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2019 Minor League Preview: Binghamton Rumble Ponies

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How will the Binghamton Rumble Ponies fare this season?

Andres Gimenez
Chris McShane

The Binghamton Rumble Ponies were extremely successful in their inaugural season, going 85-54, but struggled to repeat that success in 2018, posting a 5th place 64-76 record. The team lacked strong position players and pitchers when the season started, and things got exacerbated further as the season went on and players were promoted, traded, or outright cut. Despite the lack of production on the field for much of the season, the fans came out to support the Rumble Ponies like never before. Over the course of 2018, the team sold 220,279 tickets and attendance averaged roughly 3,500 per game, the highest since the franchise’s inaugural 1992 season. Three games ranked in their all-time 20 most attended, and the 7,488 games that came out to see their game against the Trenton Thunder on July 20 were a franchise record.

While it is hard to link ticket sales with the presence of a singular player, it is hard to ignore the presence of Heisman-Trophy-winner-turned-outfielder/DH Tim Tebow. A lightning rod for media, fans, and detractors, he did not embarrass himself in his first exposure to Double-A pitching, hitting .273/.336/.399 in 84 games before having his season end prematurely after breaking his right hamate bone on July 19.

The Binghamton Rumble Ponies will open the 2019 season on Thursday, April 4th at Northeast Delta Denta Stadium against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. The 2019 season will mark the first in which the Eastern League will be using a split season format. The first half of the season will begin on opening day and will conclude Tuesday, June 18. The second half of the season will begin on Wednesday, June 19 and will conclude on the final day of the regular season.

THE MANAGERS

Kevin Boles will be managing the 2019 Binghamton Rumble Ponies, his first year at the helm. He will be replacing Luis Rojas, who was added to the Mets’ coaching staff as Quality Control Coach. The son of John Boles, Kevin played for the University of South Florida Bulls and was selected in the 42nd round of the 1998 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs. He only played professionally for a single season, 1998, before following in his father’s footsteps and transitioning into a managerial role. His father named him manager of the GCL Marlins in 2000, and in 2001, he was promoted to the Utica Blue Sox, the Marlins’ Short-A affiliate. In 2002, the Marlins fired both Boles’, leaving Kevin without a job, but he joined the Royals in 2003, managing the AZL Royals for a season. He then joined Minnesota for a six season, managing the Quad Cities River Bandits and Beloit Snappers, Minnesota’s Low-A affiliates and the Fort Myers Miracle, their High-A affiliate. In 2008, he left Minnesota to manage for Boston, where he managed for the next decade. In 2008 and 2009, he managed the Greenville Drive, Boston’s Low-A affiliate. In 2010, he managed the Salem Red Sox, Boston’s High-A affiliate. From 2011-2013, and 2013, he managed the Portland Sea Dogs, Boston’s Double-A affiliate. From 2014-2018, he managed the Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston’s Triple-A affiliate.

Flanking Boles will be Jonathan Hurst and Tony Jaramillo, who will be serving as pitching and hitting coach, respectively. Hurst will be replacing Frank Viola, and 2019 will mark his fourteenth season in the organization. After being drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 1987 MLB Draft, Hurst played baseball all over the world in his ten year career, including Mexico, Japan, and Taiwan. After last pitching in 2001, he was hired by the Mets in 2006 and was a coach with the GCL Mets. In 2007 and 2008, he was with the Savannah Sand Gnats, the Mets’ Low-A affiliate. From 2009-2015, he was a coach with the Kingsport Mets, the Mets’ Rookie affiliate. From 2016-2018, he served as pitching coach for the Columbia Fireflies, the Mets’ Low-A affiliate. Jaramillo, who will be replacing Val Pascucci, spent the last three seasons as an assistant hitting coach for the Cincinnati Reds before coming to the Mets

PLAYERS TO WATCH

THE HITTERS

The Rumble Ponies had one of the more anemic offenses in the Eastern League last season, with a .250/.331/.385 batting line- and that includes 434 at-bats from breakout stars Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil. The majority of position players on the team last season will not be returning in 2019, either having retired, been released, or elected free agency, and their replacements should hopefully be able to turn things around. Andres Gimenez will be returning to Binghamton after being promoted there midseason and will anchor an infield that will contain Luis Carpio and Will Toffey.

The Binghamton outfield is much less of a sure thing. Desmond Lindsay will likely be the marquee name starting there, and as has been the case for the majority of his career, health will always be a question.

Behind the plate, Patrick Mazeika will be returning after a poor showing in 2018 and the Stetson product will attempt to get his bat back on track.

THE PITCHERS

Binghamton was near the bottom in most pitching-related categories as well, but that should be different in 2019. Joining Harol Gonzalez and Mickey Jannis- who will be returning to Binghamton after spending the 2018 season there- will likely be top pitching prospects Anthony Kay and David Peterson.

The Binghamton bullpen should be loaded with talent. Stephen Villines, Ryder Ryan, and Adonis Uceta all have experience in high-leverage situations and, if all are healthy, should prove a difficult trio to navigate for opposing hitters.