Previewing the initial roster expected to play in Kingsport
Appy league baseball is back! The Kingsport Mets season begins Thursday night at 7:00 PM, and here’s what you can expect. For starters, the K-Mets made some stadium upgrades during the offseason, and they are offering a radio stream of all games on TuneIn this year. As always, the best place for news is often from Mark Davis, aka @kmetsfan, who also live tweets most home games.
The team is coming off an early exit from the 2015 Appy league playoffs and full of fresh new faces. There are some guys with pro experience under their belt, but most of this roster was drafted or signed within the past 15 or so months. Luis Rivera is back at the helm for Kingsport, and he’ll be getting help from former Mets pitcher Royce Ring at pitching coach and Ender Chavez at hitting coach.
Although there are still some further moves to be made throughout the system, the initial roster is out, so below I quickly review who these guys are and how they became Mets. The strength of this team would appear to be the pitching, especially from the left side, but there are some position players who figure to be a part of the next wave of Mets prospects too.
32 Total Players, Average Age = 20.5*
*Age doesn't consider birthdate, just current age listed
*Age doesn't consider birthdate, just current age listed
Pitchers (17, Average age = 20.4)
I expect there will be a 6-man rotation with some piggyback starting going on, but beyond the top-4 guys I’m just guessing since I hadn’t seen anything further official out yet. Note that those first 4 names below were all high school starters drafted last year. We’ll see how things shake out, but I’m surprised Sixto Torres isn’t on the roster to start.
I haven’t included any college starters from this past draft in the rotation because that’s just not how the Mets operate. They let those guys adjust to pro life in the pen so they can limit their workload after a full season of starting, although some do end up with some short starts later in the season.
Starters (7, 19.9)
Thomas Szapucki, LHP, 20 @Szapucki12
Jordan Humphreys, RHP, 20
Jake Simon, LHP, 19
Max Wotell, LHP, 19 @maxwotell
Adonis Uceta, RHP, 22
Jose Carlos Medina, LHP, 19
Ronald Guedez, RHP, 20
Szapucki gets the opening day nod, so let’s start there. The Mets took Szapucki in the 5th round last year, which is a little surprising given his serious upside and that the Mets only went $20K overslot to sign him. Well he’s now sitting mid-90’s and touching 97, per his manager, who added that, “he needs to continue to learn controlling the game with his command.” Szapucki features that heat, plus a tight slider with some funk in his delivery from the left side, so I’m pretty excited to see what he can do.
The Mets 18th round pick from 2015 Jordan Humphreys is scheduled to get the ball in game two. Humphreys was sitting high-80’s pre-draft and had a nice easy motion.
Some video of Humphreys
Jake Simon is expected to start in game three of the season. The Mets made Simon their 11th round pick last year out of Galveston, Texas, and the lefty reportedly has some good stuff.
The Mets selected Max Wotell in the 3rd round last year, and just like Szapucki, this southpaw has a funky delivery but packs a big punch. His fastball velocity kept creeping up in High School, so we’ll have to see where he ends up maxing out, but scouts also liked his curve and how good of an athlete he was.
As mentioned, these last few guys are guesses, though still of interest. Adonis Uceta was signed out of the Dominican Republic on February 11, 2013 and spent 1.5 seasons in the DSL before joining the GCL Mets to end 2014. After most of last season back in the GCL, Uceta finished his year with a strong start for Kingsport (6 IP, 2 R, 6 K). Matt Eddy had Uceta sitting mid-90’s with a nice changeup and developing slider in his Top-10 prospects chat this past offseason.
The Mets signed Mexico native Jose Carlos Medina on August 29, 2012 and brought him stateside to pitch in the GCL at age 17 in 2014. His numbers took a big step forward while he repeated the level last season, and he finished with just 1 walk allowed in 32 IP.
The Mets signed Ronald Guedez out of Venezuela for $170K back on August 1, 2012. He spent parts of 3 seasons pitching in the DSL, but he then joined the GCL Mets to start the 2015 season. He was effective in the GCL last season (2.93 ERA, 42 H + 10 BB allowed in 46 IP), but finished with just 14 K’s. I’d guess Guedez is a piggyback starter at the outset of the season.
Relievers (10, 20.8)
Chris Viall, RHP, 20 @chris_cmv
Placido Torres, LHP, 23
Darwin Ramos, RHP, 20
Max Kuhns, RHP, 21 @KuhnaMatata16
Trent Johnson, RHP, 19
Kurtis Horne, LHP, 19 @AroundTheHorne_
Colin Holderman, RHP, 20 @ColinHolderman
Edwin German, RHP, 23
Gregorix Estevez, RHP, 22
Adrian Almeida, LHP, 21
Adrian Almeida rejoins the roster after a few games with Brooklyn, and he should again be joined by a group of college pitchers this season.
Chris Viall is a big dude with a big heater who the Mets drafted in the 7th round earlier this month. He stands 6’9” tall and will top out in the upper 90’s, which has to be an imposing combination for batters. Per Amazin’ Avenue, scouting director Tommy Tanous suggested Viall would move quickly through the system.
Placido Torres is a name that locals will be excited to see pitching in the Appy league, as he just finished a huge senior season at nearby Tusculum College. The Mets swooped Torres up in the 8th round after he posted 162 strikeouts and a 0.70 ERA over 116 IP this past season. I imagine he’ll get a chance to start next year, but that innings total will likely put him on a tighter limit the rest of this season.
