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2019 Mets Minor League Review: Kingsport Mets

Reviewing the 2019 Kingsport Mets season.

Kingsport Mets
Steve Sypa

Season Record

34-34 (Appalachian League West Division, 2nd place)

The 2019 Kingsport Mets were a team loaded with talent, but all of that talent didn’t quite translate into wins. Or, rather, enough wins, as the 2019 season came down to the wire. Thanks to a surge in August, Kingsport made up ground that they lost due to a sub-.500 July and forced a showdown in the final series of the season. Standing in their way were the Johnson City Cardinals, another team with playoff aspirations. Kingsport handily won the first game of the series, clobbering the Cardinals to the tune of a 15-6. With the win, they needed another to clinch the division. Unfortunately for them, Johnson City won game two of the three game set, setting the stage for a dramatic showdown on the final day of the season. If Kingsport won, they would be going to the playoffs as the Appalachian League West winners. If they lost, they wouldn’t win the division but the chance remained that they sneak into the Appalachian League playoffs as the wild card.

Kingsport’s final game of the season was a wild one. Johnson City took the lead in the top of the second when Junior Santos gave up a grand slam to Johnson City Cardinals center fielder Diomedes Del Rio, but the offense bailed him out an inning later when Andres Regnault drove in a run on an RBI single and Wilfred Astudillo slugged a three-run homer. The score was reset at 4-4 apiece, but Santos quickly faltered, giving up three more runs in the fourth. Reliever Jefferson Escorcha gave up a run in the sixth, but Kingsport negated it in the seventh with a run of their own. A fielding error by second baseman Gregory Guerrero let the Cardinals score another run in the ninth, but with their backs up against the wall in the bottom of the inning, Kingsport went down fighting. With two outs and a man on first, DH Andres Regnault hit a two-run homer to make it a 9-7 game. Unfortunately, Astudillo struck out to end the game, and the Johnson City Cardinals won the Appalachian League West.

Hope was not completely lost, as a Danville Braves win over the Bristol Pirates would allow Kingsport to sneak into the playoffs as the wild card team. Unfortunately, Bristol had a big second inning, scoring four runs, and were able to make it stick, beating the Danville 4-2. With that, the Kingsport Mets season came to a close.

All in all, the season was a success despite their failure to make the playoffs. The team ended at .500 for the first time since 2015, when they went 40-28 and numerous top or intriguing prospects had solid-to-spectacular years.

Month-By-Month Breakdown

June, 6-6

July, 11-17

August, 17-11

Top Hitter

Scott Ota
Steve Sypa

Scott Ota

51 G, 183 AB, .273/.355/.519, 50 H, 14 2B, 5 3B, 7 HR, 21 BB, 38 K, 0/1 SB, .305 BABIP, 133 wRC+

After graduating from Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, California, Scott Ota attended the University of Illinois-Chicago. He spent four years there, having gone undrafted in 2018, and hit a cumulative .301/.374/.529 in 206 games. By the time he graduated, he set the UIC single-season home run record (20), and was ranked first in school history in RBI (164), second in home runs (33), second in triples (16), fifth in hits (230), and eighth in doubles (43). With their tenth-round selection in the 2019, the Mets selected Ota, and the outfielder agreed to sign with the club for a mere $1,000 signing bonus, well below the assigned slot value of $145,300.

At the plate, Ota stands with a wide, slightly open stance. He holds his hands high, barring his bat behind his head. He uses a leg kick to transfer his weight and uncoils with a long swing capable of really putting a jolt in the ball when barrels up on the ball and makes square, solid contact. There is a lot of loft and uppercut in his swing, meaning that when he makes good contact he is able to drive the ball into the outfield, but it also results in weak groundballs and pop ups when he is not able to make good contact- though he is strong enough to muscle bad contact into weak hits in many cases.

Defensively, Ota profiles best in right field, where his arm, which is capable of hitting the mid-to-high-80s, can be best utilized. He is otherwise a sturdy, dependable fielder who is neither a plus or a liability.

Runner Up

Francisco Alvarez
Steve Sypa

Francisco Alvarez

35 G, 131 AB, .282/.377/.443, 37 H, 6 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 17 BB, 33 K, 1/2 SB, .344 BABIP, 129 wRC+

Born in Guatire, Venezuela, Francisco Alvarez was considered one of the top international rookies in the 2018-2019 international free agent class. The Mets pounced on him, signing the 16-year-old to a club-high $2.7 million contract on July 2, 2018, breaking Ronny Mauricio’s then-record $2.1 million signing bonus. The Mets elected not to have him play professionally that year, instead delaying his professional debut until 2019. The 17-year-old began his year with the GCL Mets, but forced a promotion to Kingsport after hitting .462/.548/.846 in seven games. As the youngest player in the league, Alvarez appeared in 35 games for Kingsport, catching 23 and serving as DH in 12, and hit a robust .282/.377/.443

Alvarez has a very advanced approach at the plate for someone so young. He stands with a wide base, holding the bat high and barring it behind his head. He swings using a toe tap mechanism, generating power from his stocky body and above-average bat speed. His frame is unlikely to fill in much more, but he will likely add more power in the future thanks to refinements in his swing and an improved eye- and as it is, he already a good eye and a fairly patient approach.

