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2019 Minor League Preview: Kingsport Mets

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How will the Kingsport Mets fare this season?

Steve Sypa

In 2018, the Kingsport Mets finished with a winning record for the first time since the 2015 season. The Mets got off to a quick start in 2018, winning their first six games and going 7-3 in the opening month of the Appalachian League schedule. The team cooled off after their hot start, going 13-14 in the month of July, and 13-18 in the month of August.

Despite fading a bit down the stretch, Kingsport’s blistering start to the season kept them in the playoff picture throughout the season. The Mets came into the last three-game series of the regular season in a virtual tie with their opponent, the Bristol Pirates. Kingsport ultimately swept the Pirates in the series and clinched a spot in the Appalachian League Semifinals against the Elizabethton Twins. The Mets split the first two games with the Twins, but ultimately lost the deciding game of the series 2-5. While their Appalachian League championship run ultimately fell short, the 2018 Kingsport Mets had one of the best seasons in franchise history, making the playoffs for only the sixth time since becoming a Mets minor league affiliate in 1980.

The Kingsport Mets will open their season on Tuesday, June 18th on the road against the Greenville Reds, the Appalachian League affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.

THE COACHING STAFF

Former major league coach Rich Donnelly will be entering his first season as manager of the Kingsport Mets in 2019. Donnelly previously managed the Brooklyn Cyclones from 2011 to 2013 and coached at the big league level for 29 seasons scattered between 1980 and the present. Donnelly spent the 2018 season serving as the bench coach for the Brooklyn Cyclones under manager Edgardo Alfonzo.

He will be joined by hitting coach Mariano Duncan, who will be entering his first season in the Mets organization after spending time as a coach in both the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs organizations, and pitching coach Jerome Williams, who will be embarking on both his first season in the Mets organization, and his first season as a pitching coach, having retired as a player following the 2018 season.

Rounding out Donnelly’s staff are three coaches entering their first season in Kingsport. Stephen Gaylor will begin his first season in the Mets organization as the team’s development coach, Anthony Olivieri will be entering his first season as the team’s athletic trainer, having served in the same position last season for the GCL Mets, and Seth Gregorich will be entering his first season as the team’s performance coach, having spent 2017 and 2018 in the same position with the GCL Mets.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Junior Santos

Cameron Planck

Scott Ota

Kennie Taylor

Jaylen Palmer

Wilfred Astudillo

Gregory Guerrero

Nate Peden

Sebastian Espino

Yadiel Flores

THE HITTERS

The 2019 Kingsport Mets will look to build on their relatively strong offensive performance from last season, in which they ranked fifth in the Applachian League in batting average and slugging percentage, and ranked first in the Applachian League in on-base percentage. The team hit a collective .269/.369/.402 on the season, which was good for a .771 OPS that ranked fifth in the league.

Infielder L.A. Woodard will be returning to Kingsport for the upcoming season, after splitting time between the Kingsport Mets and the Brooklyn Cyclones last season. He will be joined on the infield by five players who were already in the organization, including Brooklyn native and Holy Cross High School graduate Jaylen Palmer, Gregory Guerrero, Cristopher Pujols, Anderson Bohorquez, and Sebastian Espino.

The Kingsport outfield will be comprised of four 2019 draftees in Scott Ota, Tanner Murphy, Cole Kleszcz, and Kennie Taylor, and one player who was already in the organization in Jhoander Saez.

At some point during the season, Outfielder Stanley Consuegra may be added to the Kingsport roster. Consuegra was named the 19th best prospect in the Mets minor league system by Amazin Avenue this offseason.

The catching duties will likely be split between three players who were already in the organization in Wilfred Astudillo, brother of Twins folk hero Willians Astudillo, Carlos Sanchez, and Andres Regnault, as well as 2019 draftee and Morristown, NJ native Matt O’Neill.

THE PITCHERS

The Kingsport Mets pitching staff struggled last season, ranking sixth out of ten total Appalachian League teams in ERA (4.96 ERA on the season), and second to last in both walks per nine innings (5.1 BB/9) and strikeouts per nine innings (8.2 K/9).

The rotation figures to perform a little better in the upcoming season, and will be headlined by right-hander Junior Santos, who made his stateside debut for the GCL Mets last season after performing admirably in the Dominican Summer League. He will be joined on the pitching staff by 14 pitchers who were in the organization last season in Cameron Planck, Nate Peden, Jender De Jesus, Yadiel Flores, Benito Garcia, Ramon Guzman, Brendan Hardy, Cesar Loaiza, Michel Otanez, Hector Rodriguez, Jefferson Escorcha, Reyson Santos, and Noah Nunez, as well as one 2019 draftee in Mitchell Senger to start the season.

2018 draftee Mitch Hickey and 2017 international free agent signing Oscar Rojas will begin the season on the injured list for Kingsport.