mind the Mets did try out Gimenez at second base and the transition to the other side of the diamond was smooth and without issue. Overall I believe his swing, approach and ability to go to all fields with some surprising loft and pop from his bat on ball will lead to continued success and can predict at least consistent double digit home runs to go with a solid batting average up the levels even up to major league level if progression continues.
Team Cy Young
It was not surprising to see the Mets organization make the decision to have Dunn repeat the level and stay with the team following a 2017 campaign in which he posted a 5.00 ERA in 20 games (16 starts) with 48 walks to go with 75 strikeouts in 98.1 innings. I watched Justin during the 2017 season and still saw the potential of his raw power with with fastball, but concerns for overall command and use of all pitches.
That all changed in 2018 as Dunn came out firing from the start. Throughout the times I watched I saw the stadium radar gun show consistent mid 90s on his fastball topping out at 96 and maintaining that velocity throughout the later innings in each start this time incorporating a bit more of his slider, change up and curveball while showing better command. It only took 9 starts for the Mets to know Justin was now ready for the next level as he posted a 2.36 ERA in 45.2 innings and most importantly only 15 walks to combine with 51 strikeouts. Below is video of one of Justin’s strikeouts during a game.
Since end of last season I have continued to express my personal thoughts of approval and support of Justin Dunn not only as a pitcher but as a starting pitcher going forward. It appears he has turned the corner in his development, maintaining his electric fastball, above average slider with always more needed but still improving and added use of his change and curve to make for a projected future MLB starter.
Welcome to the Pros
You never really know what you are going to get from a pitcher coming off Tommy John Surgery. Now couple that with a pitcher who had the surgery before ever even throwing a pitch as a pro and you have Mets left handed 23 year old Anthony Kay. The former 2016 first round pick from UCONN finally made his pro debut in 2018 starting with the Class-A affiliate Columbia Fireflies.
He joined the St. Lucie Mets rotation in July and hit the ground running, posting a 2.83 ERA through 5 starts. in 28.2 innings during the month Anthony allowed 25 hits, 22 strikeouts but also 16 walks. Batters hit .248 against him in July for the month. Watching Anthony I saw the stadium radar consistently have him in the low 90s, at times reaching 93-94 MPH on his fastball. His change up was as advertised, often being his strikeout pitch causing opposing hitters to swing awkwardly. He also as advertised sported a way above pick off move to move, having personally seen Anthony pick off two runners in one outing, both throws to first to nab the runner leading off the base. Below is video of one of Anthony Strikeouts.
It appeared that Anthony perhaps began to tire as the month of August hit, posting a 5.11 ERA in 24.2 innings as the team began capping his innings at no more than 6 per start to finish out the season. He gave up 11 walks but also struck out 23 batters. I remain excited for the potential of Anthony as a mid rotation MLB starter. He showed a very exciting high rising fastball (good for today’s launch angle era of hitters) to go with his above average change up, a curve ball with a nice spin to it as well. I would like to see the Mets push Anthony to AA level to start 2019 but would not be shocked if they have him return to St. Lucie as they did Dunn for perhaps a half a dozen or so starts to keep an eye on his command.
The next Jon Niese, but better?
Another former first round draft pick started with the Fireflies in 2018 but made his St. Lucie Mets debut a month earlier than Kay as Mets top 5 prospect David Peterson joined the club and made 3 starts in June. The opposite of Kay, Peterson struggled at times and often during his initial round of starts for the team seeing his ERA go from 3.71 in those 3 July starts to 8.05 in July. There were opinions flying on the internet about reasons for the poor number spanning from “dead arm” to lower body issues and sheer size of the man listed at 6’6 and 240 lbs.
Then the calendar struck August and Peterson went on a tear through the remainder of the season. He did not allow an earned run over his final four starts spanning 23 innings with only four walks allowed compared to 26 strikeouts. Below is video of one of his strikeouts.
I don’t wish to actually compare David Peterson to the much maligned Jon Niese, but wanted to share a quick thought on the two mostly in potential going forward. Peterson, according to stadium radar on the two starts I watched, was sitting low 90s in his fastball. Like most pitchers, he is better with his breaking stuff when he is ahead in the count. It will important going forward for David to use his fastball to get ahead in the count while also ensuring accuracy of it through the zone to avoid hard contact from hitters into the upper levels. At his best I continue to see David as a future SP3/SP4 guy who will throw “quality starts” and keep his team in games.
Other Thoughts, Notes, Players
One ongoing under-the-radar prospect for the Mets is infielder Michael Paez. The former 2016 forth round pick from Coastal Carolina has continued to show surprising pop into this season with St. Lucie where he hit 20 doubles and 11 home runs in 121 games which is a good number considering the league as well the ballparks and size throughout the Florida State League in what continues to often be known as a pitchers league. Personally I continue to see Paez best suited for second base even though he spent most the year playing third for the club.
His best month offensively was in July when he posted a slash line of .281/.375/.521/.896. Keep an eye on how Mets utilize him and his versatility going forward into a perhaps a future MLB utility player. Below is video of one of Paez hits on the year.
Curious Case of Luis Carpio
The one prospect all season I’ve been the most confused about is now 21-year-old infielder Luis Carpio. Playing the first half of the season as a 20-year-old Luis was a player who when I saw in person would be the one hitting a home run (he hit 12 on the year) or going for multiple base hits. Then a week or two would go by and the box scores would show Luis going 0-for-4 on multiple occasions before I return and then yet again on comes a home run or a double with another two-hit night.
