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2023 Mets Minor League In Memoriam: Infielders

With the deadline to set their 40-man rosters and protect players from the Rule 5 Draft having come and gone, let’s take a look at the minor league players who were released over the course of the 2023 season.

Cesar Berbesi
Steve Sypa

Cesar Berbesi

Released: October 30

Signed on June 14, 2018, the tail end of the 2017-2018 international free agent signing period, Venezuelan Cesar Berbesi did not suit up to professionally that year, instead making his debut in 2019. Berbesi began the season in the Dominican Summer League, but the decision was made to send him stateside to the Gulf Coast League due to his success there in late July. The infielder hit .324/.418/.421 in 44 games in the DSL but struggled in the GCL, hitting .173/.290/.250 in 17 games. After missing all of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Berbesi returned to the Mets’ Rookie-level affiliate in Florida, now the FCL Mets. He did not struggle this time around and after hitting .382/.522/.618 in roughly a month was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets at the beginning of August. This time, the infielder struggled, hitting .170/.391/.277 in 18 games. He remained in St. Lucie to begin the 2022 season but ended up only appearing in 6 games at the beginning of the year as he blew out his hamstring and missed most of the year. The 23-year-old returned to the field in 2023 but struggled. He spent the majority of the season with the Brooklyn Cyclones but was promoted to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies and the Syracuse Mets for a handful of games apiece at the end of the season. All in all, the infielder hit a combined .214/.346/.291 in 62 games, 50 in Brooklyn, 8 in Binghamton, and 4 in Syracuse.

Berbesi was a hard worker and a solid enough shortstop, but professional baseball is an extremely competitive sport. His bat added little-to-no value to his profile and his defense was not good enough for the Mets to guarantee him a continued roster spot.

Samuel Camacaro

Released: August 24

Samuel Camacaro was signed on January 15, the first day of the 2021 international signing period, out of Barquisimeto, the hometown of former Mets players Carlos Carrasco and Andres Gimenez. The 17-year-old infielder received a $330,000 signing bonus, receiving much more praise for his defense than his offense. At the time, the leggy 6’, 180-pound Camacaro was considered a solid shortstop, with above-average range, above-average arm, and good instincts up the middle. Scouts and evaluators were not so optimistic about his offense but believed that if he could add a bit of power, his glove would be able to carry the profile.

In 2021, he appeared in 33 games for the DSL Mets 2, one of the organizations’ two Dominican Summer League teams, and hit .187/.286/.220 with 0 home runs, 5 stolen bases in as many attempts, and 12 walks to 22 strikeouts. In 2022, he combined to play 45 games with both DSL teams and hit .200/.333/.255 with 1 home run, 6 stolen bases in 8 attempts, and 22 walks to 26 strikeouts. The 19-year-old remained in the Dominican Summer League for the 2023 season, playing for both the DSL Mets Orange and the DSL Mets Blue- the new names for the Mets’ DSL teams- and hit a combined .278/.347/.322 in 35 games with 0 home runs, 8 stolen bases in 9 attempts, and 9 walks to 23 strikeouts before being released on August 24th.

Luis Castillo

Released: October 30

Signed on July 2, 2018 out of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, shortstop Luis Castillo did not suit up professionally that season, instead making his Mets debut in 2019 as a member of the DSL Mets 1. The infielder appeared in 54 games and hit .237/.361/.305 with 9 doubles, 2 triples, 4 stolen bases in 6 attempts, and 32 walks to 53 strikeouts. After missing the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he remained in the Dominican Summer League for the next two seasons. All in all, he appeared in 112 games between 2019 and 2022 in the DSL, hitting a cumulative .212/.359/.307 in 316 at-bats, hitting 15 doubles, 6 triple, and 1 home run, stealing 11 bases in 13 attempts, and drawing 60 walks to 97 strikeouts. In 2023, he was sent stateside, playing with the St. Lucie Mets at the beginning of the season and then primarily with the FCL Mets once their season began in June. In 16 games with St. Lucie, Castillo hit .135/.256/.297 and in 22 games with the FCL Mets hit .219/.390/.313, good for a combined .174/.321/.304 in 38 games with 1 double, 1 triple, 2 home runs, 3 stolen bases in as many attempts, and 15 walks to 27 strikeouts.

At the end of the day, Castillo was a low priority international signing with a very limited upside. Complicating things for him and his future with the Mets, his name was Luis Castillo and he was a light-hitting shortstop.

Chase Estep

Released: October 30

The son of Chad Estep, played baseball for the University of Kentucky Wildcats in the early ‘90s and the nephew of Chris Estep, who played for them in the mid-to-late ‘80s and was eventually drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chase Estep followed in their footsteps and attended the University of Kentucky after graduating from at Corbin High School in Corbin, Kentucky, where he was a two-sport star and likely would have been drafted out of in the 2019 MLB Draft if it weren’t for his strong collegiate commitment.

