Season Record: 77-67
The Las Vegas 51s began the season with a team that, on paper, looked like it could run roughshod through the Pacific Coast League. Two of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball anchored their rotation, and various Mets top prospects could be found at other positions around the diamond and on the mound. Since becoming a Mets affiliate in 2013, Las Vegas fielded a team with a winning record every year, and 2015 seemed poised to be no different.
The first few months of the season were a seesaw of ups and downs. After scuffling for the first three weeks of the season, Las Vegas went on a fourteen-game winning streak. A few weeks after that ended, at the end of May and the beginning of June, the team suffered a ten-game losing streak. By the All-Star break in mid-July, the team was 53-38 with a comfortable lead in the PCL Pacific Southern Division.
As the year went on, a combination of injuries, promotions, and other roster moves began to drain Wally Backman's offense. Lackluster play in July and August, coupled with a resurgent El Paso Chihuahuas, suddenly put Las Vegas's division lead in danger.
Over the last ten days of the season, the 51s went 3-7, while the red-hot Chihuahuas went 7-3 and made up major ground in the standings. On September 6, the penultimate game of the season, Las Vegas needed beat the Tacoma Rainers in order to keep pace with El Paso. Tacoma won the ballgame, 6-3, eliminating the 51s from playoff contention. Having comfortably led the division for most of the season, Las Vegas ended 2015 with a 77-67 record, one game behind the Chihuahuas for first place.
Coming off of a fairly successful 2014 season, Taijeron was promoted to an offensive-friendly league in which his weaknesses would be downplayed and his strengths amplified. Lo and behold, the 26-year-old outfielder proceeded to have his best minor league season to date, setting a career high with 25 home runs, which were the fourth most in the entire PCL. Taijeron's strong play earned him a spot on the PCL All-Star squad.
An unheralded minor league signing, the well-traveled Castellanos got off to a blazing start, hitting .362/.457/.841 in eighteen games in April. He cooled down in May, but picked it up again in June and July, hitting .319/.379/.511 and .450/.488/.900, respectively. The Mets granted the 28-year-old his release in late July so he could sign with the Yomiuri Giants, but he struggled and was quickly demoted to their ni-gun team.
Had Steven Matz struggled, it would have been reasonable to chock it up to the environment in which he was playing and call it a day. The southpaw gave fans no reason to worry, not only surviving in the Pacific Coast League, but dominating it. Matz's 2.19 ERA not only led the 51s, but was tied for the third best in the entire league. Despite pitching roughly a half season, his 94 strikeouts also ranked among the league leaders.
Signed as a minor league free agent, Duane Below was surprisingly good, posting a 2.19 ERA over 49.1 innings. The highlight of Below's season was a pair of consecutive shutouts and one-run complete games. The Mets granted the southpaw's release in July, allowing him to sign with the Yokohama BayStars, who assigned Below to their ni-gun team due to a dearth of foreign players already on their roster. In his NPB debut, the lefty gave up two hits and walked five, allowing five earned runs in 1.1 innings.