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The 11 best Mets minor league pitchers I saw this year: 5, Ryley Gilliam

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

Ryley Gilliam
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: Ryley Gilliam

Team: St. Lucie Mets/Binghamton Rumble Ponies/Syracuse Mets

Position: RHP

Born: 8/11/96 (22)

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 170 lbs.

Bats/Throws: R/R

Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft, 5th Round

2019 Season: 29 G (0 GS), 38.2 IP, 42 H, 26 R, 26 ER (6.05 ERA), 18 BB, 56 K, 1 HBP, 0 BLK, 2 WP, .400 BABIP (High-A/Double-A/Triple-A)

Date(s) Seen: May 18 (2.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K)

The Man

Ryley Gilliam lettered four times while playing baseball at Kennesaw Mountain High School, but went undrafted, partially due to his size and partially because of his commitment to Clemson University. He attended Clemson and made their baseball team, pitching as a starter and reliever as a freshman. In his first year there, he was fairly unimpressive, posting a 6.10 ERA in 31.0 innings, allowing 26 hits, walking 18, and striking out 16. He pitched completely out of the bullpen as a sophomore and his numbers got dramatically better. In 35.0 innings, Gilliam posted a 2.57 ERA, allowing 29 hits, walking 14, and striking out 50, notching 4 saves in the process. By his junior year, the right-hander had a firm grasp of the Tigers’ closer position. In 2018, he proved to be one of the best closers in all of college baseball. Through 36.0 innings, he posted a 1.41 ERA, allowing 22 hits, walking 22, and striking out 54, notching 11 saves in the process. He was selected by the Mets in the 5th round in the 2018 MLB Draft and the two sides agreed to a $550,000 signing bonus. He was assigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones for the remainder of the 2018 season and posted a 2.08 ERA in 17.0 innings there, allowing 11 hits, walking 13, and striking out 31. He began the 2019 season with the St. Lucie Mets, but by the time the season ended, was pitching with the Syracuse Mets. He was effective in High-A, was less effective in Double-A, and was shelled in limited innings in Triple-A. All in all, he posted a 6.05 ERA in 38.2 innings at all three levels, allowing 42 hits, walking 18, and striking out 56.

The Pitcher

Gilliam is only 5’10”, leading to concerns about durability on a per appearance and entire season basis. He is athletic, but his delivery is violent and high-energy. He throws from a three-quarters arm slot, generating velocity from a compact, electric arm. The high-tempo delivery generates velocity, but it comes at the expense of command, as Gilliam often has trouble throwing strikes, though he generally is able to more often than not.

Throwing from a high-three-quarters arm slot, Gilliam’s fastball hovers in the low-to-mid 90s, sitting 91-94 MPH. It has some arm-side life to it owing to his arm slot, but because of his own size, the pitch does not have much plane to it. He has better command of the pitch out of the stretch than in the windup, as the abbreviated mechanics

Gilliam complements his fastball with a curveball and a changeup. His curve is an above-average pitch, sitting in the high-70s with 12-6 break. The pitch has tight rotation and plenty of late break, eliciting plenty of swing-and-misses. He is confident with the pitch, and regularly doubles or even triples down on the pitch when he sees the need to. A holdover from his days as a starter, his changeup is also an effective pitch, as is the cutter that he began using in 2018, but he does not throw either pitch much, instead sticking with his fastball/curveball combination.

Looking to 2020

Gilliam was sent to the Arizona Fall League to get more work in, increasing his workload to about 50 innings for the 2019 season. Only 9.1 of those came in Syracuse, and Triple-A is where the right-hander should be starting in the 2020 season. Depending on how successful he is there, he could theoretically see major league playing time next season.

The List

6: Mickey Jannis

7: Bryce Hutchinson

8: Garrison Bryant

9: Tylor Megill

10: Nick MacDonald

11: Josh Hejka