Álvarez continues hot start with HR, 2B

2 years ago

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Álvarez continues torrid start with HR, double (April 17)
In his first taste of Double-A baseball this season, Francisco Álvarez hasn’t missed a beat. The Mets’ top prospect added two more extra-base hits to his ledger with his fourth home run and third double in six games.

MLB’s 10th-ranked prospect put the bow on a four-run inning that got the Rumble Ponies back within a run, using every ounce of his 5-foot-10, 233-pound frame to muscle a two-run dinger over the right-field fence. With the game tied in the seventh, Álvarez doubled to center to lead off the inning and came around to plate the go-ahead run en route to a 9-6 victory over Bowie. The 20-year-old catcher homered in his first three games of the season and is now batting an insane .375/.429/1.000 with 10 RBIs and seven of his nine hits going for extra bases. — Stephanie Sheehan

Ramirez dials up four hits for St. Lucie (April 13)
He may not garner as much attention as the Mets’ more heralded prospects, but Alex Ramirez is showing he’s one of the organization’s best for a reason. The club’s sixth-ranked prospect has 12 hits through Single-A St. Lucie’s first five games after doubling twice during the first four-hit performance of his professional career.

Ramirez drove in a pair of runs and scored once during his club’s 9-3 win over visiting Clearwater. Playing in just his 81st game as a pro, Ramirez upped his average to .571 (12-for-21) with four extra-base hits, five runs and four RBIs in the season’s first week. The 6-foot-3, 170-pound outfielder returned to the Florida State League after batting .258/.326/.384 with 16 stolen bases in 76 games for St. Lucie.

Meanwhile, one of the aforementioned Mets top prospects continued his hot hitting. Brett Baty doubled home a run duriing his second consecutive three-hit effort in Double-A Binghamton’s 4-3 loss to Bowie. Baseball’s No. 27 overall prospect is off to a 11-for-23 (.478) start to the 2022 campaign, including four doubles, seven runs and four multihit performances in his first five games.

Mets’ terrific trio lights it up offensively (April 12)
The Mets could get used to seeing what their vaunted trio of prospects did for Double-A Binghamton. The club’s top three prospects — Francisco Álvarez, Brett Baty and Ronny Mauricio — combined for seven hits, three doubles, two homers and six RBIs to lead the Rumble Ponies’ offense in a 9-4 win.

Mauricio opened the scoring with a two-run double and Binghamton never looked back. The No. 3 Mets prospect added his first homer of the year, an opposite-field shot to left in his next at-bat and also swiped a base. Mauricio is off to strong start, hitting .316 with a .895 OPS, four RBIs and three extra-base hits.

After missing out on a homer by mere feet in his first at-bat, Álvarez left no doubt with his three-run shot in the seventh, which helped put the game away. New York’s top prospect is batting .538/.571/1.385 with a homer in each of his first three games and seven RBIs.

Although Baty did not get in on the long ball party, the No. 2 Mets prospect contributed three hits, including a pair of doubles, for his third multihit effort in four games. Baty is off to a .421/.421/.737 start to the season with four extra-base hits. — Michael Avallone

The Mets’ top three prospects answered to the hype on Opening Day, batting 2-3-4 in the Rumble Ponies’ lineup in an 8-2 win over Hartford. Álvarez, making his Double-A debut, went 3-for-5 with a home run, two doubles, three RBIs and a run scored. Baty tallied a home run, a double, an RBI and two runs scored in five trips to the plate, and Mauricio added two singles with an RBI in five at-bats.

“I knew that [Álvarez] was going to come out here and put on a show, he has that within himself. He’s just a really, really special young talent and it was awesome to see that in his Double-A debut,” said Baty over the phone after the game. Full story »

Holderman lights up the radar gun (March 31)
During Major League Baseball’s pandemic shutdown in 2020, Colin Holderman was training with a group of other professionals at a complex in Milwaukee when his career prospects shifted. One day, Holderman was topping out around 93-95 mph with his fastball. Then he made what seemed like a small mechanical change. Two days later, Holderman was throwing 98.

Just like that, Holderman became a person of interest within the Mets’ organization. He is one of a handful of prospects who remains in big league camp this year, thanks in large part to that fastball. In the later innings of a Mets loss to the Astros on Wednesday, Holderman hit 100 mph on the radar gun while striking out two over a scoreless inning.

“He’s got our attention,” manager Buck Showalter said.

Holderman’s velocity jump has been due to two factors. “I’d say it starts with being healthy,” he said, noting that he tore the labrum in his pitching shoulder earlier in his career and then underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018. Not until ’20 was he consistently able to stay on the field.

Then there was the mechanical tweak, which then-Mets pitching coordinator Ricky Meinhold suggested. In Holderman’s own words, he had been throwing “kind of like an idiot,” barely using his leg strength in his delivery. Once Meinhold suggested a change that would allow Holderman to drive more aggressively off his back leg, his velocity jump was “instantaneous.”

While Holderman remains a long-shot to make the team because he is not already on the 40-man roster, he will open this season in the upper Minors with a chance to contribute at some point during the summer.

“I’m happy where I’m at,” Holderman said. “This team is unbelievable, seeing what they do every day. And this team has a chance to make a real run. That’s where I want to be at the end of the day.” — Anthony DiComo

Álvarez goes deep. Like, way deep. (March 24)
In the eighth inning of the Mets’ 9-3 Grapefruit League win over the Marlins, top prospect Francisco Álvarez nearly banged the left-field scoreboard with a 441-foot home run. It was the catcher’s first career home run in Grapefruit League play, and it left an impression on many of those who saw it.

