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Mets Minor League Players of the Week: Week Four

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What minor league players put up the best numbers this past week, April 29th to May 5th?

Jeff McNeil - 2015 spring - Chris McShane
Jeff McNeil
Chris McShane

Pitcher of the Week

Marcel Renteria

2018 Season: 4 G (4 GS), 23.1 IP, 24 H, 11 R, 10 ER (4.24 ERA), 6 BB, 22 K, 1 HR, 2 HBP

Week: 1 G (1 GS), 7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

Marcel Renteria 5/2/18, MiLBTV

By far, this was the best start of Renteria’s young professional career. Because he was used in relief with the Brooklyn Cyclones last season, Renteria generally gets lumped in with the college relievers that the Mets took on the second day of the draft last season- Conner O’Neil, Trey Cobb, Cannon Chadwick, and Stephen Villines- but Renteria is a bit more. In his two years at Pima Community College in Arizona, he made 16 starts. After transferring to New Mexico State University, he made 14 starts and threw 79.2 innings in his first year there and made 14 starts and threw 79 innings in his second. The Mets eased him into professional baseball as a reliever last season, but it isn’t a full-time conversion and the organization is planning on using him as a starting pitcher for as long as he is effective.

Renteria’s fastball is his bread-and-butter, and has been key to him becoming a professional. The pitch generally sits in the low-to-mid 90s, and has been clocked as high as 99 MPH. In Brooklyn last season, his fastball was clocked multiple times in the high-80s and low-90s, meaning the right-hander was likely fighting extreme fatigue or an undisclosed injury. While the pitch has plenty of velocity, it lacks plane, which is problematic. The physics of hitting a fastball are extremely complicated, but suffice to say, hitting a pitch with movement is much more complicated than hitting a pitch without much movement. I’m not saying that Renteria is a bad pitcher because his fastball does not have much movement, but ultimately, he’d probably be better served if he could get a little more movement on it, even at the expense of some velocity.

He complements his fastball with a curve that has gotten above-average grades from evaluators, and a changeup. Because he has three pitches that he can throw for strikes, Renteria should get every opportunity to continue starting, but I think that he will ultimately end up as a reliever as he starts climbing the minor league ladder. At 5’11”, 185 pounds, Renteria is on the small side for a pitcher, and his frame might end up limiting his role. Transitioning to the bullpen may end up beneficial for him as a player, as he would be able to air out his fastball and super specialize on his breaking ball, increasing his effectiveness during individual at-bats.

Hitter of the Week

Jeff McNeil

2018 Season: 20 G, 86 AB, .284/.384/.662, 21 H, 6 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 11 RBI, 9 BB, 10 K, 1/1 SB

Week: 6 G, 26 AB, .318/.423/.682, 7 H, 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K, 0/0 SB

Jeff McNeil 5/5/18, MiLBTV

A few years ago, we heard that Jeff McNeil had bulked up and added about 35 pounds to his 6’1” frame and had been focusing on developing his upper body. Thanks to a pair of sports hernias and a tear in his hip labrum, he played in only three games in 2016. He got on the field a bit more in 2017, but once again missed a considerable amount of time to injury, this time an apparent groin injury- sustained after hitting a home run, no less. It’s been twenty games so far, and he is not as bulked and jacked as he was a few years ago, but the gains that McNeil made a few years seem to be legitimate, and that he has shored up the biggest weakness in his baseball profile.

Hitting is something that McNeil has never had a problem with. His swing is smooth and direct to the ball, resulting in line drives with a bit of pull-side power. He has always showed the ability to make contact with the ball, laying off of pitches out of the zone and fouling off tough pitches to continue at-bats until he can get something to drive. He is not the most patient of hitters, as he doesn’t walk at a particularly high rate, but he has a keen awareness of the strike zone.

When it comes to defense, McNeil profiles best at second or third base, as his arm is just average, but thanks to his athleticism, he has enough range and quick enough reaction times to play shortstop in short stints.

While health isn’t a skill, McNeil has not demonstrated the ability to stay healthy over the last couple of years, and not only has this delayed his baseball development, but it has pushed him down on the organizational depth chart as well. The Mets have a glut of middle infielders in the system ahead of McNeil on the depth chart- Gavin Cecchini, Phil Evans, Luis Guillorme, Ty Kelly- and to date, McNeil has done very little to anything to separate himself from this pack of semi-fungible assets. He does not have the draft pedigree like Cecchini, the major league experience and track record of Evans and Kelly, or the phenomenal defense of Guillorme.