The Syracuse Mets are mired in one of the worst stretches for a team in minor league baseball. They have lost 12 consecutive games and 15 of their last 17, four of those on walk-offs. Syracuse is 11-30 and wakes up Monday 18.0 games back in their division, the clunky-named Triple-A East Northeast.
The team was swept in a five-game series last week by the Yankees Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, with the bullpen blowing the lead in four games. While players, coaches and organizations obviously want to win, wins and losses are not the big-picture objective in minor league baseball. There’s no doubt that this has been a brutal stretch, but the team is still bringing effort and intensity every day – a credit to the players and staff.
Series: 3 G, 4-12, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 BB, 2 K
Almora hit second in each of the first three games of the series, playing seven innings in center field on Tuesday, and nine each on Wednesday and Thursday. Defensively he looked fine, but wasn’t really tested that much. At the plate he worked a few walks but generally swung early in his at-bats. The one play of note for Almora came Thursday when he awkwardly slid into third and appeared to have jammed up his left ankle in the ground. He was fine and stayed in the game for two more plate appearances, then was back with the Mets the next day.
Series: 4 G, 6-15, 4 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K
Speaking of guys who were up there to swing, McNeil looked terrific this week. He didn’t play a full game until Thursday, and on Friday went 2-3 with a double and a home run. The homer just cleared the wall in right field and came against SWB reliever Braden Bristo, the first run he had allowed on the season. Defensively he made all the routine plays, but was not asked to make any spectacular grabs. He played every game at second base, and was slotted to DH on Saturday before the contest was postponed due to inclement weather. McNeil tested the hamstring out on the bases a few times going first-to-third and advancing on a wild pitch, but also didn’t take a ton of risks. Frankly, he looked great and like he is ready to hit the ground running.
Series: 3 G, 2-11, 2 R, 1 2B, 3 K
Conforto’s numbers don’t really show how well he played throughout the series. His two hits were a rocket single to right field in his first at-bat and a ground ball double over the first base bag on Sunday. He only played five innings in the field on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and had a day off Friday before Saturday’s washout. On Sunday he played all nine innings in right field and has been hitting the ball generally hard in his plate appearances. He just seemed a little bit off after the lengthy IL stint, and definitely behind McNeil.
Series: 1 G, 1-2, R
Nimmo was with Syracuse taking batting practice on Saturday before the tarp was on the field, and hit leadoff on Sunday. He started the game with a hard hit single to right and came around to score later in the inning. Next trip up he hit a flare to shallow center that was caught, and catcher Martin Cervenka was doubled off second base. Nimmo was pinch-hit for in the fifth after playing four innings in center, during which he made a few catches, including a running grab on the warning track on a drive from Ryan LaMarre.
Non-rehabbers of note
Outside of the rehabbers, Travis Blankenhorn was extremely impressive, hitting .375/.500/1.000 (6-for-16) in the series with 3 HR and 12 RBI in the five games. Playing in front of a quasi-home crowd – his hometown of Pottsville, PA is about an hour away and every day he had a noticeable cheering section – Blankenhorn played both left and second base. His home runs came against two top-5 prospects in the Yankees organization in Deivi Garcia and Luis Gil, and the third was a grand slam off longtime big-leaguer Adam Warren, who is making his way back from Tommy John surgery.
Third baseman Orlando Calixte was fun to watch and easy to root for, but is more as an organizational depth player and not someone who will likely have a big impact in the majors. He also has an incredible back story, told here by ESPN the Magazine in 2017. Tylor Megill had a solid start, allowing three runs on five hits in 5.0 innings, striking out six and walking one on Friday.
Joe Vasile is a broadcaster for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (NYY, AAA) and Bucknell University. He also hosts the baseball history podcast “Secondary Lead”.