Overall, I still have to say I like with Carpio brings to the organization. He obviously showed surprising pop for a player who came into the season with four career pro homers. I also came away impressed with his defense at second base. He showed excellent instincts, arm strength, poise and smooth glove and hands turning double plays with Gimenez when they were together.
Also, considering his recent history of should issues and surgery, it was a good sign to see Carpio finish out the year playing shortstop after Gimenez was promoted. He will begin 2019 as a 21-year-old. I’m curious to see where Mets go with him, where he projects, and if he is to be an everyday player or transition into a utility role at the upper levels. If his new found power continues he may force himself in the lineups every day.
Catcher Ali Sanchez is another young (age 21 until January) former highly regarded prospect of the Mets, as was Carpio. Known for his defense, Ali continued performing well in this area in 2018 with both the Fireflies and St. Lucie Mets after his call up. With the Fireflies Ali threw out 45% of base runner (38% with St. Lucie).
Offensively, Sanchez came across as a bit of a free swinger, posting only five walks in 38 games with St. Lucie to go with 15 strikeouts. At the plate he didn’t show a lot power posting nine doubles, two home runs and a .681 OPS which combined with his approach at the plate accounts for the solid .274 AVG but also only .294 OBP. I saw a bit of a toe tap rhythm and timing type approach at the plate for Ali. And again, as with Carpio, due to his age I’m curious to see how Mets chose to play it out with Sanchez who should maintain value his defense and ability to make contact from the catcher position.
Stacks and Stacks of Relievers
There was no doubt that the strength of the St. Lucie Mets team all year overall was in the bullpen. There was by my count at least a half dozen relievers in the pen who either earned promotions to AA level or earned successful promotion to the club and performed well at the level including.
Adam Atkins (funky delivery) 2.17 ERA, 58 IP, 41 K, 1.02 WHIP
Matt Pobereyko 3.19 ERA, 48 IP, 55 K, 1.13 WHIP
Stephen Nogosek (97 MPH FB) 3.06 ERA, 32.1 IP, 37 K, 1.24 WHIP
Joe Zanghi 1.15 ERA, 31.1 IP, 23 K, 0.93 WHIP
Austin McGeorge 2.73 ERA, 29.2 IP, 29 K, 1.11 WHIP
Matt Blackham (12-6 hook of a curve ball) 1.90 ERA, 23.2 IP, 29 K, 1.01 WHIP
Stephen Villines (funky delivery, upper 80s FB) 0.41 ERA, 22 IP, 25 K, 0.59 WHIP
Ryder Ryan (easy 95-96 MPH with solid slider) 1.77 ERA, 20.1 IP, 23 K, 0.93 WHIP
Hard to pick and choose from the group as far as projections and MLB bullpen potential but I will go ahead and single out Ryder Ryan and Stephen Villines as the two players to look out for the most at the upper levels for the team and potential 40 man roster spots and call ups. And again there is no denying that stadium radar of 97 MPH on Nogosek who needs to harness control of his pitches.
Players With Tools
Outfielder Ian Strom, in my opinion, has arguably one of the strongest if not the strongest arm in the farm system. This season I saw him throw, on the fly, a ball directly from deep right field into the catchers glove standing at the plate to catch a runner coming home. Defensively he can more than adequately handle all three outfield positions, showing positive instincts out there tracking balls and covering ground. The issues were he tendency to misfire on that cannon arm of his, seeing multiple throws air mailed.
He’s a very aggressive batter at the plate with only 18 walks in 210 ABs. He was reduced to only 80 games played due to a leg injury. He had an extremely hot April slashing .294/.372/.426 and did not maintain the streak into the season from there. I’m curious to see if his late AA call up this year was merely fill holes with an eye on returning to St. Lucie or will Mets have him back at the AA level.
Will the Real Lindsay Please Stand Up?
It’s almost as if super athlete and potential 5 tool player Desmond Lindsay is the magician of the farm system, with all the mystery and wonder surrounding him. In April he posted a BB/K ratio of 12/16 but batted only .209. The strikeout rate would only climb from there and also have a season which once again included an injury.
When shown brief glimpses at his best, Lindsay is seeing the ball well at the plate, making solid line drive contact. In the field he has the speed in center to cover all ground including the big home field at First Data to track everything down. The question remains consistency in what many still consider a top 20 team prospect despite the numbers (finished slashing .218/.310/.320/.630) because of the ongoing potential and athleticism.
Unsung Well Under Radar Prospect
I admit I have a soft spot for 24-year-old catcher Dan Rizzie. He was never the everyday catcher for the team. In May he slashed .175/.226/.211/.436. Through the summer he worked his hardest with hitting coach Joel Fuentes to refine his approach and it started to pay off. His best month came in July when he slashed .316/.386/.526/.913. He has shown ability, again speaking strictly now at the Class-A Advanced level, to show double power, often being the guy, when he got himself a start, to be one of the few to make contact against tough opposing pitchers on a slow night team wise on offense.
For me, in no way a comparison, but I saw him as the 2018 version of former St. Lucie Mets outfielder John Mora, who during games would be the quiet but tough out when the team needed some life brought into it.
Time will tell if Dan continues to have a shot with the organization, what his role will be going forward. Will he continue to fill a role on the bench at all the minor league levels or see his approach continue to show pay off and lead to more power?
All in all, it was another fun and successful season of minor league watching on my part with the team. I was lucky enough to take a few selfies with players and chat with not only them, but perhaps more importantly their family. Thank you for reading all my St. Lucie Mets game recaps throughout the year. Is it April 2019 yet?