After already writing up Thomas Szapucki, there are plenty of other interesting and less interesting prospects that I could write up from the Columbia Fireflies. However, I’m not going to go over again the same prospects that Jeffrey wrote up last month when he saw this same Columbia team. I could tell you again how impressive Desmond Lindsay looked (he was the most talented player on the field for four days) or how Andres Gimenez already has a case for being the best prospect in the Mets system once Amed Rosario graduates, but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to focus on the prospects we didn’t talk about last time.
RHP Adonis Uceta
After he made 11 starts for the Kingsport Mets in 2016, the Mets promoted Uceta to Columbia to begin the 2017 season and moved him to the bullpen. While I never saw Uceta during his time as a starting pitcher, the early returns on his move to the bullpen are strong. The 23-year-old righty sat in the 93-96 mph range with his fastball, which he complemented with a changeup in the 81-84 range that has the potential to be an above average offering for him. The 6’1″ Uceta throws from a low three-quarters slot and does not have excessive amount of effort in his delivery. While it’s obviously hard to project out a single-A reliever, Uceta was the most impressive pitcher out of the bullpen for Columbia or Hagerstown during my four-day stay and I would feel comfortable projecting him to be a major league middle reliever.
RHP Matt Blackham
After missing a year and a half with a back injury, Matt Blackham has returned to the mound in 2017 and is doing so as a reliever, in the same role he pitched out of in college. The 2014 29th pick, now 24 years old, is an undersized righty who does not look any bigger than his listed height and weight: 5’11″ and 150 lbs. Despite his small stature, Blackham is able to sit in the 94-95 range with his sinker, which lives true to its name with significant sink. It’s a plus pitch for Blackham that can carry him all the way to the majors. He paired the pitch with a low 80s change that has the makings of becoming a solid average offering. He is clearly too good for this level and should be promoted to St. Lucie in short order.
RHP Gary Cornish
After hurling 25 dominant relief innings for the 2016 Brooklyn Cyclones in his draft year, Gary Cornish was suspended 50 games before the start of this season for performance-enhancing drugs. On the 51st game of the Columbia Fireflies’ season, Cornish reemerged with his first professional start. The 23-year-old Cornish has a strong pitcher’s frame and throws from a bit higher than a standard three-quarters arm slot. Pitching into the seventh inning, he displayed impressive command and feel for his four-seam fastball and curveball. The four-seamer, which sat in the 91-93 mph range, was frequently elevated and featured noticeable rise and life. His curve, which sat in the 79-81 mph range, has the makings of a solid average offering that can play up due to his ability and willingness to throw it in and out of the strike zone and in all counts. Given that he is exclusively a two-pitch pitcher, Cornish is likely destined for the bullpen. However, with his advanced command and feel for both of his pitches, he seems like the odds-on favorite to be the Binghamton…sigh…Rumble Ponies closer in 2019.
IF Michael Paez
Michael Paez, the Mets’ fourth round pick out of Coastal Carolina in 2016, had a rough start to his professional career with the Cyclones in his draft year, finishing the short season below the Mendoza line and with a .223 TAv. 2017 has been a different story for the former Chanticleer, who is presently sporting a .306/.400/.533 line for the Fireflies. He’s clearly too advanced for this level as an early round college pick and should be promoted to St. Lucie soon. Despite only being listed at 5’8,” Paez is able to make the most of his fringe-average raw power in games. He seems to have calmed down the uppercut slightly this season, but power remains his main focus at the plate. The hit tool, while more than fine for this level, still looks like a present 30. Given his experience and lack of his physicality and projection, it’s hard and likely unwise to expect significant growth in this regard. A college shortstop, Paez looked surprisingly advanced at third base, with the ability to play up the middle as well. Versatility is a key for a player with Paez’s profile to advance through the ranks and could be what allows him to reach the major leagues. While his upside is limited, he could carve out a major league role for himself in the future as fifth infielder who could play all across the dirt.
A converted catcher, RHP Joseph Zanghi sat 91-93 mph with his fastball, topping out at 94, and featured a low-mid 80s slider as well. He threw from a standard three-quarters release point with a fair bit of effort. Fellow reliever RHP Max Kuhns sat at 89-92 mph with fastball with a breaking ball in the 78-79 mph range. He threw from a three-quarters arm slot with high effort but had a decent amount of deception in his delivery.