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2017 Minor League Preview: St. Lucie Mets

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Under the guidance of a new manager, can the St. Lucie Mets return to the postseason?

Marcos Molina - Gordon Donovan - 2015 Licensed
Marcos Molina
Gordon Donovan

The St. Lucie Mets had the most successful 2016 season of all of the Mets’ minor league affiliates. They went 74-61 overall, ending the first half in second place with a 35-32 record and the second half in first place with a 39-29 record. They won their first playoff berth since 2012 in late September and took on the Bradenton Marauders in the first round of the Florida State League playoffs.

St. Lucie went 6-12 against over the Marauders over course of the season—including a laughable 0-9 record at the Marauders’ home field, McKechnie Field—and their luck did not change in the playoffs. Bradenton won the first game of the series in a blowout 11-6 victory and bested them the next night in a tighter 4-1 victory, denying St. Lucie in their quest to win their first FSL Championship since 2006.

The Manager

New to the organization, Chad Kreuter will be managing the St. Lucie Mets in 2017. This will be his first managerial position since 2010, when he coached for the University of Southern California. Kreuter, 52, played for seven different major league ball clubs in his 17-year career, which spanned 1988 to 2003. In 2005, he was hired by USC to act as director of operations for their baseball program, where he worked closely with Mike Gillespie, USC Trojan head coach and Kreuter’s father-in-law. One year later, the Colorado Rockies hired him to replace Stu Cole as the manager of the Modesto Nuts, but he resigned in June to return to USC, where he replaced his father-in-law, who had managed the team for the previous 20 years. During Kreuter’s tenure with the Trojans, the team posted an underwhelming 111-117 record, a far cry from his predecessor, who was one of the most successful coaches in USC history.

Flanking Kreuter will be Marc Valdes and Luis Natera, who will be serving as pitching and hitting coaches, respectively. Before being named St. Lucie Mets pitching coach in 2015, Valdes served as Savannah Sand Gnats pitching coach in 2014 and 2015, Brooklyn Cyclones pitching coach in 2012 and 2013, Binghamton Mets pitching coach in 2011, and Kingsport Mets coach in 2007 and 2008. Natera, former Binghamton Mets hitting coach, was expected to serve as hitting coach for the Rumble Ponies but requested to be transferred to the St. Lucie field staff in order to be closer to home in his twenty-sixth season. In his prior twenty-five years in the organization, Natera has served numerous roles. From 1992 until 1997, he managed the Mets’ Dominican Summer League team. In 1999, he served as hitting coach for the Capital City Bombers. In 2001, he returned to the Dominican Republic, this time to serve as coordinator of the Mets’ Dominican Academy for two years. In In 2003 and 2004, he served as hitting coach for the Kingsport Mets. In 2005 and 2006, he served as hitting coach for the Hagerstown Suns. In 2007, he served as hitting coach for the St. Lucie Mets. He has served as hitting coach for the Binghamton Mets ever since, save a stint with the Buffalo Bisons in 2009.

Players to Watch

The Hitters

The St. Lucie Mets should have a potent offense to start the 2017 season. Pete Alonso and Jhoan Urena, both big power threats, will play the corners, while Colby Woodmansee will play up the middle at short and gritty second basemen Vinny Siena and Nick Sergakis will see time at second. Patrick Mazeika will get the majority of time behind the dish, while defensive-minded 2016 draftee Dan Rizzie will back him up.

Wuilmer Becerra, who played for St. Lucie in 2016, will repeat the level following his shoulder injury. Joining him in the outfield will be Jeff Diehl, Enmaneul Zabala, and John Mora.

The Pitchers

The 2017 St. Lucie rotation, if everything goes well, should have a very impressive starting rotation. It will be headlined by Justin Dunn, the Mets’ first-round draft pick from 2016. Marcos Molina, recently recovered from Tommy John surgery, will join him, and there is a chance that Thomas Szapucki also gets assigned to the team when he recovers from his rehab assignment for a shoulder impingement. Andrew Church and Nabil Crismatt, no slouches themselves, will also see time in the starting rotation, as could lesser names Chase Ingram, Joe Shaw, and Kevin Canelon.

The St. Lucie bullpen will include numerous talented pitchers that could step up in 2017. Alex Palsha, who served as Columbia Fireflies closer in 2017 will likely serve as St. Lucie Mets closer. Supporting him will be erstwhile relievers Johnny Magliozzi, Craig Missigman, and Ty Bashlor, among others.