Last month I analyzed the Met farm system and reviewed 10 case studies of starting pitchers who have recently risen through the ranks. This month we’ll be doing something similar for batting but we’re going to be handling things slightly differently this time around.  Instead of reviewing and analyzing case studies, we will review perception vs. reality when it comes to the various levels in the Mets system.

Perception

  • International Rookie Leagues (DSL1/DSL2)
    • These leagues have players between the ages of 16 and 20 with a fairly low percentage of players eventually emerging as superstars. The Mets and other teams recruit many young players through these leagues but, usually, you only need to focus on the 1-5 players the team spent large amounts of money on.
    • Stats out of the DSL are wildly inconsistent (Vicente Lupo 2012) and often far overblown. There are some glimmers of information one can glean from these leagues if you look carefully. Typically power, especially one’s SLG+, cannot be faked. That being said, you need to take any stat from this level with a grain of salt.
  • Domestic Rookie Leagues (GCL/APP)
    • Fielding players who have graduated from the DSL and high school athletes from recent drafts, the Rookie leagues are more about figuring out how to be a professional athlete than generating stats. With a typical age range of 18-22 these leagues are the most likely victims, should the MLB look to trim the minor league fat some day.
    • Stats out of these leagues are still hit or miss with some distinct exceptions. Age plays the biggest role in whether a player’s stats are meaningful with younger players facing more experienced minor league filler players right away.
  • Low A Leagues (NYP/SAL)
    • The New York Penn League serves as both a rookie league for the top collegiate draftees and a proving ground for those coming up from the lower levels. Players typically fall between 19-22 years of age at this level with a high number of major league rehab assignments thanks to proximity to the major league club (for Brooklyn).
    • In both the NYP and SAL leagues, pitchers enjoy a healthy advantage over hitters who find their power numbers hurt by some of the more “difficult hitting ballparks” in the minors. Pitcher success at these levels can sometimes be blown out of proportion as well.
  • Advanced A (FSL)
    • Some people claim that the Advanced A is where the minors really begins. From here on up, success at a level can exponentially indicate that a player is likely to make and succeed upon reaching the majors. Players are typically between 21-23 years old at this league.
    • While not the “Pitcher’s Heaven” that Low A gets a reputation for, Port St. Lucie does still seem to dampen the offensive numbers from some players who pass through its ranks. It also seems that some players who only manage to “survive” at this level are able to prove themselves late on and make names for themselves.
  • Double and Triple A (EAS/INT)
    • The top levels of the minors become harder for me to prove my points as the Mets recently moved from an extremely hitter friendly league (The PCL) to their current home in Syracuse. Players at these levels are typically between 22-27 years old.
    • The perception that Double A sees an offensive bump is built partially on the fact that pitching seems to get the edge for the three levels immediately preceding it. You also find that many teams field major league backup squads of aging major league talent in their Triple A affiliates which badly skews some of the numbers. Regardless, it seems that a player has to prove themselves in Binghamton to have much of a chance in the majors.

