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The 11 best Mets minor league pitchers I saw this year: 6, Mickey Jannis

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Counting down the best minor league pitchers I saw in 2019.

Mickey Jannis
Steve Sypa

DISCLAIMER: This is a ranking of the best players that I saw during the 2019 season. I saw a wide cross-section of teams, attending Kingsport Mets, Brooklyn Cyclones, Columbia Fireflies, and Binghamton Rumble Ponies games, but I did not see the GCL Mets, St. Lucie Mets, or Syracuse Mets, nor did I attend every single game of the teams that I did see. As such, this is not a comprehensive Mets prospect list. If a player is not on the list, I either did not see him, or considered the listed players better.

Name: Mickey Jannis

Team: Binghamton Rumble Ponies/Syracuse Met

Position: RHP

Born: 12/16/87 (31)

Height: 5’9”

Weight: 195 lbs.

Bats/Throws: R/R

Acquired: Minor League Free Agent (2015)

2019 Season: 22 G (20 GS), 125.2 IP, 142 H, 69 R, 58 ER (4.15 ERA), 35 BB, 108 K, 4 HBP, 1 BLK, 13 WP, .344 BABIP (Double-A/Triple-A)

Date(s) Seen: May 18 (7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K)

The Man

Originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 44th round of the 2010 MLB Draft out of Cal State Bakersfield, Mickey Jannis was released after a single season. An older player who had primarily played with the Princeton Rays, their Rookie-level Appalachian League affiliate, and the Hudson Valley Renegades, their New York-Penn League Short-A affiliate, Jannis simply lost his roster spot to a younger player more valued by Tampa Bay. He did not stay out of baseball for long, pitching for the Lake Erie Crushers of the Frontier League. It was in the indies that he began throwing the knuckleball as an actual dedicated pitch. While with the Rays, he was primarily a fastball/slider pitcher, but with a halfway decent knuckleball and the desire to stand out among all of the other independent ballplayers looking to impress major league ball clubs, he decided to make the transition and go all in on the pitch. Though he received instruction into the mystical order of the knuckleball by Tom Candiotti, Jannis was still new to it and eventually abandoned the knuckler in order to preserve his spot on the team. He returned to the Crushers in 2013 and continued mastering the pitch. Following the end of the season, he went to the Australian Baseball League to play baseball over the winter, pitching for the Brisbane Bandits, and grew immensely as a knuckleball pitcher, as he was able to get regular playing time as a starting pitcher with a set schedule. He returned to Lake Erie for the 2014 season and midway through the year left to pitch for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League. He resigned with them in in 2015 and was then traded to the Long Island Ducks. The trade ended up being great for his career, as he had enough succeed to be recommended to Mets brass by Ducks manager Buddy Harrelson. Jannis was signed and was quite a hit in his first year back in professional baseball, posing a 3.55 ERA in 58.1 innings split between the St. Lucie and Binghamton Mets. He split time in Binghamton and St. Lucie in 2016, but struggled this time thanks to changes to his mechanics and pitch selection that the Mets wanted him to implement, posting a combined 5.69 ERA in 140.2 innings. He came to camp in 2017 with his own take on how the Mets wanted to alter his mechanics and pitch selection and saw success, posting a 3.60 ERA in 122.1 innings. He had success in Binghamton in 2018 and 2019, posting a 3.60 and 3.10 ERA respectively, and has become a reliable workhorse for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, leading the franchise in games started, innings pitched, and wins.

The Pitcher

Owing to the fact that he turned to the knuckleball late in his career in an attempt to get attention, he Jannis has an arsenal of mundane pitches that isn’t too bad. His fastball sits in the hovers around 90 MPH and he complements it with an effective slider and a firm changeup. The knuckleball is his bread-and-butter pitch, of course, and like R.A. Dickey, Jannis has multiple variants of the pitch, with some as low as 75 MPH and some as high as 80 MPH, all featuring mesmerizing, unpredictable movement. He throws the knuckler most of the time but mixes in his other pitches enough to keep hitters on their toes wondering what pitch the right-hander will be throwing. As a result of his larger arsenal and continually developing knuckleball, Jannis has consistently been able to keep trimming his walk rate while increasing his strikeout rate.

Looking to 2020

Jannis has appeared in two Triple-A games over the two past years, and neither went well. In 2018, he allowed 13 earned runs over 8 innings with the Las Vegas 51s; in 2019, he allowed 17 earned runs over 6.2 innings with the Syracuse Mets. Meanwhile, he set the all-time Binghamton Mets/Rumble Ponies franchise record for most wins (28), and has a cumulative 4.02 ERA in 517.2 innings pitched in Double-A. Given the different pitchers who can reasonably be projected to pitch in Syracuse next season, it is a toss-up as where Jannis will be assigned next season. He should be given any and every opportunity to continue his journey as a pitcher and eventually make the majors, but if I am being completely honest, I would much rather see him having success with the ‘Ponies than potentially struggle with Syracuse.

The List

7: Bryce Hutchinson

8: Garrison Bryant

9: Tylor Megill

10: Nick MacDonald

11: Josh Hejka