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The 11 best Mets minor league hitters I saw this year: 9, Hansel Moreno

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

Hansel Moreno
Steve Sypa

Team: Columbia Fireflies/St. Lucie Mets

Position: OF

Born: 11/03/96 (22)

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 180 lbs.

Bats/Throws: S/R

Acquired: IFA, July 15, 2014 (Santo Domingo Norte, Dominican Republic)

2019 Season: 109 G, 352 AB, .236/.297/.344, 83 H, 8 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 32 BB, 88 K, 20/33 SB, .287 BABIP (Low-A/High-A)

Dates Seen: June 10 (0-2), June 11 (3-5, 2 2B, K, SB), June 12, (1-5, R, 2 K), June 14 (0-4, K), June 15 (2-3, RBI)

The Man

Hansel Moreno signed with the Mets on July 2, 2014, for just $50,000. At the time, the 17-year-old was still very raw as a baseball player, but was seen as a great athlete that could develop into one. He had plus speed and above-average arm strength, but his ability to swing the bat was subpar, and at 6’3” and weighing just 170 pounds, he didn’t have much present power. Young international rookies are signed and projected based on their future tools, and scouts and evaluators believed that Moreno would add muscle and develop into a hitter. Moreno spent three years in the Dominican Summer League, finally coming stateside in 2017.

He debuted with the GCL Mets and ended his season with the Kingsport Mets, having hit well at both stops, though more so in Kingsport than in the GCL. Between the two Rookie-level affiliates, the 20-year-old hit a combined .295/.360/.432 in 57 games, hitting four homers and stealing fourteen bases in eighteen attempts. The Mets assigned him to the Columbia Fireflies in 2018, an aggressive assignment based on his level of experience, and the jump in the competition he was facing reflected in his numbers. In 89 games, he hit .248/.307/.398, hitting four homers and stealing twenty-one bases in thirty-two tries. His offensive contributions were just slightly above league average in the South Atlantic League, leading the Mets to promote him to the St. Lucie Mets to start the 2019 season.

He performed poorly to start the season, hitting.124/.184/.135 in 27 games in April and early May. He was sent back down to Columbia and spent the rest of May and the entire month of June there, hitting .276/.344/.440 in 32 games. He earned a promotion back to St. Lucie and spent the rest of the season there, hitting .274/.335/.397 in 51 games.

The Player

A lot of the physical development that scouts thought were in store for Moreno haven’t really happened. He is still very lean, and leggy with a high butt, and has only really put on about ten pounds or so. He has matured a lot mentally, though, going as far as to see a sports psychologist a few years ago to help him out with anger issues.

Moreno stands square at the plate, with a wide base. He holds his hands high and swings with a slight toe tap and no real stride. His swing is long and loose, with a lot of uppercut from both sides of the plate. When he does connect, he does have a bit of pop, but he regularly swings over breaking balls, not displaying enough wrist strength and barrel control to adjust to them. While he’s speedy, Moreno really has never been a particularly good base stealer. In Columbia last season, his success rate was just 66%, while in Columbia and St. Lucie this season, his success rate was 61%. His speed has helped him as a hitter though, letting him leg out infield hits and putting pressure on the defense and forcing errors when they rush.

His speed has been an asset as a defender as well. Originally a shortstop, has since been moved off of the position, as his speed is not so much quick-twitch muscle as it is long-distance afterburner. His combination of range and a strong arm makes him an intriguing center fielder. He is still learning routes but made a lot of good plays, more than I initially gave him credit for.

Looking To 2020

Hansel Moreno is eligible for the Rule V Draft and needs to be added to the Mets’ 40-man roster in order to be protected. Given his rawness vis-a-vis his age, I’m not expecting him to be selected, but given his jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none profile as a switch hitter capable of playing multiple positions in the infield and outfield, there are plenty of ways Moreno can be used, and as such, a team thinking outside the box may be interested in acquiring him. Assuming he stays in the organization, I would expect Moreno to begin the season in Binghamton, given his age and 2019 performance.

The List

10: Wilmer Reyes

11: Luke Ritter