In the last season before the current MLB Draft rules were in place, the Mets spent $650,000 on 15th-round pick Phillip Evans. At the time, Baseball America reported it to be the largest amount given by the Mets to a player picked after the first two rounds. The Mets had been criticized for not spending money in the draft, so this was big news at the time.
However, Evans did little to distinguish himself his first five years in the organization. He didn’t play much in his draft season but in the next four years, he saw consistent playing time and never topped a .665 OPS. Then in 2016 he put up a .335/.374/.485 line in Double-A Binghamton to jump-start his career. He saw time in major league camp this past Spring Training and showed a solid glove while hitting a respectable .262 in 42 PA.
Sent to Las Vegas, Evans was unable to build on his momentum. In his first 74 games, Evans managed just a .623 OPS despite the favorable hitting conditions. But then he kicked things into high gear. In his last 217 PA, Evans posted a .338/.396/.540 line, the type of hitting you want to see in the PCL from your top prospects.
Evans is not on the 40-man roster and the Mets have a very similar player in Matt Reynolds already in place. Like Evans, Reynolds also had a breakout in Double-A before struggling to repeat in Triple-A. Reynolds has ridden the shuttle between the majors and minors the past two years, not really doing anything to make someone go, wow. It may end up a battle between these two guys for a spot on the 40-man prior to the 2017 Rule 5 Draft. Evans’ strong finish gives him a puncher’s chance.
Triple-A Las Vegas
The Mets of recent years always seem to have a bunch of middle infielders who are old for their level but hit enough to keep them on everyone’s radar. Jeff McNeil was one of those guys but his stock took a tumble after he missed most of 2016 with a hernia. Most of this year has been forgettable but in his last 13 games, he’s batting .320 so perhaps he’s still got an outside chance… Much was made of all of the relievers the Mets picked up in their trades. But one move that flew under the radar was signing former Major Leaguer Neil Wagner in mid-August after he was released by the Rays. Wagner has a mid-90s fastball and he has not allowed a run in 10.1 IP with the 51’s. He’s also struck out 11 batters in this time frame.
Corey Oswalt was selected as the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. He finished the year 12-5 with a 2.28 ERA… Marcos Molina finished the year strong, with six Quality Starts in his final seven games. He had a 2.80 ERA with a 3.6 K/BB ratio in this span… Peter Alonso has played 10 games since his promotion and has hit right away at the higher level, as seven of his 14 hits went for extra-bases, helping him to a .991 OPS… David Thompson is riding a 7-game hitting streak and in his last 35 games he has a .942 OPS. His overall numbers don’t jump out but he’s been hitting well for most of the year after getting off to a terrible start.
Hi-A St. Lucie
While many of his teammates have gotten a promotion, Wuilmer Becerra is still plugging away in the Florida State League. But he’s not letting it get him down, as he’s batting .342 in his last 20 games. He’s still not showing the power we’d like to see, though. And since Alonso was promoted, he’s seen a lot of time at 1B in addition to his normal RF spot… Andrew Church won his final four starts of the season. In that 28-IP span, he had a 2.25 ERA and a 0.857 WHIP. It wasn’t a great season for Church, but he finishes on an up note.
Andres Gimenez collided with a teammate and was removed from the game on August 29. While he walked off under his own power, he has not been back in the lineup since… Matt Blackham earned the SAL-BC Relief Pitcher of the Month Honor for August. He did not allow a run in 10.2 innings and notched six saves. Blackham also won the award in July, and he didn’t allow an earned run then, either. In his last 26.2 innings, he has 4 BB and 39 Ks to go along with his 0.00 ERA. It’s been a tremendous bounceback season for Blackham, who missed all of 2016 with a fracture of the olecranon in his right elbow. He’s old for the level at age 24 but had the exact season he needed to remain in the organizations’ plan.
Second-round pick Mark Vientos got a promotion from the GCL to the APPY and hit .294 in his cup of coffee at the higher level. In his last 27 games, Vientos had a .305/.339/.467 line in 115 PA. Primarily a shortstop, he also saw time at third base as the Mets are emphasizing versatility in their young middle infielders… Walter Rasquin and Wagner Lagrange, everyone’s favorite cabinet members from the Kennedy Administration, finished the year on a strong note. Rasquin had an .898 OPS over his final 15 games and finished the year hitting exactly .300 while Lagrange had a .357/.429/.500 line in his final 63 PA. Rasquin’s a 2B while Lagrange is a corner outfielder.
Austin McGeorge belongs in the cabinet, too, and he might be the best of the bunch. The 22-year-old McGeorge, a year older than Rasquin and Lagrange, amassed 66 Ks in 50.2 IP while splitting time between Columbia and St. Lucie. He had a 1.89 ERA and a 0.974 WHIP with 50 Ks in 38.2 IP at Hi-A.