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Mets Minor League Players of the Week: Week Nineteen

What minor league players put up the best numbers this past week, August 12th to August 18th?

Nicolas Debora
Steve Sypa

Pitcher of the Week

Nicolas Debora

2018 Season: 23 G (8 GS), 79.0 IP, 77 H, 35 R, 29 ER (3.30 ERA), 31 BB, 73 K (Short-A/Low-A/High-A)

Week: 1 G (1 GS), 7.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K (Low-A)

Nicolas Debora was on the older side when he signed with the Mets in January 2012, inking a deal with the team at the “advanced” age of eighteen. Given a $115,000 bonus, he was assigned to the Dominican Summer League, as most international rookies are, and things got off to a rough start. After appearing in a handful of games, Debora was suspended for 50 games without pay after testing positive for stanozolol. He served out his suspension, getting reinstated to the DSL Mets in July 2013, and would spend the next few years in the DSL, posting solid-if-unexciting numbers. The numbers generally trended in the right direction year after year, and in 2015, everything came together for the 21-year-old right-hander. He went 5-2 for the DSL Mets that year, posting a 1.65 ERA in 76.1 innings, allowing 59 hits, walking 13, and striking out 70, and was awarded the Dominican Summer League Sterling Award along with outfielder Wagner Lagrange.

Fresh off of winning his Sterling Award, Debora made his stateside debut in 2016, getting assigned to the GCL Mets. As had been the case for most of his career, he put up solid-but-uninspiring numbers at an advanced age, posting a 4.46 ERA in 40.1 innings, allowing 39 hits, walking 12, and striking out 41. He did much better in the pitching-friendly New York-Penn League in 2017, when he was assigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones. He posted a 2.33 ERA in 54.0 innings that year, allowing 58 hits, walking 15, and striking out 56.

Debora has been doing yeoman’s work this season, pitching in multiple roles for multiple teams, doing whatever his managers have asked of him. He began the season in the Columbia Fireflies bullpen, made a single appearance with the St. Lucie Mets, returned to the Fireflies, made a few starts with the Brooklyn Cyclones when their season began, and then returned to the Fireflies yet again. He tossed 79.0 innings- a career high- between the three levels, posting a combined 3.38 ERA, allowing 70 hits, walking 28, and striking out 69.

Debora throws from a three-quarters arm slot, pumping in his fastball in the low-90s. He complements it with a breaking ball that morphs between a curveball and a slider and a change-up. Both pitches are fringy, and he often telegraphs the breaking ball in his follow through, but when the breaking ball has a more defined curve shape, the pitch is more serviceable and garners more swings-and-misses.

Given his advanced age, minimal track record of performance, and relative lack of future projection, Debora has limited upside. The 2018 season marks Debora’s seventh season with the Mets, meaning that he will be eligible to become a minor league free agent.

Hitter of the Week

Matt Winaker

2018 Season: 106 G, 373 AB, .257/.371/.440, 96 H, 18 2B, 7 3B, 12 HR, 55 BB, 72 K, 4/7 SB (Low-A)

Week: 5 G, 19 AB, .316/.458/.789, 5 H, 0 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 4 BB, 2 K, 0/0 SB (Low-A)

Matt Winaker was drafted in the fifth-round of the 2017 MLB Draft, 157th overall. Along with third-round draft pick Quinn Brodey, Winaker was one of two bats drafted out of Stanford. In his junior year in 2017, he hit .308/.432/.514, and over the course of his entire collegiate career, he hit a combined .278/.393/.422. While there, coach Mark Marquess elected to use him primarily at first base- though he was athletic enough to play in the outfield- looking to shore up the Cardinals defense at the position with an agile, sure-handed defender. Winaker excelled in the defensive aspects of first base, winning multiple NCAA awards and being named to multiple honorary teams. Perhaps most impressively, he committed just six errors in his three years there, two as a freshman, none as a sophomore, and four as a junior; between 2016 and 2017, he went 79 consecutive games without committing an error.

After being drafted, he was assigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones, were he shared first base duties with Jeremy Vasquez, Jose Maria, and Reed Gamache. In 21 games, Winaker hit .268/.402/.282, leading the team in on-base percentage. He made 4 errors in 182 plays, no doubt in part because of the defensively-challenged Carl Stajduhar playing third base across from him. Promoted to the Columbia Fireflies for the 2018 season, manager Pedro Lopez elected to use Winaker in the outfield, where his athleticism would be better served. Through 106 games, he is hitting a respectable .257/.371/.440, ranking eleventh in the league in on-base percentage.

