The 2018 Las Vegas 51s will post one of the best team ERAs in franchise history
The Pacific Coast League is a hitter-friendly league thanks to its relatively high altitude. The thinner, hotter air provides less resistance for balls, meaning that pitches have less spin on them, making them less effective, and that balls hit in the air have less drag, making them carry further. In addition, the sun baking the playing field results in harder and dryer surfaces, making fielding more difficult and inflating BABIPs and batting averages. As a result, results that are considered good in the PCL would not be considered so elsewhere. The 2003 Las Vegas 51s, then an affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, posted a team ERA of 4.17, best in franchise history. Five pitchers made ten or more starts, with 30-year-old southpaw Andrew Lorraine leading those pitchers with a 4.16 ERA. Lindsay Gulin came next with a 4.85 ERA, followed by Mike Saipe and his 4.99 ERA, Masao Kida and his 5.02 ERA, and Scott Winchester and his 5.95 ERA.
The 2018 Las Vegas 51s starting rotation will be almost completely different, as Tyler Pill was outrighted off of the 40-man roster and signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and veterans Wilfredo Boscan, Donovan Hand, and Mitch Atkins will not be returning. Instead, the pitching rotation will be composed of Zack Wheeler, Chris Flexen, Corey Oswalt, Mickey Jannis, and P.J. Conlon. If all goes well, this collection of youth, talent, and experience may be able to post one of the best ERAs in team history.
Zack Wheeler has pitched in the Pacific Coast League before, making 13 starts way back in 2013. He posted a 3.93 ERA in 68.2 innings, allowing 61 hits, walking 27, and striking out 73. The numbers are mostly in line with his career stats at the time, as he posted similar ones in Binghamton and Buffalo the year before, and for the rest of the 2013 season after he was promoted to the majors. Having undergone Tommy John surgery and suffered from other injuries since then, Wheeler is not the young buck he once was, but the right-hander still has a world of talent. His fastball still has plenty of velocity, averaging around 95 MPH and his secondary pitches haven’t really lost their bite.
Chris Flexen is in a similar position as Wheeler. Because of a poor performance in his MLB call-up, many are down on him. Given that making the jump to the major leagues after just 48.0 innings split between St. Lucie and Binghamton was a steep curve, there is no reason to think the right-hander will not be able to replicate the success he has at a more appropriate level to his current ability and experience. Like Wheeler, Flexen has a big fastball and multiple effective secondary pitches that flash average or better.
Corey Oswalt’s bread and butter is his sinking fastball. The right-hander has average a ground ball rate of roughly 50% over the last two years. While there is no guarantee that plays will be made, keeping the ball on the ground and out of the air is imperative in Las Vegas, as Cashman Field generally allows home runs at a slightly higher rate than the rest of the Pacific Coast League.
P.J. Conlon has always thrived as a pitcher, despite lacking a big fastball. While he was not as effective in Double-A as he was in High-A and Low-A, he was effective nonetheless. What he lacks in physical ability, he makes up in pitching IQ. His changeup- his best pitch- does not rely completely on spin and movement, as fooling hitters into thinking it is a fastball out of his hand is a major part of any change’s effectiveness, and may be able to withstand the park factors present in the PCL.
Mickey Jannis will be the biggest wild card in the rotation. As a knuckleball pitcher, his pitch is volatile and unpredictable to begin with, but how the pitch will perform in the Pacific Coast League is anyone’s guess. Charlie Haeger posted a 4.13 ERA in 198.1 innings in the PCL in 2009 and 2010. Steve Sparks pitched in the PCL in 1998 and 2005 and combined to post a 5.16 in 111.2 innings. Jared Fernandez played in the PCL in 2003, 2004, and 2006 and combined to post a 4.05 ERA in 481.2 innings. Dennis Springer pitched in the PCL in 1989, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, and 2001 and combined to post an 8.35 ERA in 472.1 innings. Most notably, 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey pitched in the Pacific Coast League from 1999-2003 and 2005-2008 and posted a 4.31 ERA in 985.1 innings; in 2007, he won Pacific League Pitcher of the Year. Because the goal of a knuckleball is to eliminate all spin, the thinner air of the PCL should not have an impact on the pitch.
