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2019 Mets Minor League Review: Brooklyn Cyclones

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Reviewing the 2019 Brooklyn Cyclones season.

2019 New York-Penn League champions!
Steve Sypa

Season Record

42-32 (New York-Penn League McNamara Division, 1st place)

After years of success, the Brooklyn Cyclones fell into a bit of a funk. After fourteen consecutive seasons of posting a .500 or better record, the 2015 Cyclones ended the season with a 33-43 record. The 2016 team was a bit better, but still ended the season with a 37-39 record. The 2017 Cyclones were historically bad, posting a 24-52 record, one of the worst in New York-Penn League history. The team finally snapped out of their lull in 2018, posting a 40-35 record and just narrowly missing postseason contention.

The 2019 Cyclones had a similar season to the 2018 team, with one exception: they made the playoffs.

Brooklyn was never completely dominant, but they were good enough, posting records above .500 every month of the season. By the end of August, the playoff picture became clear, but crowded. Going into their very last series of the season- against their interboro rivals, the Staten Island Yankees no less- the Cyclones found themselves with their backs against the wall. Tied with the Aberdeen Iron Birds in the wild card standings and two games behind the Hudson Valley Renegades, Brooklyn swept the Battle for the Bridge, surging ahead of both Aberdeen and Hudson Valley. Any loss would have resulted in the Cyclones narrowly missing the playoffs, but the bats and pitching all alive and the Cyclones took the division, making it into the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

The Cyclones faced off against those same Hudson Valley Renegades in the best-of-three New York-Penn League semifinals. Game one did not go Brooklyn’s way, as they lost 5-4. Right-hander Michel Otanez led off the fifth inning by issuing a walk, and then fell behind 3-0 on the next batter, Tampa Bay Rays 2019 first-round draftee Greg Jones. Given the green light to swing, Jones connected on a fastball right down Broadway, giving the Hudson Valley Renegades the lead they would not relinquish. Game two was a nail biter that saw the Cyclones even the series at 1-1. Nathan Jones put up zeroes for the first three innings, and then third-round pick Matthew Allan took the mound and tossed two more. A rehabbing Jed Lowie hit a solo homer into the right field bleachers to give Brooklyn the lead, and that would be all they needed, as Corey Gaconi and Nelson Leon completed the shutout. The Cyclones actually had a no-hitter going through 7.1 innings, but Hill Alexander hit a dying quail into the outfield that fell between center fielder Jake Mangum, right fielder Ranfy Adon, and second baseman Jed Lowrie.

Game three was a back-and-forth affair that ended with Brooklyn celebrating with a little bit of the bubbly. Brooklyn came from behind and tied things 3-3 in the fourth and it remained tied until the ninth, when Yoel Romero walked to lead off the inning, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from catcher Jake Ortega, and then came home on a Ranfy Adon double. Brooklyn kept pressure on the Renegades all night, putting men in scoring position in the sixth, seventh, and eighth, so it was all a matter of time until they finally broke through. Meanwhile, the bullpen was dominant, with Nick MacDonald and Andrew Edwards combining to pitch four scoreless innings, allowing a run and a walk while striking out nine.

The Cyclones took on the Lowell Spinners in the finals, a team loaded with numerous Red Sox top prospects. Brooklyn took game one, with Garrison Bryant taking the team on his back and pitching six scoreless innings. The offense plated a pair of runs just after he was removed from the game, and while the bullpen almost faltered in the ninth, Brooklyn emerged victorious 2-1. Game two saw Frank Valentino take the mound, and while it would have been a great story for the Long Island Mets fan to be the winning pitcher in Brooklyn’s first solo championship, it was not to be. The right-hander had a hiccup in the second inning, allowing three runs to score. The Brooklyn offense got shut down against the Lowell bullpen, setting the stage for a winner-take-all game three.

