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Mets Minor League Players of the Week: Week Seventeen

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What minor league players put up the best numbers this past week, July 28th to August 4th?

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets
Drew Gagnon
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Hitter of the Week

Sebastian Espino

2019 Season: 35 G, 126 AB, .278/.336/.397, 35 H, 7 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 9 BB, 40 K, 3/5 SB, .393 BABIP

Week: 6 G, 25 AB, .375/.400/.542, 9 H, 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 5 K, 0/1 SB, .444 BABIP

Sebastian Espino was born in Bonao, a city in the central interior of the Dominican Republic. On July 2nd 2016, at the beginning of the 2016-2017 International Free Agent signing period, the Mets signed him for $300,000, the largest amount that the Mets spent on a single player that year. Espino wasn’t considered a top player in his signing class, but his being a late bloomer may have been the reason for that. He had a big growth spurt a few months before he signed, and he went from being a scrawny kid to a 6’2”, 175-pound kid, with an athletic, wide-shouldered frame that suggested he could grow and fill out even more. He did not suit up as a professionally until 2017, when he hit .267/.338/.433 in 64 games in the Dominican Summer League. At the end of the year, the Mets aggressively promoted the 17-year-old stateside, and he got into a handful of games with the GCL Mets. The following year, he spent the entire season with the GCL Mets, hitting .267/.329/.367 in 46 games with them. The 19-year-old was promoted to the Kingsport Mets to start this season, and through 35 games is hitting .278/.336/.397.

At the plate, Espino stands with a wide, open base, with a very slight leg kick and stride. He is still fairly young and has just three years of professional experience, so his swing is raw and his eye is still developing, and that leads to a lot of bad looking at bats. He’ll lunge, he’ll miss, he’ll miss against premium good velocity or uncommonly good breaking stuff, he’ll swing with too much downward plane through the zone. But, when everything works in sync, he can put up good at bats, as evidenced by his batting average, which is behind only Francisco Alvarez, Jhoander Saez, and Kennie Taylor on Kingsport, and is thirty-third in the Appalachian League. Among players 19 or younger, his .278 batting average is fourth in the league, behind the 17-year-old Alvarez and his league-leading .355 batting average, 18-year-old Johnson City Cardinals infielder Malcolm Nunez (.349), 18-year-old Princeton Rays utility man Gionti Turner (.304), and 18-year-old Bluefield Blue infielder Jay Miguel Hiraldo (.293).

Espino hasn’t added too much strength since signing, but he’s still 19 and is still far from a finished product. Still, he will never be much of a power hitter. He is more of a gap doubles hitter, and unless he gets physically stronger in a way that is currently hard to foresee and increases his bat speed- which, currently, I don’t think is that great- it is unlikely that he will ever be too much more than that.

Espino is primarily a middle infielder, with more time at shortstop. He doesn’t have too much quick twitch explosive range, but he does everything else well that a shortstop needs to do. He has good instincts, ranges well enough, has smooth hands, has a slick glove, and has an above-average arm. He is a better shortstop than teammates Jaylen Palmer and Gregory Guerrero and should be given preference over them, and is a level behind Yoel Romero, Wilmer Reyes, and Branden Fryman, so there is no reason to think that he will be moved off of the position any time soon.

Pitcher of the Week

Drew Gagnon

2019 Season: 17 G (17 GS), 91.0 IP, 79 H, 41 R, 35 ER (3.46 ERA), 24 BB, 79 K, .273

Week: 2 G (2 GS), 14.0 IP, 12 H, 6 R, 2 ER (2.57 ERA), 2 BB, 19 K, .314 BABIP

Drew Gagnon (7/28/19)
MiLBTV

Drew Gagnon was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 10th round of the 2008 MLB Draft out of Liberty High School in Brentwood California, but he turned them down and instead went to Cal State Long Beach, his mother’s alma mater. Andrew, as he was known by back then, wasn’t that great in his freshman year, but he improved in his sophomore year and ended up the Dirtbags’ Friday night starter. In 2011, his junior year, he posted a 2.81 ERA in 99.0 innings with 79 hits, 38 walks, and 84 strikeouts and was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 3rd round of the 2011 MLB Draft, the 294th player selected overall. He and the Brewers agreed to a $340,000 signing bonus and the right-hander was assigned to the Helene Brewers, Milwaukee’s Rookie affiliate in the Pioneer League to start his professional career. Ironically, the Mets were interested in him and were intending on drafting him with their third round pick, but the Brewers picked right before the Mets and snatched him, so the Mets went with Logan Verrett instead.

For the next five years, he would climb the Brewers’ minor league ladder. While he would post good numbers in Low-A and High-A in 2012, his numbers were generally unremarkable and pedestrian over the course of the rest of his time in the Milwaukee system. On December 13th, 2016, he and catcher Martin Maldonado were traded to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for catcher Jett Bandy. Gagnon spent just a single year in the Angels system before electing to become a minor league free agent, and it wasn’t a particularly good one. He missed a lot of time in August and September due to a right quad strain and ended the year posting a 6.25 ERA in 86.1 innings with the Salt Lake Bees, allowing 95 hits, walking 39, and striking out 83.

In December 2017, the right-hander signed a minor league contract with the Mets. He was initially assigned to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, but only pitched a single game there before being promoted to the Las Vegas 51s. In 17 starts from mid-April until early July, Gagnon was one of Las Vegas’ more dependable pitchers, posting a 4.67 ERA.

In early July, at the Triple-A All-Star break, he intended on spending the couple of games he had off at the Grand Canyon with his finance, but he had to change those plans as the Mets called him up to the major leagues to make a start against the Philadelphia Phillies on July 10th. At the age of 28, he finally made his major league debut. He didn’t pitch particularly well against the Phillies that night, giving up six runs in 4.2 innings, but he finally made it. He got sent back down to Triple-A, but was a September call up and appeared in four more games. In 7.1 innings against the Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, and Miami Marlins, he posted a 1.23 ERA, winning a pair of ballgames.

Like last year, he started the 2019 season in Triple-A, but has spent time in the majors. In his first call up this season, he started a game against Phillies in mid-April and allowed five runs in 5.1 innings, and in his second, from late-April until mid-June, he pitched out of the bullpen and posted a 7.36 ERA in 14.2 innings. In the 63.0 innings he’s pitched in Triple-A this year, he has a 2.43 ERA, having allowed 59 hits, walked 14, and struck out 56.

Gagnon doesn’t have overpowering stuff, which is why he’s had moderate success in the minors and has had virtually none in the majors. His tops out at 95 MPH, but mainly sits 91-93. His main out pitch is his changeup, a pitch he developed in 2016 when he was messing around with grips that worked for him. It has a lot of tumble, about two more inches than the major league average. Before that, his out pitch was his slider. He’s able to command his stuff and his time in the Pacific Coast League taught him to keep the ball down in the zone. He gave up 23 home runs last year, so it doesn’t always work, but nobody’s perfect.

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

Week Fourteen (July 7-July 13): Hansel Moreno/Frank Valentino

Week Fifteen (July 14-July 20): Travis Taijeron/Daison Acosta

Week Sixteen (July 21-July 27): Arismendy Alcantara/Tommy Wilson