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2019 Mets Minor League Review: Binghamton Rumble Ponies

Reviewing the 2019 Binghamton Rumble Ponies season.

The Binghamton Rumble Ponies
Steve Sypa

Season Record

35-29/32-44 (Eastern League Eastern Division, 4th/6th place)

Following the success they had in their inaugural 2017 season, the Binghamton Rumble Ponies struggled in 2018. The team lacked standout position players and pitchers when the season started, in both name and/or performance, and things got exacerbated further as the season went on and players were promoted, traded, or outright cut. The 2019 season was very similar, though the team had its fair share of highly touted players rostered.

The Binghamton Rumble Ponies posted a record above .500 in the first half of the season, the first time that the Eastern League utilized a split-season format. While the team ultimately ended the year in fourth place, the Rumble Ponies jockeyed near the top of the standings for the majority of the season. The same cannot be said about the second half, when Binghamton posted a record well below .500. Binghamton lost a lot of talent to promotions, and the players that replaced them were unable to keep up their level of production.

Month-By-Month Breakdown

  • April, 11-8
  • May, 19-11
  • June, 10-19
  • July, 16-13
  • August, 10-21
  • September, 1-1

Top Hitter

Patrick Mazeika
Steve Sypa

Patrick Mazeika

116 G, 413 AB, .245/.312/.426, 101 H, 25 2B, 1 3B, 16 HR, 37 BB, 89 K, 1/1 SB, .271 BABIP, 116 wRC+

After helping lead the Salisbury School Knights to the Western New England Prep Baseball League Championship in 2012, Patrick Mazeika went on to attend Stetson University. He had a phenomenal freshman season, hitting .382/.488/.495 in 57 games and leading not only the Hatters, but in some cases, the Atlantic Sun Conference in seven offensive categories. While he cooled down a bit in his sophomore and junior seasons, he still posted excellent numbers and hit a cumulative .348/.469/.484 in 174 collegiate games. With their 8th round draft pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, the Mets selected Mazeika, and the two sides agreed to a $125,000 signing bonus, below the assigned slot value of $355,400. Though an advanced college hitter, the Mets assigned him to Kingsport, where he hit .354/.451/.540 in 62 games. He was promoted to the Columbia Fireflies in their inaugural 2016 season, and though he was limited to just 70 games due to injuries, he hit .305/.414/.402. He was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets in 2017 and had yet another solid season, hitting .287/.389/.406, but after being promoted to Binghamton in 2018 finally ran into a wall for the first time in his career, hitting a paltry .231/.328/.363 in 87 games. Mazeika returned to Binghamton in 2019, his swing revamped and splitting time at first base and catcher almost 50-50, he hit an improved .245/.312/.426 in 116 games, slugging a career high 16 home runs.

In high school and college, Mazeika used a much smoother, more level swing, but the Mets have recently begun working with him to add more uppercut to it, elevating the ball. He seemed uncomfortable at first, but has clearly adapted to it, nearly doubling his career highs in home runs between 2018 and 2019, from 9 to 16. This also led to a spike in his strike out rate, which also almost doubled, but Mazeika always had a good eye and continued showing it in 2019, drawing walks at an 8% rate and getting on base at nearly .70 points higher than his batting average.

Mazeika has never looked particularly good behind the plate, though he has thrown out roughly 1-in-3 runners that have attempted to steal on him over the course of his career. He is not particularly mobile behind the plate and needs to continue working on his receiving and blocking. He played more first base in 2019 than he did in any other season, spending 53 of his 116 games there. At first, he exhibits similar problems as he does behind the dish, in that he is not particularly rangy there, though he is able to make all of the basic plays reliably.

Runner Up

Jason Krizan

97 G, 323 AB, .257/.335/.443, 83 H, 22 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 38 BB, 36 K, 0/0 SB, .256 BABIP, 129 wRC+

A graduate of Dallas Baptist University, Jason Krizan was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 8th round of the 2011 MLB Draft. Though he had an excellent spring, setting an NCAA Div I record at the time with 37 doubles and set a Dallas Baptist record with a 39-game hitting streak, he was a senior, and as such, signed for only $50,000. He was initially assigned to the West Michigan Whitecaps, Detroit’s Low-A affiliate, beginning a long and arduous journey climbing up the minor league ladder. He repeated Low-A in 2012 and scuffled, hitting .244/.333/.337 in 110 games, but righted the ship, hitting .288/.388/.396 in 116 games for the Lakeland Flying Tigers in 2013 and .293/.364/.414 in 124 games with the Erie SeaWolves in 2014. The Tigers invited him to spring training in 2015, having play the infield in an effort to convert him into a utility player, but he did not impress, and making matters worse, performed so poorly in his first go-around in Triple-A that he was demoted back down to Double-A for the rest of the season. For the next few years, he would split time between the Erie SeaWolves and the Toledo Mud Hens, re-signing with Detroit as a minor league free agent in 2018. In 2019, he signed with the Mets, getting assigned to Binghamton. After hitting .257/.335/.443 there, he finished out the season with the Syracuse Mets, where he hit .365/.467/.603 in 20 games.

The versatile Krizan, who can play left field, right field, first base, and second base, has solid bat-to-ball skills. He has a hit-over-power profile with gap power. He does not stand out anywhere defensively, though he is able to field the positions that he is able to play well enough.

