After the completion of the regular season and alternate training sites, most player development staffs have turned their attention to instructional league play. In the past, instructs have been populated by new draftees, recent international signings and players at the bottom rungs of their organizational ladder. This year, in an attempt to make up for lost time due to the pandemic, it’s been expanded to include many more players. MLB Pipeline will be providing position-by-position reports from instructional league camps in Florida and Arizona.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: The Mets suspended their instructional league after two players tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.)
Daison Acosta, RHP (No. 29); Matthew Allan, RHP (No. 4); Jace Beck, RHP; Jose Butto, RHP (No. 26); Trey Cobb, RBP; Josh Cornielly, RHP (No. 19); Tony Dibrell, RHP (No. 27); J.T. Ginn, RHP (No. 6); Cole Gordon, RHP; Dylan Hall, RHP; Brendan Hardy, RHP; Colin Holderman, RHP; Nate Jones, RHP; Erik Kaiser, RHP; Tylor Megill, RHP (No. 28); Brian Metoyer, RHP; Luis Moreno, RHP; Dedniel Nunez, RHP (No. 18); Eric Orze, RHP; Franklin Parra, LHP; Marcel Renteria, RHP; Reyson Santos, RHP; Joander Suarez, RHP; Jordany Ventura, RHP (No. 23); Josh Walker, LHP; Tommy Wilson, RHP; Josh Wolf, RHP (No. 9)
Matt Allan began what would have been his first full professional season at the Mets’ alternate training site, where, at 19, he was one of the youngest players in camp. But age wasn’t an issue for the 2019 third-round pick, as Allan made strides in developing his three-pitch mix while facing advanced hitters daily. Pitching at New York’s instructional league camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla., the 6-foot-3 right-hander was an obvious standout for club officials, headlining a group of promising young arms.
“He’s showing a lot of leadership ... a lot of things he learned at the alternate site he’s brought down here to Florida,” said Mets executive of player development Jared Banner. “Not only is he becoming more and more consistent with his three-pitch mix, but he’s continuing to work on his craft, learning how to pitch and sequence, and also how to find himself when things do get out of whack so that he can make adjustments quickly.”
Fellow 2019 draftee Josh Wolf, the club’s second-round pick, has gotten bigger and stronger since his first instructional camp a year ago. More importantly, the 20-year-old right-hander now has a better feel for executing and repeating his delivery, which in turn has enabled him to make strides this fall.
“He’s been exceptional and pretty dominant in camp so far, throwing a lot of strikes, getting his breaking ball over and continuing to work on that changeup. The more he uses it, the better it gets,” said Banner. “He’s still so projectable and is going to gain a lot of strength as he gets older. We’re really excited about him.”
J.T. Ginn’s recovery from spring Tommy John surgery continues to go smoothly. The Mets signed Ginn -- a draft-eligible sophomore from Mississippi State who spurned the Dodgers as a first-round pick in 2018 -- for more than twice slot value ($2.9 million) as the No. 52 overall pick (second round) on the assumption that the 21-year-old right-hander would eventually regain his pre-surgery form. And though he is still a ways away from returning to the mound, the Mets have been pleased with Ginn’s commitment to getting healthy.
“He’s in great shape and takes his rehab seriously. He’s a kid you can tell he’s a competitor, and we can’t wait until he gets on the mound, once he gets through his rehab progression,” said Banner.
Joander Suarez’s strong performance during last year’s Rookie-level Gulf Coast League carried over into instructional camp, where the 20-year-old right-hander flashed even more upside than he did a year ago.
“He’s big and physical, can get his breaking ball over and has a really impressive changeup,” noted Banner. “He looks the part and is still so young that the sky is the limit there.”
And while Banner also extolled the virtues of Jose Butto’s changeup, which has long been viewed as a plus pitch, he also praised the 22-year-old righty’s quick-developing feel for his overall craft.
“There’s more consistency with everything,” said Banner.
