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Mets Minor League Players of the Week: Week Nineteen

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What minor league players put up the best numbers this past week, September 7th to September 12th?

Francisco Alvarez
Steve Sypa

Francisco Alvarez

Week: 6 G, 21 AB, .381/.500/.714, 8 H, 1 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 6 K, 1/2 SB

2021 Season: 95 G, 314 AB, .277/.391/.551, 87 H, 18 2B, 1 3B, 22 HR, 68 RBI, 53 BB, 86 K, 8/13 SB, .305 BABIP (Low-A/High-A)

Alvarez had a phenomenal June after being promoted to Brooklyn in late May, hitting .299/.419/.636 in 24 games, but he seemed to hit something of a wall in July, hitting .189/.294/.419 in 21 games. He rebounded a bit in August, hitting .246/.341/.522 in 21 games and has been en fuego so far in September, hitting .324/.415/.706 in 10 games. Even in July, his worst month, much of his struggles were somewhat cosmetic, as his peripheral stats were still in line with the rest of his season and the only real difference in his performance was a .220 BABIP. While there is a lot of luck involved in BABIP, batters do have some control over it, so the young backstop is not fully absolved, but at the end of the day, he is a 19-year-old thriving in a league where the average age is almost two-and-a-half years older than him.

Of the 95 games that he has played in 2021 split between Brooklyn and St. Lucie, he has appeared in 57 games as a catcher (472.1 innings) and 36 as his teams’ designated hitter. While, optimally, he would have been penciled in as catcher in all 95 games, that’s unrealistic. For Alvarez to have caught in 60% of the games he has played in this year is still an excellent percentage. By comparison, looking at the other top catching prospects in all of baseball (excluding Henrey Davis, who was drafted this season) Adley Rutschman has appeared in 108 games this season and caught 72 of them (611.1 innings); Joey Bart has appeared in 61 games this season and caught 57 of them (478.1 innings); Keibert Ruiz has appeared in 72 games this season and caught 63 of them (540.1 innings); Diego Cartaya has appeared in 31 games this season and caught all 31 (264.1 innings); Gabriel Moreno has appeared in 34 games this season and caught 29 of them (242.1 innings)

It has been nearly a decade since the Mets had a catcher as one of their top prospects; in 2013, the recently acquired Travis d’Arnaud edged out Wilmer Flores to become the Mets top hitting prospect. D’Arnaud made his major league debut not that long after, while Alvarez is just 19 and still has some time to go. Assuming that his career continues at this current course, he should start the 2022 season with Binghamton.

Jerad Eickhoff

Week: 1 G (1 GS), 6.0 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K (Triple-A)

2021 Season: 14 G (14 GS), 70.2 IP, 71 H, 44 R, 40 ER (5.09 ERA), 19 BB, 71 K, .308 BABIP (Triple-A)

Primarily a third baseman who began pitching late into his high school career at Mater Dei High School in Evansville, Indiana, Jerad Eickhoff did not get much attention from professional scouts or college recruiters for most of his career there. He started generating some buzz in his senior year after having a strong performance at the World Wood Bat Association (WWBA) National Championships with his fall travel team, but the best offers he received from colleges with high-level baseball programs were to try out as a walk-on player. Rather than take the chance, he decided to take the advice of a Baltimore Orioles scout who had seem him pitch and elected to attend a junior college. He spent two years at Olney Central College, turning down the Chicago Cubs in 2010, who drafted him in the 46th round of the 2010 MLB Draft, to return to the Blue Knights in his sophomore year. He was then drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 15th round of the 2011 MLB Draft and agreed to a $150,000 signing bonus.

At 20, the right-hander was assigned to the Rangers’ Rookie-level affiliate and slowly began climbing up their minor league system. On July 31, 2015, when he was pitching in Triple-A and knocking on the door to the majors, he was traded along with Matt Harrison, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Jake Thompson and Alec Asher to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman and cash. He made his major league debut not long after, making a start against the Miami Marlins on August 21st. He ended up making 8 starts and pitching 51.0 innings for the Phillies that August and September and pitched fairly well, posting a 2.65 ERA with 40 hits allowed, 13 walks, and 49 strikeouts. He was solid in his sophomore year in 2016, posting a 3.65 ERA in 197.1 innings with 187 hits allowed, 42 walks, and 167 strikeouts, but trouble was brewing on the horizon. He struggled in 2017 and eventually had his season end early because of an unexplained numbness in his fingers. The issue lingered into 2018 and had a major negative impact on his season, limiting him to just 5.1 major league innings and 31.0 rehab innings in the minors. Initially diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, Eickhoff eventually underwent carpal tunnel surgery to correct the issue, missing time in 2019 as well. A free agent, the right-hander signed with the San Diego Padres in December 2019 and had his contract selected in August 2020, but he never made a major league appearance before being outrighted and electing for free agency. Eickhoff signed with the Texas Rangers a few days later, but also failed to appear in a game for them and became a free agent when the season ended, signing with the Mets in December 2020.

Signed primarily as minor league depth to pitch for the Syracuse Mets, the rash of injuries earlier in the season forced the organization to call on Eickhoff to make four starts and pitch out of the bullpen once. Against the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Cincinatti Reds, the right-hander allowed 24 runs- 19 earned- in 19.2 innings, allowing 30 hits, walking 10, and striking out 13. As evidenced by his 8.69 ERA, he was simply not fooling major league hitters and was sent back down to Syracuse, where he has remained since. He elected to pursue free agency after being designated for assignment after his major league stint ended but ended up re-signing with the Mets.

Eickhoff never had a particularly great fastball to begin with, but since the problems with his fingers developed, he has lost roughly 2 miles per hour on it. A 98 MPH fastball that loses two miles per hour on it, it’s still going to be a 96 MPH fastball. For Eickhoff, losing those very precious two miles per hour on his fastball transformed it from a barely average 91.7 MPH offering to a well-below average 90 MPH offering. The same phenomenon occurred with his slider, and as he lost some velocity on it, it devolved from being a roughly average pitch to a below-average pitch. As a player who relies on both pitches combined roughly 75% of the time, the degradation of those two pitches is devastating. Hitters have swung at his offerings more than ever and have made contact with them at rates higher than his prior few seasons.

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

Week Six (June 8-June 13): Carlos Cortes/Josh Walker

Week Seven (June 15-June 20): Luke Ritter/ Justin Lasko

Week Eight (June 22-June 27): Mark Vientos/Oscar Rojas

Week Nine (June 29-July 4): Mark Vientos/David Griffin

Week Ten (July 6-July 11): Jaylen Palmer/J.T. Ginn

Week Eleven (July 13-July 18): Jaylen Palmer/Connor Grey

Week Twelve (July 20-July 25): Jose Peroza/Justin Lasko

Week Thirteen (July 27-August 1): Mark Vientos/Josh Walker

Week Fourteen (August 3-August 8): Jake Mangum/Adam Oller

Week Fifteen (August 10-August 15): Jake Mangum/Adam Oller

Week Sixteen (August 17-August 22): Jose Peroza/Cole Gordon

Week Seventeen (August 24-August 29): Luis Gonzalez/Cole Gordon

Week Eighteen (August 31-September 5): David Thompson/Oscar Rojas