32-34/36-32 (Florida State League South Division, 5th/3rd place)
The St. Lucie Mets have found themselves in a funk as of late. After being swept by the Bradenton Marauders in the Florida State League semifinals in 2016, they went a combined 63-75 in the first and second half in 2017 and 54-76 in the first and second half combined in 2018. The 2019 season was slightly better, as the team went a combined 68-66 in the first and second half, but at no point was the team in any kind of playoff contention.
Despite the record above-.500, the highlights of St. Lucie’s season are generally low lights. On July 4th, pyrotechnic problems in St. Lucie’s “Independence Day fireworks extravaganza” resulted in a fire breaking out outside First Data Field. In August, the team fell into a twelve-game losing streak. And, at the end of August, the final three games of the series were cancelled in preparation for the impending projected landfall of Hurricane Dorian.
127 G, 458 AB, .255/.336/.397, 117 H, 26 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 52 BB, 77 K, 6/11 SB, .281 BABIP, 119 wRC+
After hitting .380/.533/.632 in his senior year at Lake Howell High School in Winter Park, Florida, the Mets drafted Cortes with their 21st round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. Faced between a choice of honoring his commitment to the University of South Carolina or going professional, Cortes elected to attend college. He hit .286/.368/.565 with 12 home runs in 50 games in his freshman season and .265/.385/.500 with 15 home runs in 62 games in his sophomore year. A draft-eligible sophomore, the Mets drafted Cortes a second time in the 2018 MLB Draft, this time in the 3rd round and the left-hander signed for $1,000,038, roughly $300,000 over the assigned slot value of $705,300. He made his professional debut for the Brooklyn Cyclones and played in 47 games there, hitting .264/.338/.382. He was promoted to St. Lucie this season and hit .255/.336/.397 with 11 home runs in 127 games.
Cortes stands open at the plate with a swing full of loft, a change from his earlier high school days, where his bat path was more level. The additional uppercut has increased his power, particularly to his pull side, but has reduced his ability to make regular contact. The ball already jumped off of his bat thanks to his big load and coil, bat speed, and barrel accuracy, but the added uphill plane in his swing has really magnified his power.
What made Cortes notable at the time of the 2016 and 2018 drafts was the fact that he was a switch fielder. Naturally a left-hander, he taught himself to throw with his right hand and is fully ambidextrous. When he is playing in the infield, he throws right-handed. When he plays the outfield, he throws left-handed. Because his arm strength is fringy from both sides and because he is a slightly below-average runner, he profiles best in the infield, at second base, and the Mets have almost exclusively played him there.
125 G, 444 AB, .277/.359/.378, 123 H, 26 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 55 BB, 76 K, 3/6 SB, .320 BABIP, 123 wRC+
Jeremy Vasquez had a very productive career at Martin County High School, where he was a first baseman and outfielder. After batting .524 with a .617 on-base percentage and four home runs, Vasquez was ranked among the best prep first baseman in the country. He went undrafted because of his strong commitment to the University of Florida and attended the school after graduating. Despite missing some time recovering from a broken hand, Vasquez had an excellent freshman season, hitting .339/.424/.459 in 42 games thanks to a vacancy at first base. As a sophomore, he was shifted into right field because Florida’s incumbent first baseman, Peter Alonso, was healthy, recovered from an injury the year before. Learning the position, his performance at the plate suffered, and he hit .291/.387/.358. Instead of returning to the University of Florida for his junior year, Vasquez transferred to Nova Southeastern University, a NCAA Division II school in Fort Lauderdale, citing the opportunity for more playing time. The newly minted Shark had a highly productive season for his new team, hitting .317/.453/.614 with 15 home runs. With their 28th round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, the Mets selected Vaquez, who signed with the team. He began his professional career with the Kingsport Mets, and was promoted to the Brooklyn Cyclones in August, hitting a combined .266/.368/.430 between the two teams. He began the 2018 season with the Columbia Fireflies and got off to a blistering start with them, hitting .325/.455/.545 in April, but cooled down and ended up hitting .289/.383/.437 before getting promoted to St. Lucie. There, he finished out the 2018 season hitting .264/.342/.393. He spent most of 2019 there as well, hitting .277/.359/.378 in 125 games before getting promoted to Binghamton for the last two weeks of the season.
Vasquez has a smooth left-handed swing designed to spray line drives around the field into the gaps. He has natural loft in his swing but his swing is not particularly uppercutty, resulting in an ability to hit for a moderate average and exhibit moderate power, though excelling at neither. His strong, quick wrists guide the barrel to the ball from a deep load with an easy flow.
Defensively, Vasquez does not add much value. Around the bag, he has smooth actions with soft hands, but is not particularly mobile, thanks to his below-average speed and lack of quick-twitch muscle. He has limited experience in the outfield, where he can play left or right, but likewise, is a net negative defender thanks to a lack of speed and range.
