It was a rough season for the Mets High-A affiliate who finished last in their division, FSL South, with a 63-75 record. As has been the case with the big club in Queens, the St. Lucie squad dealt with injuries to multiple players at all positions on the field during the season.
The first such injury was suffered by Peter Alonso, who missed time with a broke hand after being hit by a pitch. After coming off the disabled list, Alonso never looked back.
In 82 games played with the team, Alonso hit 16 home runs and 23 doubles to go with a .286/.361/.516 slash line. His ultimate hot streak occurred in July when Alonso hit eight home runs, seven doubles, and 26 RBI. In the second half, Alonso posted a 1.006 OPS, which led to his promotion to Binghamton to help them with their postseason push.
Overall, Alonso had a remarkable season, especially when you consider he skipped Columbia. However, his season was not one without issues. The one key going forward in Peter Alonso development will be his defense. After having gone his first pro season with Brooklyn (27 games) without committing an error, Alonso finished his St. Lucie season with 18 errors in 78 games played at first base.
Alonso wasn’t the only offensive stand-out this season. Infielder Jhoan Urena overcame injuries to both hands and wrists two straight years, Urena finally had a breakout season in this his third year back at the High-A level. The switch-hitting Urena showed power from both sides of the plate while showing similar numbers across the board as both a lefty and a righty at the plate.
Urena finished the year with career highs in every major offensive category including home run (11), RBI (62), doubles (34), stolen bases (17), OBP (.364), SLG (.437) and OPS (.801) all while playing in a career-high 122 games.
Much like Alonso, Urena had issues with defense finishing with 22 errors while playing mostly third base for the team. Personally, I noticed some possible concerns with Urena reaction times to balls, instincts throwing on the run and throwing accuracy. This could be a reason why the Mets have moved Urena to the outfield during the Instructional Leagues.
Rounding out the pleasant offensive surprises, Patrick Mazeika hit .287 with a .795 OPS on the year while showing strong behind the plate skills, ability to dig balls out of the dirt and an accurate arm. Mazeika looked to have a good approach at the plate, smooth swing with doubles power.
Unfortunately, there were injury issues that prevented some other St. Lucie Mets players from taking the next step like Alonso, Urena, and Mazeika did this past season.
Wuilmer Becerra, the third player in that R.A. Dickey trade, repeated St. Lucie after offseason should surgery. On the bright side, Becerra was able to play the full season, and he Wuilmer finished strong hitting .390 in his last 10 games. However, Becerra did struggle most of the season with a .267 AVG with ongoing concerns about his ability to put up power numbers commensurate with a corner outfielder. Moreover, with the shoulder issues Becerra played 36 games at DH, and he would get exposure at first base towards the end of the season.
Colby Woodmansee also had an injury riddled and disappointing season. As I was told, this was Colby’s first true injury riddled season either as a pro or even throughout his amateur career. He would be limited to just 14 games with St. Lucie and 54 games for the entire season. Even with the struggles, the just turned 23 year old did show above average range, glove and arm strength at every infield position on the diamond.
Like Woodmansee, his fellow 2016 draftee Michael Paez struggled in St. Lucie. His struggles were somewhat puzzling when you consider he slashed .290/.376/.509 before his promotion to St Lucie. Paez slashed .200/.324/.270, but on the bright side, he finished the season hitting .273 with almost a third of his total BBs on the season (9) over the final 10 games. Defensively, I saw good signs from Paez over at second base, showing good range, instincts and fast glove.
Even with the struggles, St. Lucie was a good offensive team leading the league in doubles, third in walks and OBP, and were fourth in total bases and OPS. This helped the team to a 27-26 record over the first two months of the season. Unfortunately, the team would fall apart after that due in large part to their pitching.
Those struggles began with the Mets 2016 first round draft pick Justin Dunn, who finished the season with a 5.00 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, and just 75 strikeouts in 95.1 innings. His struggles led to him spending some time in the bullpen. His success there and his struggles in the rotation did little to quiet those that see him as a reliever and not a starter. However, with this being his first full season as a starter, such judgments are premature. In a start of his that I attended, I did see a strong arm, topping 96 MPH and maintaining velocity throughout the later innings while showing a solid slider but the concerns going forward will be his health (he finished the year on the DL) and his command.
Besides Dunn’s struggles, the other issues with the rotation was promotions. Both Marcos Molina and Chris Flexen would being the year with St. Lucie pitching brilliantly before being promoted to Binghamton. Replacements like Jordan Humphreys were more than capable but would suffer injuries.
The two mainstays and workhorses in the rotation were Nabil Crismatt and Andrew Church with Crismatt being the better of the two. finished with 145.2 innings pitched and very encouraging 142 strikeouts. In his first full season as a starter, he had a great first half going 4-6 with a 2.70 ERA, 1.153 WHIP, and an 8.8 K/9 through the end of June. He would tire as the season ended, and we saw some regression.
When I got to see Crismatt pitch, I saw a pitcher who could keep his pitch count down, draw soft contact from the hitters, and pitch deep into games. The key for him was fastball command with set up his off speed pitches, namely that terrific change-up of his which he uses as an out pitch.
With respect to Church, he showed signs of swing and miss stuff exclusively on his offspeed pitch when he was able to first get ahead in the counts using his low 90s fastball. While he showed glimpses with his repertoire, the results weren’t there with him finishing the season 12-8 with a 4.62 ERA and a 1.368 WHIP.
While there were struggles in the rotation, there were some dominant performances in the bullpen. Despite pitching in the low 90s, Austin McGeorge had a 1.89 ERA,50 strikeouts, and a 0.97 WHIP in 38 innings. While their duration with St. Lucie was short, Adonis Uceta and new Met Gerson Bautista showed off not only great stuff, but they had outstanding results. Really, the only thing separting them and Tyler Bashlor were results.
Despite having pitched only 35 total innings at the level, reliever Tyler Bashlor finished 8th on the team in Ks with 61. The flamethrower topped 98 MPH in the game I saw. While he was seemingly unhittable with a 15.7 K/9, Bashlor still posted a 4.89 ERA. The Mets overlooked the stats and promoted him to Binghamton where he had much better results.
Of course, before wrapping up, it is necessary to mention Tim Tebow effect as the team posted record attendance in 2017. The former Heisman Trophy winner from Florida was the man everyone wanted to see, with many traveling numerous hours from throughout south, central and northern Florida just to show support. Tebow took time before and after every game at home or on the road to sign autographs and take pictures with the fans.
Sticking strictly to baseball, what I noticed was a hitter who stayed extremely aggressive mostly swinging at the first pitch likely looking for a fastball. Tebow was an opposite field hitter where most his power went that way. In the field, it was a struggle all year for Tebow. He appeared to have a lot of issues tracking and picking up on the ball in the air and seeing it off the bat of the hitter. It will be interesting to see where Tebow goes from here.
It is also interesting to see where Chad Kreuter leads the St. Lucie Mets in his second season as Mets manager. Hopefully, Kreuter will not be saddled with a team with as many injuries as he had this year. If that is the case, we may see Kreuter have as much of a positive impact on the 2018 St. Lucie team as he did with Alonso and Mazeika.
Manager Chad Kreuter
Pitching Coach Marc Valdes
Hitting Coach Luis Natera
MMN Top 40 Prospects
Player of the Week – Alonso (6/19/17, 7/17/17)
Pitcher of the Week – Crismatt (5/15/17)
Player of the Month – Alonso (July)
All Stars – Bashlor, Mazeika, Urena, Becerra, Jeff Diehl
Post-Season All Stars: Alonso, Mazeika, Urena