The 2018 Las Vegas 51s will post one of the worst team ERAs in franchise history
Last season, the Las Vegas 51s posted a team ERA of 5.40, which was worst in the entire PCL. Five starters made more than ten starts, and of those five, Tyler Pill led the way with a 3.47 ERA. Wilfredo Boscan followed with an unsightly 5.44 ERA, then Mitch Atkins with a 5.65 ERA, Ricky Knapp with a 5.97 ERA, and Donovan Hand with a 7.60 ERA. While certainly unsightly, the mark is not the worst in Las Vegas 51s history. The 2005 Las Vegas 51s, then an affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, posted a team ERA of 6.21. Seven pitchers made ten or more starts, with a 34-year-old Pat Mahomes leading those pitchers with a 5.35 ERA, followed by Harold Eckert and his 6.38 ERA, Ryan Rupe and his 6.42 ERA, Eric Stults and his 6.58 ERA, Heath Totten and his 7.12 ERA, T.J. Nall and his 7.17 ERA, and 21-year-old prospect Edwin Jackson and his 8.62 ERA.
The 2018 Las Vegas 51s starting rotation will be almost completely different, as Tyler Pill was outrighted off of the 40-man roster and signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and veteran hurlers Wilfredo Boscan, Donovan Hand, and Mitch Atkins will not be returning. Instead, the pitching rotation will be composed of Zack Wheeler, Chris Flexen, Corey Oswalt, Mickey Jannis, and P.J. Conlon. While this collection of pitchers has the potential to be very good if everything goes right, they also have the potential to be very bad if things do not go right.
Zack Wheeler did not pitch well during spring training, nor did he pitch well during the 2017 season outside of a few starts in May. You would have to go all the way back to 2014 to find the last time the right-hander has been an effective pitcher, thanks to his Tommy John surgery and the complications and issues that came from it. Wheeler’s biggest problem as a pitcher has always been nibbling, and throwing too many pitches, and failing to put away batters early. The thinner PCL air will make his secondary pitches less sharp and less effective, exacerbating this historical problem of his.
Chris Flexen was dominant in the minor leagues last year, combining to post a 1.76 ERA split between St. Lucie and Binghamton, but he clearly was unable to put away more advanced hitters. In the 48.0 innings he spent at the major league level, he posted a 7.88 ERA, allowing 62 hits, walking 35, and striking out 36. While the caliber of hitters in the Pacific Coast League is not necessarily as elite as the caliber of hitters in the MLB, environmental factors will not be helping the 23-year-old right-hander. He gave up home runs to major league hitters at an alarming rate, and that weakness may manifest in the PCL as well.
Corey Oswalt is coming off of his best season as a professional, but some of his peripheral numbers trended down as compared to his 2016 season. His ground ball rate went down slightly while his fly ball rate increased almost 10%. In the PCL, more balls hit in the air results in more home runs. Oswalt, as compared to his rotation mates, has much weaker secondary offerings. His slider and changeup flash average but are generally below-average because of their lack of break. In the PCL environment, these pitches may become even fringier.
Mickey Jannis’ primary pitch is unpredictable. While Jannis did not have major issues controlling the knuckleball in 2017, walking only 38 batters in 122.1 innings, he was not so fortunate in 2016, when he walked 76 batters in 140.2 innings. When his knuckler is uncontrollable, Jannis will need to rely on his fastball, and while it may be above-average for a knuckleball pitcher, it is below average for a pitcher and will be feasted upon in the Pacific Coast League.
In roughly the same amount of innings as he pitched in 2016 in Low- and High-A, Conlon’s ERA nearly doubled in Binghamton. One of the biggest reasons why was because of the amount of home runs he allowed- 14 in 136.0 innings, roughly one per every nine. There is no reason to think that this trend will suddenly reverse itself at Triple-A. P.J. Conlon has a subpar fastball, even for a left-hander, sitting in the high-80s and occasionally hitting 90 MPH. In the hitter-friendly environment of the PCL, a fastball like that will be feasted on. Making matters worse, his changeup is his best secondary pitch, and given that it needs to be set up by his fastball, that too may be rendered less effective as well.
The Brooklyn Cyclones will end the season above .500
In 2001, their inaugural season, the Brooklyn Cyclones posted a 52-24 record and were named New York-Penn League co-champions along with the Williamsport Crosscutters, as the 9/11 attacks disrupted the league playoffs. Over the next decade-plus, the ‘clones would regularly finish in first or second in the McNamara Division, earning playoff berths more often than most. It was said that in life, nothing could be certain except death, taxes, The Streak, and the Cyclones finishing with a winning record.
In the past, it was said that nothing could be certain except death, taxes, The Streak, and the Cyclones finishing with a winning record. In 2014, Brock Lesnar ended The Streak with a thunderous F-5. One year later, Connecticut Tigers first baseman Will Allen singled on a line drive into left, scoring left fielder Jacob Kapstein, walking off and ending the Cyclones’ decade-plus streak.
