Season Record: 27-41 (Appalachian League West Division, 4th Place)
A year removed from winning the Appalachian League West Division title, the Kingsport Mets did not exactly have a successful season in 2016. In the first year of their recently signed five-year extension with the Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau and the city of Kingsport, Luis Rivera’s club went 27-41, almost reversing their 40-28 record from 2015. The team got off on the wrong foot, losing eight of their first ten games, but ended on a hot streak, winning eight of their last ten games. For the majority of the season, Kingsport found themselves mired in a pattern of losing a handful of games, winning one or two, and then losing a handful of games again.
Despite the lackluster record, there were plenty of bright spots during the Kingsport season. Individual games brought excitement. Heroes and villains were born. Various players continued making strides in their baseball development. All in all, the 2016 season showed that one of the lowest rungs of the Mets minor league ladder is solid.
With a combination of skill at the plate and in the field, Ricardo Cespedes excelled at all aspects of the game. At the plate, he was a base hit machine all season, ending sixth in the Appalachian league with a .322 batting average. In the outfield, the 19-year-old center fielder helped his pitchers out all season, using his plus speed to track and run down would-be base hits on a number of occasions. Optimally, Cespedes shows a little more power- he ended 2016 with 65 singles, 4 doubles, 3 triples and 1 homer- and discipline, but at 19-years-old, the Dominican-born outfielder has plenty of time to develop those aspects of his game.
The 20-year-old former catcher regularly played the part of hero of individual games, driving in the winning runs on multiple occasions. With a .306/.362/.478 batting line, Maria found himself near the top of multiple offensive categories for the team.
Humphreys was the workhorse of the Kingsport rotation in 2016, pitching a team high 69.1 innings. Unlike the other two pitchers on the team that reached the 60 inning plateau, Humphreys’ results were there. The right-hander’s 3.76 ERA was tenth in the Appalachian League, and because he struck out more than a batter per inning, and his 76 punch outs led the circuit. Humphreys did it all with a fringy fastball that sits around 90 MPH, and secondary pitches that are still very much works in progress, making his dominance even more impressive.
Szapucki only made five starts with Kingsport before being promoted to the Brooklyn Cyclones, but the left-hander was so good in those 29 innings that his name remained at or near the top in multiple categories, including ERA and strikeouts. The 20-year-old from Toms River struck out an impressive 41% of the batters he faced, and allowed only 16 hits in 29 innings. With an arsenal like his- a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s and tops out even higher, and a plus curveball- it makes sense why Szapucki was able to dominate. Add to the mix his low arm slot, and Appalachian League hitters had no chance. The way he dominated in Brooklyn after his promotion, it may be a few levels before the southpaw faces competition that can handle him.