Along with Andres Regnault and Wilfred Astudillo, Francisco Alvarez has split catching duties for the Kingsport Mets at roughly a 33% timeshare. Though a stocky 5’11”, 220-lbs., he is incredibly mobile behind the dish. He is adept at framing and blocking pitches. His arm is above-average as are his pop times, release and accuracy.

(hi, that’s me)

Top Pitcher

Michel Otanez

7 G (7 GS), 32.2 IP, 26 H, 14 R, 12 ER (3.86 ERA), 11 BB, 44 K, .333 BABIP

The Mets signed Michel Otanez on for the relatively low sum of $35,000 on July 2, 2016, coincidentally a day after his birthday. As an 18-year-old, he was a bit older than other international free agent signings, but the Mets were intrigued his big 6’ 3” prototypical pitcher’s frame, and the big-time arm strength he showcased on the mound. The organization sent him to the Dominican Summer League to make his professional debut shortly after signing and the right-hander posted a 4.64 ERA in 21.1 innings, allowing 23 hits, walking 6, and striking out 21. He experienced a major setback in his professional career after 2016 season ended, undergoing Tommy John surgery. Otanez returned to the mound in 2018, and generally struggled. Assigned to the GCL Mets, he posted a 7.64 ERA in 35.1 innings, allowing 42 hits, walking 24, and striking out 33. As is the case with most players returning from Tommy John surgery, it took some time to work the rust out, and was Otanez decidedly better in 2019. He began the season with the Kingsport Mets, and there, he enjoyed the first real run of sustained success in his short professional career. Making seven starts, he posted a 3.31 ERA in 32.2 innings, allowing 26 hits, walking 11, and striking out 44.

Standing 6’ 3” and weighing 215 pounds, Otanez possesses an ideal pitcher’s frame. Throwing from a high-three-quarters arm slot, the right-hander has a plus fastball, sitting 93-96 MPH and occasionally touching 97 and 98 MPH. In addition to velocity, his fastball has a little arm-side run to it, especially when working the pitch away to left-handed hitters. Unfortunately, perhaps as a result of the velocity of his fastball, his command of the pitch is poor.

He complements his big fastball with a pair secondary pitches that are still very much works in progress. The more effective of the two is a breaking ball that is either a very slurvy slider or a loose, 11-5 curveball that generally sits between 82 and 84 MPH. Otanez will need to focus on tightening up the break on the pitch going forward if it is going to be effective against more advanced hitters. He also throws a firm changeup that sits around 88 MPH with a little arm-side fade. In order to improve the pitch, Otanez will need to focus on not telegraphing it, and giving it more fade and tumble.

Runner Up

Nick MacDonald
Steve Sypa

Nick MacDonald

16 G (0 GS), 18 H, 19.2 IP, 8 R, 7 ER (3.20 ERA), 6 BB, 28 K, .381 BABIP

The nephew of former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Ray Nelson, Nick MacDonald played baseball at Charles Flannigan High School in Pembroke Pines, Florida, where he was named Pitcher of the Year in 2015 and 2016, and team MVP in 2016. After being recruited by multiple colleges, he settled on Florida International, where he posted a cumulative 4.14 ERA in 214.1 over three years, allowing 230 hits, walking 76, and striking out 205. The Mets selected him in the 23rd round of the 2019 MLB Draft, the 688th player selected overall and he signed for $125,000, the maximum allowable for a 10th+ round draftee without having to dip into a team’s bonus pool. He was assigned to Kingsport and spent the majority of the season there, posting a 3.20 ERA in 19.2 innings over 16 relief appearances. He allowed 18 hits, walked six, and struck out 28, saving three games in four opportunities. After the Kingsport season ended, he was promoted to the Columbia Fireflies, where he appeared in a game, and then sent to Brooklyn, where he appeared in a game.

MacDonald uses an over-the-head windup, throwing from a low-three-quarter, almost sidearm arm slot, slinging the ball with a whippy arm action. His fastball ranges from 89-93 MPH, sitting 91-92 MPH. Thanks to his arm slot and slingy arm action, the pitch gets a lot of arm-side movement on it. He is able to command the pitch and hit his spots. He complements his fastball with a curveball and changeup, both of which he has a good feel for and consistently mixes in. His curveball ranges from 78-82 MPH and generally sits 81-82 MPH. The pitch has 11-5 shape and is his primary weapon against left-handed hitters, generally backdooring it against them. His changeup, which ranges from 82-85 MPH but generally sits 84-85 MPH, is his primary weapon against right-handers, as it has good tumble and fade.