Francisco Alvarez, like Allan, benefitted greatly from his experience at the alternate training site, despite being the youngest player in the camp. Specifically, the 18-year-old backstop has blown away Mets officials with both his improvement and performance on both sides of the ball in the face of much more advanced and experienced competition.
“Alvarez is still so young, but he’s shown so much potential,” said Banner. “He’s just improving every day behind the plate, and obviously that’s a position which takes a lot of hard work and leadership.”
The Mets are high on the athleticism of Endy Rodriguez, a $10,000 international signee in 2018, and '20 fourth-round pick Matt Dyer. Both players are viewed as catchers primarily, but the fact that they are quality athletes who run well has allowed the organization to play them all over the field this fall, with the goal of increasing their versatility.
Brett Baty, 3B (No. 3/MLB No. 88); Carlos Cortes, INF (No. 21); Edgardo Fermin, INF; Samuel Marte, SS; Ronny Mauricio, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 57); Shervyen Newton, INF (No. 14); Jaylen Palmer, 3B/SS (No. 20); Jose Peroza, 3B; Wilmer Reyes, INF; Luke Ritter, 2B; Manny Rodriguez, SS; Adrian Rubio, SS; Junior Tillen, SS; Mark Vientos, 3B (No. 7); Anthony Walters, SS
The Mets have drafted some serious power hitters into their system in recent years in Mark Vientos (second round, 2017), Jaylen Palmer (22nd round, ’18) and Brett Baty (first round, ‘19). Baty and Vientos were later additions to the Mets’ alternate training site, but they both stood out during their brief time there, showcasing impact potential at the plate.
It was same from them in instructional camp.
“Both of those guys have continued to be impressive, hitting for a lot of power and controlling the strike zone. They’ve been really fun to watch,” said Banner.
Palmer, 20, drew rave reviews for his athleticism and tools, as well as his on-field performance. Not only has the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder done a good job of getting to his power regularly during games, but he’s done so while bouncing between several positions.
“He’s a premium athlete, one of our best runners, and plays the infield and outfield really well,” Banner said. “He’s played third base, shortstop, center field and right field in camp, getting a look everywhere, which will continue.”
The Mets are also working to expand Carlos Cortes’ versatility via reps at first base. One of the best pure hitters in the system, who also is totally ambidextrous, Cortes, primarily a (right-handed) second baseman, plays the new position left-handed much like he does the outfield. He’s also seen time at the hot corner this fall, adding to his growing defensive résumé.
Wilmer Reyes, 22, has seen time all over the diamond as well, impressing at multiple positions while really opening eyes with his right-handed bat.
“He’s probably been our MVP of camp so far, with the power, the production offensively, and also his defense,” said Banner about Reyes, a .323/.350/.441 hitter at Class A Short-Season Brooklyn in 2019.
Shervyen Newton dazzled defensively at shortstop and is starting to come into his own as a switch-hitter.
“He’s been one of the best stories in camp,” said Banner. “He’s hitting the ball extremely hard, making more contact and driving the ball. He’s 6-foot-5 with a really nice-looking swing.”
Neither Pete Crow-Armstrong nor Isaiah Greene, the Mets’ respective first-round and second-compensation round picks from this year’s Draft, have disappointed in their introduction to pro ball, as both prep outfielders were among the most impressive prospects in camp.
Crow-Armstrong (No. 19 overall pick) initially got off to a slow start, but took off as camp unfolded, showcasing elite defense in center field coupled with sneaky left-handed power potential at the plate.
“PCA is driving the ball to both gaps and hitting with some power ... he hit a home run out at 107 mph a couple of days ago,” said Banner. “And obviously he’s playing premium, premium defense. You could put him in center field in a big league game today and he’d be one of the best.”
As for Greene, whom the Mets took with the compensation pick (No. 69 overall) they received when free agent Zack Wheeler signed with the Phillies, he was one of the best hitters in camp, “hitting over .400 with a .500 on-base [percentage],” according to Banner.
“This guy’s fresh out of high school competing against guys who’ve been in pro ball for a few years. He’s controlling the strike zone, controlling at-bats. He’s been really impressive.”