 Reality

  • International Rookie Leagues (DSL1/DSL2)
    • The exception that proves the rule might be Andres Gimenez. In 2016 (at the age of 17) he managed a batting line of .350/.469/.523 in 62 games with the two DSL clubs. These outstanding numbers earned him a promotion straight to the SAL where he managed to make good on much of the promise these outrageous numbers hinted at.
    • Recently, many of the Top International Mets signees have been skipping these leagues altogether and Freddy Valdez saw a midseason promotion after 57 games with a .268/.358/.432 batting line. Similar to Adrian Hernandez who posted .261/.351/.386 before having his 2019 season in the GCL cut short.
    • It would seem that the Mets are equally dubious about the numbers that come out of these lowest leagues, preferring to get their biggest investment players experience in the Domestic Rookie Leagues as quickly as possible. With no 2020 season you can expect Alexander Ramirez to skip these leagues in his 2021 Mets debut.
  • Domestic Rookie Leagues (GCL/APP)
    • There seem to be two divergent stories that emerge from the GCL and APP. One, is the case where young players are exposed early to these leagues and demonstrate success. The other is when more seasoned international players feast on young and inexperienced pitchers to pad their stats.
    • The most recent and painful example of the former is Jarred Kelenic who slashed a .286/.371/.468 in 56 combined games of 2018. By his side were, Ronny Mauricio .273/.304/.410 and Francisco Alvarez .282/.407/.510 and while Kelenic is gone, the latter two have entrenched themselves into the Top 10 of Met prospects.
    • The other side of this is players you aren’t so likely to hear from again after their mirage success in the APP. Players like Jose Miguel Medina, Edgardo Fermin and Juan Uriarte. I think the exception to this rule has been Wagner LaGrange, who seems to be developing into a viable major league bench player.
  • Low A Leagues (NYP/SAL)
    • The pitcher dominance of this league has diminished now that the Mets no longer play their home games in Savannah. Back in the day the numbers out of the pitchers from this league made just about everyone look great and might be the reason the Mets didn’t make more out of a talented pitcher like Collin McHugh. Focusing on the hitting, it is still not common for a player to demonstrate success in these leagues.
    • Dominic Smith only managed .271/.344/.338 in the SAL, Gimenez had a .265/.346/.349 and Rosario only managed a combined .274/.320/.372 between the NYP and SAL in 2014.
    • Breaking this mold seems to be power hitters. If you consider the cases of Michael Conforto or Pete Alonso you see Conforto breaking out a .331/.403/.448 and Alonso who managed a .321/.382/.587 in Brooklyn. Proving that offensive numbers in the NYP are certainly possible and shattering the myth that both leagues are “pitcher friendly”.
  • Advanced A (FSL)
    • Some of the hitting challenges of the SAL seem to always continue into the FSL. Players aren’t quick to evolve into their successful forms here but you will see some sort of uptick from those who will eventually make it into the major leagues.
    • Gimenez showed a bit of a breakout back in 2018 when he came out with a .282/.348/.432 slash line. Unlike some of my other examples, he seemed to backslide after his promotion.
    • The case that best illustrates the suggestion that Advanced A gives hitters a small bump in Smith who begins to shake off those hitting cobwebs from the Low A Leagues and sees his OPS reach .771 for the season.
    • The one consistent truth of this league seems to be that if you don’t make it here, you aren’t likely to go far beyond it. Some players, like Desmond Lindsay are case in point.
  • Double and Triple A (EAS/INT)
    • The numbers in AAA are truly hard to judge but one thing that a lot of folks will notice is that some players really see a big boost when they hit Binghamton and some seem to stall.
    • If you had asked me before 2020 to illustrate a case where these leagues gave us the impression a player would exceed their capabilities I might have pointed back to Smith, who continued his uptick in performance into both AA and AAA but staggered when he first reached the majors. After his 2020 it is hard to look at the AA and AAA numbers and say they were much of an aberration.
    • It still seems that these leagues, AA in particular, are truly the best guide to major league success that you will get in the minors. Especially now that the Mets no longer send their AAA players to Las Vegas and the PCL.

In conclusion, my stat analysis didn’t debunk too many of my preconceptions about the leagues.  I certainly over-estimated the pitching success of the NYP but my overall statements looked to have held up. Looking at all of this It does seem that there are several leagues that could be condensed and gotten rid of but I’ll never vote in favor of removing minor league teams. Minor League baseball is a joy to watch and fans of these local teams truly enjoy the games they get to watch.

12 comments on “Mets Minors: The difference between the upper and lower levels, Part II

  • Joe Vasile

    Pretty good summation of things, and of course there are so many variables, especially at the lower levels that looking at the stats is basically nothing more than a very loose guide.

    That being said, the entire structure is going to be different in 2021, for one, the Florida State League is dropping down to a Low-A level and the NY-Penn League and Appalachian League are already no longer professional leagues. The South Atlantic League will not look the same in 2021, and there will be significant movement in the Low/High-A shuffle. The GCL will remain as a rookie league.

    From the rumors/reports I hear (and I stress these are just rumors, since there is still nothing set in stone until the Mets and MLB make an announcement) Double-A is going to be Brooklyn, with Binghamton’s status still up in the air for 2021, and Triple-A will stay Syracuse.

    Mostly I’m just interested to see how the park factors play out with those big FSL parks now housing slightly less experienced players and wherever the Mets land a team in High-A.

