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Mets Minor League Players of the Week: Week Nine

What minor league players put up the best numbers this past week, May 29th to June 4th?

Scottsdale Scorpions v. Peoria Javelinas
Luke Ritter
Photo by Jill Weisleder/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Luke Ritter

Week: 6 G, 23 AB, .304/.385/.826, 7 H, 0 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 3 BB, 7 K, 0/0 SB (Double-A)

2023 Season: 37 G, 122 AB, .213/.380/.459, 26 H, 3 2B, 0 3B, 9 HR, 27 BB, 46 K, 4/5 SB, .246 BABIP (Double-A)/8 G, 21 AB, .143/.333/.286, 3 H, 0 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 6 BB, 7 K, 0/0 SB, .154 BABIP (Triple-A)

Luke Ritter was a multisport star at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri. He lettered three times in football and twice in baseball. After graduating, he honored his commitment to Wichita State, and in his freshman year hit .272/.372/.373 in 43 games. He experienced something of a sophomore slump in 2017, hitting .223/.348/.349 in 55 games but regrouped later that summer, playing for the Santa Barbara Foresters of the California Collegiate League and hitting .353/.443/.500 in 37 games. Returning to Wichita State for the 2018 season, Ritter took his gains with him. He appeared in 55 games and hit a career-best .341/.420/.484, hitting six home runs and stealing six bases. His performance led to the Minnesota Twins drafting him with their 37th round pick, the 1114th overall pick, but the utilityman elected to return to Wichita for his senior season instead of signing with them. He earned All-Conference honors in 2019, hitting .336/.458/.555 in all 59 games the Shockers played. His nine home runs and twelve stolen bases were career bests.

With their seventh-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, the Mets selected Ritter. He agreed to a $10,000 bonus, saving the Mets roughly $205,000, as the slot value for the pick was $216,600. He made his professional debut with the Brooklyn Cyclones and was their iron man, leading the team with 68 games. He hit .245/.351/.371 in total, with his on-base percentage trailing Jose Mena by one-hundredth of a point for best among players who appeared in 30 or more games for Brooklyn. He returned to Brooklyn in 2021, now the Mets’ High-A affiliate and hit in .232/.311/.436 in 73 games with a career high 14 home runs, 3 stolen bases in 4 attempts, and 25 walks to a career-high 94 strikeouts.

Ritter was promoted to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies in 2022 and split the season playing with them and with the Syracuse Mets. Appearing in 100 games for Binghamton, he hit .215/.322/.386 with 13 home runs, 7 walks in 9 attempts, and 46 walks to 133 strikeout. Appearing in 26 games for Syracuse, he hit .160 /.269/.266 with 2 home runs, 2 stolen bases in 4 attempts, and 13 walks to 32 strikeouts. All in all, the 25-year-old hit a combined .204/.311/.361 in 126 games with 15 home runs, 9 stolen bases in 13 attempts, and 59 walks to 165 strikeouts. He began the 2023 season with Binghamton once again, his age 26 season, was promoted to Syracuse following Brett Baty’s promotion to the Mets, but returned to Binghamton at the end of the month.

The Mets changed Ritters’ mechanics between 2019 and 2021, turning him from a light-hitting utility infielder with a little pop to his pull side who walked just as much as he struck out into a stomp-and-lift power hitting corner infielder with nearly a doubled strikeout rate. His mechanics have not changed much- he still stands square at the plate with a short swing and small stride- but he pulls the ball about 10% more and hits about 10% more fly balls- resulting in more home runs. While his speed as a whole is below-average, Ritter has good instincts on the base paths, allowing him to take extra bases on hits and to steal the occasional base.

Over the course of his four years at Wichita State, he spent time at second base, third base, shortstop, and left field. With the Mets, he has seen time at first base, second base, third base, and designated hitter, with most of his playing time coming at second. With fringe-average range and an average arm, Ritter profiles best at second or third base, and has the glove to play first.

Layonel Ovalles

Week: 1 G (1 GS), 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K (Double-A)

2023 Season: 9 G (7 GS), 31.1 IP, 22 H, 17 R, 17 ER (5.04 ERA), 19 BB, 31 K, .257 BABIP (Double-A)

Ovalles’ game on Friday against the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels was not simply the best game of his 2023 season, but it was the best game of his career, period. The six innings he tossed were the most he threw in any one game. His ten strikeouts were a career high. His 78 Game Score was the highest he ever tallied as a professional.

The right-hander was born in Moca, the Dominican Republic’s tenth largest city, and signed with the Mets in November 2019. His professional debut should have come in 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic prompted the season to be cancelled, so he made his professional debut in 2021 instead. Pitching in the Dominican Summer League, the 18-year-old right-hander posted a 2.83 ERA in 35.0 innings with both DSL Mets teams, allowing 16 hits, walking 8, and striking out 34. He was sent stateside in 2022, playing for the FCL Mets from the beginning of June until the beginning of August and then was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets for the last month of the season. In the Florida Complex League, he posted a 2.76 ERA in 29.1 innings, allowing 26 hits, walking 5, and striking out 44 and in the Florida State League, he posted a 6.23 ERA in 17.1 innings, allowing 15 hits, walking 12, and striking out 22. All in all, Ovalles posted a 4.05 ERA in 46.2 innings in 2022, allowing 41 hits, walking 17, and striking out 66. He was ranked the Mets’ 18th top prospect coming into the season, and returned to St. Lucie to begin the 2023 season.

So far this season, the right-hander’s fastball has averaged 92 MPH. Ninety-two miles per hour is down from the 94 MPH it averaged last season, but the pitch gained velocity over the course of the summer last year and it will presumably do so again this season. Despite the missing velocity, the pitch’s naturally high spin rate remains, averaging 2515 RPM so far this season.

He complements his fastball with a low-80s slider, a mid-to-high-70s curveball, and a low-80s changeup. His slider has traditionally been his best strikeout pitch, an offering that has about a foot of late break. He had good results with his changeup last season, but that was more of a byproduct of being in the Florida State League- he is having less success with it this season and is throwing it less as a result. His curveball was and remains a get-me-over offering.

Ovalles has added a more traditional cutter to his repertoire this season, building on the natural cutting action of his fastball, and the early returns are extremely promising. In his most recent start, he relied on the pitch more than his four-seam fastball, and the results spoke for themselves. He threw 35 cutters and elicited 21 swings, 10 of which were whiffs, a 48% whiff percentage. He threw 25 four-seam fastballs, meanwhile, and elicited 15 swings, 4 of which were whiffs, a 27% whiff percentage. On the season, his fastball has a 19% whiff percentage while his cutter has a 38% whiff percentage. The pitch sits 86-92 MPH, averaging 89 MPH, and has an average spin rate of 2590 RPM, high for a cutter. It has been extremely effective against right-handed batters, and when combined with his four-seam fastball and cutter, gives Ovalles three similar-but-distinct pitches on the same spectrum with swing-and-miss potential.

Players of the Week 2023

Week One (April 4-April 9): Ronny Mauricio/Jose Butto
Week Two (April 11-April 16): Ronny Mauricio/Joey Lucchesi
Week Three (April 18-April 23): Mark Vientos/Jordan Geber
Week Four (April 25-April 30): Mark Vientos/Nathan Lavender
Week Five (May 2-May 7): DJ Stewart/Mike Vasil
Week Six (May 9-May 14): Jose Peroza/Mike Vasil
Week Seven (May 16-May 21): Matt Rudick/David Peterson
Week Eight (May 23-May 28): DJ Stewart/Jose Chacin