Week: 6 G, 26 AB, .308/.321/.577, 8 H, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 7 K, 0/0 SB, .368 BABIP
2021 Season: 32 G, 129 AB, .287/.354/.550, 37 H, 14 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 15 BB, 29 K, 0/1 SB, .320 BABIP
After a successful senior season at Lake Howell High School in Winter Park, Florida, in which he hit .380/.533/.632 while playing multiple positions, the Mets selected Carlos Cortes with their 20th round selection in the 2016 MLB Draft. Having already committed to South Carolina University, Cortes elected to attend college instead of turning pro, and turned the Mets down.
In his freshman year with the Gamecocks, he posted an impressive .286/.368/.565 batting line and slugged 12 home runs in 50 games, winning 2017 SEC All-Freshman Team and 2017 SEC All-Tournament Team honors. He played at the Cape that summer, hitting .268/.340/.406 for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, and then returned to South Carolina to some degree of hype, as he was a draft-eligible sophomore due to his age. Appearing in 62 games for the Garnet and Black, Cortes hit .265/.385/.500 with 15 home runs, tied for seventh in the SEC.
The Mets remained interested in Cortes and selected him in the draft yet again, this time in the 3rd round of the 2018 MLB Draft. He was enticed to go pro by a $1,000,038 signing bonus, slightly $300,000 over slot value, and agreed to terms with the Mets. He made his professional debut with the Brooklyn Cyclones and posted a .264/.338/.382 batting line in 47 games with 4 home runs, 1 stolen base, 27 walks, and 34 strikeouts. He was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets in 2019 and hit .255/.336/.397 in 127 games there, slugging 11 home runs, stealing 6 bases in 11 attempts, and walking 52 times to 77 strikeouts. While there was no 2020 season due to COVID-19, he did get into some organized professional baseball games as part of the contingent the Mets sent to Australian Baseball League. In 14 games with the Sydney Blue Sox, Cortes hit .392/.429/.706, leading the league in OPS.
In the years since being drafted, Cortes has enjoyed periods of success but consistency has been an issue. There have been months where he has succeeded and there have been months where he has looked terrible. Looking at video from his time at South Carolina, in Brooklyn, and in Binghamton, it seems like he has made some mechanical changes at the plate which may help him continue making solid contact with the ball.
Cortes still stands slightly open at the plate and still holds his hands high, but his leg lift during his stride seems more muted and his swing path seems much more level in general. His approach at the plate generally has always been power-over-contact and the most tried and true method for hitting for power is to lift the ball. With the metal bats he used as a prep and collegiate hitter, any ball hit in the air had a chance to go for a home run and Cortes’ swing was very hacky, with a lot of uphill plane as a result. As a professional, an approach like that only works for the most elite of hitters with enough secondary skills to support it, and Cortes does not fit that bill.
It is great that Cortes is starting the 2021 season off strong, but he’s had stretches of success as mentioned- though perhaps not as long as this current stretch. I want to see more than 32 games before I begin considering the 24-year-old a legitimate prospect in the system, especially since his profile is almost entirely focused on the bat. A profile that has confounded scouts and evaluators going back to his high school days, Cortes has the ability to play multiple positions but none of them particularly well, leaving him with no real defensive home. Having mainly played second base since being drafted, he has been used exclusively as an outfielder so far this season. An ambidextrous thrower, Cortes’ arm strength is fringy from both sides, limiting him to left field. His stocky 5’7”, 200-pound frame limits his first step, speed, and range.
Week: 1 G (1 GS), 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER (1.29 ERA), 1 BB, 9 K, .067 BABIP
2021 Season: 7 G (7 GS), 39.0 IP, 30 H, 12 R, 12 ER (2.77 ERA), 6 BB, 44 K, .284 BABIP
A local kid born in Otisville, a small village Upstate, about an hour from the New York/New Jersey border, Josh Walker grew up a Yankees fan, going as far to wear #21 in honor of Paul O’Neill when he played at Minisink Valley High School. In an odd twist of fate, the assistant principal of Minisink Valley High School when Walker attended- and still is to this day- was Dave Telgheder, who was drafted by the Mets in the 31st round of the 1989 MLB Draft and spent a few years pitching for them and the Oakland Athletics before retiring and getting into education.
Walker graduated in 2013 and initially attended the University of South Florida. He struggled in his time there, posting a 13.50 ERA in seven relief appearances, allowing 14 hits, walking 3, and striking out 3. He redshirted his sophomore season because of an injury, and, after being convinced by a friend, transferred to the University of New Haven to begin fresh. Getting back on the mound in 2016, he appeared in 7 games for the Charges, making six relief appearances and one start. In those 13.2 innings, he posted a 5.93 ERA, allowing 13 hits, walking 12, and striking out 8. He was much more successful in 2017, appearing in 20 games for New Haven, all out of the bullpen. In 30.0 innings, he posted a 2.40 ERA, allowing 25 hits, walking 10, and striking out 32. That June, the Mets selected the 22-year-old left-hander in the 37th round of the 2017 MLB Draft, making him the first player since Chris DeMorais in 2014 to be drafted out of the University of New Haven.
The Mets assigned Walker to their Gulf Coast League team to finish out the season and then promoted him for the 2018 season. He began the year in Kingsport but after a handful of games was promoted to Brooklyn, where he finished out the year. At both levels combined, he posted a 3.27 ERA in 41.1 innings pitched, those innings split almost evenly as a starter and reliever. He was set to be promoted to the St. Lucie Mets to start the 2019 season, but in April 2019, he was involved in a car accident that cost him most of the season. Less than a mile from the stadium, a car made an illegal turn and smashed into Walker’s car. His left side- his pitching side- took the brunt of the hit, and while he did not break anything, tests revealed that a nerve in his arm was damaged, causing pain in his forearm and necessitating surgery to alleviate. He only appeared in only two games late that summer, and then stayed in Florida over that winter to continue rehabbing. The decision may have saved his baseball career, as he was in camp in March 2020 when COVID-19 eventually shut down all baseball activities. His dedication and commitment to his profession and Mets coaches and executives seeing that may be what allowed Walker to survive the mass minor league cuts in the wake of the pandemic.
The left-hander began the 2021 season with the Brooklyn Cyclones, but after four strong starts, was promoted to Binghamton, where he has continued to succeed.
The tall 6’6”, 225-pound left-hander throws from a three-quarters arm slot with a long arm action through the back. His long limbs add some deception to his pitches, and his slingy delivery helps add some additional movement to them. His fastball sits in the low-90s, generally settling in around 92-93 MPH. He complements the pitch with a curveball and a changeup. His curve has a lot of bend, but its slow, loopy bend makes it hittable. His changeup has good fade, especially down in the zone. Walker is most effective working north-to-south, getting hitters to strike out on his fastball above the zone or one of his secondary pitches below it.
Players of the Week 2021
Week One (May 4-May 8): Francisco Alvarez/Tylor Megill
Week Two (May 9-May 15): Antoine Duplantis/Tylor Megill
Week Three (May 16-May 23): Francisco Alvarez/Franklin Parra
Week Four (May 24-May 30): Mason Williams/Franklyn Kilome
Week Five (June 1-June 6): Brett Baty/Alec Kisena