Not all teams do the typical instructional league thing, one that is focused almost entirely on the newest members of an organization and is held at the team's Spring Training facility. Some do internal camps in the fall, others have moved them to the winter.The Mets tried something new this
Not all teams do the typical instructional league thing, one that is focused almost entirely on the newest members of an organization and is held at the team's Spring Training facility. Some do internal camps in the fall, others have moved them to the winter.
The Mets tried something new this year, holding a pair of one-week camps at the conclusion of the 2018 Minor League season, in two different locations. One had a more traditional instructs feel, albeit without games against other organizations, featuring players from the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League, that took place in Port St. Lucie, Fla.. The other took place in New York and included players from the rest of the affiliates up and down the system. The Appy League team from Kingsport would have been in Florida as well, but its season was extended by the playoffs, so players from that squad got to head north to Citi Field as well.
Instructional league rosters
"It was a modified version of instructs," Mets farm director Ian Levin said. "The benefit was they got more targeted instruction. It was a more concentrated version, with a better student-to-teacher ratio."
The gathering in New York allowed the Mets staff to work more with some upper-level players who may not normally be involved in the standard instructs program. Peter Alonso, who made it to Triple-A while leading the Minors in RBIs and tying for the lead in home runs, and Andres Gimenez, who reached Double-A, were both there. The two top offensive prospects in the system will go on to the Arizona Fall League, but that's not why they attended the camp.
"The work he gets at camp was valuable for his Major League prospects, just like the Fall League would be," Levin said about Alonso. "It wasn't Fall League focused; it just worked with his schedule."
The timing also worked out for some of the pitchers in the New York camp. No. 4 prospect Justin Dunn had a bounce-back second full season that saw him get to Double-A and No. 6 prospect David Peterson had a successful first full season across two levels of Class A ball. Because the camp came right after the season, they were primed and ready to help a former big league All-Star get ready for his return.
"David Wright needed a simulated game, Peterson and Dunn threw to him," Levin said. "Their season had just ended, so they were hot. They didn't have to build back up."
In both New York and in Florida the actual workload was limited. Outside of that sim game, there was no "competition" to worry about, and the focus instead was getting work in on fundamentals as well as spending time on preparation and the mental side of the game. For those in Florida, it was that, as well as just continuing to acclimate to the Mets' way of doing things.
"For them, it's maybe a more familiarizing themselves with the organization," Levin said. "Often, they come in and go straight to their team. You want to expose them to more of the organization than just that. It was more of a growing experience within the Mets family."
That included players like 2018 first-round pick Jarred Kelenic, who hit the ground running and earned a promotion from the GCL to the Appy League and hit a combined .286/.371/.468 with 15 steals in the process. While it's too early to say where he's headed in 2019, his ability to earn a promotion, plus the work he put in during this modified instructs camp, certainly has him headed in the right direction.
"We'll see that when we get there," Levin said about Kelenic's 2019 plan. "He did everything you could ask of a first-year guy. His natural ability speaks for itself. He set himself up well moving forward."
Joining draftees like Kelenic were international signees like Francisco Alvarez (No. 15 on the Top 30) and Freddy Valdez (No. 17), who signed for a combined $3.15 million this past July 2 signing period. They, along with some other international signees, came over for their first exposure to the United States.
"For international players, there are four big transition points," Levin said. "One is signing the contract. No. 2 is coming stateside for the first time. No. 3 is full season. No. 4 is hopefully the big leagues. They've all gone through No. 1. This was the second one. Any time you can get them a leg up, maybe making the transition a little easier as opposed to throwing them straight into games, it's valuable for these guys."
That experience should allow another wave of young talent to start making its way through the system. Already, that Kingsport playoff team that included the likes of Kelenic, Ronny Mauricio, Mark Vientos, Shervyen Newton, Simeon Woods-Richardson and Luis Santana from the Top 30, all of whom participated in the New York mini-camp, has the Mets brass excited on what's to come.
"That's a special group," Levin said. "There's some real talent down there. A lot of organizations say that, but this is the best young group we've had in the last several years, at least. Those young guys played well and they have tools. It's a nice blend. I'm really happy with how the year went overall."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.