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2018 Mets Minor League Review: Brooklyn Cyclones

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Reviewing the 2018 Brooklyn Cyclones season.

MCU Park
MCU Park
Steve Sypa

Season Record

40-35 (New York-Penn League McNamara Division, 2nd Place)

In the past, you used to be able to count on a handful of things: death, taxes, the Streak, and Brooklyn having a winning season. In 2014, after twenty-plus years, Lesnar ended the streak. In 2015, after 14-consecutive seasons of posting a .500 or better record, the Cyclones posted a sub-.500 record. Since then, the Cyclones have been among the worst minor league teams in the Mets’ system. In 2016, they posted a 37-39 record; in 2017, the posted a 24-52 record, one of the worst in New York-Penn League history.

The 2018 Cyclones didn’t seem particularly special when the season began. While there were a handful of intriguing players starting their season with the team, none were particularly highly regarded other than Amazin’ Avenue 20th prospect Christian James. Additional players from the 2018 MLB Draft were assigned to the Cyclones upon signing with the organization, but none of these players were particularly highly regarded either.

Improbably, the Cyclones got off to a hot start, going 10-5 in the month of June. They slowed down in July, going 13-16, but heated up in August. By the end of the month, they were only a handful of games behind the Hudson Valley Renegades for first place and in a virtual tie with the Staten Island Yankees and the Auburn Doubledays for the NYPL wild card spot. Coincidentally, the Cyclones faced those very Renegades and those very Yankees in their last two series’ of the season. They lost two to the Renegades, putting first place out of reach, but were still in the hunt for the wild card. After losing the first game against the Staten Island Yankees, they found themselves in a precarious situation. With a magic number of one, a playoff appearance was still possible, but the stars would have to align: Brooklyn would need to win both of the final two games and Auburn would need to lose both of theirs. Miraculously, Brooklyn won their penultimate game of the year and Auburn lost theirs, setting the stage for drama on the final day of the regular season.

Brooklyn won their game in exciting fashion, walking off in the tenth inning, but it was simply not meant to be. While Brooklyn and Staten Island were still playing, the Doubledays beat the Batavia Muckdogs, ending any hopes of playoff baseball in Coney Island in 2018. Despite just missing the postseason, the 2018 season was anything but a failure. The team hit the 40-win plateau for the first time since 2014, the thirteenth time in franchise history, and have hopefully closed the book on their recent losing ways. The Cyclones were one of the best all-around teams in the New York-Penn League this season- the team scored the most runs in the league and allowed the second-fewest- and will hopefully be among the best in 2019 as well.

MONTH-BY-MONTH BREAKDOWN

  • June, 10-5
  • July, 13-16
  • August, 16-12
  • September, 2-1

TOP HITTER

Ross Adolph

61 G, 232 AB, .276/.348/.509, 9 2B, 12 3B, 7 HR, 21 BB, 52 K, 7 HBP, 14/17 SB, .322 BABIP

Ross Adolph was a multi-sport star in high school, winning letters in baseball, football, and basketball. He enrolled at the University of Toledo after graduating, and was a solid contributor to the Rockets in his three years there. As a freshman, he hit .268/.366/.317 in 45 games. As a sophomore, he improved in the power department and hit .272/.354/.484 in 58 games. This past season, the outfielder continued displaying his burgeoning power and hit .322/.445/.654 in 55 games, tying the record for most home runs in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Conference with 15. The Mets drafted him with their 12th round pick during the 2018 MLB Draft, and the two sides agreed to a slot-value $125,000 bonus. The Mets thus far have gotten their money’s worth from Adolph, who in addition to hitting .276/.348/.509 with 7 home runs and 14 stolen bases, was named a NYPL All-Star and was named All-Star Game MVP after going 2-3 with a triple and home run. His 12 triples tied the franchise record, he became the first Cyclones player with a two two-triple games in one season.

Adolph does not currently have a single loud tool, but he is average or better across the board. He stands tall at the plate, with a quiet swing that has some angle. There is some swing-and-miss there, but he also has a selective eye. While his ability to hit for average projects to be fringe-average-to-average, his ability to hit for power is average-to-above-average. In the field, his above-average speed and an above-average arm let him cover a lot of ground and get the ball back into the infield quickly. As long as he does not add bad mass to his 6’1” frame, he should be able to remain in center for the near future.

