Of the prospects that the Mets picked up in their numerous deadline deals, the one that had the most success after being acquired was outfielder Drew Gilbert, who was part of the package received from the Astros for Justin Verlander. Gilbert had forced an in-season promotion while with the Houston organization, going from Hi-A to Double-A. When he joined the Mets, Gilbert was assigned to Double-A Binghamton, where he raked.
Gilbert did exceptionally well in Hi-A, earning a promotion after just 95 PA, something that hasn’t happened in seemingly forever with a Mets prospect involving a full-season league. But he wasn’t all that great for Corpus Christi, where he posted a .713 OPS in 264 PA. It looked like barring a massive turnaround that Gilbert would need a repeat season at the Double-A level. But that’s exactly what happened for him in Binghamton.
With the Mets, Gilbert posted a terrific .325/.423/.561 line in 154 PA. Sure, the hits were falling in, as he notched a .378 BABIP after the trade. But a .236 ISO shows that there was more going on than singles finding holes. Besides, Gilbert was due some BABIP fortune, after posting just a .277 mark for Corpus Christi. If you add together his two stops in Double-A, you get a sample of 436 PA with a .272/.370/.440 line, one that came with a fairly normal .313 BABIP.
An .810 OPS in 436 PA merits a promotion to the next level. What’s far less certain is if those numbers are ones that should make us anticipate a future starter at the MLB level. A promotion and a trade is a lot for a prospect to handle in one season. It’s not outlandish to believe that Gilbert’s production at Binghamton is more indicative of his true talent level than his output at Corpus Christi.
However, what is outlandish, and is something that we should factor into his evaluation, are Gilbert’s home/road numbers in 2023. Baseball-Reference puts these splits for a player with multiple teams onto one line. It’s certainly very convenient – likely much easier from a computation standpoint, too. Here’s how Gilbert did in his three stops this past season:
H: 274 PA, .330/.424/.583 with a 1.007 OPS
R: 257 PA, 246/.331/.386 with a .717 OPS
Gilbert started out playing his home games in Asheville, which is a very good hitter’s park. For the year, Asheville hitters had an .805 OPS at home, compared to a .627 mark on the road. The home mark placed them second in the South Atlantic League, while their road mark had them last in the 12-team league.
It was a little different for Gilbert when he was promoted to Double-A. Corpus Christi’s hitters had a home OPS mark 31 points lower than what they produced in road parks. Binghamton was tied for the lowest home OPS in the Eastern League. But the Rumble Ponies’ road OPS was seven-points lower than their home mark.
So, Gilbert went from a great home park to two parks that were neutral or slight pitchers’ parks. As hitters generally perform better in their home parks, we should expect to see an edge here in 2023 for Gilbert in his combined home splits. But a .290-point edge in home OPS is way beyond what anyone should have anticipated.
It would be nice to know the “why” involved here. There could be a dozen different reasons. Maybe one park has the wind constantly blowing out. Perhaps another park has favorable dimensions. It’s possible that the food at one park is above and beyond better. Ultimately, while it would be nice to know the “why,” it’s not really necessary.
In my mind, the “what” is much more important here. And while B-R only gave a season-long home/road split, they provided the information necessary to break it down by Gilbert’s three teams. Here they are, presented in the order that Gilbert played in 2023:
H: .400/.449/.822 – 1.271 OPS
R: .317/.391/.537 – .928 OPS
Double-A Corpus Christi
H: .274/.376/.406 – .782 OPS
R: .212/.311/.339 – .650 OPS
H: .387/.506/.742 – 1.248 OPS
R: .262/.329/.377 – .706 OPS
There’s a lot to unpack here. The sample size at Asheville was very small. But it’s a good home park for hitters and Gilbert took more advantage of it than his teammates did. But he really out-performed his teammates at Corpus Christi and he destroyed his teammates with his home production at Binghamton. But it wasn’t a huge sample with the Mets, either. It was 154 PA overall with the Rumble Ponies and 82 PA in his home park.
While Binghamton overall is a fairly neutral home park, there have been enough instances throughout the years of individual players performing significantly better at home. It’s happened enough times that we’ve developed a phrase to describe it – the Binghamton Bump. Gilbert’s teammate Matt Rudick had a 1.011 home OPS with Binghamton, with a .766 road mark.
Here are some others from a previous article: In 2017, David Thompson had an .889 OPS in Binghamton and a .635 mark in road games. The previous year, Dominic Smith had a .981 OPS in Binghamton and a .677 mark in road games. The same season as Smith, Victor Cruzado had a home OPS of .841 compared to a .614 road mark. Most hitters do better at home than on the road. If a player posts an OPS 30-40 points higher in his home park, that’s pretty normal. Even a 75-point advantage is not unusual. But once you start getting 200 points higher at home, that should raise eyebrows.
Gilbert, even with playing in three different home parks this past season, had a 290-point advantage.
The same year that Smith got the Binghamton Bump, future teammate Tomas Nido burst onto the scene at Hi-A, where he won the batting title. Nido made a bunch of different Top 10 and Top 20 lists for the Mets following the 2016 season. My top 50 had him ranked 34th, with the following blurb: Breakout year in 2016 fueled by a .935 home OPS. Road numbers look suspiciously like his pre-2016 numbers.
To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever done a study of minor league players who posted a season with a significant number of PAs where they had a home OPS advantage of 200 or more points in the minors and then tracked how they did in the majors. My best guess is that the success stories are few and far between.
Neither Cruzado nor Thompson made the majors. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Rudick made that list, too. Smith has never done well in a season of at least 250 PA in the majors, while Nido has topped out as a backup catcher known for his defense. Five players with a massive H/R split in the minors not turning into MLB stars is hardly a convincing argument and I’m quite willing to change my tune here if someone can come up with some counter examples.
Until then, I’m going to be extremely suspicious of Gilbert’s 2023 performance, especially what he did after the Mets acquired him.