The year started off well enough, as key victories against the Staten Island Yankees and the Hudson Valley Renegades gave Brooklyn a lead in the standings in the McNamara Division. On August 1, the team possessed a solid 22-16 record. Tom Gamboa’s club would fall apart that month, going 3-13 until the All-Star break and 6-7, giving them a 9-20 record in August. On Wednesday, September 2, having been circling the drain for weeks, Brooklyn lost 2-1 to the Connecticut Tigers in the second game of a doubleheader. With the loss, Brooklyn was guaranteed a sub-.500 record, the first time in club history. The team hobbled to the finish line, ending the season with a 33-43 record.
Things did not improve for Brooklyn in the years since. The 2016 Cyclones ended the season with a 37-39. The 2017 Cyclones did even worse, ending the season a franchise-worst 24-52, barely escaping the ignominy of tying or surpassing the 1981 Batavia Trojans for the worst season in New York-Penn League history (16-59).
As bad as the Brooklyn Cyclones of recent memory were, there is reason to think that the team will be able to end with a .500 or better record in 2018. The GCL Mets and Kingsport Mets both had various intriguing talents on them in 2017, some of whom will be assigned to Brooklyn. Position players such as Juan Uriarte, Hansel Moreno, Anthony Dirocie, Rigoberto Terrazas, Kenny Bautista and possibly even Mark Vientos might be able to pull the Cyclones out of the bottom of virtually every offensive category as they were in 2016 and 2017, while the pitching-rich franchise could see a fresh infusion of pitching talent including Christian James, Garrison Bryant, Jaison Vilera, Yeizo Campos, and Kyle Wilson.
In addition, thanks to the Mets’ 70-92 finish in 2017, the organization will be selecting 6th overall, 47th, and every thirty selections after that. The Cyclones may also find themselves the destination of numerous players selected in the 2018 MLB Draft, infusing the team with talent.
With luck, this will stop the trend of Brooklyn Cyclones attendance dropping. In 2017, the Cyclones attracted 186,853 fans. In 2016, they attracted 207,702 fans. In 2015, they attracted 230,658. Since 2015, attendance figures have shrunk roughly 10% per year. If the trend of Brooklyn playing poorly continues, and the 2018 Brooklyn Cyclones attract roughly 10% fewer fans from the year before, the 2018 team would attract roughly 168,000 paying customers. If the Brooklyn Cyclones have a strong season, there is the possibility that attendance figures return to the 200,000 mark.
|2001||52-24||1st Place||2010||51-24||1st Place|
|2002||38-38||4th Place||2011||45-29||2nd Place|
|2003||47-28||1st Place||2012||45-31||2nd Place|
|2004||43-31||1st Place||2013||38-37||2nd Place|
|2005||40-36||3rd Place||2014||42-34||2nd Place|
|2006||41-33||2nd Place||2015||33-43||4th Place|
|2007||49-25||1st Place||2016||37-39||3rd Place|
|2008||45-30||2nd Place||2017||24-52||4th Place|
Tim Tebow’s promotion to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies will not significantly impact ticket sales
In 2017, the St. Lucie Mets set a new single-season record for attendance at First Data/Tradition Field. On Friday, August 4th, 2017, 3,399 fans bought tickets to see the 49-60 St. Lucie Mets play the 65-45 Tampa Yankees. By the end of the season, St. Lucie would win only nine more games, but would sell roughly 30,000 more tickets, bringing the record attendance for the season to 132,359. The fans were not always coming out to see the team.
In April, 38,102 came out to see the St. Lucie Mets, averaging 2,722 fans over 14 home games. In May, 20,973 came out to see the St. Lucie Mets, averaging 1,498 fans over 14 home games. In June, 10,973 came out to see the St. Lucie Mets, averaging 1,372 fans over 8 home games.
On June 29th, Tim Tebow was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets from the Columbia Fireflies. On July 4th, against the Charlotte Stone Crabs, he made his debut at First Data Field, a game that 6,974 attended. Twenty-seven thousand three-hundred ninety more fans passed through the gates in the month of July, making it 34,337 that came out to see St. Lucie, with an average of 2,641. In August, 25,563 came out, averaging 1,826. The St. Lucie Mets played two more games, with 4,841 coming out on September 1st and 490 coming out for the last game of the season on September 3rd.
