On the same night the Major League Draft was taking place, two of the Mets' top prospects made a point of showing how exciting young talent can be.
Top New York prospect Andres Gimenez had the first multi-homer game of his career and drove in four runs while third-ranked Justin Dunn struck out a career-high 10 and allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings as Class A Advanced St. Lucie defeated Tampa, 6-2, in 10 innings on Monday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Gameday box score
Gimenez entered the game with two home runs in 170 at-bats but went deep in consecutive plate appearances, including a three-run shot that snapped a 1-1 tie in the 10th. The four RBIs were one shy of the career high he set on June 4, 2016 during his first professional game with the Mets' Rookie-level Dominican Summer League team.
Already one of the youngest players in the FSL at 19, Gimenez has opened the eyes of St. Lucie manager Chad Kreuter.
"Andres may look like he's 19, but his instincts are definitely not," the skipper said. "He watches a lot of baseball and I don't mean that like he watches as a fan. He dissects the game, sees how it's played and picks up nuances from other players that he then incorporates into his own game. He's very mature and processes plays in his mind ahead of time. He's always one step ahead of most other guys and seems to be in the right place at the right time."
Gimenez had struck out and grounded out twice in his first three at-bats, but he slugged a 2-0 pitch over the right-field fence in the eighth to give St. Lucie a 1-0 edge. The lefty-swinging shortstop went to the opposite way for his tiebreaking homer in the 10th. His four dingers matched the career high set last season with Class A Columbia in 172 more at-bats.
"When a pitcher tries to exploit his weakness, he comes back and immediately works on it in his next at-bat," Kreuter said. "That doesn't mean he's immediately successful in making the adjustment, but he's working on it right away. Tonight, guys started pounding him in and he picked the right time to turn and burn on one. They tried going away in his next at-bat and he pops one over the left-field wall too. It was really special to watch."
Since his average dipped to .259 after an 0-for-4 performance on May 12, Gimenez has gone 21-for-58 (.362) to bring his slash line up to .291/.363/.463 in 49 games. The Venezuela native has already established a career high with 19 stolen bases and his 19 extra-base hits are two more than he had in 2017.
"Right now, he's our best hitter and has been our best hitter," Kreuter said. "To see a 19-year-old two-hitter get pitched around is certainly interesting. They're up there flipping first-pitch breaking balls to him, but he makes the adjustments and is getting better every day. Add in his defense, which is already off-the-charts good and you're looking at a very special player."
Dunn (2-3) opened the game by retiring nine straight and 14 of the first 15 batters while facing the minimum through five. He surrendered a leadoff single to Ben Ruta in the fourth, but the Tarpons left fielder was caught stealing by Dan Rizzie. Dunn fanned the side in the third and fifth before running into trouble in the sixth.
Mandy Alvarez led off the frame with a single and he plunked Kellin Deglan with a pitch. Dunn induced a fielder's choice groundout that erased Alvarez at third and set down the next two batters to keep the game scoreless. The Mets' 2016 first-round Draft pick reached double digits in strikeouts for the first time in the seventh when he fanned Isiah Gilliam, the 30th-ranked Yankees prospect, and worked around a two-out walk to Brandon Wagner. He threw 58 of 93 pitches for strikes.
Justin Dunn hasn't allowed more than two runs in eight of nine starts. (Joshua Tjiong/MiLB.com)
"That was the first outing I've had since I turned pro where I had a feel for everything," Dunn said. "The ball felt like it was jumping out of my hand really well. I was able to execute my fastball, which is key because it makes my off-speed stuff that much better. But tonight, my changeup was my best pitch."
The seven frames were a personal best for the Boston College product, whose second straight scoreless effort lowered his ERA to 2.36. That figure represents the second-best mark in the Florida State League behind Palm Beach's Anthony Shew, who was promoted to Double-A Springfield on May 22. Dunn hadn't completed six innings in each of his last 10 starts dating back to July 22, 2017 against Florida.
"It all comes back to the fastball command and also controlling all of my pitches," the right-hander said. "Being ahead in the count consistently put the hitters at a disadvantage. I was able to get a lot of passive and defensive swings."
Dunn has reversed course in his second shot at the FSL. He posted a 5-6 record and a 5.00 ERA over 95 1/3 innings in 2017, which included a stint in the bullpen.
"Honestly, I haven't changed a thing," the native of Freeport, New York said. "If anything, I'm trying to do less. I'm looking to be in tune with my body while being as athletic as possible. If I can control my tempo and the rhythm and pace of my delivery, I can be consistently successful. That's been the case so far this year."
His manager agrees.
"Justin's a young man who was not as mature as maybe he should have been last year," Kreuter said. "His own expectations were probably unrealistic in a lot of ways. It's fun to watch and as his manager and someone who's been in his ear, to see him succeed the way he is right now is very rewarding."
Ezequiel Zabaleta (1-0) allowed two runs -- one earned -- on three hits and struck out three without a walk over three innings of relief to wind up with the win.
Alvarez belted a game-tying solo homer in the eighth for the Tarpons.
Tampa Bay righty Nick Green scattered six hits and three walks with four strikeouts over six scoreless innings.