2017 Mets Affiliates Preview: Binghamton…sigh…Rumble Ponies

After a breakout 2016 season with the St. Lucie Mets, catcher Tomas Nido will look to continue his success in 2017 with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. The ride hasn’t always been smooth for Nido, the Mets 2012 eighth-round pick. Prior to 2016, he had never posted a minor league OPS higher than .660. However, over those first few years of his minor league career, his defensive game advanced from raw at best to an asset. His bat caught up in 2016, where he hit .320/.357/.459, good for a .294 TAv. Nido’s balanced skillset now has him on the verge of becoming a serious catching prospect. A repeat of his strong performance in Binghamton could place Nido among the top catching prospects in baseball heading into next season. A member of the same draft class that brought the Mets Kevin Plawecki in 2012, Nido has a chance to find himself leapfrogging Plawecki and others on the road to becoming the Mets’ catcher of the future.

On the surface, a light-hitting infielder with one career home run and average speed doesn’t sound all that entertaining to watch and follow as a prospect. Yet, “entertaining” is pretty much the best way to describe the Rumble Ponies’ shortstop, Luis Guillorme. Guillorme—a Spring Training celebrity after catching a flying bat in the dugout—brings one of the best defensive games in all of professional baseball to the table. He has impressively quick hands and excellent reaction times that allow him to dazzle defensively without exceptional speed or athleticism. The biggest question for Guillorme in 2017 and going forward remains his bat, which is the final obstacle standing between the former 10th round pick and Queens. While he will never be confused for a power hitter, Guillorme’s .052 ISO in St. Lucie in 2016 would have ranked as the lowest such figure in the major leagues for any player with greater than 150 plate appearances last year. Improving his gap power while maintaining a respectably high on-base clip will be essential for Guillorme to stay on track for a major league role. And even just a passable bat could give Guillorme a real shot at having a long major league career as a defensive-minded infielder.

Although he is currently on the shelf as he recovers from a recent knee operation, Tommy John survivor Chris Flexen is among the best pitching prospects in the Mets system and perhaps the “ace” of the 2017 Rumble Ponies. Flexen, who was added to the Mets 40-man roster this winter, boasts a fastball that has touched as high as 97, and a full four-pitch repertoire that makes him an intriguing starting pitching prospect. While he is risky even by pitching prospect standards, having already undergone Tommy John Surgery and now knee surgery by the age of 22, Flexen’s current profile is not all to far off from former Mets pitching prospects, such as Robert Gsellman and Michael Fulmer, as they entered the upper minors. While Flexen has not yet consistently missed bats at a high clip, posting only a 16.6% K-rate in 134 innings for St. Lucie last season, his stuff suggests that could improve in a hurry (see: Gsellman, Robert). With his option clock now running, 2017 will be an important year for Flexen if he looks to establish himself as an emerging option in the Mets’ suddenly less crowded starting pitching situation. Given his injury history and relatively high effort mechanics, it is quite possible that Flexen’s quickest and most likely path to the major leagues will come as a short reliever. Consistency, health, and breaking ball development—well, he’s in the right org for that one— will be essential for Flexen as he looks to make an impression this season in Western New York.

Short Hops

2015 4th round pick and ACC home run champion David Thompson figures to be the everyday third baseman for Binghamton in 2017. While Thompson’s defense has been better than advertised to this point in his professional career, he must hit for more power in Binghamton if he is to continue to rise through the ranks…Northern Irish southpaw P.J. Conlon will look to continue his improbable rise to the major leagues with a stop in Binghamton to open the 2017 season. Conlon, a soft-tossing lefty with a good change, posted an incredible 1.79 ERA split between Columbia and St. Lucie in his first full professional season. Double-A is always a test for this profile…yet another fast rising member of the Mets’ 2015 draft class, Corey Taylor, joins the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Like Conlon, Taylor has had little issue yet with professional hitters, posting a 1.87 ERA out of the bullpen for the St. Lucie Mets. Taylor’s stuff showed well in the Arizona Fall League, flashing a fastball that could bump the upper-90s and a plus slider. In an admittedly small sample size—though a very tough pitching environment— he missed bats at a higher clip (17 strikeouts in 14 innings) than he had previously in the minor leagues. If Taylor is able to keep up his stellar results and maintain his fall bump in stuff and strikeouts, he might not be long for Binghamton and could have a real shot to pitch out of the Mets’ bullpen sometime this season…center fielder Champ Stuart might be the fastest player in the Mets system and he’s a plus center fielder to boot, but he’s never shown the ability to hit offspeed and might never be more than a late-inning pinch-runner and defensive caddy. He’s ready for that role right now though and the 2017 Mets sure could use that.

Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell- USA Today Sports

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