Estep appeared in 12 games in his freshman year, the NCAA cancelling the season in mid-March due to COVID-19, and hit .324/.400/.441 with a single home run, a single stolen base in two attempts, and 5 walks to 7 strikeouts. Later that summer, he played for the Rockford Rivets in the Northwoods League and hit .250/.370/.412 in 19 games with 3 home runs, 2 stolen bases in 3 attempts, and 13 walks to 19 strikeouts. Estep appeared in 40 games in 2021, his sophomore year, starting 39 games at either second or third base. The year was a disappointment by any measure, as he hit .252/.286/.329 with no home runs, 5 stolen bases in as many attempts, and 8 walks to 32 strikeouts. As he did in 2020, he returned to the Northwoods League following the conclusion of the season, this time playing for the Kenosha Kingfish. He hit an improved .294/.420/.413 in 40 games, with 2 home runs, 4 stolen bases in 8 attempts, and 20 walks to 21 strikeouts. Returning to Kentucky for his junior year, Estep worked with his coaches and trainers to return to the fundamentals and continue doing the things that had worked for him while playing in Kenosha. The swing optimizations paid off, as he hit .302/.416/.560 in 59 games for the Wildcats, hitting 13 home runs, stealing 16 bases in 20 attempts, and walking 40 times to 56 strikeouts.

The Mets selected the infielder with their 9th round selection in the 2022 MLB Draft and signed him for $120,000, a few thousand below the MLB-assigned slot value of $161,900. He was initially assigned to the FCL Mets but played just one game there before being promoted to the St. Lucie Mets, where he finished out the 2022 season hitting .214/.323/.405 in 24 games with 4 home runs, 0 stolen bases in 1 attempt, and 13 walks to 23 strikeouts. The 23-year-old began the 2023 season with the Brooklyn Cyclones and spent the entire season there minus a four-game stint in late August and early September when he was sent up to Syracuse. In 79 games with the Cyclones, Estep hit .219/.289/.315 with 13 doubles, 2 triples, 3 home runs, 5 stolen bases in 7 attempts, and 27 walks to 77 strikeouts. In his cup of coffee with Syracuse, he went 5-14 with 2 doubles, 1 walk, and 3 strikeouts.

While his numbers with the Wildcats were overall excellent, many scouts and evaluators questioned how legitimate his bat was, as he fared poorly against in-conference SEC pitching and showed extreme splits against premium velocity. These concerns turned out to be correct, as Estep hit a cumulative .224/.303/.342 in 108 games as a professional and generally struggled against pitchers throwing 95 MPH or higher. Making matters worse, he was a pedestrian infielder at best, stretched at third base due to an average arm and better suited for first or second.

Branden Fryman

Released: August 7

The son of five-time All-Star Travis Fryman, who played for the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians in the 1990s and early 2000s, Branden Fryman was drafted by the Mets in the 21st Round in the 2019 MLB Draft. He had been selected by the Mets in 2016, but Branden, then the star shortstop of at J.M. Tate High School in Cantonment, Florida, elected to not sign with them and instead honor his commitment to Samford University. Over the course of his three years there, he hit .290/.351/.357 in 177 games, hitting 6 home runs, stealing 55 bases in 66 attempts, walking 66 times, and striking out 124 times.

He played a handful of games with the GCL Mets and the 2019 New York-Penn League champion Brooklyn Cyclones, and that would unfortunately become a pattern in his brief minor league career. In 2020, he did not play at all due to the cancellation of the season due to COVID-19. In 2021, he only played 74 games and got 268 at-bats due to multiple trips to the injured list and a loss of playing time as a result when he was healthy. In 2022, he only played in 41 games and got 125 at-bats due to multiple trips to the injured list, a handful of promotions, a handful of demotions, and a loss of regular playing time as a result when he was healthy. In 2023, he only played in 53 games and got 191 at-bats due to injury, multiple promotions and demotions, and the loss of regular playing time that accompanies all three.

The lanky infielder was always more defensively-oriented than offensively oriented, but the lack of playing time combined with very little physical growth made Fryman a virtual black hole in the lineup. Over his four years as a professional, from the GCL in 2019 to Triple-A in 2023, he had a cumulative .222/.274/.313 batting line in 185 games and 630 at-bats. In the new minor leagues, with limited roster spots, Fryman’s marginal defensive value combined with his negative offensive value simply made the potential roster spot for another player more valuable to the Mets than what the infielder was able to produce for them.

