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2016 Mets minor league preview:Columbia Fireflies (Single-A)

The newest Mets affiliate doesn't have the most exciting roster, but does have the only uniforms that glow in the dark.

Chris McShane

The Columbia Fireflies are the newest member of the Mets' affiliate family. The franchise moved a couple hours up the road from Savannah, GA this past offseason, and into a brand new stadium, Spirit Communications Park, for their home opener next Thursday. We don’t have any idea how the new digs will play yet, but odds are it won’t be quite the pitcher’s haven that Historic Grayson Stadium was. Columbia is the Mets' Single-A affiliate, the lowest level of full-season baseball. The jump from short-season to full-season is one of the most important along the player development ladder, but the 2016 roster isn’t the most exciting from a prospect watcher’s standpoint.

The Manager

Jose Leger returns to the dugout for the Mets South Atlantic League affiliate. He is coming off two straight playoff appearances, one with Savannah last year, and one with Kingsport in 2014. Leger spent two seasons in the Twins organization in the mid-2000s as a catcher and third baseman, before joining the Mets coaching ranks. His first managerial assignment was the Dominican Summer League as a 28-year-old. He spent two seasons in the DSL, and three with Kingsport before his current assignment. The 33-year-old has a reputation as a fiery, hands-on skipper, and is very respected within the Mets organization and the baseball community at large. His field staff includes hitting coach Joel Fuentes, who has bounced between both full-season A-ball affiliates in recent years, and a reunion with pitching coach and South Carolina native Jonathan Hurst, who has spent the last six seasons in Kingsport.

Players to Watch

The hitters

Milton Ramos is the only player on the Fireflies roster to make our preseason Top 25. The 20-year-old shortstop has the athletic tools to be an above-average defender, and showed some unexpectedly advanced skills at the plate in short-season ball last summer. The overall profile here is still quite raw, though, and the South Atlantic League will provide a strong test for him at this point in his development.

First baseman Dash Winningham is more than just an 80-grade name. The 2014 eighth-round pick is country strong with easy plus raw power and more feel at the plate than you would expect from someone with a corner infield masher. He does tend to expand the zone, especially with fastballs up, and that is something full-season arms may exploit unless he adjusts his approach. He was rough defensively in Kingsport, but he has worked hard on his conditioning and is in much better shape now than when he was drafted.

Centerfielder Ivan Wilson may have the best physical tools of any player in the Mets organization. In a 2014 look in Kingsport , he showed 70-grade raw power along with potential-plus grades for run, glove and arm. Unfortunately he also struck out in nearly 47% of his plate appearances. He struggled through some injuries in 2015, and continued to struggle at the plate when he saw any sort of spin. If he ever figures it out, he’d easily be one of the best prospects in the system. Until then, he is just one to watch on a roster otherwise bereft of interesting names.

Vinny Siena was one of the few offensive bright spots in Brooklyn last year, and the organization is very high on him internally. However, he is limited to second base and lacks even average major league tools across the board. Patrick Mazeika will start the season on the DL, but when healthy, he will be out to prove that he wasn’t just a college guy mashing in the Appalachian League last summer, and that he can handle being an everyday catcher. He could still be a bit of a sleeper as he was high on draft boards before a mediocre junior season at Stetson.

The pitchers

Chase Ingram was Columbia’s Opening Night starter and is the most notable pitcher on the staff. The Mets' sixth-round pick last June out of a Florida community college, Ingram features a fastball that can bump 92 and a big overhand curve. The mechanics are a little rough, but there is some deception in the arm action, and he has a track record of throwing strikes despite some effort in the delivery marked by a very stiff landing leg. He is the type of arm that should fare well against A-ball hitters. Tyler Bashlor hasn’t pitched since 2013, but he got over a half a million dollars as an 11th-round pick that year and was running the fastball up to 98 in the Kingsport pen that summer. He could move quickly if his arm is all the way back from Tommy John surgery.

Thomas McIlraith was the Mets 20th-round pick last year, and offers a similar profile to Ingram. He’s a little older and a little more polished. Johnny Magliozzi is another bullpen arm coming off Tommy John surgery. He was showing a full four-pitch mix in 2013 and he can wring 94 mph out of his small frame, although there was a lot of effort to get it there.

The story of the Columbia pitching staff is more who isn’t here. You never know who may have picked up a knock in spring training on the back fields, but I expected names like Andrew Church, Merandy Gonzalez, Harol Gonzalez, and Nabil Crismatt to be in the starting rotation for the Fireflies this year.

Here is the complete roster for the Columbia Fireflies’ inaugural season.

Pitchers
# Name Pos Bat Thw Ht Wt DOB
16 Tyler Badamo P R R 6' 2" 190 08-08-1992
11 Tyler Bashlor P R R 6' 0" 220 04-16-1993
3 Kevin Canelon P L L 6' 1" 175 01-16-1994
33 P.J. Conlon P L L 6' 0" 175 11-11-1993
23 Seth Davis P L L 5' 10" 185 05-08-1993
Cameron Griffin P R R 6' 3" 200 06-25-1991
17 Witt Haggard P R R 6' 2" 205 12-09-1991
6 Chase Ingram P R R 6' 3" 190 04-17-1995
45 Johnny Magliozzi P R R 5' 10" 195 07-21-1991
20 Thomas McIlraith P R R 6' 4" 200 02-17-1994
25 Craig Missigman P R R 6' 4" 175 08-05-1993
32 Christian Montgomery P R R 6' 1" 230 11-20-1992
15 Alex Palsha P R R 6' 1" 195 05-10-1992
28 Joe Shaw P R R 6' 4" 240 12-20-1993
Catchers
# Name Pos Bat Thw Ht Wt DOB
4 Jose Garcia C L R 6' 0" 200 11-03-1994
Patrick Mazeika C L R 6' 3" 210 10-14-1993
21 Tyler Moore C L R 6' 2" 213 08-08-1993
Natanael Ramos C R R 5' 10" 170 06-19-1993
Infielders
# Name Pos Bat Thw Ht Wt DOB
24 Jeff Diehl 1B R R 6' 4" 195 09-30-1993
Eudor Garcia 3B L R 6' 0" 225 05-17-1994
7 Milton Ramos SS R R 5' 11" 158 10-26-1995
13 J.C. Rodriguez 3B S R 6' 0" 160 09-03-1992
9 Vinny Siena 2B R R 5' 10" 190 12-24-1993
8 David Thompson 3B R R 6' 2" 220 08-28-1993
34 Dash Winningham 1B L L 6' 2" 230 10-11-1995
Outfielders
# Name Pos Bat Thw Ht Wt DOB
10 Kevin Kaczmarski OF L R 6' 0" 195 12-31-1991
27 Vicente Lupo LF R R 6' 0" 180 11-27-1993
Tucker Tharp CF R R 5' 10" 195 11-26-1991
22 Joe Tuschak LF L R 6' 0" 185 10-17-1992
18 Ivan Wilson CF R R 6' 3" 220 05-26-1995

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