With all of the attention being paid to the upcoming 2015 New York Mets season and the optimism brewing over a relatively strong finish and a spectacular Spring Training, perhaps some people may have forgotten about the OTHER team that should be of interest to the Queens die-hards. Out in the desert the Las Vegas 51s look pretty powerful as well. Let’s take a look.
With the departures last year of Josh Satin, Allan Dykstra and Zach Lutz, it is probably now Brandon Allen’s job to lose at 1B. Allen is the very definition of organizational depth, with cups of coffee with three clubs – Arizona, Oakland and Tampa. During his parts of four seasons in the majors he’s amassed a .203 AVG with 12 HRs and 41 RBIs in 344 ABs. In the minors he’s fared somewhat better with steady playing time against inferior pitching, but he’s slugged as many as 29 HRs in a season. He’ll likely split time there with Kevin Plawecki who is apt to get plenty of innings at 1st base to increase his potential usefulness as he ascends up the ladder to the big club. Being a lefty and Plawecki a righty could make for a natural platoon and give Kevin some rest from squatting behind the plate when the opponents hurl lefties.
Dilson Herrera struggled rather mightily in his Spring Training camp but there’s no mistaking the little guy’s talent. He has speed and power, a somewhat rare combination for a middle infielder. It spoke volumes that last year when the team needed a short term solution when Daniel Murphy went on the DL they reached down to AA to bring up Herrera rather than taking one of the AAA players to hold down the fort for a few weeks. In that short period of time Herrera opened a lot of eyes with 3 HRs and 11 RBIs in just 59 ABs. He’ll probably have to work on cutting down on his strikeouts as he fanned 29% of the time up at the big league level vs. 18% at A and AA. His defense was also a little uneven. Still, at just 21 years of age he’s got time to solidify his game.
There’s not much new to say about Matt Reynolds who’s gone from sleeper prospect to the flavor of the week in the course of one excellent 2014 AA/AAA season and an even better Spring Training. He’ll be manning shortstop every day to hone the defensive side of his game and to try to prove to any remaining doubters that what he’s done lately with the bat is not an outlier but rather what he can deliver on a steady basis.
While nothing’s carved in stone, I’m guessing Danny Muno returns to AAA when Daniel Murphy’s hamstring is healthy enough for the daily grind. Muno probably opened more eyes than did Reynolds as his numbers were solid but not quite as eye-popping last year. However, he was there swing-for-swing with Reynolds, showing more power than you would have guessed for a relatively small guy. Again with Satin and Lutz no longer a part of the team, Muno is likely going to get to play 3B, though Dustin Lawley or T.J. Rivera could be promoted to play over there, too.
Kevin Plawecki is developing into a highly selective hitter who can probably approach the .300 mark with modest power. That in and of itself should make for a solid big league career as he’s show the ability to draw walks and lay off bad pitches. If he continues to progress then the Mets have a nice problem on their hands with both he and Travis d’Arnaud being offensive-oriented catchers. Throw into the mix Spring Training sensation Johnny Monell and it appears the days of Mike Nickeas and Taylor Teagarden type backups are a thing of the past.
This one is a bit of a wildcard right now. It certainly appears as if Cesar Puello will not make the big club but the Mets must expose him to waivers due to how long he’s been on the roster and not yet promoted to the majors. If he is not claimed, they may take him back and see if he can get his offensive game on track in order to make him desirable as a trade chip. If not Puello, you could see promotion of Travis Taijeron who can hit for power but not much of an average. You also have Alex Castellanos who has always hit for some power and is capable of playing both infield and outfield. In fact, the more I think about it, perhaps they should be trying to take advantage of Puello’s athleticism and have him take a crack at CF if he returns to the organization.
It’s probably everyone’s hope that Brandon Nimmo starts off the year with a bump up to AAA. Now that Matt den Dekker is gone, he’s probably the next great hope for a centerfielder, though with the reigning Gold Glover Juan Lagares playing for the Mets he may want to consider shifting to a corner. However, the numbers showed that Nimmo struggled quite a bit after moving up from St. Lucie to Binghamton, so I’m guessing they will start him off in upstate NY once again until he demonstrates an ability to adjust to that level of pitching. My aforementioned suggestion about Puello would be another way to go. Darrell Ceciliani is a natural (and speedy) centerfielder, too. He hits for average and steals bases but doesn’t exhibit a lot of power. He may be ready to move up to the next level.
For now it would appear that Cory Vaughn will be entrenched in right field for another season. He’s never really put together the big year people expected of him given his good baseball genes, but he does have 15-20 HR power and a decent arm.
Here’s where the other teams will quake in their boots when Las Vegas is on their schedule. Imagine having to face Noah Syndergaard, Steve Matz, Matt Bowman, Tyler Pill and Darin Gorski? All of them have had some pretty gaudy numbers at various points in their minor league careers and it’s conceivable that the top four will all become big leaguers.
While there’s no shutdown pitcher like Akeel Morris was at the lower levels this past year, it will be interesting to see how lefties Dario Alvarez and Jack Leathersich respond to Frank Viola’s tutelage and whether or not it can propel them forward. Behind them you have some other good arms in Zack Thornton, Erik Goeddel, Scott Rice and perhaps Buddy Carlyle if he agrees to take a minor league assignment. This group will soon have company when Vic Black and Bobby Parnell return to the Mets and they dispatch two pitchers to Las Vegas.
All in all, the 51s look to be a very solid club and a front runner to repeat as division winners under Wally Backman.