As is the case with a preponderance of batter from Stanford during the late Marquess era (1977-2017), Winaker utilizes a swing with telltale traces of the “Stanford Swing”, a quiet, level swing without much plane that puts an emphasis on getting the foot down early and making contact, putting the ball in play- often up the middle or to the opposite field- at the expense of power. The idea behind such a philosophy was that a team of nine such hitters would be able to constantly and consistently “hit ‘em where they ain’t”, to quote Hall of Famer Wee Willie Keeler, driving each other in in a Bugs Bunny-esque conga line of runs.

While Winaker was a bit more pull-heavy in 2017 than other Stanford alumni, posting a 57.9 pull percentage, 10.5 up-the-middle percentage, and 31.6 opposite field percentage, he going back up the middle more in 2018. His pull percentage and opposite field percentage both dropped roughly ten percent, to 48.9% and 23.6% respectively, while his up-the-middle hit percentage has ballooned to 27.5%.

More important than where Winaker is hitting the ball seems to be how he is hitting them. He is hitting almost double the amount of fly balls that he did in his first year as a professional, with a 40.5 % flyball rate in 2018 as opposed to the 23.2 % flyball rate he posted in 2017 with Brooklyn. Consequently, his groundball rate shrunk as a result, going from 48.2 % in 2017 to 37.5 %. In a study done by Jeff Zimmerman this April, he found that there is correlation between launch angle and ground ball percentage. According to Zimmerman, launch angle can be approximated by substituting ground ball percentage. With a ground ball rate of 37.5%, we can approximate that Winaker is hitting the ball this season with a launch angle of roughly 17.2 degrees in 2018, as opposed to the 12.1 degrees his was hitting it in 2017. As we have seen in many other players, the increase in launch angle has resulted in more hits and in more home runs, and this has been the case for Winaker, who has hit 12 home runs this season after combining to hit 9 between Stanford and Brooklyn last season.

With his increasing capacity to hit for power based on changes to the angle of his swing coupled with an already well-developed and advanced understanding of the strike zone, Winaker may be coming into his own as a hitter.

Past Players of the Week

  • WEEK ONE 2018 (April 5-14): Justin Dunn/Ty Kelly
  • WEEK TWO 2018 (April 15-21): Chris Viall/Quinn Brodey
  • WEEK THREE 2018 (April 22-28): Chris Viall & Tony Dibrell/Peter Alonso
  • WEEK FOUR 2018 (April 29-May 5): Marcel Renteria/Jeff McNeil
  • WEEK FIVE 2018 (May 5-May 12): David Peterson/Jhoan Urena
  • WEEK SIX 2018 (May 13-May 19): Joe Cavallaro/Jeff McNeil
  • WEEK SEVEN 2018 (May 20-May 26): Mickey Jannis/Peter Alonso
  • WEEK EIGHT 2018 (May 27-JUNE 2): N/A
  • WEEK NINE 2018 (JUNE 3-JUNE 9): N/A
  • WEEK TEN 2018 (JUNE 10-JUNE 16): Justin Dunn/Wilmer Flores
  • WEEK ELEVEN 2018 (JUNE 17-JUNE 23): Nabil Crismatt/Peter Alonso
  • WEEK TWELVE 2018 (JUNE 24-JUNE 30): Drew Gagnon/Jeff McNeil
  • WEEK THIRTEEN 2018 (JULY 1-JUNE 7): Jaison Vilera/Jeff McNeil
  • WEEK FOURTEEN 2018 (JULY 8-JUNE 14): Jason Vargas/Blake Tiberi
  • WEEK FIFTEEN 2018 (JULY 15-JUNE 21): Tony Dibrell/Tomas Nido
  • WEEK SIXTEEN 2018 (JULY 22-JUNE 28): Luc Rennie/Mark Vientos
  • WEEK SEVENTEEN 2018 (JULY 29-AUGUST 4): Michael Gibbons/Mark Vientos
  • WEEK EIGHTEEN 2018 (AUGUST 5-AUGUST 11): Garrison Bryant/Peter Alonso