Most attribute the jump in attendance to the presence of Tim Tebow. The attendance boost was present when Tebow played for the Columbia Fireflies, and for teams in the South Atlantic League and Florida State League that his respective teams were playing against. The boost in sales will not be present for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.
The Binghamton Rumble Ponies were last in Eastern League attendance in 2017, with 190,765 paying for attendance. This number was actually up as compared to 2016, perhaps because of the team rebranding. In 2016, they were once again last in attendance (not including the debacle of the Hartford Yard Goats’ inaugural season), with 172,859 tickets sold. The team has been last in attendance for ten years, beating out both the defunct Connecticut Defenders and the Harrisburg Senators by drawing 220,638.
The Mets are abandoning any pretense that Tebow is anything more than a marketing ploy by his assignment to Binghamton. Given his performance in Columbia and St. Lucie, the quarterback-turned-outfielder will be completely overmatched. While Tebow certainly was a draw up north- when the Columbia Fireflies came to New Jersey to play the Lakewood BlueClaws in, throngs of fans showed up to see Tebow or see the spectacle- the crowds coming out to see specifically him will likely be nowhere as large as they were when Tebow was playing in the Florida State League. While there is a little bit of history between Tebow and New York fans, as he was a member of the New York Jets for a time, that connection is nowhere as deep as the connection between Tebow and fans living in SEC country.
|YEAR||GAMES (HOME GAMES)||ATTENDANCE (AVERAGE)|
|2017||139 (58)||190.765 (3.289)|
|2016||140 (66)||172.859 (2.619)|
|2015||141 (68)||188.104 (2.766)|
|2014||142 (64)||171.279 (2.676)|
|2013||141 (66)||185.093 (2.804)|
|2012||142 (66)||196.929 (2.984)|
|2011||141 (66)||209.044 (3.167)|
|2010||142 (66)||203.823 (3.088)|
|2009||140 (67)||210.526 (3.142)|
|2008||142 (69)||220.638 (3.198)|
Tony Dibrell will pitch his way onto the Top 10
With their fourth-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, the Mets selected Tony Dibrell, a right-handed pitcher from Kennesaw, Georgia. Born in November 1995, Dibrell did not garner much attention as a prep player at Chattahoochee High School despite possessing a sturdy 6’1”, 200-pound frame, a fastball that touched 90 MPH, and a developing repertoire of pitches that included a slider, curveball, and changeup. The right-hander went through with his commitment to Kennesaw State University following his failure to be drafted by an MLB club out of high school, donning the black and gold of the Kennesaw State Owls.
Dibrell didn’t exactly impress in his first year at Kennesaw State. The right-hander pitched out of the bullpen, appearing in 11 games for the Owls. He posted a 5.06 ERA in 16 innings pitched, allowing 18 hits, walking 3 and striking out 18. He had a bit more success as a sophomore, appearing in 14 games and starting seven of them. He went 1-4 on the season, posting a 4.64 ERA in 54.1 innings, with 54 hits allowed, 30 walks, and 66 strikeouts, which tallied for second most on the team. There was promise in his big frame, but it wouldn’t manifest itself until that summer, when he participated in the prestigious Cape Cod League. Playing for the Bourne Braves and the Chatham Anglers, Dibrell posted a 1.66 ERA in 38.0 innings pitched, allowing 28 hits, walking 18, and striking out 36, earning All-Star honors.
The right-hander returned to college riding on the success he had in the cape and was able to keep it going in his junior year. Taking the reigns as ace of the Owls pitching staff, Dibrell went 7-4 with a 2.45 ERA- the third lowest ERA for a single season in Kennesaw State University history- in 95.2 innings, allowing 77 hits, walking 39, and striking out 103 batters. After being selected by the Mets and signing with the team, Dibrell 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. Having been assigned to Brooklyn last season, Dibrell will likely begin the 2018 season in Low-A ball, with the Columbia Fireflies.
With a fastball that currently sits in the low-to-mid 90s and tops out at 96 MPH, Dibrell has a solid fastball to work with. The pitch does not have much movement but shows sink when thrown down in the zone. He complements his fastball with a slider, a change-up, and a curveball, the slider generally being considered his best secondary pitch. Sitting in the low-80s with hard, biting action, the pitch is considered above-average, and is generally used to get swings-and-misses from right-handed batters down and away. His changeup is also a pitch that has above-average potential, though he throws it sparingly. The pitch, which sits in the low-80s, gets good fade and tumble to his arm side, especially when thrown low in the strike zone. His curveball, which rounds out his arsenal, is currently little more than a get-me-over pitch to keep hitters off-balance, sitting in the low-to-mid-70s with soft break.
