Season Record: 35-32 (Florida State League South Division, 2nd Place) / 39-29 (Florida State League South Division, 1st Place)
The St. Lucie Mets started their season with a pair of intriguing hitters in the form of top prospect Amed Rosario and Wuilmer Becerra, but beyond the duo, you had to squint to see the high-ceiling potential on the roster. Rosario was promoted to the Binghamton Mets in mid-June, and Becerra had his season end prematurely thanks to a torn labrum in his right shoulder a few weeks later. All in all, thanks to some break-outs, St. Lucie went 35-32 in the first half, 2.5 games behind the Bradenton Marauders. When the second half began, the Mets had a bevy of position players and pitchers replace those they lost to injury and/or attrition, and the team went on a roll. They ended the second half with a 39-29 record.
On September 2, with days left in the season, the St. Lucie Mets won the Florida State League South Division second half, punching their ticket to the FSL playoffs for the first time since 2012. Their opponents in their quest for their first FSL Championship since 2006 were the Bradenton Marauders, a team they went 6-12 against over the course of the season, including a laughable 0-9 record at McKechnie Field, home of the Marauders.
Bradenton won Game 1 in convincing fashion, putting St. Lucie away 11-6. Six of the first seven Marauders batters reached base and scored against starter Chris Flexen before the Mets could record the second out of the first inning, given Bradenton an early advantage. Pittsburgh top prospect Mitch Keller, meanwhile, breezed through the St. Lucie line-up for five innings. The Mets fought back and scored a few runs in the fifth, but the Marauders put the game away in the seventh, tacking on five additional runs. The next night, P.J. Conlon picked a bad night to have one of his poorest starts in 2016. Jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first three innings, the Marauders held off St. Lucie, who had ample opportunities to score but failed to notch key hits with men in scoring position. Bradenton eventually won the game 4-1, besting St. Lucie in the best of three series, advancing to the Florida State League finals for the first time in franchise history, and ending the St. Lucie Mets’ on a sour note.
The 22-year-old Tomas Nido had a breakout season in 2016, winning the Florida State League batting title with a .320 average. The catcher dramatically shrunk his strikeout rate as compared to his previous two seasons, cutting down on strikeouts by nearly 50%, and his improved selectivity at the plate had a profound impact on the rest of his offensive game plan, allowing his above-average bat speed and average barrel control to play up better. Behind the plate, Nido was a solid receiver, possessing above-average framing skills, good agility, and a plus arm with a quick, accurate release.
Like Tomas Nido, Amed Rosario had a breakout season in 2016. The shortstop started the season on fire, logging nine multi-hit games in his first twenty games, and he did not look back, even after being promoted to the Binghamton Mets midseason. Rosario added almost 20 pounds of muscle over the offseason, and that additional mass paid major dividends, helping him drive the ball better. Rosario’s defense has carried him in the past, and nothing has changed. The 20-year-old is still a plus defender, possessing a good instincts, a strong and accurate arm, soft hands, and good footwork around the bag.
Flexen had an excellent year in 2015, one year removed from Tommy John surgery, but the right-hander took a step back in 2016. While he eclipsed the 100-inning plateau for the first time in his professional career, his strikeout rate shrunk while his walk rate jumped, as compared to the rates he was posting in 2015. His fastball sits in the mid-90s with late life and gets good arm-side tailing action. His curveball is his primary breaking ball, and it has the makings of an average-to-plus major league offering. He rounds out his pitching arsenal with an effective change-up and a slider that he occasionally dabbles with.
Knapp bounced around between the bullpen and the starting rotation in 2015, but he had a much more defined role as a starter in 2016, with all but one of his appearances taking the form of starts. His strikeout rate was suboptimal, at 5.5 per nine innings, but he made up for it slightly with a sub-2 walk per nine rate. Both stats are indicative of what Knapp is on the whole. His fastball sits at a fringy 88-92, but his secondary pitches are solid average pitches, especially his change-up. Thanks to years of tutelage under his father, Rick Knapp, Ricky possesses a high baseball IQ and the sum he represents is greater than all of his individual parts.