Game three was a tension-filled nail-biter, full of highs and lows. Brooklyn took the initial lead in the bottom of the second, but Lowell quickly tied it up at 2-2 in the third. The game remained tied as Matthew Allan and Yusniel Padron-Artilles dominated, but the Spinners finally broke through in the seventh, when DH Marino Campana took reliever Mitch Ragan yard. Finding themselves behind for the first time in the game, the Cyclones came out swinging in the bottom of the inning. Jake Mangum singled with one out in the inning, and Antoine Duplantis followed with an RBI triple to tie the game at 3-3. Duplantis subsequently scored on a single from Yoel Romero to give Brooklyn the lead heading into the eighth. Andrew Edwards, who came into the game in the eighth and managed to get through the inning unscathed despite hitting a batter, came back out for the ninth. Third baseman Nick Northcut led off the inning with a single right back up the middle, putting the tying run on base. After striking out a batter, he then walked pinch hitter Jaxx Groshans, putting the tying run on second. After striking out Stephen Scott, all that stood between Brooklyn and their first solo championship in franchise history was pinch hitter Alex Erro. Batting from the right side against the left-handed Edwards, the southpaw fed him a steady diet of pitches down and in. Jake Ortega blocked a ball in the dirt that Erro went fishing for for strike one. He swung over a second for strike two. With the crowd on their feet, Edwards let loose one more pitch.

For the first time since 1955, a championship trophy was lifted in Brooklyn.

Month-By-Month Breakdown

June, 9-6

July, 16-13

August, 16-12

September, 2-0

Top Hitter

Wilmer Reyes
Steve Sypa

Wilmer Reyes

61 G, 229 AB, .323/.350/.441, 74 H, 8 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 8 BB, 41 K, 12/18 SB, .371 BABIP, 136 wRC+

Signed out of the Dominican Republic on the very last day of the 2015-2016 international free agent period, Wilmer Reyes spent the first two years of his career in the Dominican Summer League and then got a brief cup of coffee with the GCL Mets at the end of 2017. He spent most of the 2018 season there as well, though he got brief promotions to the St. Lucie Mets and the Kingsport Mets at the beginning and end of August, respectively. He was promoted to Brooklyn for the 2019 season and experienced a renaissance there, hitting a team-best .323/.350/.441. His batting average was tenth best in the league among qualified hitters, and when the list is shortened to hitters who played in 50 or more games, his batting average was fourth best in the league.

Reyes stands square at the plate, holding his hands low. He swings with a level swing with slight uppercut, a swing conducive for hitting for average rather than hitting for power. At 6’0”, 160-pounds, Reyes has a little bit of room for physical growth, but he is unlikely to put on much more muscle. As a result, he will always be a hit-over-power player.

Reyes played all over the field in 2019, logging the majority of his time at shortstop but spent time at first base, second base, and third base as well. While he spent the majority of the 2018 season in the outfield, the infield is his natural home. He is not traditionally quick or rangey, but he moves well laterally. He has a smooth glove and is able to transfer and throw the ball quickly, augmenting his average arm.

Runner Up

Joe Genord
Steve Sypa

Joe Genord

64 G, 216 AB, .204/.273/.389, 44 H, 13 2B, 0 3B, 9 HR, 15 BB, 65 K, 2/2 SB, .236 BABIP, 97 wRC+

After lettering for three years at Park Vista High School at Lake Worth, Florida, Joe Genord had to decide between attending college or becoming a professional, as the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 19th round of the 2015 MLB Draft, 582nd overall. He ultimately decided on going to school, electing to honor his commitment to the University of South Florida. In his four years with the Bulls, he hit .291/.382/.528 in 204 games, leading the team in batting average, doubles, home runs in both his junior and senior years. With their ninth-round selection in the 2019 MLB Draft, the Mets selected Genord and the two sides agreed to a $10,000, well below the assigned slot value of $154,600. He was assigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones and hit .204/.273/.389 in 64 games. His 9 home runs tied Travis Taijeron for fifth most for a Cyclones player, behind only Caleb Stewart, Blake Whealy and Noel Devarez (10), Jason Jacobs (12), Frank Corr (13), and Corey Vaughn (14).