RUNNER UP

Jose Medina

54 G, 210 AB, .271/.342/.429, 16 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 22 BB, 41 K, 1 HBP, 12/20 SB, .315 BABIP

Jose Medina was signed out of the Dominican Republic in February 2014 and he spent the next season in the Dominican Summer League before making his stateside debut in 2015 with the GCL Mets. He had a solid year that season, hitting .262/.361/.310 in 31 games. He was promoted to the Kingsport Mets for the 2016 season and improved in virtually every aspect of his game, hitting .286/.358/.394 in 63 games. Just 20-years-old, Medina was given an aggressive assignment for a non-elite prospect, starting the 2017 season with the Columbia Fireflies. He hit .205/.239/.216 in 25 games before being sent to Brooklyn, making a pit stop with the St. Lucie Mets for three games when they needed an extra outfielder. He had more success with the Cyclones, hitting .262/.325/.333 in 63 games. He repeated Brooklyn this past season and showed some real improvements, posting better numbers in nearly every offensive category as compared to the 2017 season.

Prior to the 2018 season, Medina had a noisy hand path with a flat swing that limited his in-game power. He has since made some adjustments, adding some plane to it. Combined with the muscle and weight that he put on, Medina is displaying more power, but it will never be a carrying tool. His two best are his speed and arm, both of which are average-to-above-average, making him a good fit for right field.

TOP PITCHER

Jaison Vilera

13 G (13 GS), 73.2 IP, 50 H, 20 R, 15 ER (1.83 ERA), 22 BB, 78 K, 6 HBP, 0 BLK, 2 WP, .266 BABIP

Named a “player of note” coming into the 2018, Jaison Vilera was on the radar of few, but thanks to a historical season with the Brooklyn Cyclones, Vilera finds himself with a lot more exposure. After demonstrating that the competition in the GCL was not advanced enough for him last season, the Venezuelan right-hander did the same this year, having one of the best pitching seasons in Brooklyn Cyclones history. His 1.83 ERA is sixth lowest in franchise history, behind only 2012 Hansel Robles (1.11 ERA), 2001 Ross Peeples (1.34 ERA), 2007 Dylan Owen (1.49 ERA), 2005 Bobby Parnell (1.73 ERA), and 2014 Marcos Molina (1.78 ERA).

Throwing from a high three-quarters arm slot, Vilera features a sinking fastball that sits in the low-90s, inducing plenty of ground balls and limiting fly balls and home runs. His changeup is his best secondary pitch, and it is advanced for the level, getting a lot of swings and misses and causing weak contact. His slider is almost as advanced as well.

RUNNER UP

Christian James

13 G (13 GS), 71.2 IP, 22 R, 16 ER (2.01), 20 BB, 45 K, 5 HBP, 0 BLK, 3 WP, .265 BABIP

In 2016, the Mets drafted and successfully signed five high school pitchers: Cameron Planck in the tenth round, Matt Cleveland in the eleventh round, Christian James in the fourteenth round, Dariel Rivera in the twenty-fourth round, Eric Villanueva in the thirtieth round, and Garrison Bryant in the thirty-sixth round. Of the five, Christian James has had the best career thus far. After being drafted, the East Lake High School product tossed 17.1 innings with the GCL Mets that year and posted a 0.52 ERA, allowing 11 hits, walking 5, and striking out 15. He was assigned to the Kingsport Mets in 2017 and had a solid year by any measure of the stick. He made 11 starts and in them, he posted a 4.18 ERA in 51.2 IP, allowing 54 hits, walking 16, and striking out 58. Because of his profile as a pitcher and the stats he posted with Kingsport, Amazin’ Avenue named James the Mets’ 20th top prospect. After starting a pair of games with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies and the St. Lucie Mets, James settled into the Brooklyn Cyclones rotation, where he made 13 starts and posted a 2.01 ERA in 71.2 innings, allowing 61 hits, walking 20, and striking out 45. His ERA is tied with Harol Gonzalez for ninth lowest in Brooklyn Cyclones history behind only 2012 Hansel Robles (1.11 ERA), 2001 Ross Peeples (1.34 ERA), 2007 Dylan Owen (1.49 ERA), 2005 Bobby Parnell (1.73 ERA), 2014 Marcos Molina (1.78 ERA), 2018 Jaison Vilera (1.83 ERA), 2010 Yohan Almonte (1.91 ERA), and 2004 Michael Devaney (1.95 ERA).

Despite the historically low ERA, James ended the season with a 4.00 FIP thanks to a low 15.6% strikeout rate. With a walk and home run rate are roughly the same as they were in 2017, the drop in strikeout rate is certainly tied to a pitching repertoire that was less-than-advertised, and almost certainly diminished in quality as compared to prior seasons. Originally throwing a fastball that sat high-80s-to-low-90s and topped out as high as 94 MPH, James featured in 2018 an 88-90 MPH fastball that touched 91 a handful of times throughout the year. His slider sat 78-81 and was by far his best secondary pitch, thrown mostly to right-handers down and away to get them fishing. His curveball sat 80-82 and featured lightly floating 12-6 break, appearing more of a get-me-over-pitch than anything else. His changeup sat 83-85 and featured slight arm-side fade. The command of all of his pitches was below-average in 2018.