Top Pitcher

Mickey Jannis
Steve Sypa

Mickey Jannis

20 G (18 GS), 119.0 IP, 123 H, 48 R, 41 ER (3.10 ERA), 31 BB, 103 K, .332 BABIP

Originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 44th round of the 2010 MLB Draft out of Cal State Bakersfield, Mickey Jannis was released after a single season. An older player who had primarily played with the Princeton Rays, their Rookie-level Appalachian League affiliate, and the Hudson Valley Renegades, their New York-Penn League Short-A affiliate, Jannis simply lost his roster spot to a younger player more valued by Tampa Bay. He did not stay out of baseball for long, pitching for the Lake Erie Crushers of the Frontier League. It was in the indies that he began throwing the knuckleball as an actual dedicated pitch. While with the Rays, he was primarily a fastball/slider pitcher, but with a halfway decent knuckleball and the desire to stand out among all of the other independent ballplayers looking to impress major league ballclubs, he decided to make the transition and go all in on the pitch. Though he recieved instruction into the mystical order of the knuckleball by Tom Candiotti, Jannis was still new to it and eventually abandoned the knuckler in order to preserve his spot on the team. He returned to the Crushers in 2013 and continued mastering the pitch. Following the end of the season, he went to the Australian Baseball League to play baseball over the winter, pitching for the Brisbane Bandits, and grew immensely as a knuckleball pitcher, as he was able to get regular playing time as a starting pitcher with a set schedule. He returned to Lake Erie for the 2014 season and midway through the year left to pitch for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League. He resigned with them in in 2015 and was then traded to the Long Island Ducks. The trade ended up being great for his career, as he had enough succeed to be recommended to Mets brass by Ducks manager Buddy Harrelson. Jannis was signed and was quite a hit in his first year back in professional baseball, posing a 3.55 ERA in 58.1 innings split between the St. Lucie and Binghamton Mets. He split time in Binghamton and St. Lucie in 2016, but struggled this time thanks to changes to his mechanics and pitch selection that the Mets wanted him to implement, posting a combined 5.69 ERA in 140.2 innings. He came to camp in 2017 with his own take on how the Mets wanted to alter his mechanics and pitch selection and saw success, posting a 3.60 ERA in 122.1 innings. He had success in Binghamton in 2018 and 2019, posting a 3.60 and 3.10 ERA respectively, and has become a reliable workhorse for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, leading the franchise in games started, innings pitched, and wins.

Owing to the fact that Jannis turned to the knuckleball in an attempt to get attention, he has a mundane arsenal of pitches, and they aren’t too bad. His fastball sits in the high-80s and he complements it with an effective slider and developing changeup. The knuckleball is his bread-and-butter pitch, of course, and like R.A. Dickey, Jannis has multiple variants of the pitch, with some as low as 70 MPH and some as high as 80 MPH, but all featuring mesmerizing, unpredictable movement. He throws the knuckler most of the time but mixes in his other pitches enough to keep hitters on their toes wondering what pitch the right-hander will be throwing. As a result of his larger arsenal and continuingly developing knuckleball, Jannis has consistently been able to keep trimming his walk rate while increasing his strikeout rate.

Runner Up

Harol Gonzalez

17 G (16 GS), 97.1 IP, 83 H, 37 R, 34 ER (3.14 ERA), 23 BB, 89 K, .269 BABIP

Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014, Harol Gonzalez has been a case study of a player making steady improvements since making his professional debut. Having shown a bit of promise in the Appalachian League in 2015 thanks to his stuff and personality, the undersized right-hander began realizing some of that potential as the 2016 season progressed, and by the time the year was over, had one of the most statistically dominant seasons in Brooklyn Cyclone history. He ended the season with a 7-3 record, posting a league-leading 2.01 ERA in 85 innings, walking 18 and striking out a league-leading 88. His stuff looked sharper and his fastball faster when he was promoted to the Columbia Fireflies in 2017 but the numbers trended in the wrong direction, as he posted a 3.53 ERA in 137.2 innings, most of them in Columbia but a handful in St. Lucie. He began the 2018 season with St. Lucie and seemingly righted the ship, posting a 2.82 ERA in 73.1 innings there, allowing 62 hits, walking 19, and striking out 59. After being promoted to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies midseason, things fell apart, and the right-handed posted a 7.79 ERA in 52.0 innings in the Eastern League, allowing 79 hits, walking 17, and striking out 30. Gonzalez began the 2019 season in Binghamton, but unlike his time there in 2018, Gonzalez pitched well, posting a 3.14 ERA in 97.1 innings, allowing 83 hits, walking 23, and striking out 89. While he already had experience pitching in the International League, as he made a spot start earlier in June, he was promoted to the Syracuse Mets at the end of July and remained there until the end of the 2019 season. Surprisingly, Gonzalez was very good for Syracuse, posting a 2.68 ERA in 40.1 innings, allowing 33 hits, walking 10, and striking out 23.

The biggest knock on Gonzalez is his size and lack of fastball- and admittedly, the latter is a very big knock. The right-hander stands an even six feet tall and weighs just 160-pounds. Despite that, Gonzalez has been a starting pitcher his entire career and has pitched 130 innings plus in three consecutive years. His fastball is fringe-average for a right-handed pitcher, sitting around 90 MPH. Velocity is only one component of a successful fastball, and while Gonzalez may be lacking in that regard, the pitch has life and he is able to command it. He pairs it with a 11-5 curveball, slider, and changeup. Of the three, his changeup is his most effective pitch. Nothing in his pitching arsenal projects to be better than average, leaving Gonzalez with a wide array of weapons but no true out-pitches.