Manuel Guance

Released: October 30

A low-level international rookie free agent from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, Manuel Guance was signed on January 15, 2021, the first day of the 2021 international signing period. The 17-year-old second baseman made his professional debut that year, playing for the DSL Mets 1, appearing in 17 games and hitting .175/.340/.275 with 2 doubles, 1 triple, 1 stolen base in 2 attempts, and 10 walks to 16 strikeouts. He remained in the Dominican Summer League in 2022 and took a step forward, appearing in 36 games with both Mets DSL squads and hitting a combined .270/.408/.370 with 4 doubles, 2 home runs, 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts, and 22 walks to 41 strikeouts. The Mets sent Guance stateside in 2023, assigning him to the FCL Mets. The 19-year-old appeared in 7 games total and went 1-12 with 1 caught stealing and 1 walk to 4 strikeouts.

Far from a marquee name, Manuel Guance seemingly did not have a tools to excel as a professional baseball player. We can only hope that the signing bonus he did receive was able to provide for him and his family some degree of additional comfort in their lives, however long.

Justin Guerrera

Released: May 16

The Mets drafted Justin Guerrera their 20th round selection in the 2021 MLB Draft, signing him for $75,000. An infielder from Fairfield University in Connecticut, the 21-year-old was coming off of a historic season for the Stags, hitting .340/.409/.685 in 43 games, with 13 home runs, 8 stolen bases, and walking 21 times to 34 strikeouts. He also played for the Newport Gulls of the Cape Cod League and had a strong season there, hitting .316/.411/.737 in 20 games with 9 home runs, 7 stolen bases, and 11 walks to 26 strikeouts.

He appeared in 30 games that summer after being drafted, playing in 11 with the FCL Mets and 19 with the St. Lucie Mets, hitting a combined .286/.369/.495 with 5 home runs, 3 stolen bases in as many attempts, and 13 walks to 33 strikeouts. Guerrera spent the majority of the 2022 season in St. Lucie, getting promoted to the Brooklyn Cyclones in mid-June but getting sent back down at the end of the month after struggling- though he did return in September. In total, he hit .200/.318/.360 in 82 games with St. Lucie and .104/.218/.229 in 16 games with Brooklyn, hitting a combined 13 home runs, stealing a combined 6 bases in 11 attempts, and drawing a combined 46 walks to 140 strikeouts. Guerrera began the 2023 season with Brooklyn and appeared in 10 games total before being released in mid-May, going 5-36 with 1 home run, 2 walks, and 2 walks to 24 strikeouts. That June, he signed with the Trenton Thunder and participated in the MLB Draft League. The 23-year-old appeared in 37 games for Rookie’s squad and hit .203/.308/.325 with 2 home runs, 4 stolen bases, and 19 walks to 35 strikeouts.

Guerrera’s selection in the draft was a fine roll of the dice. He was coming off of a solid season at Fairfield and had a strong run in the cape with a wood bat. Though only 5’9”, he packed a punch, but with an uppercutty swing and only average-at-best bat speed, he got exposed once he was promoted to High-A. He did most of his damage against hanging breakers or meatballs that caught too much of the plate, and he struggled against professionals who were able to better execute their pitchers than collegiate amateurs. His defensive value was also net neutral at best, making it easy for the team to move on when it became apparent that his bat was overmatched.

Kevin Kendall

Released: November 3

Kevin Kendall was a three-year letter winner at La Mirada High School in La Mirada, California, a city in southeast Los Angeles County. His high level of performance- he hit a cumulative .440/.530/.617- led him to receive various accolades from local media and earned him interest from national scouting outlets and professional organizations. After graduating and going undrafted in the 2017 MLB Draft, he honored his commitment to UCLA, where he had a strong commitment.

His time at UCLA was up-and-down. As a freshman, he hit .278/.352/.391 with 3 home runs and 13 stolen bases, the base heists tied for second on the team and fourth in the PAC-12. He experienced a sophomore slump in 2019, hitting .258/.331/.298 in 45 games for the Bruins, though there were positives, such as his perfect 9-9 stolen base ratio, the only player on the team to have a 100% success rate. His struggles continued that summer, when he played for the Falmouth Commodores in the Cape Cod League and hit .188/.260/.290 in 23 games. Kendall ended up missing the entire 2020 season even prior to the cancellation of the season due to COVID-19, as he injured his wrist. When he returned in 2021, his redshirt junior season, he made up for lost time, finally putting together a season that matched the potential of his tools. Battling through various minor nicks and dings over the course of the season, he hit .356/.413/.498 in 56 games with 4 home runs and 10 stolen bases. He earned Pac-12 All-Conference Team honorable mentions, as he established new career highs in batting average, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI, walks, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

