|Image from Cyclones.com|
Previewing the initial roster expected to play for Tom Gamboa in Brooklyn
Short season baseball is about to get started! The Mets farm system has taken a hit with all the trades and promotions over the past season-plus, but the next wave of talent is about to start playing in the short season leagues.
The NYPL’s opening day is Friday night and the Brooklyn Cyclones are looking to bounce back from the first losing season in the franchise’s history. The team released aninitial roster earlier this week, and while there are sure to be changes to come, it’s still a good time to review who these guys are.
This year’s squad features a group of mostly fresh faces for Brooklyn fans to get to know, with only a few prospects returning from the 2015 Cyclones team. It is a nice mix of younger guys who have played in rookie ball for the Mets over the past two seasons and older guys who were drafted out of College this season.
The prospect discussion has to start with the players who will be involved in most of the Cyclones action: the pitchers and their catcher. The rotation features 4 young guns with upside, and they’ll be pitching to Ali Castillo, who some think may be the best catching prospect in the system. There are some power arms in the pen too, and it would not be out of line for the Mets to send their top two prospects from this year’s draft (Justin Dunn and Anthony Kay) to the Cyclones pen to limit their workload for the rest of the season. Although currently listed as a 5-man rotation, it’s likely a 6th starter will join the fray soon.
The Cyclones don’t lack for prospects on the other side of the ball either, although their biggest bat won’t be joining the lineup until mid-July, as Desmond Lindsay is dealing with a hamstring issue down in St. Lucie. One thing you’ll notice below is that the lineup will be mostly right-handed this season, with only two lefties (Jay Jabs and Dionis Paulino) and one switch-hitter (Arnaldo Berrios) listed among the initial group.
Average age = 21.3
*average age does not consider birthdate, just current age at start of season
Pitchers (17, Average age = 21.6)
Starters (5, 21)
Harol Gonzalez, RHP, 21
Merandy Gonzalez, RHP, 20
Joel Huertas, LHP, 20, @jhuertas14
Raul Jacobson, RHP, 24
Gabriell Llanes, RHP, 20, @gabellanes
Gabriel Llanes is slated to start opening day for the Cyclones, so let’s start there. The Mets selected Llanes in the 15th-round of the 2014 draft out of Downey HS in Downey, California. He throws a sinker that was previously reported at up to 93 MPH with serious armside run. He also features a slider that he’ll “throw in any count” and a circle changeup - read this for more on Llanes.
The Mets signed Harol Gonzalez out of the Dominican Republic on March 26, 2014 and he spent just one season in the DSL before joining the Kingsport Mets for the 2015 season. He got a lot of helium last season when he took a perfect game into the 9th in his second start of the year, and his stuff was given some nice grades for a guy pitching in the Appy league. He didn’t finish the season as strong, so he might’ve worn down in the tough offensive environment, but most rookie ball numbers don’t really matter anyway. That said, he only issued 9 walks in 65 IP for Kingsport, and that does kind of stick out. His fastball is reportedly upper 80’s, topping at 92, and he’ll mix in a splitter, changeup, and curveball.
The Mets signed Merandy Gonzalez out of the Dominican Republic on March 6, 2013 and he’d spend two seasons in the DSL before coming stateside for the 2015 season. He also got some helium for flirting with a no-hitter in the GCL last year, but then he went out and actually finished the job a few starts later. He was promoted after the no-no, and then finished the season with a strong performance starting for Kingsport. Some eyeball reports suggested he was upper-80’s with his heat in Kingsport last year, but then I started seeing him mid-90’s while tracking some XST games on iscorecast, and that’s what Adam Rubin reported in his weekly Farm Report, so look out NYPL! As far as I know, he also features a curve and changeup.
Joel Huertas was the Mets 16th-round selection of the 2014 draft and he was a High School pick out of Puerto Rico. Huertas was considered a big project by former AA Draft Guru Alex Nelson, but I think he has the most upside of the group, and is my pick to breakout on this team. The hard-throwing lefty led the GCL with 60 strikeouts last season (in 50.1 IP), and his 27.2% K-rate was top-20 among all pitchers with at least 20 IP.
Rounding out the rotation, at least for now, is Raul Jacobson. Jacobson was an undrafted free agent added after short season ball started last year and is currently the elder statesman on the team. Given his age and that he had success during his short tenure with Brooklyn last season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jacobson bumped up to Columbia during their second half.
UPDATE: The first game notes have Erik Manoah in the rotation instead of the initially announced Jacobson.
UPDATE: The first game notes have Erik Manoah in the rotation instead of the initially announced Jacobson.
