Hitter of the Week
2019 Season: 71 G, 241 AB, .237/.301/.353, 57 H, 6 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 23 BB, 61 K, 11/18 SB, .287 BABIP
Week: 7 G, 21 AB, .476/.542/.857, 10 H, 1 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 3 BB, 4 K, 0/0 SB, .563 BABIP
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.
After hitting .124/.184/.135 in 27 games in April and early May, Moreno was sent back down to Columbia. He spent the rest of May and all of June there and did well for himself, hitting .276/.344/.440 in 32 games and earning himself a promotion back to St. Lucie. In the 12 games Moreno has played in since returning to St. Lucie, he has handled himself well in his second go-around in High-A, hitting .389/.450/.611 with one home run. That batting line is buoyed by an unsustainable .481 BABIP, so time will tell as to whether or not Moreno’s hitting skills have developed sufficiently or not.
When I spent a week on Columbia, Moreno played in five of the six games I attended. All in all, there’s some stuff to like, but at the same time, he is 22, turning 23 this November. He spent a lot of time in the DSL, three full seasons, and his development since he’s come stateside has been slow. A lot of the physical development that scouts thought would happen really hasn’t. 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 is 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.
Given his rawness vis-a-vis his age, I’m not expecting much from Moreno, 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 roads for Moreno to go down and plenty of potential opportunities for him down the road.
Pitcher of the Week
2019 Season: 3 G (2 GS), 16.1 IP, 16 H, 8 R, 5 ER (2.76 ERA), 2 BB, 16 K, .319 BABIP
Week: 1 G (1 GS), 6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
A local kid, after graduating from West Islip High School in 2014, Frank Valentino attended Suffolk Community College. He spent two years there, playing ball for one. In 2015, posted a 1.31 ERA in 55.0 innings, allowing 36 hits, walking 18, and striking out 84. He transferred to the New York Institute of Technology in 2016, where he studied communications and played baseball. In his first exposure to NCAA Div I competition, Valentino posted a 5.72 ERA in 47.1 innings pitched over seven starts and seven relief appearances, allowing 45 hits, walking 23, and striking out 38. Despite the poor numbers, he was one of Frank Catalanotto’s dependable pitchers and was given another shot in his senior year. Named the opening day starter, Valentino went 0-9 on the year, posting a 5.51 ERA in 78.1 innings pitched over twelve starts and a single relief appearance. He gave up 89 hits, walked 30, and struck out 64.
Despite going undrafted out of college as both a junior and senior, the right-hander continued playing baseball. In 2018, he played ball with the Vallejo Admirals of the Pacific Association. Tossing 98.0 innings over sixteen starts, Valentino posted a 5.05 ERA, allowing 97 hits, walking 43, and striking out 92. His performance impressed no one in organized baseball, and he returned to the indies in 2019, this time pitching for the Florence Freedom of the Frontier League. In 8 starts, he posted a 2.10 ERA, pitching 51.1 innings while allowing 41 hits, walking 16, and striking out 49. His performance this time garnered the interest of the Mets, whose Director of Minor League Operations, Ronny Reyes, also is a New York Tech alum. In late June, he signed a contract with the team that he grew up idolizing.
He’s been solid in a handful of games with the Cyclones, and it’s a nice success story for a local kid, but I wouldn’t imagine it lasts too much longer. The stuff isn’t exactly exciting- he has a low-90s fastball and underwhelming secondary stuff- so Valentino does not have too much to work with, and we know that he’s had trouble with college hitters and the smorgasbord of experience levels that makes up the indies as well. I have no doubt that he’s improved himself, based on his performance with the Florence Freedom earlier this year, but the upside is still extremely limited.
Past Players of the Week
Week One (April 4-April 13): Travis Taijeron/Chris Flexen
Week Two (April 14-April 20): Ronny Mauricio/Harol Gonzalez
Week Three (April 21-April 27): Danny Espinosa/Anthony Kay
Week Four (April 28-May 4): Will Toffey/Tommy Wilson
Week Five (May 5-May 11): Carlos Gomez/Harol Gonzalez
Week Six (May 12-May 18): Patrick Mazeika/Anthony Kay
Week Seven (May 19-May 25): Mark Vientos/Anthony Kay
Week Eight (May 26-June 1): Travis Taijeron/Harol Gonzalez
Week Nine (June 2-June 8): N/A
Week Ten (June 9-June 15): Ronny Mauricio/Chris Mazza
Week Eleven (June 16-June 22): Dilson Herrera/Michel Otanez
Week Twelve:(June 23-June 29): Luke Ritter/Thomas Szapucki
Week Thirteen (June 30-July 6): Joe Genord/Kevin Smith