As one would expect, power is Genord’s carrying tool. He has middle-of-the-order raw power capable of carrying for a team when he gets hot and goes on a tear. His hit tool is unfortunately below average, as he takes mighty hacks in virtually every at-bat with a long swing full of uppercut, leading to plenty of swings-and-misses. He does not have a particularly refined eye and has gotten by on pitchers nibbling and not wanting to directly challenge his power; more advanced pitchers may be more confident attacking him directly.

Defensively, Genord is a fringe defender at first base. He is a good receiver but does not exhibit much range and has shown poor footwork around the bag. He has experience as a catcher, but he is very raw defensively there as well.

Top Pitcher

Garrison Bryant
Steve Sypa

Garrison Bryant

14 G (12 GS), 75.1 IP, 49 H, 21 R, 20 ER (2.39 ERA), 14 BB, 75 K, .235 BABIP

Born in New Hampshire, Garrison Bryant and his family moved to Florida so that he could better position himself to get a scholarship to play football in college. After being scouting and interviewed by a variety of schools, he eventually decided on the New Mexico Military Institute, where he would be all but guaranteed to play quarterback. He pitched at Clearwater High School as well, and Mets scouts happened to catch him pitching while scouting another player. They were so wowed that they contacted Bryant and informed him of their intention to draft him in the 2016 MLB Draft. The Mets selected him in the 36th round and signed him for $100,000, and the right-hander went from pursuing a football career to playing baseball professionally. Extremely young for his age, the 17-year-old was assigned to the GCL Mets, and for the first time, baseball was more than just a hobby. He spent the next two years with the Kingsport Mets, and while the numbers were not particularly great either year, he improved in virtually every pitching category in 2018 as compared to 2017. He made a single appearance for the Columbia Fireflies at the beginning of the 2019 season, but has otherwise been the ace of the 2019 Brooklyn Cyclones pitching staff, having a season that matches up favorably with some of the best in the franchise. In 75.1 innings, he posted a 2.39 ERA, allowing 49 hits, walking 14, and striking out 75.

Throwing from a three-quarters arm slot, Bryant is not an overpowering pitcher. His fastball sits in the high-90s-to-low-90s, generally 87-91 MPH, with a decent amount of arm-side run. His go-to secondary is a circle change that sits in the low-80s. The breaking ball he threw in high school, a loose thing halfway on the spectrum between curveball and slider has developed into more of a slurvy slider, sitting in the high-70s with loose spin. He hopes to tighten the pitch up and then work on refining his curveball, giving him two distinct breaking pitches to use during games. Bryant is able to locate all of his pitches, and is able to maintain both his fastball velocity and his command deep into games, averaging roughly 70 pitches and five innings over the course of the 2019 season with no visible ill effects.

Runner Up

Frank Valentino
Steve Sypa

Frank Valentino

12 G (11 GS), 58.0 IP, 52 H, 26 R, 22 ER (3.41 ERA), 13 BB, 63 K, .316 BABIP

A Mets fan growing up, Frank Valentino graduated from West Islip High School in 2014 and then went on to attend 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, 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 appeared in 12 games for Brooklyn, making 11 starts, and posted a 3.41 ERA in 58.0 innings, allowing 52 hits, walking 13, and striking out 63.

Valentino pitches from a high-three-quarters arm slot, with a loose and easy delivery. His fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90s, ranging from 90 to 93 MPH. He also throws a two-seam variant that sits 89-91 MPH with a little bit of arm-side movement. He complements his fastballs with a variety of secondary pitches, all of which are fringe-average at best. His changeup sits in the high-70s, 77-79 MPH, but does not feature much tumble. His slider sits in the mid-80s, 84-86 MPH, and features very slight horizontal movement. His curveball sits in the high-60s-to-low-70s, 69-73 MPH, and features 11-5 break.