Name: Travis Blankenhorn
Weight: 235 lbs.
Acquired: Waiver Claim, Mariners (June 1, 2021)
Not only did Travis Blankenhorn tear up the baseball diamond while attending Pottsville High School, but he also tore up the hardwood. His final year there was one to remember, as he led the Pottsville boys basketball team to Schuylkill League and District 11 Class AAA championships, scoring 16.6 points per game, recovering 6.7 rebounds per game, and making 2.4 assists per game, led the Pottsville boys baseball team to Schuylkill League and District 11 Class AAA championships, hitting .441/.544 with six doubles, six triples, six home runs, and 13 stolen bases, and became the first baseball player from Schuylkill County to be drafted out of high school in 20 years, being selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 3rd round of the 2015 MLB Draft. He had signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Kentucky, but ended up signing with the Twins, accepting their $650,000 bonus to turn pro.
Blankenhorn struggled a bit in the GCL and Appalachian League immediately after being drafted, but when he reported back to the Elizabethton Twins in 2016, he had put in the work and began to figure out professional pitching. After crushing the Appy, hitting .297/.342/.558 with 9 home runs in 34 games, he was promoted to the Low-A Cedar Rapid Kernels to finish out the season, where he hit an impressive .286/.356/.418 in 25 games as a 19-year-old. The Twins did not rush his promotion in 2017, keeping him in Low-A, and the decision turned out to be the right one, as Blankenhorn needed time to adjust to more advanced pitching, hitting .251/.343/.441 with 13 home runs in 118 games. He was promoted to the High-A Fort Myers Miracle in 2018 and it became apparent that Blankenhorn was turning into a power-over-hit profile, winning the Florida State League home run derby with an impressive 31 homers but hitting .231/.299/.387 in 124 games on the season.
He returned to Fort Myers to begin the 2019 season but was quickly promoted to the Double-A, Pensacola Blue Wahoos, where he seemed to find balance as a hitter and a slugger. In 93 games with them, he hit .278/.312/.474 with 18 home runs, being named the Southern League Second Baseman of the Year at the conclusion of the season. Blankenhorn was added to the Twins 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft and was expected to be assigned to the Rochester Red Wings for the 2020 season, but thanks to COVID-19, the 2020 season was cancelled. Blankenhorn was sent to the Twins’ alternate spring training site, and in mid-September, got called up to the Twins. He appeared in a single major league game for them on September 15, going 1-3 with a double and hit by pitch.
The 2021 season was a whirlwind for the 24-year-old. He began the season with Minnesota, but was claimed off of waivers by not just one team, but three. In early May, he was claimed by the Los Angeles Dodgers; in late May, he was claimed by the Seattle Mariners; in early June, he was claimed by the New York Mets. All in all, he played for six teams in 2021, the Minnesota Twins, the New York Mets, the St. Paul Saints, the Oklahoma City Dodgers, the Tacoma Rainiers, and the Syracuse Mets. The majority of his season was spent in Syracuse, where he hit .255/.373/.484 in 48 games, slugging 9 home runs, walking 29 times, and striking out 53 times.
At the plate, Blankenhorn stands slightly open, holding his bat high and away from his body. He has a smooth, left-handed stroke, driving the ball thanks to a combination of bat speed and upper body/lower body torque. His hit tool is fringe-to-average-average, but regardless if it ultimately ends up being closer to fringe-average than average, it is good enough to let his above-average raw power play during in-game situations. Blankenhorn has shown himself capable of hitting double-digit home runs, setting a career high in 2019 with 19. His aggressive approach and hacks, while maximizing his power, drag down his ability to hit for average and draw walks.
The 25-year-old was drafted as a third baseman, but even at the time, he was projected to move off the position thanks to his average arm and below average reaction times. The Twins used him mainly and second and third base earlier in his professional career, eventually giving him playing time in left field. Since joining the Mets, he was used primarily at second and in left, his body mature and filled out enough to make third a moot point. His average speed gives him the ability to handle the outfield, but his arm limits him to just left.
Name: Junior Santos
Weight: 220 lbs.
Acquired: IFA, July 2, 2018 (Santiago, Dominican Republic)
A native Santiago in the Dominican Republic, Junior Santos quickly stood out from his baseball-crazed contemporaries because of his size; when he turned sixteen, the young right-hander stood 6’6”, prompting the Mets to sign him for $275,000 on June 2, 2018, the very first day of the 2018-2019 international free agent signing period. The organization was aggressive with Santos, assigning him to the Dominican Summer League immediately instead of opting to wait to have him debut professionally the following season as is generally the case with most international rookies. He made 11 appearances for the DSL Mets that year, making ten starts and posting a 2.80 ERA in 45.0 innings, allowing 35 hits, walking 6, and striking out 36. Continuing to challenge Santos, who by this point had grown an additional two inches or so, the Mets sent him stateside at the end of the season. Appearing in three games for the GCL Mets, the 16-year-old pitched five innings in three outings, posting a perfect 0.00 ERA with 4 hits allowed, 0 walks, and 3 strikeouts.
The Mets left Santos on this extremely aggressive developmental track in 2019 and assigned him to the Kingsport Mets when their season began in late June, the youngest pitcher in the league. Starting fourteen games, the 17-year-old Santos threw 40.2 and posted a 5.9 ERA, allowing 46 hits, walking 25, and striking out 36. After missing the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Santos returned to the mound in 2021, where he was assigned to the St. Lucie Mets. The third-youngest player in the Low-A Southeast, the right-hander posted a 4.59 ERA in 96.0 innings, allowing 108 hits, walking 38, and striking out 79, not that far off from the league average 4.53 ERA with 10.1 hits per nine innings, 3.6 walks per nine innings, and 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
Santos throws from a slingy three-quarters arm slot, utilizing a short, simple, delivery. Santos is generally able maintain his balance and avoid herky-jerky movement during his leg lift and drive off of the mound, but sometimes has trouble maintain his arm slot, especially when throwing his secondary pitches as he has a tendency to guide them like many young pitchers do. He especially struggles throwing pitches down and away.
