Fireballer Ridings finding stride at Triple-A Syracuse

June 25th, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- The next leverage reliever with eyes on Flushing has only a few more boxes to check before arriving.

Offseason waiver claim recently came off the injured list and became a healthy Minor League player, making three appearances last week for Triple-A Syracuse. The first was dominant: Ridings faced three batters and struck out all of them. The next was choppier, as Ridings walked three batters and allowed two runs. He closed out the week with another perfect inning on Saturday, picking up another strikeout.

In time, those numbers should stabilize. More than results, the Mets are interested in the quality of Ridings’ stuff, including a fastball that hit triple digits before he missed most of last season due to right shoulder and lat issues. Ridings has been topping out around 95-96 mph in the Minors, but he reached the upper 90s while rehabbing and could still regain some of his lost velocity.

“You’re always hoping that you’re holding him when the health is not a factor anymore,” Showalter said. “There’s not much question that he can pitch effectively at this level with the stuff he has. It’s just, can he pitch again and again? The stuff and the ability to get Major League hitters out is not in question.”

Ridings has not been able to pitch a full season since he was in the Royals organization in 2019, three years after the Cubs selected him in the eighth round of the 2016 Draft. The following summer, Ridings did not pitch at all due to COVID. Next came the injuries, which prompted the Yankees to cut ties with Ridings after last season.

Although the 6-foot-8 Ridings comes with no guarantee of staying healthy this time around, the Mets are eager to see what might happen if he can.

“We’ll wait on the feedback from the staff down there,” general manager Billy Eppler said of the next step for Ridings. “How’s he recovering? How’s he getting loose? … As soon as those boxes check, he’s a very real candidate to push his way in here.”

Triple-A Syracuse
may not be returning to help the Mets this week, but there’s little question that he’s pitching better than anyone at Syracuse. Lucchesi held Durham to two runs over seven innings on Friday night, lowering his ERA to 2.39 in six starts since a mid-May demotion to the Minors. During that stretch, Lucchesi has struck out 37 batters in 37 2/3 innings.

Lucchesi seemed like an option to start for the big league club on Tuesday, when the Mets have an opening in their rotation, but the club opted to go with fellow left-hander David Peterson.

“There was talk about everybody as a candidate,” said manager Buck Showalter. “Obviously, I’ve got my hands full here. Everybody has input on it.”

Double-A Binghamton
Quick trivia question: Who was the first non-drafted free agent with whom the Mets agreed to a contract following the COVID-shortened five-round Draft in 2020?

Answer: outfielder Brandon McIlwain, a two-sport star from the University of California who is developing into a legitimate prospect at Binghamton. Though McIlwain does not yet rank among the Mets’ Top 30 prospects, he recently strung together hitting streaks of 13 and six games. Over the last month, his OPS is over .900.

An athletic defender who regularly plays all three outfield spots, McIlwain started games at quarterback for both Cal and the University of South Carolina, where he attended as a freshman. The following year, McIlwain came within two rushing touchdowns of Cal’s QB record.

High-A Brooklyn
The highest-ranked pitcher in New York’s farm system is beginning to find his footing as a professional. Following an uneven start to his career, No. 5 prospect Blade Tidwell has produced a 1.35 ERA over his past seven starts, with 48 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings. Tidwell, last year’s second-round Draft pick from the University of Tennessee, continues to battle control issues with an unwieldy 6.5 walks per nine innings over that stretch. But his swing-and-miss stuff has given the Mets a glimpse of what he could become with some refinement.

Single-A St. Lucie
The Florida State League on-base percentage leader is none other than Jett Williams (.421), who classifies as a prototypical leadoff hitter for several reasons. There is the 19-year-old’s batting eye, which has helped him walk an average of nearly once per game. There are his bat-to-ball skills, which some scouts considered among the best on the high school showcase circuit last spring. Then there is his speed, which has allowed him to steal 19 bases already this season.

Williams, the Mets’ third-ranked prospect, won’t sniff the Majors for another two to three seasons. But if he develops as the organization hopes, he could become an heir to Brandon Nimmo atop the lineup just as Nimmo is reaching his mid-30s.