Dibrell’s ability to command his pitches has given him trouble throughout his career. He often has trouble with his location and is not too sharp in the zone. His delivery is a bit violent, with some extra moving parts and effort, and he is not always consistent with where his landing foot plants, generating control issues. At times, he shows better command of his secondary pitches than his fastball, but the right-hander has shown baseball IQ to think on his feet and compensate when this is the case, throwing more breaking balls and altering where his pitches are thrown and their purpose.
Projecting into the future, the Mets’ top prospect list for 2019 should have a few openings in it. Numerous players may lose their rookie eligibility during the 2018 season, graduating them off of the prospect list. In addition, certain injured or fringe players may fall down or off of the list completely due to inactivity or ineffectiveness. Though he did not appear on Amazin’ Avenue’s collective Mets Top 25 Prospects for 2018 list, he did appear on Steve Sypa’s individual list, coming in at 19. With a healthy and effective season, coupled by other players sliding down or graduating off, Dibrell has a good shot at rocketing up the system.
Justin Dunn will be pitching in the bullpen by the end of the season
With their first-round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, the Mets selected Justin Dunn, a right-handed pitcher from Long Island. Attracted to a fastball that touched 90 MPH and a slider that flashed plus, Dunn was initially drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school in the 2013 draft, selected in the 37th round, but did not sign. Instead, the right-hander electing to honor his commitment to Boston College and enrolled there.
In his first two seasons at Boston College, Dunn was a little more than an undistinguished reliever with solid stuff. As a freshman, he pitched 12.0 innings and posted a 7.30 ERA, allowing 17 hits, walking 11, and striking out 12. As a sophomore, his workload increased considerably as he became the Eagles’ closer, and he pitched 47.0 innings, posting a 4.94 ERA with 47 hits allowed, 21 walks, and 46 strikeouts. A few weeks into the 2016 season, head coach Mike Gambino inserted Dunn into the Boston College starting rotation and the right-hander ran with it. As a reliever, Dunn pitched 13.1 innings, posting a 2.03 ERA with 14 hits allowed, 3 walks, and 17 strikeouts. As a starter, Dunn pitched 52.1 innings, posting a 2.06 ERA with 38 hits allowed, 15 walks, and 55 strikeouts.
After being selected by the Mets and signing with the team, Dunn made his professional debut with the Brooklyn Cyclones. He appeared in 11 games in Coney Island that summer and ended the year posting a 1.50 ERA in 30.0 IP, allowing 25 hits, walking 10, and striking out 35. That winter, Amazin’ Avenue named Dunn the Mets’ 8th top prospect. He was assigned to the St. Lucie Mets for the 2017 season and pitched in 20 games. At the beginning of August, Dunn was shut down for the reason with shoulder tightness, ending his season prematurely. For the season, he posted a 5.00 ERA in 95.1 IP, allowing 101 hits, walking 48, and striking out 75. Over the winter, Dunn was once again ranked the Mets’ 8th top prospect.
Dunn’s bread-and-butter is his fastball, which sits in the low-90s and has topped out as high as 96 MPH. In addition to velocity, his fastball has good arm-side run. He complements his fastball with a slider and a changeup, the former of which flashes plus and is his best secondary pitch. Sitting in the low-to-mid 80s, the slider has late, tight spin and a good amount of vertical drop. His changeup, meanwhile, has good velocity differential from his fastball and has late fade. While still a below average pitch, the right-hander improved it a great deal as opposed to the much fringier one he threw in 2016.
Command has always been an issue for the right-hander. Since the day he was drafted, his command was noted as being below-average thanks to his mechanics, and nothing has changed in the years since. These inconsistencies in his delivery not only hurt his command, but also take the bite off of his pitches at times, giving them less life and making them more hittable.
All in all, Dunn seems to better fit the profile of a relief pitcher. During his time at Boston College as a reliever, he was able to get his fastball to reach as high as 99 MPH, letting it air out and not moderating his stamina. In his relatively short professional career, stamina has shown itself to be an issue for Dunn. After throwing a career high 65.2 innings for Boston College in 2016, he threw an additional 30.0 innings in Brooklyn. Though his outings were generally short, Dunn seemed to quickly run out of gas, with his fastball losing its oomph and dipping into the high-80s at times. There is less publicly available data to work with for the 2017, but the right-hander seemed to get much more hittable and gave up more walks in the later stages of his season, and stamina issues may be related once again.