His fastball averaged 93 MPH in 2021, down slightly from the 94-95 MPH that is generally sat in 2019. His max fastball velocity was also down slightly, as the pitch averaged as high as 95 MPH in 2021, as opposed to a high of 97 MPH in 2019. His fastball has slight arm-side movement, but more importantly, he can sink it. Santos’ sinker averages between 16 to 29 inches of vertical movement and 11-20 inches of horizontal movement, averaging 2300 RPM and a high spin efficiency.
Complementing his fastball are a slider and a changeup. His slider sits between 77-86 MPH, averaging 82 MPH in 2021. Thanks to its gyroscopic spin, the pitch features anywhere between 0-3 inches of horizontal movement and 29-37 inches of vertical drop. The pitch induces the majority of Santos’ swings-and-misses, but he often has trouble commanding it. His changeup lags even further behind in its development than his slider, as highlighted by the high variance in its movement- the pitch generally had anywhere between 6-18 inches of horizontal movement and 20-30 inches of vertical drop- and its relatively high spin rate of 2028 RPM. It sat between 82-90 MPH, averaging 86 MPH, and like his slider, he had trouble commanding it. Unlike his slider, the pitch did not induce as many swings-or-misses and batters made more hard contact off of it.
Name: Brian Metoyer
Weight: 175 lbs.
Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft, 40th Round (Louisiana State University of Alexandria)
A native of Natchitoches, Louisiana, Brian Metoyer attended Natchitoches Central High School, where he was as named to the All-District team as both a utility player and a pitcher. Upon graduation, he attended Louisiana State University of Eunice. In 2016, his first year there, he posted a 9.00 ERA in 13.0 innings, allowing 23 hits, walking 10, and striking out 13. Returning in 2017, posted an improved 4.30 ERA in 23.0 innings for the Bengals, allowing 19 hits, walking 13, and striking out 27. After two years there, he transferred to Louisiana State University of Alexandria. He appeared in 15 games for the Chiefs and posted a 5.60 ERA in 27.1 innings, allowing 24 hits, walking 31, and striking out 35.
The 21-year-old right-hander was drafted at the conclusion of the season, making the second player in history from LSU-Alexandria to be selected by a major league club, joining Ronnie Robbins, but he had to wait quite a while to hear his name called. The Mets selected him in the 40th round of the 2018 MLB Draft, the 1190th player selected out of 1214 players in all. He agreed to a $40,000 signing bonus with the Mets, making him the very last 40 round player to be selected by the organization, as their 2019 40th round pick, Camden Lovrich, did not sign and the draft was shortened to fewer than 40 rounds in 2020. He made his professional debut with the GCL Mets but was promoted to the Kingsport Mets after a single appearance there, posting a cumulative 5.11 ERA in 12.1 innings in the Gulf Coast League and Appalachian League with 12 hits allowed, 10 walks, and 11 strikeouts. He spent the entire 2019 season with the Brooklyn Cyclones, posting a 5.65 ERA in 28.2 innings for the eventual NYPL 2019 champions, allowing 15 hits, walking 22, and striking out 40.
Returning to the field in 2021 after missing the 2020 season due to COVID-19, the 24-year-old reliever had the most success he has had in his career, particularly in the later summer months, opening the eyes of many who had either never seen him or had been unimpressed by lackluster performance. In 33.0 innings with the High-A Brooklyn Cyclones, Metoyer posted a 2.18 ERA, allowing 14 hits, walking 16, and striking out 46. He earned a promotion to Binghamton at the end of the season, as an outbreak of COVID-19 left the team needing additional players on their roster and appeared in two games out of the bullpen for them, allowing a run in two hits over three innings, walking three and striking out six.
Tall and lanky, Metoyer throws from a three-quarters arm slot with a long action through the back. The Natchitoches native is mainly a two-pitch pitcher, using a fastball that he can cut and sink and a curveball. The pitch sits in the low-90s, averaging 92 MPH, dipping a little lower when he sinks it and a little higher when he cuts it. All three distinct variations of his fastball generally get hit hard, but he maintained an astounding 65% ground ball rate in 2021 and allowed just one home run, making a strong defense behind the right-hander important for his future success. As impressive as that number is, it pales in comparison to another, pertaining to his curveball, which sits in the high-70s-to-80 MPH and features anywhere between 50-60 inches of vertical break and 12-16 inches of horizontal movement. During the 2021 Arizona Fall League, the pitch averaged 3205 RPM and maxed out at 3492 RPM. By comparison, Seth Lugo topped the charts in 2021 with an average curveball spin rate of 3261 RPM curveball and Lucas Sims was the spin rate champion in 2020 with 3349 RPM. The difference between Lugo, Sims, and Metoyer is that the two major leaguers generally have a sense of where their breathtaking breaking balls are going, whereas Metoyer does not. The right-hander walked 19 in 36.0 combined innings with the Cyclones and Rumble Ponies in 2021, a career best as compared to his time in Brooklyn in 2019, his time in the GCL and Kingsport in 2018, and his collegiate days. The movement on his pitches allowed him to miss bats, but until he can command them better, it will also be an Achilles heel.