The Mets signed Venezuela native Darwin Ramos back in November 2012, and he’s repeating with Kingsport to start the season. He posted nice strikeout rates while mostly being used as a starter last year, so it’s possible he ends up starting some more this season if he gets the walks under control.
Max Kuhns is a righty selected out of Santa Barbara who was a football star in High School.
Trent Johnson is a strike thrower taken out of Santa Fe College in the 16th round this season.
Kurtis Horne is a rare Canadian prep pitcher taken with the Mets 31st round pick back in 2014. He was a project when drafted, but is apparently ready to move on from the instructional environment of the GCL, so it will be interesting to see reports on what he’s throwing.
Colin Holderman is a two-way player who the Mets will be using at pitcher. He threw 74 IP this past season, so may seem some short starts by the end of the season, but should mostly be limited to relief duty in 2016.
Edwin German was signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic back on July 23, 2014. After starting the 2015 season in the DSL, he finished it starting in the GCL rotation, so he’s probably in the mix for starting/piggyback starting.
The Mets signed Gregorix Estevez back in February 2013 and he made his stateside debut with the GCL Mets lat year.
Catchers (3, 21.3)
Anthony Dimino, LHB (Throws with right hand), 22 @ADiminio2
Jose Maria, RHB, 21
Dionis Rodriguez, RHB, 21
Anthony Dimino wanted to go to the Mets, so I guess things worked out when they took him in the 28th round last year. He’s not a big guy (listed at 5’11” and 180 pounds), but he gets props for having a great approach at the plate and working well with his pitchers.
Signed back in August 2011, Dominican Republic native Jose Maria (listed at 5’9”) is even shorter than Dimino and is getting his second taste of Appy league action. After 3 seasons in the DSL, Maria made his stateside debut split between the GCL and Kingsport last year, but playing time at catcher was hard to come by, so he spent some time at 1B.
If this video is to be believed, Dionis Rodriguez has been training to play baseball for most of his life. The Mets signed him back in August 2011 and he first came stateside to play in the GCL back in 2014. He hasn’t hit much yet, but the Mets chose him to be the emergency catcher option in St. Lucie for a few days earlier this season, and he even made one start, which is often a way of rewarding a player for a strong XST.
Infielders (6, 20.3)
Cecilio Aybar, RHB, 22
Franklin Correa, RHB, 20
Yeffry De Aza, RHB, 19
Angel Manzanarez, RHB, 19
Santo Marte, RHB, 22
Walter Rasquin, RHB, 20
Just like Almeida, Franklin Correa, Santo Marte, and Yeffry De Aza (signed for $475K) join Kingsport after a few games with Brooklyn.
The Mets signed Dominican shortstop Cecilio Aybar for $251,100 back in June 2014 a year after he was involved in some age-related controversy. Even at his advanced age, scouts still liked the athletic Aybar, who BA grades as a 70-runner in that report.
Angel Manzanarez is a Venezuela native signed on or prior to May 29, 2015, which is the day he was assigned to the DSL Mets 2. He spent most of his time at 2B last season, but DSL positions aren’t always meaningful. He finished last year with 21 K: 39 BB in 64 G, so I’m guessing the Mets think he can handle some advanced pitching and I’m pretty excited to get some reports on him.
The Mets signed Venezuela native Walter Rasquin back in June 2013 and it was suggested at the time he would be moved to catcher. The Mets have instead kept him on the infield, mostly at 3B, though he could see time at 1B and 2B this year too. He had a nice first season stateside with the GCL Mets last year, finishing with a .301/.375/.379 slash, 5 doubles and a homer over 36 games.
Outfielders (6, 20.5)
Will Barring, RHB, 23 @willbarring
Ricardo Cespedes, LHB, 18
Jose Miguel Medina, RHB, 19
Raphael Ramirez, LHB, 20 @RalphiRamirez
Ian Strom, RHB, 21 @istrom15
Jeremy Wolf, LHB, 22 @jeremyfromphx
The Mets signed Will Barring as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and the speedy outfielder spent the season in the GCL.
Dominican outfielder Ricardo Cespedes was signed for $725K on his 16th birthday in 2013 and could emerge as the stud position player of the roster.
The Mets signed Jose Miguel Medina back in February 2014, and he has no relation to the pitcher Jose Medina listed above. The young outfielder spent one season in the DSL before being moved to the GCL for 2015, and his rapid progress suggests the Mets are pretty high on him.
I’m a little surprised that Raphael Ramirez is repeating, but hopefully this won’t his assignment for the entire season. The Mets took Ramirez out of HS in the 18th round of the 2014 draft and he would be repeating with Kingsport. Injuries limited him last season, but this is still surprising given he’s shown upside and the ability to play center field.
Ian Strom was taken in the 22nd round of the draft earlier this month out of Massachusetts-Lowell. He has a great defensive reputation, getting props for plus speed and a plus arm in the outfield.
Jeremy Wolf was the Mets 31st round pick this year after he posted a big season for Trinity University. His coach described him as the prototypical line-drive hitter who will spray the ball to all fields.
Rock on: Unexpected mineral found on the Red Planet by @MarsCuriosity https://t.co/R4fQpT6Xor #JourneyToMars pic.twitter.com/ITqN2OwV5z— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) June 22, 2016