Relievers (12, 21.9)
Adrian Almeida, LHP, 21
Adam Atkins, RHP, 22, @AJkins7
Dillon Becker, RHP, 22, @DillonBecker7
Bryce Beeler, RHP, 23, @BeelerBryce
Nicco Blank, RHP, 23, @NiccoBlank
Alejandro Castro, RHP, 23
Gary Cornish, RHP, 22, @gtcornish
Gabriel Feliz, LHP, 23
Taylor Henry, LHP, 22, @T_hennnyHEN
Austin McGeorge, RHP, 21, @Austin_mcgeorge
Erik Manoah, RHP, 20, @Erikjr05
Joseph Zanghi, RHP, 21, @Zanghi13
Turning to the pen, obviously not all of these guys are going to be in the pen rotation at the same time, and there are more names who will join the mix.
The Mets signed lefty Adrian Almeida for $170K on January 24, 2012, or a month before his 17th birthday. He spent two seasons in the DSL before coming stateside to the GCL for the 2014 season, and he was moved to the pen full-time for Kingsport last year. BA had his fastball touching 91 in this post from 2013, but they really liked his curveball. He’s had control problems, which is why he’s in the pen, but he could still prove to be an interesting arm.
Adam Atkins was the Mets 18th-round pick a week ago. He was mostly used as a reliever during his time pitching for Louisiana Tech, and he was the teams closer this past season. He’s a fastball/slider pitcher who can reportedly touch low-90’s.
Relatively unknown by scouts coming into the 2015 draft, Dillon Becker was the Mets 16th-round selection out of Angelo State a year ago. Still don’t have eyeball report notes on him, but the Nelson report had him throwing a fastball/slider.
Another relatively unknown amateur prospect heading into last year’s draft, Bryce Beeler was the Mets 19th-round selection in 2014. Per a Paul DePodesta quote in that AA report, Beeler is a fastball/slider pitcher who throws strikes.
Nicco Blank is here, for now. He throws hard and has the locks required to be an interesting Mets pitching prospect. I don’t think he’ll stick around for the whole summer, as he’s already spent a season in Brooklyn, and he was in the Fireflies pen earlier this season. He overpowered SAL batters for a nice 27% K-rate, but he had some rough outings during his stint with Columbia, issuing 10 walks and allowing 4 homers in just 11.1 IP.
The Mets signed Alejandro Castro as an undrafted free agent after the draft last season and he spent time in the GCL bullpen. He doesn’t throw hard, but he’s a sidearming righty with a slider, so there’s always ROOGY upside there. He finished with 5 saves for the GCL Mets last year.
Gary Cornish was selected in the 19th-round a week ago out of the University of San Diego. He’s known for a sinker/slider combo that allowed him to post high groundball rates in College when down in the zone, but his stuff can be beat when left up.
Gabriel Feliz is another Cyclones pen arm signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic. The Mets signed him back on April 2, 2010 and he spent 3 years in the DSL before coming stateside to the GCL in 2014, and then pitched for Kingsport last season.
The third lefty in the pen, Taylor Henry, was the Mets 21st-round selection last season out of Centenary College, which is where 51s pitcher Seth Lugo came from.
The Mets selected Austin McGeorge in the 7th-round last week out of Long Beach State, which is where Mets infield prospect Jeff McNeil (DL, sports hernia) went to school. He throws a fastball that sits upper-80’s and a nice slider.
Erik Manoah was taken by the Mets out of South Dade Senior HS in the 13th-round of the 2014 draft. Nelson had him as a fastball/curveball pitcher in his draft report, but his stuff had apparently dipped before the draft, so it will be interesting to get fresh reports this season.
Joseph Zanghi was selected by the Reds in the 2015 draft but didn’t sign for some reason, so the Mets swooped him up when he became eligible this year.
Catchers (4, 21.5)
Ali Sanchez, RHB, 19
Brandon Brosher, RHB, 22, @BrandonBrosher
Darryl Knight, RHB, 23, @D_Knight22
Dan Rizzie, RHB, 22, @drizz777
As mentioned, Ali Sanchez is the starter here, and he’ll be backed up by Brandon Brosher and Dan Rizzie to start the season.
The Mets signed Sanchez for $690K on July 2, 2013, and Baseball America had him as the 25th best international prospect of that class. He needed just one season in the DSL before coming stateside to catch for the GCL Mets last year, and he played so well that he finished the year with Kingsport. He gets praise for his defense and contact ability, which has helped him post a .287 batting average while only striking out in 15% of his PA as a pro.
The Mets 36th-round pick out of a Florida High School in 2013, Brandon Brosher is at least starting the season fighting for time in the backup catcher’s role with Brooklyn. He spent last season with the Cyclones and posted a high strikeout rate, but Mets people have always raved about his power potential, which keeps him on the radar.
Dan Rizzie is the other catcher slated to split time backing up Sanchez for Brooklyn. He was selected in the 13th-round last week out of Xavier University. While Brosher’s game is all about power, Rizzie’s game is all about his defense. He gets rave reviews for his arm, which helped him gun down 58% of attempted basestealers in 2016 (!).
