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.
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
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.
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.
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|