“That’s a real big boy home run right there,” manager Buck Showalter said of the shot, which bounced in the grassy area just below the scoreboard.

Álvarez, who is just 20 years old, is likely ticketed for Double-A Binghamton to start the season. If all goes well, he could debut in the Majors as soon as 2023. — Anthony DiComo

Walker wowed by clubhouse company (March 19)
Inside the Spring Training clubhouse in Port St. Lucie, Fla., the Mets assigned prospect Josh Walker a locker near the middle of the room. A few spots to his left is Jacob deGrom. Directly next to him is Max Scherzer. Combined, those two have won five Cy Young Awards.

“Being in the same room as those guys was kind of unthinkable a few years ago,” said Walker, who did not rank among the Mets’ Top 30 prospects in 2020 but ended last year No. 16 on their list. “To be in the same room as them and be able to watch them, learn from them … I’m just happy to be there.”

When Walker arrived in the clubhouse for his first big league Spring Training, he admitted to feeling a bit intimidated at his locker assignment. But he understands the benefit of it, looking to continue a rapid rise up the farm system ranks.

A 37th-round Draft pick out of the University of New Haven, Walker was not on the radar of many in the organization until he turned heads last summer, advancing from High-A Brooklyn all the way to Triple-A Syracuse.

Saturday, Walker threw three scoreless innings in a 6-2 win over the Nationals, hitting 94 mph on the radar gun. He should open the season back in the Syracuse rotation, with a chance to reach the big leagues later in the summer if he continues thriving … hopefully picking up a few tips from Scherzer and deGrom along the way.

“I don’t want to be smothering them too much or anything,” Walker said. “I’m just going to be me and do my thing, and just try and quietly learn and take away everything I can.” — Anthony DiComo

Mangum putting athletic genes to work (Feb. 27)
Among the more athletic prospects in Mets camp this year is Jake Mangum, the team’s fourth-round selection from the 2019 Draft. That’s no surprise, considering Mangum’s bloodlines. His father, John, played nine seasons in the NFL as a defensive back for the Bears. His grandfather, also named John, spent two seasons as a defensive tackle with the Patriots. And his uncle, Kris, was a tight end for 10 seasons with the Panthers.

The youngest Mangum was always more interested in baseball, taking a liking to the romanticism of the game — “It’s poetic,” he says — at a young age. Eventually, Mangum attended Mississippi State, where he became the Bulldogs’ all-time hits leader and finished his career fourth in NCAA history in hits. But when Mangum turned pro, he realized quickly that the slap-hitting approach which served him so well in college wouldn’t work at the highest levels.

Rather than fade away, Mangum retooled his game, concentrating on hitting the ball harder and doing more damage when he puts it in play.

“A lot of people didn’t ever think I would translate as a professional hitter,” said Mangum, who is also arguably the best defensive outfielder in the farm system. “I think that’s what the Mets are doing such a good job of, is they give us all this information analytically but also keep it extremely simple. They give you the best of both worlds.” — Anthony DiComo

A threat from either direction (Feb. 27)
Carlos Cortes eats with a fork in his right hand. He brushes his teeth left-handed. He tends to pick up objects with his right hand, but he swings a bat lefty.

“I’m kind of all messed up,” Cortes said, laughing.

Despite not being truly ambidextrous by nature, Cortes learned how to throw right-handed when he was around eight years old. He used the skill to significant effect during his collegiate baseball career at South Carolina, splitting time between second base and the outfield. These days, it’s mostly just a parlor trick, as Cortes hasn’t played second base — and thus, hasn’t thrown right-handed in a competitive atmosphere — regularly since 2019. But it’s something he still practices in an effort to make himself as versatile as possible.

“I definitely am focusing on the outfield a lot more,” said Cortes, who was ranked as the Mets’ No. 11 prospect last year. “I think I’m better out there. But I’m never going to close that option to be right-handed. I’m just going to try to keep my arm ready. … It’s never going to be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to have to relearn it.’ It’s there. It’s always going to be there.”

Of all the Mets’ Top 30 position-player prospects, Cortes stands perhaps the best chance to make the Majors this season — and if he does, it’ll be on the strength of his hitting more than his switch-throwing acumen. Over 79 games last year at Double-A Binghamton, Cortes hit 14 homers with an .819 OPS. — Anthony DiComo

Local kid makes good (Feb. 27)
As the crow flies, Holy Cross High School is about three miles from Citi Field. The day before the Mets drafted him in 2018, Jaylen Palmer took in a game at Citi with a couple of friends, seeing the stadium for the first time.

If he continues his current trajectory, Palmer could see a lot more of the Mets’ ballpark in future seasons. Ranked 16th and one of the fastest-rising prospects in the Mets’ system, Palmer defied his status as a 22nd-round Draft pick to enjoy a fair bit of success at High-A Brooklyn last year, hitting four homers with five doubles, two triples and seven stolen bases in 39 games. Most notably, Palmer played five defensive positions over the course of the summer, using his versatility as a tool to catch the attention of the front office.

Palmer is from Canarsie, Brooklyn, where he still spends his offseasons. Understandably, making the big leagues for his hometown team “would mean a lot.”

“Not only for me, but my family, mom and dad — they’ve been there since I was young,” Palmer said. “I talk to them almost every day to get a little daily motivation before I go on the field.” — Anthony DiComo