Season Record: 37-39 (New York-Penn League McNamara Division, 4th Place)
Coming off of the first sub-.500 season in the fifteen-year history of the franchise, the Brooklyn Cyclones seemed poised to rebound in a major way, with multiple 2016 draftees being assigned to the Coney Island club, most notably first-round draftee Justin Dunn. A big comeback season was simply not in the cards, as the Cyclones ended the season with a sub-.500 record for the second consecutive season.
As was the case in 2015, hitting was a big problem for the 2016 Cyclones. The team as a whole hit .216, the lowest mark in all of minor league baseball. In 35 of their 76 games, the Cyclones scored two runs or less. Despite the anemic offensive numbers, Brooklyn still hovered around the .500 mark. Pitching was not a problem for the 2016 Cyclones, as has been the case for virtually the entire history of the franchise. With a rotation that included 2016 first-round selection Justin Dunn, 2015 fifth-round selection Thomas Szapucki, Dominican standouts Harol Gonzalez and Merandy Gonzalez, and others, Brooklyn led the New York-Penn League in strikeouts by a large margin, and posted a collective team ERA of 3.32.
All in all, it was a frustrating year for the Cyclones. Perfectly illustrating that frustration were the actions of manager Tom Gamboa, who retired upon the completion of the season, in the last game of the season. In the fourth inning of that game, the field umpire called Blake Tiberi out on a bang-bang play at first, overriding the first base umpire, who called him safe. Gamboa began arguing with the umpiring crew, as he claimed he saw daylight between the pitcher’s swipe and Tiberi, indicating physical contact was never made. When the umpired refused to reverse the call and ejected the exasperated manager, he launched into a fit of rage after being ejected, tossing bats, gloves, and helmets on the field from the dugout.
The Cyclones’ first baseman was having a great debut season before having it abruptly ended after breaking his hand at the beginning of August. The 21-year-old did not miss a beat, following up on his excellent season at the University of Florida with an excellent few months with Brooklyn. The right-handed first baseman led the team in slugging and was tied with home runs, and almost certainly would have found himself among league leaders if he qualified with enough at-bats. Alonso has plus-plus raw power, and if he is able to regularly translate it into games, he should be a middle-of-the-order threat for years to come. Key to that will be his ability to get his bottom half to move in sync with his top half. More specifically, preventing his hips from opening early, which has led to problems squarely barreling the ball at times.
Lindsay had his 2016 debut delayed due to a hamstring problem, and he seemed to be bothered by it all throughout the year, sometimes limping and favoring a leg after running down balls in the outfield or after hustling out of the box. Despite the nagging injury, Lindsay showed why he was held in such high esteem by the Mets, and was still one of the best players the Cyclones had all season. The 19-year-old, who was drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft, hit a healthy .297/.418/.450, and he tied the Cyclones team record for most RBI in a single game with seven. He showed a good eye and some pop at the plate, slugging four home runs in 32 games. He seemed more adjusted in center field, a position he is still learning, and showed himself to be at least an adequate fielder at this point in his development. In short, Lindsay is still flashing the five tools that made him the Mets’ top selection in 2015.
With teammates and other players in the league throwing in the mid-90s or higher, it’s hard to imagine a pitcher with a fastball that sits 88-90 almost winning a pitching triple crown these days, but that is exactly what Harol Gonzalez almost did. The Dominican right-hander led the league in ERA and strikeouts, but placed third in wins with seven. Not only did he have one of the best seasons in the NY-Penn League in 2016, and on the 2016 Cyclones, but Gonzalez had one of the best seasons in Brooklyn Cyclone history. Gonzalez was a fine pitcher in Kingsport, where he pitched in 2015, but the refinements he made during the off-season to his breaking ball are what payed major dividends. The slurvy breaking ball that he utilized in 2015 was gone, and in its place were two separate pitches, a potentially average slider with good movement and a slower, 11-5 curveball that is still a work in progress. Combined with his two change-ups, Gonzalez is a junk-baller who will thrive as long as hitters have trouble squaring up on his kitchen sink arsenal.
Though he did not get the attention that some of his rotation-mate Harol received, Merandy Gonzalez was up there among 2016 NY-Penn League league leaders, ending the season seventh in ERA and third in strikeouts. Whereas Harol dominated with so-so stuff that was very polished and too much for NY-Penn hitters, Merandy carved his way through the league with more muscle but a little less refinement. His fastball, his bread-and-butter, sits in the low-to-mid 90s and tops out a bit higher. He complements it with a curveball that flashes plus at times, coming in at hitters with tight, late break, and a change-up. He has work to do with both, not telegraphing the curve and getting more consistent velocity differential and fade on the change-up, but the right-hander has a strong enough base to succeed while he works on his problem areas.