Rounding out the mix is Darryl Knight, another catcher with pop and the Mets 14th-round selection from 2014. He finished with just a .155 average in 123 PA for the Kingsport Mets, but 11 of his 17 hits went for extra bases, including an impressive total of 7 for homers. Expect Knight to see time at 1B this season.
Infielders (8, 20.5)
Dale Burdick, RHB, 20, @Dale_Burdick13
Franklin Correa, RHB, 20
Yeffry De Aza, RHB, 19
Jay Jabs, LHB, 21
Santo Marte, RHB, 21
Dionis Paulino, LHB, 19
Nick Sergakis, RHB, 23, @SurgieeBaby
Colby Woodmansee, RHB, 21, @colbywoodmansee
Already looking crowded, Peter Alonso and Michael Paez are expected to join this group eventually too.
Dale Burdick was rewarded for his strong XST with a promotion to the B-Mets when they needed an emergency infielder. He talked about his experience with announcer Tim Heiman before leaving and sounded happy just to be there learning from the more experienced players. He doesn’t have a set position yet, but he should get plenty of AB’s playing all over the inifield for the Cyclones.
BA sounded pretty high on Franklin Correa after the Mets signed him out of the Domincan Republic on July 2, 2012, suggesting he was strong for his size (listed at 5’9”) and a good line drive hitter. He spent nearly two full seasons in the DSL before the Mets rewarded him with a stateside promotion to end the 2014 season, and then he spent the entire 2015 season in the GCL.
Jay Jabs became the third player to be drafted by the Mets out of Franklin Pierce since 2013 when he was taken in the 17th-round last week, joining current B-Mets reliever Kevin McGowan and former Cyclones 1B Zach Mathieu. Jabs played the hot-corner in college and showed some power from the left side.
The Mets signed Santo Marte out of the Dominican Republic on July 26, 2012 and he’d spend one season in the DSL before coming stateside to the GCL for the 2014 season. He’s rotated through several positions while spending a season in the GCL and then Kingsport the past two seasons.
Dionis Paulino was also signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic, and the Mets inked him on February 6, 2014. He’s mostly split time between 1B and the OF in his career, but it will be tough to find PA’s at those spots once everyone arrives. He’s spent one year in the DSL and then played in the GCL last season.
Nick Sergakis, the Mets 23rd-round pick a week ago, had a big season for Ohio State this year, improving both his power output and his plate discipline numbers.
The Mets made SS Colby Woodmansee their 5th-round pick a week ago and the Arizona State product posted nice numbers at the plate in his college career. As you can guess by his 5th-round selection, there have been questions about his defense, but they appear tied to his range, while everything else looks fine.
Outfielders (5, 21.2)
Arnaldo Berrios, SH, 20
Vicente Lupo, RHB, 22, @Zeltix
Hengelbert Rojas, RHB, 22, @HengelbertRojas
Enmanuel Zabala, RHB, 21
Jacob Zanon, RHB, 21, @jacobzanon
Arnaldo Berrios was selected out of the Carlos Beltran Academy in Puerto Rico with the Mets 39th-round pick in 2014. Jeff Paternostro talked about Berrios some here, which is the most I’ve seen about him since he was drafted.
Vicente Lupo spent last season with the Savannah Sand Gnats and started this year with the rebranded Columbia Fireflies, so playing for the Cyclones should be considered more than a minor setback for the big guy. If he’s not hurt and this is his new role, then his time in the system may be coming to an end soon. He’s always had big power, but he didn’t make enough contact to stick in the SAL this year.
The Mets signed Hengelbert Rojas as an international free agent out of Venezuela on November 1, 2011. He’d spend two seasons in the DSL before coming to the GCL for the 2014 season. He split 2015 between Kingsport and Brooklyn, but struggled to a .563 OPS for the Cyclones.
Enmanuel Zabala already had a weekend cameo with the Fireflies this season, and he apparently impressed in XST, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he rejoins Columbia in a few weeks. The Mets signed Zabala out of the Dominican Republic on October 11, 2012 and he needed just one season in the DSL before coming stateside. He’s a speedy outfielder who should fit at the top of the Cyclones lineup.
Appropriately wrapping things up with a Z-name, the second on this initial roster. Jacob Zanon is a speedy center fielder with some athleticism but a light bat. The Mets selected him in the 15th-round last week and he should be playing everyday to start.
UPDATE: 2016 10th-round pick Gene Cone is expected to be added to the roster within the next few days.
Scientists detect most distant signs of oxygen in the universe | @physorg_com https://t.co/O9ebfjY6g6 pic.twitter.com/TBNFFutWs5— The SETI Institute (@SETIInstitute) June 17, 2016