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Minor league preview: Binghamton Rumble Ponies

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How will the Binghamton Rumble Ponies fare this season?

Tim Tebow
Chris McShane

The Binghamton Rumble Ponies had a successful inaugural season in 2017. The team ended the season with 85 wins and 54 losses, the second-best record in the Eastern League, behind only the league and organizational rival Trenton Thunder. Binghamton met those same Thunder in the first round of the Eastern League playoffs, though things did not go so well for the Ponies.

Binghamton won the first game against Trenton, but lost the next three, getting knocked out of the Eastern League playoffs. Game three of that series was particularly embarrassing for Binghamton, as Yankees top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield and farmhand Taylor Widener combined to no-hit them, the first time since 2013 that Binghamton was no-hit and the first time that a no-hitter was thrown in the Eastern League playoffs since Bill Pulsipher no-hit Harrisburg in Game 2 of the Eastern League Championship Series in September 1994.

The Binghamton Rumble Ponies will open the 2018 on Thursday, April 5th against the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.

THE MANAGERS

Luis Rojas will be returning to coach the Rumble Ponies for his second year. Rojas made his managerial debut with the Mets in 2011, when he coached the GCL Mets. From 2012-2014, he managed the Savannah Sand Gnats, and from 2014-2016, he managed the St. Lucie Mets. Under his leadership, both teams had winning records, with the Sand Gnats capturing the 2013 South Atlantic League championship and the St. Lucie Mets clinching a playoff berth in 2016.

Flanking him will be Frank Viola and Val Pascucci, who will be serving as pitching and hitting coach, respectively. Viola, in addition to an impressive resume as a player, has an impressive resume as a pitching instructor. He got his start in the organization in 2011, when he served as pitching coach with the Brooklyn Cyclones. In 2012 and 2013, he served as pitching coach of the Savannah Sand Gnats. In 2014, he served as pitching coach for the Las Vegas 51s, where he remained there until the end of the 2017 season. Pascucci, who will be serving as Binghamton hitting coach for the second season in a row, will be entering his fifth overall season as a coach in the Mets system. After ending his long professional career in the Mets’ minor league system, he served as hitting coach for the Savannah Sand Gnats in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, he served as hitting coach for the St. Lucie Mets.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

THE HITTERS

The Binghamton Rumble Pony offense will very likely underwhelm in 2018. Corner infielders Peter Alonso and Jhoan Urena likely to be the team’s only power threat, as the middle infield is unlikely to add much. Between Andrew Ely, Jeff McNeil, Nick Sergakis and Gio Alfonzo, the St. Lucie middle infield should be able to get on base at a strong rate, but the group will have to do more for the team to compete. Behind the plate, Patrick Mazeika and Tomas Nido will be competing for playing time at catcher and DH.

Between John Mora and Champ Stuart, the Binghamton outfield is going to be playing plus defense. Their offensive output, on the other hand, is most likely going to be subpar. While Kevin Taylor is a solid bat, Mora and Stuart will likely struggle offensively. Add Tim Tebow to the mix, who will most likely be completely overmatched, and the outfield will not be contributing much to scoring.

THE PITCHERS

Nabil Crismatt quietly had a very nice season in St. Lucie last season, and he will be bringing his talents north to Binghamton this season. The Colombian right-hander not only led his team, but led the Florida State League in strikeouts, and amassed the most of any Mets minor leaguer in 2017. He will be joined by Andrew Church, Joe Shaw, and Marcos Molina. If Molina is able to recover his fastball velocity, the combination of him and Crismatt would make a potent 1-2 punch.

The Binghamton Rumble Pony bullpen has the chance of being elite. Ty Bashlor, Drew Smith, and Adonis Uceta both have back-of-the-bullpen upsides, and while he has a bit less upside, Corey Taylor has experience in the role.