1) The 2018 Las Vegas 51s will post one of the best team ERAs in franchise history
2) The 2018 Las Vegas 51s will post one of the worst team ERAs in franchise history
I kind of hedged my bets with these two. The Las Vegas 51s rotation would either be really good, or really bad. The pitchers that were assigned to Las Vegas were all pitchers that had various levels of success at other minor league stops, but seemed the kind of pitchers that would really be hit hard in the Pacific Coast League, so I felt it really could go either way. The 2003 Las Vegas 51s posted a franchise-best 4.17 ERA, while the 2005 51s posted a franchise worst 6.21. The 2018 51s were neither the best nor the worst in team history, posting a collective 5.84 ERA. Five starters made ten or more starts, and the numbers weren’t particularly pretty. Drew Gagnon led the team, starting 27 games and pitching 157.2 innings. He posted a 4.57 ERA, allowing 151 hits, walking 43, and striking out 167. Southpaw P.J. Conlon started 21 games and pitched 114.0 innings. He posted a 6.55 ERA, allowing 147 hits, walking 39, and striking out 82. Chris Flexen and Cody Martin both made 17 starts, with the former pitching 92.0 innings and the latter throwing 80.2. Flexen posted a 4.40 ERA, allowing 109 hits, walking 31, and striking out 78, while Martin posted a 7.03 ERA, allowing 97 hits, walking 39, and striking out 70. Corey Oswalt was the final Las Vegas starter to pitch at least ten games, making 11 starts and pitching 52.1 innings. The right-hander posted a 6.02 ERA, allowing 58 hits, walking 20, and striking out 52.
3) The Brooklyn Cyclones will end the season above .500
The Brooklyn Cyclones went 40-35, posting their first winning record in years. The team was in the playoff hunt until the very last day of the season, when an Auburn Doubledays win over the Batavia Muckdogs knocked them out of the wild card race. Coming into the year, it was far from a sure thing that the Cyclones would even be watchable, let alone a good team. The 2017 Cyclones ended the season a franchise-worst 24-52 and just narrowly avoided tying or surpassing the 1981 Batavia Trojans as the worst team in the history of the New York-Penn League. There was reason to believe that the 2018 team could be good, as the 2017 GCL and Kingsport Mets both had intriguing talents that would be promoted to the Cyclones. In addition, the Mets would be picking 6th overall, 47th, and every thirty selections after that in the 2018 MLB Draft, infusing the Cyclones with talent from that pool of players. Sure enough, many of those players came through, most notably Jaison Vilera and Ross Adolph. The former posted a 1.83 ERA, while the latter hit .276/.348/.509, setting the bar for pitching and hitting performances for the team.
4) Tim Tebow’s promotion to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies will not significantly impact ticket sales
Binghamton has perennially had trouble attracting fans. Exceptional teams have taken the field in Binghamton and bad teams had taken the field for Binghamton, but on-field performance has never really had much of an impact on attendance. Over the last ten years, the team has averaged just over 194,900 fans per year, with 190,765 passing through the gates in 2017. In 2018, 220,279 fans came out to see the Rumble Ponies, the most since the Binghamton Mets’ inaugural 1992 season. In addition, the team set a new franchise record, with 7,488 fans coming out to see their game against the Trenton Thunder on July 20. It is hard to say how much of an impact Tim Tebow himself was, but he was indeed a draw up north in 2017, when the Columbia Fireflies came to New Jersey to play the Lakewood BlueClaws. While I was dubious that the quarterback-turned-outfielder would be much of a draw outside of SEC country, I likely downplayed his connection to the area- he played for the New York Jets player for a period of time- and how much people enjoy seeing celebrities. Tebow, to his credit, fared much better than I think anybody would have given him credit for, hitting .273/.336/.399 in 84 games.
5) Tony Dibrell will pitch his way onto the Top 10
Tony Dibrell was drafted out of Kennesaw State University by the Mets in the 4th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He made his professional debut with the Brooklyn Cyclones. He pitched sparingly in Coney Island last summer, and ended the year posting a 5.03 ERA in 19.2 innings- all of them coming in relief- allowing 19 hits, walking 8, and striking out 28. I came into the season high on Tony Dibrell; Though he did not appear on Amazin’ Avenue’s collective Mets Top 25 Prospects for 2018 list, he did on my individual list, coming in at 19. He was assigned to the Columbia Fireflies and spent the entire season there, though he certainly pitched effectively enough to merit a promotion to St. Lucie. In 23 starts, he pitched 131.0 innings and posted a 3.50 ERA, allowing 112 hits, walking 54, and striking out a league-leading 147. Dibrell certainly has the stuff to be a top 10 prospect, but the right-hander is unlikely to slide on to the back end of the Mets top 10 list due to emergence of younger players, the reemergence of some already in the system, and recent draftees and trade returns.
6) Justin Dunn will be pitching in the bullpen by the end of the season
Justin Dunn inexplicitly had a very poor season in 2017, posting a 5.00 ERA in 95.1 innings with 101 hits allowed, 48 walks, and 75 strikeouts. Given the durability issues that affected him after being drafted by the Mets in 2016, the platoon issues that he demonstrated against left-handers, and the relative lack of a third pitch, I saw Dunn as fitting in the bullpen better than in a starting rotation. Such prognostications were seemingly a bit premature, as Dunn had a successful rebound season by any measure of the stick. The right-hander posted a 3.59 ERA in 135.1 innings split between the St. Lucie Mets and the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, allowing 128 hits, walking 52, and striking out 156. He was particularly electric in St. Lucie, posting a 2.36 ERA in 45.2 innings. Earning a promotion to Binghamton in early June, he posted a 2.77 ERA there that month, but he slowed down a bit, posting a 4.25 ERA in July, a 4.66 ERA in August, and allowing five earned runs in five innings in September. All in all, he posted a 4.22 ERA in 89.2 innings. The successful season cast aside notions of Dunn in the bullpen for now, but I remain convinced that it will be his ultimate home, as it would hide his flaws while improving upon his strengths.
7) Andres Gimenez will hit .300 or better
In 122 games split between the St. Lucie Mets and the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Mets top prospect Andres Gimenez hit .281/.347/.409. The 19-year-old had his batting average hit .300 exactly once in his 85 games with the St. Lucie Mets, while he carried a .300 or better average for 16 games with Binghamton. With his sweet swing and ability to read and identify pitches well, Gimenez projects to have an above-average hit tool, and while he did not hit .300 this season, should threaten it for years to come.
8) Bryce Brentz will lead the system in home runs
The oft-injured outfielder spent most of the 2018 season on the disabled list thanks to a foot injury, getting into only 55 games with the Las Vegas 51s. In those 55 games, he did hit 15 home runs, which was good for fourth most on the team. Seven of those home runs were hit before getting injured in early May and nine of those home runs were hit after he returned from the disabled list at the end of July. Suffice to say, if the outfielder had not missed most of May, all of June, and most of July, he likely would have ended the season with more home runs; in 2017, he played 120 games for the Pawtucket Red Sox and launched 31 long balls. At the rate that he was hitting home runs- 29.4%, as opposed to 26.1% in 2017- it is very likely that he would have reached that same number if he was fully healthy, or even surpass it. Peter Alonso led the Mets’ system with 36 home runs, but a healthy Brentz certainly would have given him a run for his money. On a side note, Brentz became a minor league free agent a few days ago, but given the lack of outfield depth that the Mets have in the upper levels of their minor league system, signing him would be a good idea.
1/8 (Don’t quit your day job)