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Mets Minor League Preview: Binghamton Mets

After hitting on some of the notable Mets farmhands who will begin 2016 with the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s, today we’ll continue our tour of the minors with the Binghamton Mets of the Double-A Eastern League. This is a roster headlined by first baseman Dominic Smith, the Mets first-round pick in the 2013 draft. Behind him this roster looks a little thin.

Dominic Smith

Lets talk about Mr. Smith, who will turn 21 on June 15, and who Jeff Paternostro and company named the No. 5 Mets prospect entering this season. Smith won the 2015 Florida State MVP on the strength of a .305/.354/.417 triple-slash line with 33 doubles and six home runs in 118 games. He was first in the FSL in doubles and RBI (79), fourth in both batting average and slugging percentage, and fifth in hits. The six homers are glaringly low from a well-regarded first base prospect. Simply put, he needs to get the ball over the wall more regularly to prove that he can be an above-average MLB first baseman. Otherwise, he’ll be the guy who gets to the majors, plays for a while, but is always looking over his shoulder as his team shops for an upgrade.

He was also first in grounding into double plays, which leads us to talk about his hit tool. Where his BP writeup talks about “feel for the bat head” and a hitter who “covers the outer half well,” the discerning reader should interpret that as a hitter who is very comfortable shooting the ball the other way into left-centerfield. That’s who Smith is primarily. But he does not yet have the feel, comfort, or mechanics to drive the ball with authority to his pull side in right field. In 2015, Smith ran a .351 batting average on balls in play. Against higher-caliber defenses and pitchers, that’s likely to fall and drag his overall line down. On the bright side, his approach is relatively refined–he didn’t strike out much (15 percent k-rate) and walked at a respectable rate (seven percent walk rate). Still, he’ll need to learn to work counts and pick up a few more walks as he moves up the ladder.

Smith is young, but this is an important season for him. Everything about his profile puts pressure on his bat. He’s put on weight since his draft, and that hurts his range; that’s important because his defense has been a selling point until now. Still, first basemen are not paid on their defense. The bottom line is Smith needs to prove that he can mix excellent hand-eye coordination and a developing approach with the ability to hit the ball over the wall.

Other Hitters

Jeff McNeil, who will celebrate his 24th birthday on Friday, will be hanging around the Binghamton infield at shortstop, second and third base. McNeil played very little baseball before college at Long Beach–he was an elite golfer–and in some ways is still raw. However, he runs, hits for average, and has defensive versatility. There’s not much power here and he struggles against lefties, as his mechanics go backwards against southpaws. I doubt that McNeil is an average MLB player, but I think he’s likely to play in the big leagues at some point.

There are a pair of mid-round prospects from the 2013 draft who are running out of time to prove that they have viable big league futures. L.J. Mazzilli, the Mets fourth round pick in 2013, will play the 2016 season as a 25-year-old. He probably gets too much attention from fans at large who fondly remember his father–Lee Mazzilli–and his connection to the World Series Champion Mets of 1986. After returning from his 50-game suspension for a drug of abuse from the fall of 2014, Mazzilli hit .263/.337/.334 in 86 games in Double-A in 2015. He’s more mechanical than graceful at second base. Since he’s limited to second and teams don’t generally carry second-base-only bench guys, it’s hard to see where Mazzilli fits into a big league roster.

A round after Mazzilli, the Mets plucked Jared King out of Kansas State, move that earned praise at the time, for its “value.” He’ll be 24 in the 2016 season coming off a 2015 season in which he hit .214/.262/.286 in 122 games in Double-A. The B-Mets ran King out there a little bit in center field last year, but he really belongs on a corner.


On the hill, Robert Gsellman is the team’s top hurler. I wrote about him in the Triple-A preview, but the Mets went with the less aggressive assignment for the 22-year-old by sending him back to Double-A after 16 starts at the level a year ago. The rotation is relatively uninteresting behind Gsellman with Tyler Pill–who was hit hard in Triple-A last year–joining Rainy Lara and friends. Not much to see here. But rather unusually for a minor league affiliate, the bullpen here in Bingo is at least as interesting as the starting rotation.

Akeel Morris, the little live-armed 23-year-old who made his big league debut late in 2015, returns to Binghamton. He’s put up big strikeout numbers and walked too many guys on his way through the minors to Double-A. He complements mid-90s heat with some shaky secondary offerings: a changeup and slider. The next step is to tighten up one of those to complement his fastball … and learn how to avoid walking 13 percent of opposing hitters.

Luis Mateo excited Mets fans with 85 strikeouts and a 2.45 ERA all way back in 2012 for Brooklyn … then he blew out his elbow early in the 2013 season after one spot start for Double-A Binghamton. He was replaced in the Binghamton rotation by Jacob deGrom … so phrased another way, the Mets gave Mateo a chance at Double-A before deGrom. Mateo, who has made 25 relief appearances in 2014 and 2015, has not started a game since. He made 10 appearances with Savannah in 2015, and I thought his stuff did not look as good as it did in 2012. Maybe, at age 26, he can regain that low-mid 90s fastball and biting slider. Maybe.

Logan Taylor returned from 2013 Tommy John surgery to pitch well for Savannah at the end of the 2014 season and then made 22 starts for High-A St. Lucie in 2015. He’s a big guy at six-foot-five who could throw in the low-90s as a starter, so the idea is that he will get a velocity boost by moving to the bullpen. That could make him interesting.

[Yes, the minor league season started Thursday. Apologies to you friendly readers for the relative tardiness of these previews, a pressing family issue took me away from my laptop for the better part of a week.]

Photo Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports


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