17 G (16 GS), 90.1 IP, 73 H, 27 R, 24 ER (2.39 ERA), 36 BB, 76 K, .285 BABIP
Though he impressed during his time at Chattahoochee High School, lettering four times and posting a 2.47 ERA in 51.0 innings with 27 hits allowed, 36 walks allowed, and 75 strikeouts, Tony Dibrell did not garner much major league attention. He honored his commitment to Kennesaw State University and didn’t exactly impress in 2015, his freshman year, pitching out of the bullpen and posting a 5.06 ERA in 11 games, allowing 18 hits, walking 3 and striking out 18. He was marginally better as a sophomore, splitting his time evenly between the Owls rotation and bullpen and posting a 4.64 ERA in 54.1 innings with 54 hits allowed, 30 walks, and 66 strikeouts. That summer, he played in the Cape Cod League and really turned a page as a pitcher. Playing for the Bourne Braves and the Chatham Anglers, Dibrell earned All-Star honors, posting a 1.66 ERA in 38.0 innings pitched, allowing 28 hits, walking 18, and striking out 36. When he returned to Kennesaw State, he posted a 2.45 ERA in 95.2 innings, the third-lowest ERA in a single season in Kennesaw State University history. He allowed 77 hits, walked 39, and struck out 103 batters. The Mets selected him with their 4th round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft and signed him for $380,000, $33,100 below slot value. Dibrell finished out the year with the Brooklyn Cyclones, posting a 5.03 ERA in 19.2 innings pitched, allowing 19 hits, walking 8, and striking out 28. He began the 2018 season with the Columbia Fireflies and ended up staying there for the entire season, a brow-raising decision given the fact that he was a polished college pitcher with advanced stuff. In 131.0 innings, the 22-year-old posted a 3.50 ERA, allowing 112 hits, walking 54, and striking out 147. His 147 strikeouts set a new franchise high, beating Joe Shaw’s 2016 record of 134, and were tied for most in the South Atlantic League with Lakewood BlueClaws right-hander Spencer Howard and Greenville Drive southpaw Jhonathan Diaz. He began the 2019 season with the St. Lucie Mets and spent most of the season there, posting a 2.39 ERA in 90.1 innings, allowing 73 hits, walking 36, and striking out 76. He was promoted to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies in mid-July, and the results were less than stellar. In Binghamton, the right-hander posted a 9.31 ERA in 38.2 innings, allowing 51 hits, walking 21, and striking out 37.
Dibrell throws from a high three-quarters arm slot with a lot of violence and inconsistent mechanics, leading to control issues. When his mechanics are on, he is able to harness the full extent of his stuff, which is quite good, but when they are not, he can struggle. His fastball generally sits in the low-to-mid-90s, and while it doesn’t feature too much horizontal movement, it has heavy sink, especially when thrown down in the zone. He complements his fastball with a slider, a changeup, and a curveball. His slider is generally considered his best secondary, an above-average pitch sitting in the low-80s with hard biting action, generally used to get swings-and-misses from right-handed batters down and away. His change-up also flashes above-average, but is thrown much more sparingly. It also sits in the low-80s, showing good fade and tumble to the arm side, especially when thrown down. Rounding out his arsenal is his curveball, a pitch in the low-to-mid-70s with soft break used to keep hitters off-balance by changing their eye level. The ability to command his pitches has given Dibrell trouble throughout his career, and he often has had trouble finding the strike zone or staying sharp within it.
17 G (17 GS), 85.2 IP, 83 H, 30 R, 29 ER (3.05 ERA), 24 BB, 102 K, .359 BABIP
With their 7th round in the 2018 MLB Draft, the Mets selected Kevin Smith, a left-handed pitcher out of the University of Georgia. Over the course of his three years with the Bulldogs, the southpaw had a cumulative 4.17 ERA in 170.1 innings, having allowed 165 hits, walked 77, and struck out 186. Smith and the Mets agreed to a $222,300 signing bonus- roughly $300,000 less than slot value- and the southpaw officially became part of the New York Mets organization. He was assigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones and posted a 0.76 ERA in 23.2 innings that summer, starting three games and pitching out of the bullpen in nine. The Mets assigned Smith to the St. Lucie Mets to begin the 2019 season, and the southpaw was surprisingly good. Over the course of 17 starts, he posted a 3.05 ERA in 85.2 innings, allowing 83 hits, walking 24, and striking out 102. At the end of July, the southpaw was promoted to Double-A, and while Smith’s body of work in Binghamton was still a fraction of what it was in St. Lucie, the left-hander barely missed a beat, posting a 3.45 ERA in 31.1 innings, allowing 25 hits, walking 15, and striking out 28.
The 6’5”, 230-pound southpaw throws from a low three-quarters, almost sidearm arm slot, throwing from the extreme third-base side of the rubber. His fastball, which features a high spin rate, sits 88-91 MPH, featuring arm-side run and little-to-no sink. His best offering is his slider, which sits in the low-to-mid-80s, 81-84 MPH, with late, sharp break. He can manipulate the amount of break on it, flatting and firming it up and bending to give it vertical drop. Left-handers have struggled against Smith his entire career and his arm slot and slider are the major reason why.
Rounding out his arsenal is changeup that sits 82-84 MPH but between the lack of velocity differential between it and his fastball and minimal break the pitch has, it currently is a fringy offering, only effective when used to surprised hitters who are sitting fastball.