On Monday morning, the Mets announced the promotion of two-way player Nolan McLean to Double-A Binghamton after a strong start to the season with the Brooklyn Cyclones. Rated as the No. 11 prospect in the Mets system by Baseball America, McLean was the Mets 3rd round pick in the 2023 MLB Draft out of Oklahoma State University.

With the Cyclones this season, McLean sports a 2-2 record with a 2.57 ERA, and his peripherals – 32.1 K%, 8.9 BB% and a 60.0 GB% — tell the story of a former college arm making the transition to professional baseball very successfully. He is also batting .224/.297/.552 with five home runs (a 136 wRC+) in 25 games as a designated hitter.

McLean is primarily being developed as a pitcher, but his two-way potential makes him one of the most intriguing prospects the Mets have seen in a long time.

Before McLean was a Mets minor leaguer, he was one of the top players in college baseball at Oklahoma State. In 2022 he was a semifinalist for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award, and was All-Big 12 at two different positions – both as a relief pitcher and utility player. He was drafted in the third round of the 2022 draft by the Baltimore Orioles, but decided not to sign and returned to college. Once again, he was named All-Big 12 at both position.

The book on McLean as a pitcher is that he throws a fastball in the mid to upper 90s and a hard upper 80s slider. He also throws a curveball and changeup that are more works in progress at this point in his development as he is rounding out his repertoire while making the transition to starting – a more common transition in recent years than it was in the past.

His control was a big question mark in college, a time where he walked 13% of the batters he faced, but thus far in 2024 against High-A competition he has held his own. How much of that is due to improvement in his control and how much of it is from the hitters in the South Atlantic League chasing balls that more experienced hitters would lay off remains to be seen.

But it definitely seems from a mound standpoint he is ready for the challenge that Double-A hitters pose for him in Binghamton.

At the plate, however, the numbers are more alarming. While his power has carried his bat to above-average production, he also sports an almost-unbelievable 51.4 K% at the plate (38 strikeouts in 74 plate appearances). While sometimes it is easy to excuse high strikeout rates for minor leaguers due to minor league umpires and strike zones, McLean also has a 19.3% swinging strike rate, which while not an eye-popping number, is still quite high.

It seems like McLean’s strategy at the plate is to just go up there and try to pull the ball hard, and he has used the short left field at Maimonides Park to his advantage. Of his 15 hits with the Cyclones, 12 have gone for extra bases. All stuff that is not particularly sustainable as he moves up the ladder, especially if his movement is going to be based on his pitching.

So while the Mets likely do not have another Shohei Ohtani on their hands in McLean, they do have a pretty good pitcher who is capable of grabbing a bat from time to time. If anything, the handful of organizations currently trying to develop two-way players really underscores just how amazing Ohtani’s skill set is.

With David Stearnes seemingly being more aggressive in minor league promotions than previous Mets administrations, McLean could move quickly if he continues to pitch well in the upper levels of the minors. And if he could cut down on strikeouts at the plate while maintaining his power, the Mets might just have their own homegrown two-way star on their hands.

2 comments on “Mets look to develop two-way star in Nolan McLean

  • NYM6986

    Nice piece. Would anticipate at some point he will stick with being a pitcher and give up the two way dream. Glad to see the Mets moving players up in the minors to prod their development. I believe the prior management left players at their minor league level too long. Might as well see what these kids can do, especially the college grads who have already played at a very competitive level.

  • Brian Joura

    I never put much faith in McLean being able to make it as a hitter. And I was quite surprised when the Mets announced they were going to use him as a starter. But both Christian Scott and Tyler Stuart were collegiate relievers that the Mets turned into starters, so I shouldn’t have been that caught off guard by it.

    Brooklyn is a notorious pitcher’s park. Here are McLean’s H/R splits:

    H: 16.1 IP, 9 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 18 K’s
    R: 11.2 IP, 11 H, 8 ER, 6 BB, 18 Ks

    It will be quite interesting to see how he fares in Binghamton. I’m glad the Mets are being more aggressive with their promotions this year.

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