Dunn has an above-average fastball and a slider that flashes plus, but his third pitch is not where it needs to be. As a reliever for most of his collegiate career, with a good fastball and a good slider, the right-hander simply did not need a third pitch. As a starting pitcher, he needs his changeup to rapidly improve, in order to be more effective facing the same lineup a second and third time through, and to have an easier time against left-handers.
In limited innings in 2016, they were not present, but in 2017, Dunn exhibited major platoon splits against southpaws. Left-handers hit .345/.464/.462 against him in 151 plate appearances, as opposed to right-handers, who hit .239/.308/.355 in 282 plate appearances. While some of this can be partially explained away by an unsightly .432 BABIP against left-handers, mechanically, his fastball tends to flatten out and his command becomes spotty to his left side. If Dunn cannot improve his performance against left-handers, teams will be able to stack their lineups against him. Such a weakness can be mitigated or negated all together simply by preventing him from facing lefties, or limiting his exposure to them.
Andres Gimenez will hit .300 or better
Andres Gimenez was a highly regarded international rookie, but nobody would have been able to predict the amount of success he would have. After having a great season in the Dominican Summer League in 2016, he impressed Mets brass so much during extended spring training 2017 that he made his stateside debut that year. As an 18-year-old, he was assigned to the Columbia Fireflies. Playing against competition that averaged three-and-a-half years older than him, the shortstop hit a solid .265/.346/.349.
Gimenez hit .262/.319/.333 in 22 games in May, his first month with the team, but seemed to get better as the season progressed. In 20 games in June, he hit .273/.317/.351. In 23 games in July, he hit .314/.371/.384. He came crashing down in August, hitting .204/.345/.290 in 25 games, but the precipitous drop can almost certainly be attributed to fatigue from playing 92 games and the effects of a jammed thumb that he sustained earlier in the month. The high-water mark of his season came on August 2nd, when he was hitting .289/.352/.371.
The shortstop will be playing in the Florida State League in 2018, where the competition will be even tougher, but there is no think that he will not be up to the challenge. Gimenez’ left-handed swing is short, level, and direct to the ball. He is currently more of a line drive hitter, spraying hits all around the field, but as his body fills out, he should be able to take advantage of his quick swing and hit the ball with more power and authority. He reads and identifies pitches extremely well for a player his age, and as a result, does not strike out excessively and draw walks as a fair rate.
Fully healthy with his first professional season under his belt, Gimenez stands to only improve. As one of the best hitters in the system, a .300 or better season is certainly within reach.
Bryce Brentz will lead the system in home runs
In 2017, Travis Taijeron led the Las Vegas 51s with 25 home runs, David Thompson led the Binghamton Rumble Ponies with 16, Peter Alonso led the St. Lucie Mets with 16, Brandon Brosher and Dash Winningham were tied for the Columabia Firefly lead with 13, Jose Maria led the Brooklyn Cyclones with 5, Anthony Dirocie led the Kingsport Mets with 11, and Mark Vientos led the GCL Mets with 4.
In 2018, Bryce Brentz will pace the system in home runs. The recently-acquired outfielder is coming off of a season with the Pawtucket Red Sox in which he hit .271/.334/.529 and slugged 31 long balls. In addition to those 31 home runs, Brentz added an additional 38 during the Triple-A Home Run Derby, winning the exhibition contest. Drafted out of Middle Tennessee State University precisely because of that power- in three years there he hit .385/.466/.756 with 61 homers- but it hasn’t always manifested during in-game situations. The outfielder combined to hit 30 with the Salem Red Sox and the Greenville Drive but the difficulties of climbing the minor league ladder combined with all kinds of injuries prevented him from coming anywhere near that number during his tenure with Boston- in 2015, he injured his thumb, in 2014, he sustained a severe hamstring strain, and in 2013, he sustained a knee injury and accidentally shot himself in the leg.
Asides for having a clean bill of health, part of the reason Brentz had success in 2017 is because of changes in his mechanics at the plate. During the season, he switched from a leg lift to a toe tap as his timing mechanism. He also moved his feet closer together and closed his stance a bit. This combination of changes allowed him to stay back on breaking balls and make better contact on the pitches that he did swing at, allowing his plus raw power to turn into in-game power. Already an aggressive hitter with an uphill swing path, the ball jumped off his bat in 2017.
Assuming he does not change his approach or mechanics, Brentz should post a high home run total in 2018. The higher elevation and thinner air of the Pacific Coast League will only help the slugger.