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Mets Minor League Players of the Week: Week Two

What minor league players put up the best numbers this past week, April 11th to April 16th?

MLB: Spring Training-New York Mets Workouts
Ronny Mauricio
Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Ronny Mauricio

Week: 6 G, 23 AB, .348/.400/.870, 8 H, 3 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 1 BB, 7 K, 2/2 SB (Triple-A)

2023 Season: 15 G, 57 AB, .351/.403/.790, 20 H, 5 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 4 BB, 13 K, 2/3 SB, .368 BABIP (Triple-A)

For roughly two weeks now, Ronny Mauricio has not only just been an above-average offensive threat, but he has been a massively above-average offensive threat. As compared to a league average of .257/.349/.433, Mauricio is hitting .351/.403/.790, a 192 wRC+. It is important to note, however, that the Syracuse Mets have yet to play a team with even pitching better than league average (4.94 ERA), and the team as a whole is hitting .296/.370/.529. They have played the Wooster Red Sox, who currently have a 6.25 team ERA, the second-worst ERA in the International League- a league of twenty teams- the Rochester Red Wings, who currently have a 5.57 team ERA, the sixth-worst ERA in the league, and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, who currently have a 5.00 team ERA, the twelfth-worst ERA in the league.

Over the course of the series, Mauricio averaged a 92.8 MPH exit velocity on 16 recorded batted ball events. This is third on the team, behind only Brett Baty, who recorded an average exit velocity of 99.9 MPH on 13 batted ball events and Mark Vientos, who recorded an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH on 16 batted ball events. Mauricio has also averaged a 92.8 MPH exit velocity on the year as a whole, second only to Brett Baty and his gaudy 100.7 MPH average exit velocity.

We are still very much within the realm of small sample size, but Mauricio is showing more a bit patience now as compared to spring training just a few weeks ago. Against changeups, he had a 55.6% swing rate with a 22.2% whiff rate; over the course of the past week, he had a 40% swing rate with a 10% whiff rate. Against sliders, he had a 76.2% swing rate with a 30.8% whiff rate; over the course of the past week, he had a 45.5% swing rate with a 18.2% whiff rate. Curveballs are the only breaking balls where he has not shown some kind of improvement; he had a 38.5% swing rate with a 15.6% whiff rate against them in spring training and had 45.5% swing rate with a 27.3% whiff rate this past week.

In general, he is hitting more off-speed stuff in the air, giving him more of a chance to tap into his above-average raw power and do damage. Of his six home runs, one has come on a fastball, one has come on a cutter, one has come on a curveball, one has come on a slider, and two have come on changeups. Mauricio’s line drive rate is up significantly to start the season, 27.3% as opposed to 17.6% in 2022. His ground ball rate is slightly down- 40.9% as opposed to 43.8% in 2022- as is his fly ball rate- 31.7% as opposed to 38.6% in 2022- while his HR/FB is more than two times what is was last year, 42.9% as compared to 17.7%, meaning that the shortstop is getting better wood on ball and simply hitting it harder. Baseball Prospectus author- and former Mets statistical analyst- Russell Carleton noted in a study that the number of balls needed to normalize some of these stats are fairly high. Home runs to fly ball ratio stabilizes at roughly 50 fly balls, ground ball and fly ball rates stabilize at roughly 80 balls in play, and line drive rate stabilizes at 600 balls in play.

With a total of 14 fly balls, and 40 balls put in play in general, we are operating very much within a small sample size with enough statistical variability to not necessarily mean much. That said, there is no denying the fact that Mauricio is off to the best start of his career and is so far doing everything critics have wanted to see him do, and then some.

Joey Lucchesi

Week: 1 G (1 GS), 6.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K (Triple-A)

2023 Season: 3 G (3 GS), 15.2 IP, 11 H, 4 R, 4 ER (2.30 ERA), 7 BB, 16 K, .237 BABIP (Triple-A)

Coming into the year, the Mets’ pitching rotation of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Kodai Senga, Jose Quintana, and Carlos Carrasco was unlikely to stay a unit for the entire season. Sure enough, Justin Verlander and Jose Quintana began the year on the injured list, the former expected to miss roughly a month of the season due to a low-grade teres major strain and the latter expected to miss roughly half of the 2023 season due to a rib stress fracture that required surgery. The Mets were forced to tap into their Triple-A pitching depth, promoting David Peterson and Tylor Megill and inserting them into the starting rotation. Max Scherzer had his scheduled start skipped due to soreness, though this may have been precautionary or even a strategic skip of his turn, prompting Jose Butto to receive a promotion and make a start against the Oakland A’s. If it turns out that there actually is some kind of issue with Scherzer’s side/shoulder, Butto would likely continue filling in to some capacity, as he pitched well in his spot start, but surprisingly, Syracuse still has additional major league depth to offer.

With his outing on April 13, Joey Lucchesi threw his first quality start since September 26, 2019, when, as a member of the Padres, he threw six one-run innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The southpaw barely pitched in 2020, tossing a total of 5.2 innings, was mostly ineffective in 2021, having his season end in late June after tearing his UCL, and missed the majority of the 2022 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

While it’s obviously not a major league team, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders have a bunch of players who are either top prospects in the Yankees farm system or have major league experience to some extent. The same with the Rochester Red Wings and the Woocester Red Sox, the other two teams that Lucchesi has pitched against.

In his most recent start, the southpaw threw almost an equal amount of sinker and “churve” curveballs at 40 and 36 apiece, mixing in 7 cutters. This is in line with his 2019 numbers, his last full season. That year, he threw 1,356 sinkers, 927 curves, and 358 cutters, a 51%/35%/14% ratio. His sinker averaged 90.1 MPH then, and in his three starts so far this season, it is averaging 89.6 MPH. His curveball averaged 78.9 then and has averaged 78 MPH so far this season. His cutter averaged 90.5 MPH then, and so far has averaged 90.1 MPH this season. The spin rates on all three pitches are also similar to the rates he posted in 2019. His z/oSwing%, z/oContact%, and exit velocities are also similar to his 2019 rates, suggesting that there is not much, if any, degradation of the quality of his pitches.

If Lucchesi is able to return to 2018/2019 form and provide value to the Mets, be it as a starter or reliever, it would be a major boon for a team that has playoff aspirations.

Players of the Week 2023

Week One (April 4-April 9): Ronny Mauricio/Jose Butto