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2018 Mets Minor League Review: Kingsport Mets

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Reviewing the 2018 Kingsport Mets season.

The Kingsport Mets
Steve Sypa

Season Record

33-35 (Appalachian League West Division, 2nd place)

Since clinching the Appalachian League West back in 2015, the Kingsport Mets have not been a very good team. In 2016, they ended the season with a 27-41 record. In 2017, they ended the season with a 29-37 record. Expectations were a bit higher for the 2018 Kingsport Mets, as numerous top prospects and intriguing names were assigned to the team.

Kingsport started out the season streaking, winning their first five games and going 7-3 in the month of June. They slowed down a bit in July, ending the month just slightly under .500, going 13-14. After posting a sub-.500 record for most of August, things came to a head. With roughly two weeks left in the season, Kingsport trailed the Elizabethton Twins by a handful of games and were in a virtual tie with the Bristol Pirates for the second-place playoff berth. As fate would have it, Kingsport was set to take on those very Bristol Pirates in a three-game series.

Kingsport won the first game of the series 7-6, won the second game of the series 13-6, and won the third game of the series 15-7. With the sweep, they virtually knocked the Bristol Pirates out of the playoff picture. With six games left, Kingsport had a three-game series with the Burlington Royals and another three-game series against the Johnson City Cardinals, the worst and second-worst teams in the Appalachian League, while the Bristol Pirates had a three-game series against the first-place Elizabethton Twins and the Danville Braves. Kingsport backed into the playoffs, improbably winning only two of their last six games, but a playoff berth is a playoff berth.

Kingsport lost Game 1 of the Appalachian League Semifinals, but tied the series the next day to force a third game in the best-of-three series. In the deciding game, Kingsport put up a fight, but the Elizabethton Twins were simply the better team. Despite the failure to advance, the 2018 Kingsport season was a success by every measure of the stick.

MONTH-BY-MONTH BREAKDOWN

  • June, 7-3
  • July, 13-14
  • August, 13-18 (1 playoff loss)
  • September, 1-1 (1 playoff win, 1 playoff loss)

TOP HITTER

LUIS SANTANA

53 G, 204 AB, .348/.446/.471, 71 H, 13 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 27 BB, 23 K, 10 HBP, 8/11 SB, .376 BABIP

Given one of the highest signing bonuses of all of the rookies signed by the Mets during the 2016-2017 international free agent period, Luis Santana hit a combined .317/.413/.462 in two years playing in the Dominican Summer League. Named a “player of note” during Amazin’ Avenue’s 2018 top prospect rankings, he made his stateside debut this season, and what a debut it was. The 5’8”- and that might be pushing it- infielder had his season end a bit prematurely due to a broken hand, but his .348 batting average was tied for eighth in the Appalachian League among players with 100 or more plate appearances When adjusted further to include players with 200 or more plate appearances, Santana ranked fifth.

Thanks to plus bat speed, extraordinary barrel control, and a tiny strike zone due to his size and batting stance, Santana’s ability at the plate was clearly advanced for the Appalachian League- though there are red flags in the swing that may be exploited in the future. Despite having a thick and muscular frame, he does not project to be a power hitter. He does not project to be much of a fielder either, possessing steady hands and acceptable range but possessing a below-average arm, limiting him to second base, where he is solidly average.

RUNNER UP

MARK VIENTOS

60 G, 223 AB, .287/.389/.489, 64 H, 12 2B, 0 3B, 11 HR, 37 BB, 43 K, 1 HBP, 1/1 SB, .312 BABIP

After being drafted in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft and signing for $1.5 million- almost $4000,000 above the designated slot value of $1,094,700- the 17-year-old Vientos rewarded the Mets’ faith in his talent. Considered a bit of a polarizing prospect because of his up-and-down spring at American Heritage High School, he hit .262/.318/.398 in his first taste of professional baseball, splitting time with the GCL Mets and the Kingsport Mets. Ranked the Mets’ fifth top prospect by Amazin’ Avenue this past winter, Vientos spent the entire season with Kingsport and was even more impressive. The 18-year-old was one of the youngest players in the league- only Everson Pereira, Nolan Gorman, Oswald Peraza, and Claudio Finol were younger- but was one of the best, hitting .287/.389/.489 in 60 games.

Slugging 11 home runs- tied for fourth in the league- Vientos showed off his power this season, his best tool. Despite a long swing, Vientos showed excellent barrel control, rarely striking out and drawing nearly as many walks as he did strikeouts. Maintaining this level of discipline will be paramount for his future development, as his swing might be exploitable by fastball with above-average velocity and higher quality breaking balls. Drafted as a shortstop, Vientos played all 60 games at third base this season, likely his permanent home. At the hot corner, he does not have the fastest reactions or the best footwork, but has soft hands and an accurate, above-average arm.

TOP PITCHER

WILLY TAVERAS

7 G (7 GS), 43.0 IP, 37 H, 17 R, 14 ER (2.93 ERA), 6 BB, 32 K, 3 HBP, 1 BLK, 5 WP, .268 BABIP

Signed out of the Dominican Republic, right-hander Willy Taveras spent two years in the Dominican Summer League before making his stateside debut this season. He initially was assigned to the GCL Mets, but was promoted after making four starts. He made his Kingsport debut in mid-July and would go on to be one of their most reliable and effective starters.

Throwing from a three-quarters arm slot across his body, Taveras’ fastball sits 90-92 with a bit of armside movement. He can command the pitch, throwing it to both sides of the plate with confidence and challenging hitters up in the zone with it. He complements it with a curveball, and a changeup, the former of which is the better of the two offerings. The pitch sits in the high-70s and features 11-5 break, though Taveras can manipulate its shape and velocity to become a high-70s slurve and a low-to-mid-80s slider. He commands the pitch well, and is able to pitch inside and backfoot both left-handers and right-handers with it. The changeup sits in the mid-80s, roughly a 5-10 MPH differential from his fastball, and features some fade but not much depth. He is able to maintain his arm speed when throwing it and does not telegraph the pitch.

RUNNER UP

GARRISON BRYANT

11 G (8 GS), 46.1, 52 H, 34 R, 27 ER (5.24 ERA), 19 BB, 54 K, 4 HBP, 0 BLK, 5 WP, .341 BABIP

Garrison Bryant was drafted out of Clearwater High School as a two-sport athlete, excelling on the baseball diamond and on the gridiron. He was scouted by professionals representing the MLB and NFL, but elected to play baseball after being selected by the Mets in the 36th round of the 2016 MLB Draft. Still just 17-years-old, he threw some token innings after getting drafted, but his first real assignment came in 2017, when he was assigned to the Kingsport Mets. He posted an 8.76 ERA in 37.0 innings that year, allowing 52 hits, walking 18, and striking out 33. He returned to Kingsport in 2018 and showed improvements, posting a 5.24 ERA in 46.1 innings, allowing 52 hits, walking 19, and striking out 54.

Bryant is still very young, and his 6’3”, 190 lb. frame is still filling in. Throwing from a high three-quarters arm slot, the right-hander has a mid-80s fastball with some arm-side run. He complements the pitch with a low-70s curveball with 11-5 shape and a mid-to-high-70s changeup that has good fade for a pitch so early in its development. He attacks hitters with all three of his pitches and is a strike thrower, though he sometimes runs into control problems falling off to the side as he does.