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

    • Hobie

      I guess I don’t understand the administration MiLB. How does the FSL “drop from Hi-A to Lo-A?” Who has to agree to what?
      And while I understand (I think) affiliate agreements, does the Eastern League have to authorize a Brooklyn team (owned by…the NY Mets?) as a member?
      Thanks for any explanation.

    • JC

      This is unfortunately going to happen but I’m not a big fan as I believe it to be politically short sighted. MLB believes it needs its antitrust exemption but the predatory way in which they went about this is going to make them a lot of enemies in congress and why any municipality would invest in a franchise after seeing MLB abandoned 40 + business partners and their communities is beyond me. That said with the yankees reported choice to abandoned staten island and Trenton in favor of sites in PA and new england I’d love to see the mets hold on to Binghamton and really center their minor league ops in NYS use this as an opportunity to create fans around the state by investing in those upstate communities.

      Syracuse- AAA you own the team so protection from aphillet musical chairs
      Brooklyn- AA- newer facility closer to home
      Binghamton- A+- Ok the facility is older but another chance to market future stars to the regions fans and staying in state as much as possible keeps state and local officials on your side (more on this blow)
      St Lucy-A- Large spring training facility gives you the room to cycle in international players as I believe I had heard MLB wants to take over the academies and end team affiliation so this is the place to stash developmental pieces. Also recently upgraded facility.

      The commissioner did a presser in Binghamton last year pre-pandemic they secured funding to upgrade the facility and even got Sen. Schumer to make an appearance to shut down the Rumble ponies now really could cause problems MLB dose not want now I’m not saying they are politically savvy enough to see that because they have botched this affiliate thing from jump but bad management creates opportunities just as well as good on sometimes and the commissioner is the king of bad management.

      • Name

        The main problem with Binghamton is probably geographical.

        A+ is played in the Carolina league, Florida state league, and California league and they are clearly not part of any of those regions.

        The current A+ leagues are the South Atlantic league and the Midwest league. New York state also has trouble fitting here in either, although if you had to choose one i would say they are closer to the midwest, but even still that would be a 15 hr drive to its farthest team in Iowa.

        Now they could restructure all the leagues like the one suggested below in Brian’s link, but seeing as there are better geographical options it doesn’t make sense for them to jam a square peg into a round hole in this situation and the whole point is to streamline and make the minors a better experience for all parties.

  • David Groveman

    Couple Things:

    1) AA Brooklyn makes a ton of sense from a marketing and proximity stand point. Having been to Binghamton, it’s not a great park or location. I am sorry for the upstate New Yorkers who may lose their team.

    2) I think we will see things in 2021 in a large state of flux. More than anything… I’m looking forward to seeing more minor league stats since I spent a year starving for them.

  • Brian Joura

    Here’s a nice article that speculates how the new minor league universe might shake out.

    https://www.talknats.com/2020/09/15/minor-leagues-look-like-2021/

  • JC

    ok from sandy’s presser he just said “were going to be in syracuse we’re going to be in st lucy we’re going to be in binghamton and were going to be in brooklyn in respect to brooklyn I think they are going to be full season so people are going to see baseball brooklyn in april if they can stand the wind coming off the ocean”

    I hope I heard that right

    • David Groveman

      I will be among them. Brooklyn is the closest Mets minor league venue and I am looking forward to seeing a new level of play there. Also, hanging around Coney Island is a pretty good time.

    • Brian Joura

      Sandy did say that – and if he didn’t misspeak – it probably has more significance for Binghamton than Brooklyn. Of course, Sandy said three times that it was 2011.

  • JimO

    Nobody corrected Alderson with the 2011 mistakes. I was saying to myself, we don’t want to go back there. They were 77-85.

  • TexasGusCC

    My biggest minor league take other than the usual ‘we’re going to great’, because I wasn’t expecting anything else, is the four minor league teams will be St. Lucie, Binghamton, Brooklyn, and Syracuse. Strict New York presence and no team in Braves country Columbia.

  • Metsense

    I am disappointed that a Met affiliate will not visit North Carolina. No longer Syracuse will visit Charlotte, Columbia visit Hickory, Ashville or Kannapolis and Kingsport visit Greenville. I’ll miss seeing future stars of the Mets in person. No longer will the Mets360 community gather together to watch a “Met” game in North Carolina and that I will miss the most.

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