The 2020 season was supposed to begin for full-season affiliates yesterday. The Syracuse Mets were set to begin the season at NBT Bank Stadium against the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The Binghamton Rumble Ponies were set to begin the season at Canal Park against the Akron Rubber Ducks, Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. The St. Lucie Mets were set to begin the season at Hammond Stadium against the Fort Myers Mighty Muscles, High-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. The Columbia Fireflies were set to begin the season at home at Segra Park against the Augusta GreenJackets, the Low-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
Now, the 2020 season is in doubt.
This year was supposed to be one in which questions were going to be answered. Instead, it seems like we are going to be left with even more questions, most namely among them: Will there even be a 2020 season?
After a late season surge put them neck-in-neck with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders for the International League Niorth division, the Syracuse Mets forced a one-game tiebreaker the day after the season ended. Syracuse lost the game in heartbreaking fashion, giving up multiple leads, but the season can be categorized as a success, as the ended their inaugural year with a 75-66 record, drawing roughly 50,000 additional fans as compared to the 2019 Syracuse Chiefs season. Brian Schneider was initially set to manage Syracuse, but Chad Kreuter was given the position after Schneider was named quality control coach for the New York Mets following Carlos Beltran’s dismissal and Luis Rojas’ promotion.
The Eastern League utilized a split-season format for the first time in 2019, but the new format did no favors for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. They posted a record above .500 in the first half of the season, Ponies jockeyed near the top of the standings for the majority of the season but ultimately faded to fourth place in the division. The same cannot be said for the Ponies in the second half, as they ended the half with a record well below .500 thanks to the loss of a lot of talent. Lorenzo Bundy was hired to take the reigns for the 2020 season following Kevin Boles’ promotion to an organizational field coordinator. After spending the last two years managing the Pericos de Puebla and the Generales de Durango of the Mexican League and the Tomateros de Culiacan and the Mayos de Navojoa of the Mexican Pacific League, he was looking to reestablish himself in the United States, where he has decades of experience. Given the possibility that the Binghamton Rumble Ponies may cease operating following the end of the season, all parties involved were looking for an exciting and positive season.
The 2019 season was not kind of the St. Lucie Mets. Following struggles in 2017 and 2018, they ended the first half of the year above .500 for the first time in years, but struggled in the second half, combining to post yet another sub-.500 record. After a season that consisted more of “lowlights” rather than highlights and ended prematurely due to the threat of Hurricane Dorian, newly promoted manager Rich Donnelly was looking to bring exciting baseball back to the newly christened Clover Park.
The 2019 season was not kind of the Columbia Fireflies, either. Coming into the season, expectations were high as the Mets were uncharacteristically aggressive and assigned numerous young prospects to the team, prospects who a reasonable case could have been made to have assigned them to Brooklyn. Few of those players thrived, and the team as a whole struggled as a result, failing to post a record above .500 every month of the season. Hired from outside the organization to lead the team, Reid Brignac was likely to be inheriting a second-straight Fireflies team loaded with top prospects and looking to change the team’s fortunes this second time around.
Related to and just as important as how the teams might fare in 2020 is how the various questions surrounding top prospects would resolve themselves. Because the season will be abbreviated, at best, we may not get answers to some of these questions until 2021. Returning from Tommy John surgery, are Franklyn Kilomé and Jordan Humphreys going to be effective pitchers? Would Andres Gimenez recover as a hitter following intentional changes to his swing plane? After pitching some of the rust off earlier in the 2019 season, would Thomas Szapucki continue pithing effectively following his return from injury? Would youngsters Francisco Alvarez and Junior Santos continue blossoming against older competition? Following injuries that cost them all or most of the 2019 season, would promising outfielders Adrian Hernandez and Stanley Consuegra recover and reestablish themselves? With numerous interesting signings, including most notably outfielder Alexander Ramirez and right-handed pitcher Robert Dominguez, how would the Mets’ 2019-2020 international rookie class fare?
The 2020 season was set to be an important one in the Mets’ world of minor league player development. Now? Who knows...