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The 10 best Mets minor league hitters I saw this year: 10, Juan Uriarte

Counting down the best minor league hitters I saw in 2018.

Juan Uriarte
Steve Sypa

Disclaimer: This is a ranking of the best players that I saw during the 2018 season. I saw a wide cross-section of teams in 2018, seeing the Kingsport Mets, Brooklyn Cyclones, Columbia Fireflies, and Binghamton Rumble Ponies, but I did not see the GCL Mets, St. Lucie Mets, or Las Vegas 51s, nor did I attend every single game of the teams that I did see. As such, this is not a comprehensive Mets prospect list. If a player is not on the list, I either did not see him, or considered the listed ten players better.

Name: Juan Uriarte

Team: Brooklyn Cyclones

Position: C

Born: 9/17/97 (21)

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 180 lbs.

Bats/Throws: R/R

Acquired: IFA, July 4, 2014 (Los Mochis, Mexico)

2018 Season: 1 G, 1 AB, 000/.000/.000, 0 H, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/0 SB, .000 BABIP (Short-A)

Date(s) Seen: June 15 @ Staten Island (0-1, K)

The Man

The Mets discovered Juan Uriarte while the teen was working out with the Mexico City Red Devils and signed the youngster just days after the 2014-2015 IFA signing period began. He made his professional debut a year later and hit .267/.374/.395 in 52 games split between the Mets two Dominican Summer League teams. That winter, he played winter ball with his hometown Caneros de Los Mochis, and when the 2016 season began, made his stateside debut, hitting .236/.304/.301 in 37 games with the GCL Mets. The following season, he had a breakout campaign with the Kingsport Mets, hitting .305/.372/.455 in 52 games, earning himself a place on my personal Top 25 prospects list for the 2018 season.

The Mexican backstop was promoted to the Brooklyn Cyclones in 2018 and was the Cyclones’ starting catcher when the team took the field against the Staten Island Yankees at Richmond County Bank Ballpark to open the season. In the bottom of the third, he came to the plate for his first at-bat of the year. He fouled a Matt Sauer offering off his left knee/thigh/shin and fell to the ground writhing in pain. He needed to be assisted off the field, barely able to walk, and missed the rest of the 2018 season. Adding insult to injury, his replacement, Carlos Sanchez, struck out and that strikeout was credited to Uriarte.

That Uriarte makes this list is a testament to how bad some of the offenses that I saw in 2018 were and how relatively high I am on his potential.

The Hitter

He stands open at the plate, using a leg kick. He has a quick, compact swing. It is a level swing that lacks much plane, making him more of a gap-to-gap hitter at the present, but he projects to add power as he matures. He sometimes gets aggressive, taking pull-heavy hacks, but he generally uses the entire field. He quieted some of the swing-and-miss in his swing, dropping his strikeout rate by almost 50% as compared to 2016 while slightly increasing his walk rate. The 2018 season would have been a test for the young backstop, as he would be facing polished college pitches with more refined stuff for the first time. Behind the plate, Uriarte is considered a plus defender, with a strong arm that can hit 85 MPH, solid footwork, and advanced blocking skills. He is a below-average runner, regularly posting 7.10 on the 60-yard dash.

Looking To 2019

Because of his injury, the 2018 season was a complete wash for Uriarte. He will pick up where he left off next season, presumably at Brooklyn. Key to his success in the future will be continuing to be an above-average defensive catcher while continuing to make gains as a hitter. Optimally, Uriarte will continue to use all fields and will be able to more effectively tap into his raw power by limiting ground balls and hitting more balls into the air.