The Mets selected Kendall in the seventh round of the 2021 MLB Draft and signed him for $200,000, roughly $25,000 less than the MLB-recommended slot value of $227,700. He was assigned to the St. Lucie Mets for the remainder of the 2021 season, where he appeared in 31 games and hit .327/.421/.451 with 1 home run, 8 stolen bases in 10 attempts, and 15 walks to 24 strikeouts. He likely would have began the 2022 season with the Brooklyn Cyclones, but a wrist injury sustained just prior to the start of the season caused him to miss the majority of the year. He was finally able to get back on the field in September, appearing in a handful of games with St. Lucie at the end of the season and in their playoff run. After the season ended, he was assigned to the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .208/.344/.286 in 20 games with 1 home run, 4 stolen bases in 4 tries, and 13 walks to 22 strikeouts. Once again, the injury bug bit the infielder in 2023. After getting off to a slow start, he missed a few games at the end of April and beginning of May due to injury. He returned in mid-May and played through the end of the month, but on June 1st was placed on the injured list and never returned. All in all, he appeared in 28 games for the Cyclones and hit .214/.308/.311 with 4 doubles, 3 triples, 6 stolen bases in as many attempts, and 15 walks to 34 strikeouts.

Kevin Kendall is one of the bigger “what ifs” in this list of released players. Kendall was a gap hitter with plus speed, a solid eye, and excellent defense up the middle. While he was not a top prospect on any Amazin’ Avenue lists, he received a handful of votes and I thought that he had the potential to sneak to the back end of a list one day with a solid and productive 2022 or 2023. Unfortunately, the exact opposite happened, and now the 24-year-old is out of baseball altogether.

Yordis Perera

Released: October 30

The Mets signed 20-year-old Cuban defector Yordis Perera on March 9, 2022, just days after he received his free agent eligibility by the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball on March 1, 2022. The 5’9”, 215-pound third baseman had tantalizing raw power, evidenced by leading the Cuban U-15 national tournament in home runs, but he ended up missing the entire 2022 season due to an injury. In 2023, Perera was assigned to the FCL Mets, where he appeared in 14 games and hit .175/.209/.250 with just 1 home run and 2 walks to 15 strikeouts.

As is the case with high school and college athletes in the U.S., there is no guarantee that amateur success will lead to professional success. Additionally, there are often glaring holes in scouting non-premium international talents, and as such, Perera’s talents may have been inflated as to sign with a professional team. While Perera may or may not have had above-average power as a teenager in Cuba, time off the field, injury, and an entirely new field of competition prevented it from manifesting during in-game situations.

Warren Saunders

Released: July 21

On August 30, 2018, the organization signed the second Bahamian player in club history, Warren Saunders, the first being Champ Stuart. Saunders was the 2017 Bahamas Baseball Federation Grand Bahama Port Authority Baseball Championship’s Most Valuable Player in the 16-18 division, helping lead his team to Nassau’s Junior Baseball League championship game. He made his professional debut in 2019, playing for the GCL Mets. He appeared in 33 games and hit .323/.397/.386 with one home run, three stolen bases, 10 walks, and 23 strikeouts. After missing crucial developmental time in 2020 because of the cancellation of the season due to COVID-19, Saunders were assigned to the St. Lucie Mets in 2021. The infielder quickly lost much of his luster, and it appeared that his 2019 success was unsustainable, buoyed by a .381 BABIP. Appearing in 93 games, the infielder hit .249/.320/.312 with 3 home runs, 1 stolen base, and 29 walks to 75 strikeouts. Saunders began the 2022 season with the Brooklyn Cyclones and struggled with them in the two months he spent in Coney Island. In June, rather than be demoted, the struggling Saunders was promoted to the Syracuse Mets due to an organizational need for infielders. Predictably, he struggled there, was sent back to Brooklyn roughly a week later, and then demoted back to St. Lucie a few days later. His season ended prematurely due to an injury in mid-August and the year was one to forget for Saunders, who hit a combined .206/.275/.307 in 60 games with 2 home runs, 0 stolen bases, and 15 walks to 60 strikeouts. He split the 2023 season with Brooklyn, Binghamton, and Syracuse and appeared in 32 games before being released, hitting a combined .147/.195/.193 with 1 home run, 7 walks, and 32 strikeouts.

Saunders was athletic but raw when signed, and even taking in the lost 2020 season, he never developed much as a ballplayer as compared to his peers relative to his age and level. Equally raw as a fielder, the Mets used Saunders at virtually every infield position over the course of the professional career, making it just as difficult to develop defensively. Signing him was certainly a gamble worth taking, since it cost the Mets virtually nothing, but sometimes these things don’t pan out.