Organizationally speaking, the Mets underwent about as much change over the offseason as the team has at any point since Sandy Alderson was hired as general manager and brought on Terry Collins to manage. While Alderson remains in charge of baseball operations and still holds that title, Collins was removed as the team’s manager—but retained in a role within the organization.
The spirit of that changes applies on the minor league side, too. Ian Levin still runs things as the organization’s director of player development. But there was plenty of reshuffling, with the Triple-A Las Vegas staff shifted around other levels of the minors. Pedro Lopez had managed the 51s, and he’s set to manage the Single-A Columbia Fireflies this year. Frank Viola was the pitching coach in Vegas, and he’ll be doing that job with Double-A Binghamton this year.
To Levin and the Mets, those changes aren’t viewed as demotions. He says the levels of the minor league system aren’t viewed in the same way for coaches as they are for players and that coaches can be placed in spots that take advantage of their skill sets. But there’s clearly some excitement about Tony DeFrancesco, the 51s’ new manager.
“We’re thrilled to have Tony DeFrancesco as our manager there,” says Levin. “He’s got a ton of experience at that level and at the major league level. He’s got a track record of success. To have someone that can help the transition of players from the minor league level to major league level is great for us.”
That theme—transitioning players from Triple-A to the majors—is something that came up as a point of frustration for the Mets’ front office last year.
When it comes to players, there hasn’t been quite as much change. The Mets’ system has not been rated very highly by the outlets that do that sort of thing. Levin prefers to focus on the system by including the guys who have lost prospect eligibility but are still young and barely removed from being considered prospects: Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith.
In terms of new faces who might make a push toward a major league promotion in the relatively near future, Levin listed Corey Oswalt, Luis Guillorme, and David Thompson as guys who had success at Double-A last year. Regarding Guillorme specifically, he says:
“His defense is so good that he’ll be able to handle whatever position well defensively. So for him, it’s all about making the offense as good as it can be. He’s got some real strong foundational skills. His hand-eye coordination and bat to ball skills are outstanding. His strike zone discipline is outstanding. You see it in BP where he has power so finding opportunities to drive the ball a little bit more will only help enhance what he already brings to the table. So, just like for any player there are a number of nuances that they need to work on to bring the overall game up to the level that you want it to be. I think that’s where it stands for him.”
The organization is happy with the relief pitchers that came in when players were traded away in July and August last year, too. Levin mentions a “strength in numbers” thing with all of the arms that were brought in plus some of the pitchers who were already in the organization and could help the bullpen soon. Jacob Rhame, who came over in the Curtis Granderson trade last year, already cracked the major league roster for Opening Day.
For a front office that had been heavy on position players in the first round of the draft for quite a while, things have shifted a bit toward pitchers in the most recent drafts. Levin speaks highly of the trio of pitchers taken in the first round: David Peterson, Justin Dunn, and Anthony Kay.
Levin mentions Kay’s healthy, which has been good thus far as he makes his way back from Tommy John surgery that he underwent in October of 2016, and that he has looked strong between his time in instructional league action and spring training. He has not yet pitched in a minor league game, but he’s set to do so with Columbia. He notes that Dunn is looking to makes some adjustments this year and that “we’ve all seen what [Peterson] can do and the success that he had.”